BEIJING, AFP-JIJI – Canada will apply to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Ottawa’s finance department said Wednesday, in a coup for Beijing after Washington tried to dissuade its allies from signing up.
“Canada is always looking for ways to create hope and opportunity for our middle class as well as for people around the world,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement issued in Beijing. “Membership in the AIIB is an opportunity to do just that.”
The Beijing-based lender has been viewed by some as a rival to the World Bank and the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank, which was founded in 1966.
Critics worried that it would set much lower standards for projects and undermine principles of social, environmental and economic sustainability adhered to by the World Bank and other multilateral development finance institutions.
AIIB president Jin Liqun welcomed Canada’s decision, which he said “shows its confidence in the strong foundations the bank has built in our first few months.”
The United States, and Japan — the world’s largest and third-largest economies, respectively — have notably declined to join the bank.
The announcement came during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to China, where he met Prime Minister Li Keqiang to try to strengthen ties before the Group of 20 summit this weekend in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, with exchanges topping 85 billion Canadian dollars ($66.5 billion) last year.
The relationship has been strained recently by Chinese plans to impose new rules on canola imports, which could risk CA$2 billion ($1.5 billion) a year of Canadian oilseed sales to the Asian giant.
They were due to come into force Thursday, but Li said Wednesday that the existing rules would continue to apply while the two countries negotiate a long-term agreement.
In June China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi berated a Canadian journalist while visiting Ottawa for questioning Beijing’s human rights record, saying her question was “full of prejudice and arrogance” and that she had “no right to speak.”
The incident provoked a public outcry and led Canada to lodge a formal complaint with Beijing.
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