TBILISI, May 15 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Friday it was ready to cooperate on projects with China and its newly launched Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
In March, a number of European governments decided to become founding members of the AIIB despite misgivings in the United States, which fears the bank will expand China’s global influence at the expense of Western lenders.
“Our approach is to face reality and to try and work with Chinese companies and the Chinese government,” EBRD president Suma Chakrabarti told a news conference in the Georgian capital Tbilisi after an annual meeting of the EBRD board of governors.
He said many member countries of the EBRD, whose traditional investment focus since its founding in 1991 has been the former Soviet bloc, were keen to attract investment from the AIIB and to see the London-based EBRD as a co-financer.
“We would be honoured and delighted if we could find some projects where we could have a fresh start of co-financing with them. I think the two institutions (the AIIB and EBRD) have quite an interesting future together as partners.”
The EBRD, set up after the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe, has in recent years expanded its area of operations to include other countries including Turkey, Mongolia and Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan.
The EBRD last year suspended new lending to Russia, traditionally its largest market, over the Ukraine crisis, a move Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said on Thursday was “politically motivated”.
On Friday, Chakrabarti reiterated that he did not expect to make any new loans to Russia this year but stressed the EBRD was keen to resume lending if the political climate improved.
“We will be ready if one day the geopolitical situation changes and shareholders decide to ask us to go back,” he said, noting the bank saw its assets in Russia as “very important”.
The EBRD has been hit by a sharp drop in both the Russian rouble and Ukraine’s hryvnia currency since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and economic sanctions over what the West says is Russia’s support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Storchak linked the EBRD’s 2014 net loss of 568 million euros ($650 million) to its decision regarding Russia, but Chakrabarti on Friday denied any such link. (Editing by Gareth Jones and Louise Ireland)