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US opposition to AIIB ‘strategic mistake’, says senior Trump adviser

A top adviser of US president-elect Donald Trump has lashed out at the Obama administration for failing to embrace the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, suggesting a possible policy shift come January.

In a letter to the Op-ed pages of the South China Morning Post, James Woolsey, a senior adviser to Trump on national security, defence and intelligence, called the current administration’s opposition to the formation of the AIIB “a strategic mistake”. He hoped the Trump response to the “One Road, One Belt” initiative would be “much warmer”.

China launched the blueprint three years ago to promote economic co-operation among a corridor of countries stretching from Southeast Asia to Europe.

The AIIB was officially launched with 57 countries, including several US allies including Britain, Australia and South Korea, but the US and Japan have stayed away.

ASIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEM IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK

The United States has previously expressed reservations about the bank and a reluctance to apply for membership. Washington softened its tune after President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in September last year.

Wei Jianguo, former vice-commerce minister, said the new administration could adopt a different attitude on China’s outward-looking economic strategy. “Trump may have new consideration about the AIIB after he takes office, and his attitude towards China’s ‘One Road, One Belt’ may differ from Obama,” said Wei, who is currently the deputy director of the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges.

Wei noted potential cooperation between China and the United States in infrastructure projects, citing a report by the US Chamber of Commerce predicting the US would invest US$8 trillion between 2013 and 2030 on infrastructure. Canada applied to join the AIIB at the end of August, leaving Japan the sole major US ally to remain outside the new lender.

The announcement of the ‘One Road’ blueprint and the establishment of the AIIB came as China was excluded from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade deal led by the United States but which excluded China.