World / Reporter's Journal

US losing by pressuring nations not to join Asia bank

By Chen Weihua (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-03-16 06:03

For months, the Obama administration has been putting pressure on its allies, such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, not to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which Washington sees as a potential rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, which are dominated largely by the United States, Japan and other developed nations.

While senior US officials defend the action by citing concerns over the transparency and governance of the new institution, such arguments have garnered little support. Many opinion leaders in the US, such as former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, have criticized the White House move as unwise.

However, the Obama administration is clearly not listening. On Friday, the Financial Times of London reported that a senior US official said on Thursday that the United Kingdom decision to join the AIIB was taken after "virtually no consultation with the US" and warned of the UK's "trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power".

The FT said British officials refuted the US claims by saying that it was discussed for many weeks at the G7 level.US losing by pressuring nations not to join Asia bank

UK Chancellor George Osborne, in a statement announcing the UK's intention to join the bank, also said that joining the AIIB at the founding stage would create "an unrivalled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together".

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China welcomes the UK decision. He noted that on March 12, the UK submitted to China the confirmation letter of joining the AIIB as a prospective member and officially applied to participate in the AIIB.

Reiterating what some Chinese officials have said publicly but which was ignored by Washington, Hong said AIIB will design its governance structure and operation policy following the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, responsibility and fairness.

"It will learn from the good practices of the existing multilateral development banks, and meanwhile avoid the problems they have encountered to reduce the cost and operate more effectively," he said.

Hong said the AIIB will cooperate with and complement the existing multilateral development banks, better serve its member states and support the infrastructure building and economic development in Asia.

"Everyone is welcome to join us in this undertaking which is beneficial to all," Hong said.

According to Hong, as chairman of the chief negotiators' meeting on the establishment of the AIIB, China is heeding opinions from the prospective members in according with multilateral procedures. "If everything goes well, the UK will officially become a prospective member of the AIIB at the end of March," he said.

In Tokyo on Friday, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim reiterated his support for AIIB after UK's application.

"From the perspective simply of the need for more infrastructure spending, there's no doubt that from our perspective, we welcome the entry of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank," he said.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao has said that there were "huge infrastructure financial needs" in Asia and that the establishment of the AIIB is an understandable step. He said that when AIIB is established, ADB will be willing to consider appropriate collaboration."

On Sunday, Reuters quoted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as saying that a decision will be made within weeks on whether the country will seek to join the AIIB.

The Yonhap News Agency of South Korea on Friday quoted an unnamed government official as saying that South Korea will make a final decision later this month on whether to join the AIIB as a founding member, and will inform China of the result.

China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei told reporters a week ago that the Japanese government has been updated with the result of talks among the bank's current founding members.

"They told us they are considering," Lou was quoted by Xinhua News Agency. "Whether Japan will join, we do not know. It's Japan's own decision."

China's Vice-Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao has said that the bank will be set up this year.

On Oct 24, 21 countries signed a bill in Beijing to formally recognize the establishment of the bank, first initiated by China in 2013. They include China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Several other countries, such as Indonesia, have since applied. If the UK is included, there will be 28 founding members for the AIIB. And more is likely before the March 31 deadline.

While the US has said repeatedly that countries do not have to choose between China and the US, its pressure on its allies on the AIIB issue has made many question its true intention. In China, many have seen this as more proof of US intention to curtail the rise of China.

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