Defense interests, economic interests, and international trade are linked. Participation in institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank has been an important catalyst for growth in the US economy, driving exports, while concurrently protecting national interests.
According to data published by the World Bank, US exports as a share of Gross National Product grew from about 9% in the late eighties to about 13.5% in 2013. A lot of people in the United States rely on international trade for their livelihood.
On December 25, 2015 Santa Claus left the world a present under the tree. With $100 billion in initial funding and 57 countries participating, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) opened its doors. China is the biggest shareholder, holding 30%. The United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and India are among the founding members.
The United States is not participating.
The AIIB is seeking to spur development along the ancient Silk Road, working to revitalize the overland trade route between Europe and China. This is part of a larger initiative championed by the Chinese government and China’s Premier Xi Jinping called the “Silk Road Economic Belt.”
Anybody who has worked in Asia – particularly central Asia - is well aware of the logistics infrastructure challenges, and China is aiming directly at the opportunity.
AIIB member nations are participating because it is in their economic interest to do so. According to an Australia’s Joe Hockey, formerly the country’s treasurer, “If we can build new railway lines and ports in the region, that will mean more of our product goes into those facilities.”
Perhaps the lack of participation by the United States is another example of the current administration’s doctrine of leading from behind. Whatever the logic, it seems likely that the lack of US participation will cost American shippers and exporters.