Published: Thu, April 22, 2021
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Australia nixes two Belt and Road deals with China

Australia nixes two Belt and Road deals with China

In a statement, a Chinese Embassy spokesman condemned Australia's BRI move, which is expected to plunge the fractured relationship between the two countries into greater acrimony.

This scheme requires the federal government to cancel agreements that states, territories, local governments and universities enter into with an overseas government if they contradict the country's national interest, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews had signed Belt and Road deals with China's National Development and Reform Commission despite opposition by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.

Australia on Wednesday announced it would revoke a state government's deal to join China's Belt and Road initiative, saying it was inconsistent with the nation's foreign policy.

Scott Morrison said past year about belt and road that it was a program Australia's foreign policy did not recognise "because we don't believe it is consistent with Australia's national interest".

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Canberra warned of "further damage to bilateral relations" after multiple trade rows between the countries on topics ranging from wine to telecoms and as a result of the governments' rival bids to influence Pacific island nations.

Australia tore up a set of agreements Wednesday linked to the contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Beijing.

Senator Payne said the four agreements were "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations".

Australia's move is another unreasonable and provocative action taken by the Australian side against China, the statement added.

Payne said two documents signed in 2018 and 2019 respectively - a memorandum of understanding and framework agreement - were among four she would tear up under the new powers.

The BRI is a massive network of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects - including new ports, pipelines, railways and highways - stretching from Asia to Europe and considered a key part of Xi Jinping's desire to link Beijing with the global economy.

The announcement came the same day a Chinese diplomat indicated that there will be no immediate thaw in ties between Beijing and Canberra.

A state government spokeswoman told AAP the Foreign Relations Act was a matter for the Commonwealth.

China has slapped tariffs on more than a dozen Australian products in what many see as punishment for Canberra's increasingly assertive stance against its largest trading partner.

The granting of veto powers to the foreign minister past year came in response to growing concerns in Australia that China was trying to exert influence through its investments.

Australia in 2018 passed sweeping national security laws that ban covert foreign interference in domestic politics.

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