Australia provokes China anger over scrapped deals

Grant Boone
April 22, 2021

Canberra previous year 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.

Canberra says it found the agreements "inconsistent" with Australia's foreign policy.

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

Payne said she had chose 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.

The country's position was expressed in a statement by a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Australia on Wednesday.

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

Australia on Wednesday cancelled four bilateral deals with China, Iran and Syria under new laws that give the federal government power to overrule global agreements by lower-level administrations that violate the national interest. "It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations".

The Australian Foreign Minister said she considered the agreements to be "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations".

"It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself".

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The agreements with China are the memorandum of understanding on the belt and road initiative signed in October 2018, and a subsequent more detailed framework agreement signed in October 2019.

The laws allow Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government to block or curtail foreign involvement in a broad range of sectors such as infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, cultural collaboration, science, health and education, including university research partnerships.

Analysts have warned that Chinese lending for Belt and Road projects could entice developing nations, including Australia's Pacific neighbors, into unsustainable debt, thereby making them vulnerable.

A Victorian government spokeswoman told national broadcaster ABC: "The Foreign Relations Act is entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government".

"Victoria will continue to work hard to deliver jobs, trade and economic opportunities for our state".

Relations between Canberra and Beijing have soured.

Ties between Australia and China have soured after Australia called for an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus past year.

The Chinese government also remains furious with Australia over foreign interference and investment laws and the decision to ban Huawei from the country's 5G rollout.

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