The Australian federal government is poised to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will enable Australia to participate as a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Monday.
Robb said that it was "imperative" that Australia had a "seat at the table" at the AIIB before the March 31 deadline.
He told ABC Radio on Monday it was time to sign a MoU, a crucial step in enabling Australia to shape the final design of the bank. He said despite some lengthy discussions over governance and transparency issues, most of the finer details had now been agreed upon.
"It's time to get 'inside the tent'and influence the final shape of the governance and other matters," Robb said.
"We have been in close contact and consultation from the outset and have made very good progress with the Chinese in the design and transparency issues."
Robb said that the delay in joining the AIIB would not diminish Australia's relationship and influence with other founding members.
"I think our position outside of the group (until now) did help our leverage," he said.
"I think we'll be enthusiastically embraced by the Chinese and others of the board."
Despite strong reservations from the U.S. and Japan about the AIIB, Robb said joining the bank would encourage economic growth and trade within the Asian region.
"There is 750 billion dollars of infrastructure need in our region, and improved infrastructure will help to drive growth and demand in Asia Pacific countries that offer strong future trade and investment prospects for Australia," he said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott released a joint statement with Treasurer Joe Hockey and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop on Sunday, which indicated that Australia would be joining the AIIB before the March 31 deadline, even though there still some issues to be ironed out.
"Good progress has been made on the bank's design, governance and transparency over the past few months, but we still have issues that we will address through ongoing consultations," the statement said.
The Beijing-based bank was formed late last year to help finance projects for infrastructure, rail, roads and power throughout key developing Asian countries.
Australia initially showed interest in joining, but had delayed signing an agreement after being asked to join back in October.