Australia says still 'some way' from joining AIIB

Updated: 2015-03-25 09:36


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CANBERRA -- Australia is still "a number of steps" away from joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday.

The foreign minister said the Australian government is still going through the process of examining "governance issues" surrounding the AIIB, and there is "quite a way to go" before Australia signed up to join the organisation despite the looming March 31 deadline.

Federal cabinet and the National Security Committee have approved the ability for the Australia government to sign a " memorandum of understanding" on the $100 billion bank but when the government will actually put pen to paper remains unknown.

Bishop said the decision was still under "active" consideration and there are still "a number of steps in the process" to work through.

"I stress that the next step is to sign a memorandum of understanding to be involved in negotiations over the articles of association," Bishop told reporters at an Australian-Chinese business networking event in Canberra on Wednesday. "There's quite a way to go before a decision would have to be made to be a founding member of the bank."

Bishop said the Australian government had sought answers of Chinese officials in regards to "a number of questions" Australia had regarding "governance issues".

"Since last October we have been pressing China for more details, for more understanding, and from the outside we have been able to gain a lot of information so it's an ongoing discussion that we're having with China and the other potential members of this bank," she said.

Tresurer Joe Hockey, an early proponent of the bank in Australia, said on Wednesday Australia would do its best to meet next Tuesday's deadline.

"We would be a very active negotiator at the table," he said. " A strong Asian investment bank with good governance structures is good for Australia."

A memorandum of understanding would signal Australia's interest in the Beijing-based bank while still leaving it the option to abandon its application if it is not satisfied with the governance and transparency of the multi-national institution.

The United States has lobbied Australia and other allies to proceed with caution. That has not stopped Britain, France, Germany and Italy from announcing this month they would apply to join the fledgling bank.