Australia ends Chinese deals on national interest grounds

Australia ends Chinese deals on national interest grounds”

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.

"I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations", she said in a statement.

Australia has canceled agreements between China's Belt and Road Initiative and the Victoria state government, in a move that could further worsen ties between the two nations. The protocol with Syria was for scientific co-operation, and goes back to 1999.

Payne said she had made a decision to cancel four deals, including two that Victoria agreed with China, in 2018 and 2019, on cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature trade and infrastructure scheme.

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

Canberra a year ago introduced new laws widely seen as targeting China that allow it to scrap any agreements between state authorities and foreign countries deemed to threaten the national interest.

Initiated in 2013, the BRI is Xi Jinping's grand plan to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime trade networks to create new routes for China.

The foreign arrangements scheme, operating since December, was driven substantially by concern about foreign interference in Australia, in particular from China.

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It is the first time the federal government has used the new veto powers, which permits it to cancel agreements states and territories strike with other countries.

The other two agreements have been overtaken by major changes in relations with those countries.

"The more than 1000 notified so far reflect the richness and breadth of Australia's worldwide interests and demonstrate the important role played by Australia's states, territories, universities and local governments in advancing Australia's interests overseas", Ms Payne said.

"I look forward to ongoing collaboration with states, territories, universities and local governments in implementing the Foreign Arrangements Scheme".

Payne said Wednesday she had been alerted to more than 1,000 arrangements between foreign governments and Australia's states and territories, local governments and public universities since the laws were enacted.

She said she had also approved a proposed memorandum of understanding between the West Australian government and Indonesia in regards to a minerals project.

A spokesperson for the Victorian government said the law was "entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government".

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