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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017

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Snippet Contents:

I pay tribute to the Minister for Finance on the announcement of his retirement from that role. The Minister for Finance and I have a very different world view in nearly every respect politically, but it is obvious he has played a very strong role in Fine Gael over the years. He has been a mainstay of the Fine Gael Party since I was a child and no doubt he had a very settling effect on the Fine Gael Party every time it got little bit giddy over recent years. I wish him well in his retirement and many happy years with his family.
I welcome the Bill. My party is an internationalist one and believes the State should play a full role in development across the world. We are members of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are the American and Japanese dominated development banks, so there would be no reason to shun the Chinese equivalent.
For some time I have been asking the Minister about when our application would be progressed. In April 2015, when the bank was founded, my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, asked the Minister if Ireland would join. At that point, Deputy Doherty was told that no decisions had been taken or proposed in the matter. At that point, Britain, Germany, France and practically all other European countries had joined or indicated they would join as founding members. The agreement is clear that founding members enjoy special privileges in nominating and voting for directors. Most of our neighbours will have these privileges but Ireland will not. Unfortunately, the country hesitated and dithered and we were nearly left behind. By delaying our application for no good reason we have put this country at a tactical disadvantage.
It is not clear why we delayed but the possibility exists that American sensitivities might have been behind it. American Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, thinks our sensitivity is misplaced, saying: I cannot see any good reason a decision was not taken until December 2015. Hopefully, there will be no further disadvantages because of this. What matters ultimately is that the right decision was made. Asia is a huge part of the world with massive concentrations of population. Its economic potential compared to Europe is very large. Good trade links with China in agriculture and other areas in particular are essential to our export sector. As the Minister told Deputy Doherty last June: The economic rationale for joining is clear, but it should not have been the only rationale. I note the articles of agreement state, "The Bank shall ensure that each of its operations complies with the Bank's operational and financial policies, including without limitation, policies addressing environmental and social impacts." That is, presumably, a very weak sop to those of us who argue for investment that respect human rights and environmental protections. We cannot ignore such issues when we are talking about what is effectively a Chinese bank. Many of the countries that are the likely recipients of investments have issues with minorities or national rights that must be taken into account.