Daily US Times: Australia has scrapped agreements tied to China’s highly ambitious Belt and Road initiative, prompting anger from Beijing and adding more strains to tense relations between the two countries.
The Australian federal government used new powers to scrap two deals made between China and the state of Victoria.
Australia said it was backing away from the agreements to protect Australia’s national interest.
The Chinese embassy in Australia did not hide their anger, described the move “provocative”.
It said the action by the federal government was “bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself.”
A spokesperson said in a statement: “It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations.”
The federal government in Australia, for the first time, has used the powers to veto deals made by states, public universities and local governments with foreign countries. The laws allow the federal government to cancel deals deemed to threaten the country’s national interest.
In addition to the China deals, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne also scrapped agreements with Syria and Iran. They were a 1999 scientific cooperation agreement signed with Syria and a memorandum of understanding sealed between the state of Victoria’s education department and Iran, signed in 2004.
The Australian minister said the four agreements were “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations”.
She defended the government’s decision and said she did not expect China to retaliate.
While speaking to the AM radio programme, she said: “I think Australia is acting in our national interest, we are very careful and very considered in that approach.”
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