Australia ready to join China-led bank, seeks clarity on governance

Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:54am EDT
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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is "well and truly" disposed to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday, but wants to know how much power Beijing would hold in the institution before a formal decision.

Fairfax Media citing government sources, reported the federal cabinet has approved Australia signing a "memorandum of understanding" on joining the AIIB.

Australia, South Korea and Japan are the notable regional absentees from the bank, which the United States had warned against. Despite Washington's misgivings, U.S. allies Britain, France, Germany and Italy announced this month they would join the bank, leading the Obama administration to reassess its stance.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that China had proposed to forgo veto power at the AIIB to attract more countries to join the new bank.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that each country's stake in the AIIB would decrease as new member countries are brought into the organization.

She dismissed the notion that Beijing sought - or gave up - veto power as an "impossible proposition".

The AIIB has been seen as a significant and possibly historic setback to U.S. efforts to extend its influence in the Asia Pacific region to balance China's growing financial clout and assertiveness.

Although Australia is a vital part of Washington's strategic "pivot" toward Asia, it is close to joining as well.

"We are certainly well and truly disposed to joining something which is in fact a genuinely multilateral institution with transparent governance, clear accountability and with major decisions made by the board," Abbott told reporters.   Continued...

China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (L) gives a speech, with the guests of the signing ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/Pool