European Support Grows for Asian Bank

Germany, France and Italy have joined the UK in applying to become founding members of the
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
(AIIB), despite the efforts of the US to persuade leading western countries against lending their support.

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, confirmed at a joint news conference with visiting Chinese vice premier Ma Kai that his country would be a founding member of the AIIB.

A joint statement by the foreign and finance ministers of Germany, France and Italy said they would work to ensure the new institution “follows the best standards and practices in terms of governance, safeguards, debt and procurement policies”.

China has said that a total of 26 countries have so been included as AIIB founder members; the majority from Asia and the Middle East. According to China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg are also considering applications to join.

China has also decreed that March 31 is the deadline for accepting founder-members into the organisation. A meeting has been scheduled in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at the end of this month to discuss the AIIB’s articles of agreement, which are expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

Japan, which is concerned by China’s growing influence, is not expected to become a member. However, Australia is reconsidering its initial decision to stay outside the AIIB. Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has indicated that he will make a final decision on membership soon.

The AIIB represents a potential rival to the Washington-based World Bank. Europe’s growing support is regarded as a significant setback for the Obama administration, which believes that western countries could have more influence over the workings of the new bank if they stayed together on the outside to lobby for higher lending standards.

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