Europe will put 300 billion euros on the table by 2027 to help less developed countries take their place in the “Global Gateways”, the global portal. On the menu, 5G, green investments and human rights. With in pole position for France, AFD, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

Europe is waking up to China and Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday a very interesting new initiative.

Indeed. For the first time, Europe is responding to the famous “new silk roads” that Beijing is using to advance its pawns all over the world by financing projects, which provide outlets for Chinese companies, both through construction sites and they represent and because it facilitates the logistics of their exports.

China has been leading this road, rail and port modernization project since 2013. So it took some time – to put it mildly – for Europe to wake up. But finally, there is a project on the table. It’s called Global Gateways, a global portal.

And this project wants to put on the table 300 billion euros of public and private funding in six years. The big difference with what China is doing is that Europe will make its investments conditional on respect for human rights and will operate with “a high level of transparency and quality governance”.

Will this amount compete with what China is doing?

China has already committed 124 billion euros. And it will continue with amounts much larger than the European amounts according to the American bank Morgan Stanley. Beijing has already funded 13,000 projects in 165 countries, including of course European countries, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Central Europe. And it will continue.

So the European initiative on the side may seem a bit right. Critics are already on the rise: they judge this theoretical plan, as a declaration of intention more than concrete projects.

Especially in the amount announced, European money on the table is limited: it is roughly the same amount as what Beijing has already spent. The rest will be leverage: public money must lead to private funds and especially investments from development banks.

In France, will it therefore go through the French Development Agency?

Yes exactly, AFD, whose 80th anniversary we are celebrating today. It was created in London under the name of Caisse centrale de la France Libre to finance the action of General De Gaulle, thanks to the reserves and the receipts of the colonial empire.

Today, AFD is doing it a bit: it is France's armed wing for cooperation. It is headed by Rémy Rioux, a close friend of Emmanuel Macron.

He does not see this European plan as an initiative against China, but he hopes that it will allow China to finance infrastructure without its companies being automatically selected or by respecting environmental standards. In this case, there could be co-investments. Otherwise, countries will have at least one alternative.

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