Australia Cancels State's Belt And Road Deal With China

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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 today 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.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the BRI deal has been cancelled under the Commonwealth's new foreign veto laws.

In what is another move to stifle Chinese investment in Australia after the Commonwealth introduced new laws a year ago, two deals agreed to in 2018 and 2019 between the Victorian state government and China have been shelved.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg months earlier had expressed his concern over the agreement between China and the Victorian government, with Wednesday's move not wholly unexpected.

Beijing has previously raised Canberra's veto power as one of 14 grievances damaging to bilateral relations.

The bans are the first under laws passed by the national parliament in December that give the foreign minister the ability to stop new and previously signed agreements between overseas governments and Australia's eight states and territories, and also with bodies such as local authorities and universities. Beijing has since inflicted a range of trade reprisals, including imposing crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine while blocking coal shipments.

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China's embassy in Australia responded swiftly, expressing "strong displeasure and resolute opposition" to Senator Payne's announcement.

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

"We should value our friendship between our peoples and no obstacle should be be laid intentionally to obstruct people-to-people exchange programs", he said.

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.

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".

However, the presence of Chinese government-backed Confucius Institutes at Australia's public universities remain in doubt, amid ongoing criticism they promote the Communist Party's self-serving version of Chinese culture and history. "I think they thought they had it sewn up and they hadn't", he said.

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

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