February 14, 2012 / 1:08 PM / 7 years ago

China non-committal on euro zone despite Merkel plea

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is ready to help resolve Europe’s debt crisis, its premier said on Tuesday, but he gave no details a day after the nation’s sovereign wealth fund ducked calls by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for it to buy euro government bonds.

At a Beijing summit delayed since late last year while European leaders have grappled for solutions to the two-year-old crisis, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated supportive sentiments.

“China is ready to increase its participation in resolving the European debt problems. We are willing to conduct close communication and cooperation with the EU side,” Wen said.

Speaking at the same venue as European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Wen added: “We match our words with actions.”

However, his public statements have so far stopped well short of promising to provide funds to bail out governments or buy billions of euros of new bonds.

On Monday, the head of China’s $410 billion sovereign wealth fund said Germany’s Merkel had asked it and other long-term investors to buy European government debt when she visited Beijing earlier this month, but such investments were “difficult” for long-term investors.

Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corp, said any fresh injection of funds into Europe would be in industrial and other real assets, not government bonds.


The EU’s Van Rompuy, pursuing the euro zone’s long-running efforts to win China’s financial help, said on Tuesday: “Investors in Europe can be reassured that we have not just navigated a difficult bend, we have turned a corner.”

Greek lawmakers backed drastic cuts in wages, pensions and jobs on Sunday as the price of a 130 billion euro ($170 billion) bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund to avert a messy default.

But Athens was still struggling on Tuesday to wring out another 325 million euros in budget cuts to satisfy euro zone finance ministers mulling whether to sign off on a rescue package to save the country from a chaotic default.

The crisis has also forced international financial rescues for Ireland and Portugal. While the euro zone has created a 440 billion euro bailout fund, this is widely regarded as inadequate to cope with a loss of market confidence in a major debtor economy such as Italy.

Van Rompuy insisted that euro zone economic fundamentals were sound, but acknowledged more was needed to secure recovery. “We recognize that financial stability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for economic recovery. We must do more, in particular on economic growth and on unemployment,” he said.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Writing by Nick Edwards; Editing by Nick Macfie/Ruth Pitchford

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