Australia said the decision to cancel two agreements between Victoria and China under the Belt and Road Initiative was aimed at ensuring consistency in foreign relations and did not target any country.
The Chinese Embassy criticized Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s decision to veto two agreements signed by the state of Victoria as “provocative” and said it would further damage relations with Australia.
The Australian federal government has abandoned the memorandum of understanding and framework agreement signed between Victoria and the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, Beijing’s main economic planning body.
Payne said Thursday she had received 1,000 notifications from Australian states on deals they have made with several foreign governments, in a new process that vetoed such arrangements.
“This program is very focused on the national interest of Australia. This is to ensure the consistency of our foreign relations across Australia and it is certainly not for one country, ”she told ABC radio’s AM program.
Beijing had been informed of the decision before it was made public on Wednesday evening.
She added that Australia was committed to engaging with China and that she “called on all governments around the world to respect the decision-making power of our government.”
Australia’s conservative coalition government refused to agree to a nationwide memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road initiative. But Victoria’s Labor Prime Minister Dan Andrews signed a deal 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 that the cancellation was “another unreasonable and provocative step taken by the Australian side against China.”
Australia “has essentially fired the first major shot at China in trade and investment disputes,” said Chen Hong, director of the Center for Australian Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, at. Global Times, supported by the Communist Party. “China will surely respond accordingly.”
Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have been in free fall for a year after the government called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. Beijing has since inflicted a series of trade retaliations, including imposing crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine while blocking coal shipments.
“What we have to wait for now is how Beijing will react materially” to Payne’s decision, Charles Sturt University professor Clive Hamilton said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday. “The Belt and Road is Beijing’s strategic tool for advancing Beijing’s influence in the world.”
The bans are the first under laws passed by Australia’s national parliament in December that give the Foreign Secretary the ability to end new and already signed agreements between overseas governments and Australia’s eight states and territories , as well as with organizations such as local authorities and universities.
A senior Chinese embassy official on Wednesday again criticized Australia’s decision 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 do the same ”.
Payne’s announcement, which included a ban on two more deals between Victoria and the Iranian and Syrian governments, came the same day a Chinese diplomat indicated there would be no immediate thaw in relations between Beijing and Canberra.
“We have done nothing intentionally to harm this relationship and we have seen too many incidents in recent years in which China’s interest has been hurt,” said Wang Xining, deputy chief of mission of the Chinese Embassy, to reporters in Canberra.
Payne is visiting New Zealand, where she will meet her counterpart Nanaia Mahuta. Mahuta said Monday that New Zealand does not support the Five Eyes security alliance – which also includes Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States – speaking on human rights issues. ‘man.
The comments have been widely interpreted as referring to Five Eyes’ joint statements criticizing China.
“Australia will continue to emphasize the vital nature of the Five Eyes in matters of security and intelligence,” Payne said Thursday.