OTTAWA – Reading between the lines, it’s clear to see in recent statements by government officials that Canada is close to joining the Asian International Investment Bank — the newest, and one of the largest, money lenders for global development.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau acknowledged as much over the weekend as he and his Group of Seven counterparts wrapped up their economic summit in Sendai, Japan. While not confirming an agreement was all but done, Morneau said Ottawa has “a positive perspective on the impact that it (the AIIB) can have on infrastructure investment and the impact on the global economy.”
“I think we’re waiting for the bank to take the next step, and we’re actively considering our position and see the positive outcomes that this new bank can have for the economy,” the minister told Canadian reporters in a weekend conference call.
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The federal government has been monitoring the growing number of members of the Beijing-based investment bank, in the works since 2013 but only officially launched at the start of this year with almost 60 country members.
The AIIB — seen as a possible financing competitor for the Washington-based International Monetary Fund and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation — will hold its inaugural annual general meeting June 25 and 26 in Beijing.
The previous Conservative government did not commit to joining the fledgling investment organization before the original deadline. Now, Canada will need to wait for a formal invitation — something that could be issued during or shortly after the June AGM.
The new Liberal government sees the AIIB as a “positive force for infrastructure investment … and as the bank considers its possibility for inviting other members, we’ll come forward with our decision,” Morneau said.
“I can tell you one thing that came up clearly in those meetings (in Sendai) is the importance of the Asia Pacific region,” he added.
“These meetings, for us, are a very positive opportunity to demonstrate our leadership on important international issues — but also to send a message to our G7 colleagues that Canada is back, that we’re engaged and we want to be a global leader. It is, for us, also a good opportunity to promote our trade and investment goals in Canada and our … important strong relationship with the Asia Pacific region.”
Morneau added that the region is “a fast-growing partner for Canada,” with two-way trade amounting to $170 billion a year. “Our goal, of course, is to create new markets for Canadian-made goods and help consumers with better selection.”
“We’re looking forward to strengthening our relationships and our partnerships in the Asia Pacific region,” he told reporters in the conference call.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of international trade, said in a recent speech that it was “very clear” that not joining the AIIB earlier “was a lost opportunity of the previous government.”
The Finance Department, in a statement in mid-May, emphasized that the government is “giving careful consideration to joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.”
However, the department said, the AIIB “has yet to formally indicate that it is accepting new members.”