Great Britain Applies to Join the AIIB

March 17, 2015

On March 12, Great Britain applied to join the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the decision in a Treasury release, noting that Great Britain is the "first major Western country to apply" to become a member of this new international development bank. A dispatch by Xinhua noted that China's Finance Ministry welcomed the initiative, which would make Britain a founding member. The Ministry is now seeking the opinions of other founding countries.

At a March 6 press conference, Lou Jiwei, China's Minister of Finance, said that 27 countries have applied to jointly found the bank. March 31 is the application deadline. Xinhua reports that the bank is to be formally established by the end of 2015. Lou said said that a number of European nations have shown interest to join the bank.

Within hours of today's announcement of Britain's application to the AIIB, reports came out of White House disapproval. The Financial Times reported that:

"The Obama administration accused the UK of a 'constant accommodation' of China after Britain decided to join a new China-led financial institution that could rival the World Bank..."

The article stated:

"A senior US administration official told the Financial Times that the British decision was taken after 'virtually no consultation with the US'... We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power..."

The official British Treasury release states:

"As the first major Western country to apply to become a prospective member of the AIIB, the U.K. will join discussions later this month with other founding members to agree with the bank's prospective Articles of Agreement, setting out the governance and accountability arrangements that underpin the AIIB's operating practices."

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is quoted:

"This government has actively promoted closer political and economic engagement with the Asia-Pacific region and forging links between the U.K. and Asian economies to give our companies the best opportunity to work and invest in the world's fastest growing markets as a key part of our long-term economic plan. Joining the AIIB at the founding stage will create an unrivalled opportunity for the U.K. and Asia to invest and grow together."

Once fully operational, the AIIB will support access to finance for infrastructure projects across Asia, using a variety of support measures — including loans, equity investments, and guarantees — to boost investment across a range of sectors including transportation, energy, telecommunication, agriculture and urban development.