China's EximBank provides more than $149 bln for Belt and Road projects

BEIJING, April 18 (Reuters) - The Export-Import Bank of China (EximBank) has provided more than 1 trillion yuan ($149 billion) to more than 1,800 “Belt and Road” projects, it said on Thursday.

The outstanding loans were up from 810 billion yuan at the end of March 2018.

President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, unveiled in 2013, aims to bolster a sprawling network of land and sea links with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

China’s massive lending on Belt and Road projects is facing criticism of “debt trap,” which some believe will aggravate the financial vulnerability of developing countries.

Zhang Qingsong, president of EximBank, defended the initiative, saying projects financed by the bank had created jobs and boosted taxes in the countries involved.

“The accusation of the debt trap is a false accusation, and a smear of the Belt and Road Initiative,” Zhang told a news conference.

Zhang Chenxu, deputy general manager of the bank’s sovereign clients department, said the lender had picked high-quality projects to ensure its loans would be sustainable.

China Development Bank (CDB), another major policy bank, said in March it had provided financing in excess of $190 billion for more than 600 Belt and Road projects since 2013. ($1=6.7037 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Cheng Leng and Kevin Yao)