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Six Western economies apply to join AIIB

2015-03-21 09:41 China Daily Web Editor: Li Yan

Six Western countries have applied to become founding members of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Ministry of Finance confirmed on Friday.

Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland have officially sought founder membership of the bank, the ministry said.

The bank, which already has 27 such members, will be established formally by the end of the year, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said on Friday.

The United States considers the AIIB to be a rival to the Western-dominated World Bank, but Lou said the newcomer is not aiming to replace the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or the Asian Development Bank.

It will not be in competition against those institutions, but will act to complement them, Lou said.

As a stakeholder in the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, China will continue to support their work to reduce poverty, Lou said.

The AIIB will focus on lending money for Asian infrastructure construction, to strengthen the global economic recovery, Lou said. It will integrate the fiscal ability of its founder members and boost financial leverage to speed investment.

Lou said China will not be the only country making decisions about the bank's management, adding that the institution is based on a multilateral financial cooperation framework.

"It is good news that many developed countries outside Asia want to join the founders' group and we are not surprised about this. We respect any decisions made by countries inside and outside Asia on whether to join or not," Lou added.

Fears over the future governance of the new bank look to be fading.

Australia appears to be the latest major nation showing an interest in becoming a founder member of the bank, with Canberra reportedly set to pledge about $2.3 billion to the project, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday.

Britain became the first Western economy to apply for membership of the bank this week, with France and Germany expressing their interest soon after.

The US issued what was seen by many observers as a warning to Britain over its public support for the AIIB.

As Australia is one of the key US military and political allies in the Asia-Pacific region, its move is also likely to raise tensions in Washington.

Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna confirmed on Wednesday that his country has applied to join the bank.

Wang Jun, a senior economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a government think tank, said many of the Western countries had initially refused to join the bank, citing concerns over governance, but have since rapidly changed their stance.

Applicants do not want to miss the chance to share the results of China's fast economic growth, and expect more participation in Asia's development, although their actions may meet disapproval from the U.S., Wang said.

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