EU and India plan global infrastructure deal

The EU and India are in talks to build joint infrastructure projects around the world in the latest attempt to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The plan, described as a “connectivity” partnership in sectors such as energy, digital and transportation, would seek to offer better legal guarantees and less onerous debt terms than those offered by Beijing, said officials. diplomats.

The initiative, which India and the EU would like to unveil at a virtual summit on May 8, comes as the United States seeks to spur similar efforts to counter China’s growing influence. The EU-India plan would not be called an anti-Beijing alliance, but would be seen as part of an attempt to offer alternatives to the BRI in Europe, Africa and Asia.

However, the conditions have yet to be finalized, including the source of funds, which are supposed to come from the public and private sectors.

“There is now a window of opportunity to team up and create the environment for a partnership-based globalization that would be more attractive than what China can offer,” said a European diplomat.

“The EU and its allies have a common interest here in presenting an alternative to the Belt and Road initiative, rather than letting Chinese investments dominate.”

India-EU work would focus on joint projects in their own territory, initiatives in third countries and standard setting in areas such as financial sustainability and rule of law criteria, diplomats added. . Another objective would be to improve cooperation in research and innovation.

The EU has previously presented plans to deploy tens of billions of euros to leverage investments several times that value to build links between Europe and Asia. India has also pledged to finance major international projects.

But on Wednesday, when EU ambassadors gathered to formulate a broader strategy in a closed-door meeting, the discussion lasted nearly two hours and served as a “wake-up call” to intensify work in the region , said a diplomat.

Brussels’ attempts to curb China’s influence come as it also tries to deepen its economic ties with Beijing, including signing an interim investment deal in December.

The EU confirmed the India-EU talks, insisting that the liaison plans between Europe and Asia constitute an “inclusive platform open to cooperation with all partners” and not “steered” against any other country or region ”.

China’s BRI, led by President Xi Jinping’s administration in 2013, sparked unrest as Beijing pursued projects involving roads, railways, bridges and ports.

The BRI’s comprehensive framework has been endorsed by more than 150 states and international organizations, including more than half of the 27 EU countries. But it has also faced backlash, including over environmental standards, which debt-recipient countries assume and the penalties they incur if they fail to repay.

The EU and India agreed in July to explore their own initiative to “seek synergies between their cooperation on connectivity with third countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region”. The EU has put in place a similar partnership in 2019 with Japan to build what Shinzo Abe, then prime minister in Tokyo, called “sustainable, rules-based connectivity from the Indo-Pacific to the Western Balkans and Africa.”

The planned EU-India cooperation comes as President Joe Biden’s administration aims to build alliances of democratic countries to curb China’s expansion of power. Biden said in March that he proposed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that those countries put in place an infrastructure effort to compete with the BRI.

The plan could end up on the agenda for the June G7 summit which will be hosted by Johnson in the UK. The group – made up of the US, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Canada – invited counterparts from India, Australia and South Korea to attend.

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