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Australia tear up China’s Belt and Road agreement

TBL web desk

Once again tensions between Canberra and Beijing escalates after the decision of Australian government to cancel a Belt and Road agreement signed by China and the state government of Victoria.

The above said memorandum was signed between Australia’s second largest, wealthiest state and China in October 2018. Victoria was he only government in Australia to sign up for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature global infrastructure initiative.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that a memorandum of understanding and framework agreement the state of Victoria signed with China in relation to the BRI had been cancelled under the new Commonwealth veto laws, claiming that “the arrangement is inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or hurts its foreign relations.”

In total, four deals were canceled, two with China and one each with Iran and Syria, all signed by the Victorian government.

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

Speaking to Australian radio on Thursday, Payne said the decision wasn’t directed at any particular country.

Responding to the Australian move, a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Australia expressed on Wednesday a “resolute opposition” to the Australian move, calling it another “unreasonable and provocative” action taken by Australia against China.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Australia to immediately reverse its wrong decision and stop irresponsible words and deeds regarding the China-Australia relationship, or China will definitely respond “firmly and forcefully.”

Australia “basically fired the first major shot against China in trade and investment” conflicts, Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai, told the Communist Party-backed Global Times. “China will surely respond accordingly.”

Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have been in freefall 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. Overall, Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62% in 2020, down to just $775 million.

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