Australia

Federal government rips up Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road agreements with China

The federal government has stepped in and torn up four agreements made by the Victorian government with foreign powers, including two linked to China’s Belt and Road initiative.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the contentious memorandum of understanding and framework agreement Victoria signed with China in relation to the initiative had been cancelled under new Commonwealth veto laws.

The other two agreements torn up related to deals struck with Iran and Syria.

“I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations,” Senator Payne said.

It is the first time the federal government has used the new veto powers, which permits it to cancel agreements  states and territories strike with other countries.

The Belt and Road deals tied Victoria to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s major infrastructure project.

Agreed areas of cooperation included increasing participation of Chinese infrastructure companies in Victoria’s infrastructure construction program and promoting cooperation of Victorian businesses in China.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in December said cancelling the agreement would be a mistake and risk already-strained economic ties with China.

Senator Payne said on Wednesday she would continue to monitor arrangements made with foreign nations, and she expected “the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected”. 

She said she had also approved a proposed memorandum of understanding between the West Australian government and Indonesia in regards to a minerals project.

More to come.

With AAP.

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