CANBERRA, Australia — China has slammed Australia’s “provocative” decision to tear up Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative agreement with Beijing, warning the move will further damage bilateral relations.
China’s embassy in Australia responded swiftly, expressing “strong displeasure and resolute opposition” to Senator Payne’s announcement.
“This is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China,” a Chinese embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
“It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations.
“It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations and will only end up hurting itself.”
The Scott Morrison government granted itself the ability to torpedo deals between individual states and foreign powers under the Foreign Relations Act in December.
The foreign minister can assess such arrangements to check if they align with Australia’s foreign policy goals.
Senator Payne claims four agreements would be canceled, two related to Victoria’s Belt and Road deal for infrastructure investment.
“I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations,” she said in a statement.
Victoria signed a memorandum of understanding in relation to the Chinese regional infrastructure initiative in 2018 and then signed a “framework agreement” with Beijing in 2019.
Areas of cooperation included increasing participation of Chinese companies in Victoria’s infrastructure program and promoting cooperation of Victorian businesses in China.
It also allowed Victoria engineering and design firms to bid for Belt and Road Initiative projects worldwide.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has previously advised against the deal’s cancellation, saying it would place Victorian jobs at risk.
A state government spokeswoman claimed that the Foreign Relations Act was a matter for the Commonwealth.
“The Victorian government will continue to work hard to deliver jobs, trade, and economic opportunities for our state,” she said in a statement on April 21.
Beijing has previously raised Canberra’s veto power as one of 14 grievances damaging to bilateral relations.
In the past 12 months, China launched a series of damaging trade strikes against Australia after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Pallavi Mehra)
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