China open to Australian role in Asia bank

Lisa Martin
AAP, as published in The Australian, 24 October 2014

China is open to Australia playing a role in the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, even though it is not a founding member.

Australia was not represented on Friday when 21 countries including China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and Singapore inked a memorandum of understanding in Beijing to set up the $57 billion bank.

It is estimated the Asian region will need at least $800 billion a year in new infrastructure during the next decade, and the bank is seen as a way to fill the funding gap.

A Chinese foreign affairs department spokesman told AAP on Friday the government welcomed Australia “playing a role in different forms”.

“Even if Australia is not a founding member of this bank, we welcome any form of participation,” the spokesman said.

China will provide up to half the bank’s funding.

Australia’s efforts have been focused, before the APEC and G20 leaders’ summits, on a global “infrastructure hub” that would provide advice on bringing governments and the private sector together on major projects.

An Abbott government spokeswoman told AAP Australia had not yet made a decision on AIIB membership, despite having been involved in talks about its structure and aims.

China and Southeast Asian nations are concerned existing funders such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are not providing enough support for regional infrastructure.

The United States has urged caution. Fairfax Media reported on Friday that Secretary of State John Kerry personally asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott not to take part in the AIIB.

However, a State Department spokeswoman said the idea of an Asian infrastructure bank was welcome, but it must meet international standards of governance and transparency.

South Korea, which has also been involved in talks regarding the bank, has sought more details on governance and capital structures.

This article was originally published here.

Lisa Martin was in China for the China Australia Journalist Exchange 2014.