The United States might reverse course and partner with the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank after Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president, the head of the lender signalled on Monday.
AIIB chief Jin Liqun said he understood some Trump advisers thought the US was wrong not to join the new regional lender, Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily reported on Monday.
“I have heard a certain senior official of President Barack Obama speak good of the AIIB and after Donald Trump won, I was told that many in his team have an opinion that Obama was not right not to join the AIIB, especially after Canada joined, which was a very loud endorsement of the bank,” Jin was quoted as saying.
“So we can’t rule out the new government in [the] US endorsing the AIIB or indicating interest to join.”
Jin’s comments came after one of Trump’s senior advisers hinted at a possible shift in the US attitude towards the AIIB, which had been seen as a threat to US dominance of the global economic order.
In an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post on Friday, Trump national security adviser James Woolsey said “it is widely accepted in Washington today that the Obama administration’s opposition to the formation of the AIIB was a strategic mistake and I hope the next administration’s response to the [‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative] will be much warmer”.
But the overall direction of the president-elect’s trade, diplomatic and economic policy remains unclear.
On the campaign trail, Trump also branded China a currency manipulator and threatened to impose punitive tariffs up to 45 per cent on Chinese goods exported to the US.
He also pledged to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the economic centrepiece of Obama’s pivot to Asia.
The TPP is a proposed trade and investment pact between the US and 11 Pacific Rim countries, and was seen as an attempt to keep China’s influence on trade rules in check.
Jin said a new crop of members would be announced soon and after that “there would hardly be any shares left for more countries to join”.
“The letter ‘A’ in the AIIB stands for Asia, Africa and America. They all start with [it] and that means the bank is for all of them,” Jin said.
“We did our best to convince them that we were no threat or rivals or either naive as not to know the basic rules of operations,” he said.
President Xi Jinping proposed the bank two years ago and it began operations in January, with 57 founding member countries and US$100 billion in committed capital for investment in projects across the region. The next batch of members, including key US ally Canada, will be formally introduced in January.