BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union has announced the creation of a program worth $340 billion, called "Global Gateway," to act as an alternative to China's Belt and Road initiative, claiming it will create "links, not dependencies."
The EU program aims to assist global recovery by mobilizing investments in digital, clean energy and transport networks, as well as boosting health, education and research systems across the world.
In a statement, Jutta Urpilainen, EU commissioner for international partnerships, said, "With Global Gateway, we want to create strong and sustainable links, not dependencies, between Europe and the world, and build a new future for young people."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the plan offered a "'true alternative" to China's initiative, which is accused by some countries as being a debt trap since its launch in 2013.
"Countries need better and different offers of finance, and the EU plan, which will make investments over the next six years, will not build up unsustainable debt levels in partner countries. They know we are transparent, they know it is accompanied by good governance," Von der Leyen added.
Over the past few years, China has poured billions into building roads, railways and ports worldwide to forge new trade links and diplomatic ties, with 139 countries signing up, as of March 2021, accounting for 40 percent of global GDP, according to U.S. think tank the Council on Foreign Relations.
The European alternative to China's Belt and Road will be financed by a mix of $20 billion in grants and $317 billion in investments from member states, development banks, the private sector and EU financing bodies, the European Commission stated.
The Commission also said that it was considering the creation of a new credit facility for European companies selling into markets outside the EU, which would help them compete with businesses receiving hefty government subsidies.
Perhaps the most direct challenge to China's initiative, the EU will also invest in transport infrastructure, including railways, roads, ports, airports and border crossings, to help develop countries and diversify their supply chains, through providing an additional $5.2 billion to fund sustainable transport links.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU announced a new plan to help countries develop local vaccine manufacturing capacity and diversify their pharmaceutical supply chains. While the EU did not offer specific funding targets, it said Africa is a priority.