May 14, 2021

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Australia cancels its Belt and Road agreement with China

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Australia cancels two agreements signed by the state of Victoria with China to join the Belt and Road Initiative.

Canberra last year enacted a new law that allowed it to cancel any deal between state and foreign governments deemed to threaten national interests.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on April 21 announced that the federal government would veto the Victorian government’s decision to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a major infrastructure network that Experts say it was used by Beijing to create financial and geopolitical leverage.

Payne decided to cancel four agreements, including two that Victoria agreed with China in 2018 and 2019. “I consider these four agreements as incompatible with Australian foreign policy or detrimental to our external relations, “she said. The other two canceled agreements are between Victoria state, Iran and Syria.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Canberra on March 24. Image: AFP.

BRI agreements were signed after Victoria outlined a 10-year strategy to strengthen relations with China. The Agreement provides only a “framework for future cooperation” and is not legally binding.

The announcement comes at a time when relations between Beijing and Canberra are deteriorating, as the two governments are straining over trade and competition for influence in the Pacific. Canberra has taken a series of moves to limit China’s influence in the country, including banning Huawei from building 5G networks and tightening foreign investment laws on corporations.

Australia also has disagreements with China over Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, China has imposed tariffs on more than a dozen Australian products. Many see this as Beijing’s punitive move with Canberra’s increasingly assertive stance.

Phuong Vu (According to the AFP)

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