Australia ends China deals on national interest grounds

Australia has cancelled two Chinese “Belt and Road” infrastructure building initiative deals with a state government, provoking an angry response from Beijing as reported by AP. The bilateral deals with Victoria state were among four vetoed under new laws that give the federal government power to overrule international agreements by lower-level administrations that violate the national interest, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said late Wednesday.

The “Belt and Road” deals struck with Beijing in 2018 and 2019 triggered the legislative response. Victoria Education Department pacts signed with Syria in 1999 and Iran in 2004 were also cancelled. The Chinese Embassy in Australia said in a statement the decision “further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations.” Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party”s English-language mouthpiece, said in a headline: “Australia faces serious consequences for unreasonable provocation against China.” The move “marks a significant escalation that could push icy bilateral relations into an abyss,” the newspaper added. Chinese government ministers refuse to take phone calls from their Australian counterparts, and trade disruptions are widely seen as China imposing economic punishment.