Australia tears Belt and Road with Beijing

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne officially abandoned the deal with Beijing on Wednesday night with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Victoria, saying it was inconsistent with national interests.

Payne has exercised recently granted powers under Australian diplomatic law to ax a total of four transactions between the Victoria State Government and foreign governments, including Iran, Syria and China.

The two shredded transactions were signed by State Prime Minister Dan Andrews and Beijing’s National Development and Reform Commission.

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Victorian premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media on February 16, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Darian Trainer / Getty Images)

In the first agreement, the 2018 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Victoria promised to work on infrastructure projects within the Chinese administration’s Silk Road Economic Belt, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, commonly known as the Belt and Road Initiative. did.

The second Victorian agreement was the 2019 Framework Agreement on Jointly Promoting BRI.

Minister Payne also revoked the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding between the Victorian Department of Education and Training and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the 1999 Scientific Cooperation Protocol between the Department and the Arab Republic of Syria.

“I believe these four arrangements are inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or are at a disadvantage to our diplomatic relations in line with relevant tests. [under the Act]”Pain said in a statement.

Federal diplomatic law also forced the Victoria State Government to hand over documents related to a third secret transaction signed between the state and Chinese administrations.

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On April 27, 2019, workers will drop the Belt and Road Forum panel outside the Beijing venue. (Greg Baker / AFP / Getty Images)

The agreement was signed in March 2017, 18 months before the first BRI agreement was signed. A secret memorandum promised the state to work with Beijing on a Victorian infrastructure project through a public-private partnership (PPP).

However, Prime Minister Andrews argued that dealings with China, such as BRI, did not threaten national security, but created employment opportunities.

“I have always seen these arrangements and all arrangements not just in one country, but in all the different countries, different states, different states, different regions with which we are involved. Exports.” Stated. He told reporters in August 2020.

Under the BRI, Beijing is reported to significantly reduce foreign companies for infrastructure bidding and provide out-of-service loans to developing countries that can barely afford to buy projects.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at a press conference in Sydney, Australia on April 19, 2021. (Jenny Evans / Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was no benefit to Victoria’s deal with Beijing and said the deal was unlikely to come under the new law.

“If there are benefits, what are they and what have been paid? At this time, there are no answers to these questions, but we will continue to evaluate these arrangements,” Morrison said.

Survey over 1,000 transactions

The federal government has canceled four transactions under the diplomatic law that came into force since December last year.

Under the new law, states, territories, local governments, and Australian public universities need to notify the Foreign Minister of existing and proposed foreign arrangements.

“We have been notified of more than 1,000 arrangements so far,” said Payne, who said the states and territories had completed the initial audit of existing arrangements with foreign governments.

She was informed of “reflecting the affluence and breadth” of Australia’s international interests, described the 1,000 transactions surveyed, and stated the states, territories, universities and localities in advancing Australia’s interests abroad. It showed the important role that the local government plays.

“I am grateful for the state-territory cooperation and the development of a collaborative approach under the scheme,” she said.

Payne also approved a memorandum of understanding proposed between the Government of Western Australia and Indonesia.

She said she would continue to consider more foreign transactions, but expected the “overwhelming majority” to be unaffected.

Henry Jom contributed to this report.