April 27, 2019 / 10:57 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 2-China's Xi touts more than $64 bln in Belt and Road deals

* Market principles to apply to all BRI projects -Xi

* Xi’s signature policy faces criticism

* Some partners complain of mounting debt

* China says BRI to provide sustainable, high-quality growth (Updates with comments from Xi, details from joint communique)

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING, April 27 (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping on Saturday hailed deals worth more than $64 billion signed during China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) this week as he sought to reassure sceptics the project will deliver sustainable growth for all involved.

Xi said market principles will apply in all Belt and Road cooperation projects and that his signature initiative to recreate the old Silk Road joining China with Asia and Europe will deliver green and high-quality development.

“More and more friends and partners will join in Belt and Road cooperation,” he said in his closing remarks. “The cooperation will enjoy higher quality and brighter prospects.”

Xi and other top Chinese officials repeatedly sought to reassure partners and potential participants this week that Beijing does not intend to saddle them with high debts and wants BRI to benefit all parties involved.

A joint communique issued at the conclusion of the summit said that leaders had agreed to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth, in line with a draft seen by Reuters last week.

In a separate statement China said it signed a memorandum of understanding with various countries including Italy, Peru, Barbados, Luxembourg, Peru and Jamaica.

“All of this shows that Belt and Road cooperation is in synch with the times, widely supported, people centred and beneficial to all,” Xi said on Saturday.

Data from Refinitiv shows the total value of projects in the scheme stands at $3.67 trillion, spanning countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and South America.

Some partner nations have complained about the high cost of projects of BRI, which was launched in 2013, while some western governments view it as a means to spread Chinese influence abroad, leaving poor countries with unsustainable debt.

China said this week it would establish a framework on debt sustainability to “prevent and resolve debt risks” as part of its efforts to allay such fears.

While most Belt and Road projects are continuing as planned, some have been caught up by changes in government in countries such as Malaysia and the Maldives.

Xi did not elaborate on the types of deals signed this week. But on Friday China’s state asset regulator said that at least 17 central government-owned firms, including companies such as China Railway Construction Corp and Mengniu Dairy , signed deals at the Belt and Road summit.

These deals totalled more than $20 billion in value, according to Reuters calculations. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; additional reporting by Min Zhang; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Joseph Radford, Alexander Smith and Clelia Oziel)

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