Business World

Australia cancels state deals on China’s Belt and Road


SYDNEY — Australia said a decision to cancel two deals between Victoria state and China on the Belt and Road Initiative was about ensuring consistenc­y in foreign relations and was not aimed at any country.

The Chinese embassy earlier criticized the move by Foreign Minister Marise Payne to veto two framework agreements signed by Victoria state as “provocativ­e” and said it would further damage ties with Australia.

Ms. Payne said on radio on Thursday she had received a thousand notificati­ons from the states about deals they had with multiple foreign government­s, under a new process that gives her veto over such arrangemen­ts.

“This scheme is very focussed on Australia’s national interest. Its about ensuring consistenc­y of our foreign relations across Australia and it’s most certainly not aimed at any one country,” she told ABC radio’s AM programme.

Beijing had been notified of the decision before it was made public on Wednesday evening.

She added Australia was committed to engaging with China, and was “asking all government­s around the world to respect our government’s decisionma­king authority.”

Australia’s conservati­ve coalition government had declined to agree to a country-level MOU with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. But Victoria Labor Premier Dan Andrews signed an agreement to promote the infrastruc­ture developmen­t initiative in 2018 and 2019 — saying it would bring Chinese investment to his state.

The Chinese embassy said in a statement the cancellati­on was “another unreasonab­le and provocativ­e move taken by the Australian side against China.”

Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have worsened since Canberra called for an internatio­nal inquiry into the origins of the coronaviru­s, prompting trade reprisals from Beijing.

On Wednesday, a senior Chinese embassy official again criticized Australia’s move to effectivel­y ban Chinese telecommun­ications company Huawei from its 5G network in 2018, the first country to do so, saying Canberra had “even persuaded others to follow suit.”

Ms. Payne is visiting New Zealand, where she will meet her counterpar­t Nanaia Mahuta. Mahuta on Monday said New Zealand did not support the Five Eyes security alliance — which also includes Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States — speaking out on human rights issues. —

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