AIIB head says bank shouldn't be hot spot for US-China frictions

BEIJING • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) president Jin Liqun yesterday said the Beijing- based development lender "should not be a new hot spot for frictions between the US and China", and that it would welcome the United States as a member.

The AIIB can be "very patient" if the US wants to join, Mr Jin said at the Boao Forum for Asia, where top government and corporate officials gathered this week to discuss economic issues facing the region.

"Even if the US isn't a member, we have quite a number of seasoned professionals with American passports working in my institution, and I trust them," said Mr Jin, who previously worked at the World Bank and the Japan-led Asian Development Bank on China's behalf and also served as a supervisory chairman of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

China established the AIIB partly out of frustration with the dominance of Western nations at existing institutions such as the Washington-based World Bank. China aims to fund projects that will aid development in some of the world's fastest-growing areas.

Mr Jin pushed back on views that China was aiming to create a new order of the global financial system, comparing the AIIB to setting up a "new kitchen" that is not aimed at knocking out existing businesses.

"It is absurd to say just because we have a new restaurant, we would drive out the catering services in the neighbourhood," Mr Jin said of the US$100 billion (S$137 billion) bank that formally opened in January with 57 member nations and is likely to add to its ranks this year.

The US is not opposed to participating with the AIIB, President Barack Obama said in 2014.

China would welcome US involvement, President Xi Jinping said later that year.

Mr Jin said the AIIB would match global best practices on standards and governance. "Credibility has to be earned. Trust has to be earned," he said. "The challenge now is how we live up to expectations of all shareholders."

The AIIB is among three entities that China is promoting, along with the New Development Bank with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, and a Silk Road Fund designed to boost commercial ties in South and Central Asia. They join existing bodies such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Inter- American Development Bank in offering financing to developing nations.

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Mr Jin told reporters that the bank was working on accepting new members.

"Over the past two years, we have achieved the purpose of convincing all the members - now we have 57, with more than 30 countries on the waiting list eager to join," he said.

Mr Jin did not identify the prospective members.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'AIIB head says bank shouldn't be hot spot for US-China frictions'. Print Edition | Subscribe