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AIIB sees prospects in Europe

By Chen Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-11 09:28

Bank to hold annual meeting in Luxembourg, its first outside Asia

Multilateral development institution the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is targeting Europe to expand infrastructure construction financing, as it is a significant region included in the Belt and Road Initiative, a senior executive of the bank told China Daily in a recent interview.

Although the AIIB has not yet announced any investment strategies in Europe, "we can and it could make sense for us, especially (for the projects) connecting with Asia," said Joachim Amsberg, vice-president of the AIIB, illustrating that some possible projects in Europe could be ports and railways.

According to the senior AIIB executive, Austria recently has shown interest in railway lines from Central Europe to Asia, and the AIIB "could possibly invest in that, but there is no specific plan at this stage".

The bank will hold its first annual meeting outside Asia, starting on Friday. AIIB chose Luxembourg as the host, which was the first European country to sign up as an AIIB founding member in 2015.

"Luxembourg, even though it is a small country, is important on the finance map. It is a very welcome opportunity to go to Europe and engage more European banks, investors and governments," said Amsberg.

Joachim Amsberg, vice-president of the AIIB

One of the key issues that members will discuss at the annual meeting is strengthening Asia-Europe cooperation, the AIIB announced on its website. The theme of the annual meeting is "connectivity and collaboration".

"European and Asian countries are more connected, especially through infrastructure, transport and energy linkages, and the AIIB can bring them together with trade agreements. We have been talking a lot about how to connect Europe with Asia and how to collaborate between European and Asian countries," said the vice-president.

A special forum will also take place during the meeting, involving interactive workshops on private equity investments, financing for energy projects and AIIB procurement policies and practices, the bank said.

China sees Europe as a significant part of the Belt and Road Initiative, said analysts. Following the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in April, seven European countries were set to endorse the BRI, according to a communique. Italy signed a BRI agreement with the Chinese government. Greece has also tightened its BRI relationship with China.

Besides Europe, AIIB's focus will remain in Asia, the AIIB leader said. He also mentioned possible investment expanding into other areas, such as renewable energy and ports and railways in Latin America.

Amsberg reiterated that "any country is welcome to join the bank", including Japan and the United States, but there are no ongoing negotiations with these two countries.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Osaka last month, President Xi Jinping emphasized the important role of high-quality infrastructure construction in boosting inclusive development, saying that the BRI is open for all parties to achieve shared development.

Xi noted that the BRI forum in April reached a broad consensus and produced fruitful outcomes on the high-quality building of the Belt and Road.

In light of the trade tensions between China and the United States, uncertainties are rising in the global economy, but the Belt and Road Initiative can better connect emerging and advanced economies, while offering growth opportunities, said Yaseen Anwar, former governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan.

As a BRI fund arm and a multilateral institution, the AIIB can issue high-quality loans to strengthen regional financing and reduce exposure to export risk, according to Anwar.

The AIIB plans to make $4 billion investment in infrastructure projects this year, compared with $3 billion in 2018, according to a statement on the website. "Quality comes first before quantity. We gradually grow our investment, and we start with high-quality projects that meet environmental and social standards as well as avoid corruption, rather than building up investment as quickly as possible," said Amsberg.

Before joining the AIIB, Amsberg had 25-years of working experience with the World Bank. He said the AIIB has been more recognized by the international community as a multilateral organization, having 97 countries in its membership.

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