Canada decides to join AIIB

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/1 0:48:39

Ottawa eyes regional economic integration in Asia

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauds as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang answers a question during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Trudeau is visiting China from Tuesday to September 6 and will also attend the G20 Summit in Hangzhou. Photo: AFP

Canada announced Wednesday it intends to apply for membership to the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), making it the latest US ally to join the organization which experts say is a signal of Canada's growing willingness to deepen economic cooperation and reset ties with China.

The decision was announced on the second day of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to Beijing aimed at rebuilding ties with China. 

Jin Liqun, president of the AIIB, said Wednesday that Canada's decision "will greatly strengthen the management of this institution," Reuters reported.

"This is really for us, as a new government, the earliest possibility at which we could indicate our interest," Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau was quoted as saying by Reuters. He added that "We believe the bank is clearly showing that it's going to be a highly effective multilateral institution."

Canada will submit its application to join the AIIB by the end of 2016, said David Lauzon, a Canadian finance ministry official.

Tang Xiaosong, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, told the Global Times that Trudeau wants to rebalance the former conservative prime minister Stephen Harper's pro-US policies by starting with economic and trade cooperation, and joining the AIIB is a good opportunity to push forward Sino-Canadian ties.

Tang added that pressure from the US has been alleviated since other G7 members, including the UK, joined the AIIB, and Canada is trying not to fall behind.

Li Haidong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that joining the AIIB is also a step for Canada to take a part in regional economic integration in Asia.

The US has disappointed Canada and its allies by failing to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an American-led free-trade agreement, and the Canadian government is now eyeing China to join and share in the rising Asian market, Li said. 

The AIIB was officially established last December and started operating in January. It will begin reviewing membership applications from some 30 countries in September. The AIIB has already approved four loans totaling $509 million to fund infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Indonesia, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Strong foundation

Both China and Canada agree that a wide range of economic and trade cooperation would lay a foundation for bilateral ties and facilitate further communications on other aspects, including political and global issues, Li said.

During his meeting with Trudeau on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China was willing to improve communication and coordination with Canada, protect an open and inclusive multilateral trade system with the country, and deepen cooperation in areas such as climate change, peacekeeping and marine protection, Xinhua reported.

Xi also called for more high-level visits between China and Canada and said that both sides should enhance dialogue and cooperation in various fields with existing bilateral mechanisms.

Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday that China and Canada have agreed to launch a feasibility study on a China-Canada free trade area as early as possible. He admitted to historical differences between the two countries, but maintained that mutual interests outweigh the differences, Xinhua reported.

According to Reuters, disputes over canola exports, government divisions over China policy and the case of a detained citizen on espionage charges are expected to limit Trudeau's visit.

In a news briefing with the premier on Wednesday, Trudeau said that Canada will be able to continue with its current canola export regime and he hopes for a long-term solution with China on their dispute over the safety of canola exports from Canada.

The premier said that China has no intention to keep its doors closed to imports but that the country's farmers and consumers are worried about imported pests. He also said that a Canadian man held in China for two years on suspicion of spying would be treated humanely and lawfully.

China indicted Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt on charges of spying and stealing State secrets in January in Dandong, Liaoning Province, which borders North Korea. Garratt was arrested in August 2014.

Although the premier did not single out Kevin Garratt by name, he said that China and Canada would continue to communicate on the issue, Reuters reported.

"While Canada won't be willing to drop political prejudices against China, including human rights issues, it won't affect the general positive trend between the two countries," Li Haidong noted.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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