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Banking & Finance

AIIB adds members, approves new lending at annual meeting

Chinese-led bank continues to play it safe with syndicated loans in second year

AIIB President Jin Liqun described the infrastructure bank as a transparent, open institution.

JEJU, South Korea/BEIJING -- The Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank admitted three new members Friday at the institution's second annual meeting, lifting its roster to 80 even as the bank continues its cautious approach in deploying its capital.

AIIB President Jin Liqun hailed the international bank as "open and transparent" in his introductory speech on the South Korean island of Jeju.

Jin also noted that all members of the AIIB are party to the Paris Agreement, taking a veiled jab at the U.S. following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the global agreement on fighting climate change.

The AIIB opened for business in January 2016, and its ranks are still growing as Argentina, Tonga and Madagascar became the latest to join. The institution's roster, already bigger than the Asian Development Bank's 67 members, is expected to reach 85 to 90 this year.

When it comes to lending, the AIIB has shown a preference for playing it safe while the bank cements its position in international finance. Three financing-related items totaling $324 million in lending and investment were approved at Friday's meeting: a capital contribution to an Indian infrastructure fund and two syndicated loans arranged by other multilateral lenders.

These bring the bank's number of financing initiatives to 16, totaling $2.5 billion. Twelve of those, worth nearly $1.9 billion, are syndicated loans with the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions. Such loans carry less risk exposure than going in as a sole lender.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the AIIB as a vehicle for his Belt and Road Initiative of building infrastructure links across Eurasia.

The U.S. and Japan, which exercise leadership at the ADB, have not joined the China-led bank. But other big Western economies have -- among them the U.K., France and Germany -- giving it the trappings of a truly multilateral institution.

Jin will hold a news conference Saturday on the second day of the annual meeting. Next year's meeting will take place in India.

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