dilluns, de març 19, 2007

US agrees to China joining IADB

By Richard Lapper in Guatemala City. Finantial Times

The US has withdrawn its opposition to China joining the Inter-American Development Bank, allowing formal talks over its membership of the region's biggest development institution to begin.

Membership would allow China access to contracts on IADB projects in a region where its economic influence has been growing strongly in recent years. Trade has increased more than fivefold since 1999, partly as a result of a big increase in Chinese demand for raw materials such as soya, iron ore and copper.

China has been seeking membership of the IADB ? which counts a number of European and Asian governments among its shareholders ? for some time but up to now the US has opposed its application. An IADB official said the US position had changed since Henry Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs banker, became Treasury secretary last year.

"The US position has changed and the bank's governors have cleared the way for Moreno [the bank's president Luis Alberto Moreno] to begin negotiations," said an IADB official.

According to an IADB statement, Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People's Bank of China, and Mr Moreno were set to sign a memorandum of understanding designed to "formalise discussions" on China's "possible membership" on Sunday night, on the eve of the IADB's annual conference in Guatemala City.

China would buy a tiny stake ? held by Bosnia-Herzegovina and probably equal to about 0.04 per cent of the IADB's total capital ? but as a condition of membership it would make a contribution to the special operations fund, under which soft loans are made available to five of
the region's poorest countries. Both Japan and South Korea ? the other two Asian members of the bank ? made hefty contributions to special funds when they joined the bank.

Chinese membership would probably clear the way for the possible accession of other Asian countries to the bank, said the official. Mr Moreno, a former Colombian ambassador to the US who took over as bank president in October 2005, plans to visit India later this year.

The bank's 47 members are divided between 21 countries that borrow and receive aid from the institution and donor nations that provide financing for projects in the developing nations.

Chinese membership of the bank would help its campaign to isolate Taiwan in the region. Only about two dozen countries have given Taiwan diplomatic status, and one-quarter of those are in Latin America.

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