European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) Chief Executive Klaus Regling was in China just a day after EU leaders struck a deal to boost its rescue fund, recapitalize banks and reduce Greece’s debt burden. Regling was scouting out possibilities for China investments.
“We all know China has a particular need to invest surpluses,” Regling said at a news conference, referring to China’s foreign exchange reserves of $3.2 trillion. Analysts estimate a quarter of the reserves are euro-denominated assets. Regling is scheduled to meet officials from China’s central bank and finance ministry on Friday. Regling also said he was also in contact with sovereign funds globally.
European leaders are now under pressure to finalize the details of their plan to slash Greece’s debt burden and strengthen efforts to revive the euro zone. French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said an investment by China would be a “gesture of confidence”.
Analysts are saying China has far more of an upside when it comes to dealing with the Europeans. Chinese analysts say now is the time for Beijing to negotiate hard with the EU. In negotiations, China could secure control or ownership of some of Europe’s best brand names, companies and intellectual property in return for fresh funds. “Europe has some many famous brands, intellectual property and many high-quality corporate assets. Why should we worry that we cannot get enough returns?” Ding Yifan, an economist at Development Research Centre, a cabinet think-tank, said.
European officials have said the leverage would be achieved by two methods. First, by offering insurance to buyers of euro zone debt in the primary market or second, via a new special purpose investment vehicle with hopes of drawing funds mainly from China and Brazil. Brazil rejected the idea of buying euro zone bonds even before the region’s leaders struck a deal.
“I believe that European countries do not need funds from Brazil to buy bonds. Brazil is not considering it,” Mantega told reporters in Brasilia on Tuesday. “They have to find solutions to the European problems within Europe.”
China is definitely in a unique position at this point. Investing in the European Financial Stability Fund has enormous risks, but it may well be worth it for the political gains China would enjoy in trying to promote its global ambitions.