Three major nations absent as China launches World Bank rival in Asia
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Australia, Indonesia and South Korea skipped the launch of a China-backed Asian infrastructure bank on Friday as the United States said it had concerns about the new rival to Western-dominated multilateral lenders.
China's $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is seen as a challenge to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, both of which count Washington and its allies as their biggest financial backers.
China, which is keen to extend its influence and soft power in the region, has limited voting rights in these existing banks despite being the world's second-largest economy.
The AIIB, launched in Beijing at a ceremony attended by Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei and delegates from 21 countries including India, Thailand and Malaysia, aims to give project loans to developing nations. China is set to be its largest shareholder with a stake of up to 50 percent.
Indonesia was not present and neither were South Korea and Australia, according to a pool report.
Japan, China's main rival in Asia and which dominates the $175 billion Asian Development Bank along with the United States, was also not present, but it was not expected to be.
Media reports said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put pressure on Australia to stay out of the AIIB.
However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "Secretary Kerry has made clear directly to the Chinese as well as to other partners that we welcome the idea of an infrastructure bank for Asia but we strongly urge that it meet international standards of governance and transparency.
"We have concerns about the ambiguous nature of the AIIB proposal as it currently stands, that we have also expressed publicly." Continued...