Australia Cancels State's Belt And Road Deal With China

James Marshall
April 21, 2021

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.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne issued a statement to announce the two controversial BRI deals were among four cancelled under Australia's new Foreign Arrangements Scheme. The other two are with Syria and Iran.

- Framework agreement between the government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China on jointly promoting the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, signed on 23 October 2019. The protocol with Syria was for scientific co-operation, and goes back to 1999.

Payne, who makes the determinations under the foreign arrangements scheme, said the agreements were "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations" under the scheme's test.

The action is likely to elicit another sharp response from China, which is extensively targeting Australian trade and regularly delivers rhetorical attacks.

Belt and Road is a key project of Chinese President Xi Jinping's government.

Scott Morrison said a year ago 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".

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

Morrison's government has denied that its new veto power is aimed at China, Australia's largest trading partner and biggest source of overseas universities students before the coronavirus pandemic led the country to close its borders.

Payne said states, local governments and publicly funded universities had notified her of more than 1,000 foreign deals overall.

More than 1000 arrangements between states, territories, local governments and Australian public universities have already been submitted to the minister for consideration.

Senator Payne said on Wednesday she would continue to monitor arrangements made with foreign nations, and she expected "the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected".

The law may still allow the federal government to review and overturn memorandums of understanding between Beijing and the state governments of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania in sectors ranging from investment, science cooperation and access to the Antarctic.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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