Australia Cancels China’s Belt and Road Deal With State

Australia has canceled agreements between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Victoria state government, in a move that could further worsen ties between the two nations, Bloomberg News reported. The Australian federal government scrapped both the memorandum of understanding and framework agreement signed between Victoria and China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in an emailed statement Wednesday. Two other deals between Victoria and the governments of Iran and Syria have also been scrapped. “I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations,” Payne said. 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. Payne’s move could further worsen ties between Australia and its largest trading partner, which have been in free-fall for a year after the government called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus. Beijing has since inflicted a range of trade reprisals, including imposing crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine while blocking coal shipments. The action “is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China,” the Chinese embassy in Canberra said in an emailed 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.” Read more.