Australia ends Chinese deals on national interest grounds

The cancelled deals include Victoria state's two “Belt and Road” infrastructure building initiative deals with Beijing signed in 2018 and 2019, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.  

Australia said on Thursday that it cancelled two accords between Victoria State and China on the Belt and Road Initiative because they were out of line with the federal government’s foreign policy, which sees a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as a key goal.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded by urging Australia to abandon its “Cold War mentality and ideological bias” and “immediately correct its mistakes and change course”. The Chinese Embassy earlier criticised the move by Foreign Minister Marise Payne to veto two agreements signed by Victoria State as “provocative”, and said it would further damage ties.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Thursday the accords were cancelled because his federal government didn’t want other levels of government to enter into agreements that are in conflict with Australia’s foreign policy.

“We will always act in Australia’s national interest to protect Australia, but to also ensure we can advance our national interest in a free and open Indo- Pacific and a world that seeks a balance in favour of freedom,” he said.

Under a new process, States must consult with the Foreign Minister before signing agreements with other nations.

Ms. Payne earlier told local radio the policy was “not aimed at any one country”. Wang Wenbin, a spokesman at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, expressed doubt over that claim during a regular news conference in Beijing. He warned Australia against travelling “further down the wrong path to avoid making the already strained China-Australia relations worse”.

New realities

Speaking to reporters in New Zealand after meeting with her counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, Ms. Payne said Australia sought a clear-eyed and practical engagement with China, particularly as the world emerged from COVID-19.

“We also have to acknowledge that China’s outlook, the nature of China’s external engagement, both in our region and globally, has changed in recent years, and an enduring partnership requires us to adapt to those new realities,” she said.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 12:15:06 PM |

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