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(AUSTRALIA) BRI REPORT: The federal government has torn up four agreements between Victoria and foreign nations, including two linked to the state government’s contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deal with China #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Apr.22: The BRI is a massive network of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects — including new ports, pipelines, railways and highways — stretching from Asia to Europe:

‘It is the first time the Commonwealth has used new powers that allow it to cancel agreements that state and territory governments, local councils and public universities strike with other countries’

Australia has become increasingly anxious that it has been used as a vehicle for cementing the Chinese government’s influence and commercial interests across a vast swathe of the globe’

updated 13m ago

Marise Payne looks into the distance with an Australian flag behind her
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has torn up the agreements.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

The move risks stoking a fresh brawl with Beijing after weeks of relative calm.

Victoria’s BRI agreements do not commit the state government to specific projects and are not legally binding.

But federal government ministers have privately complained the agreements allowed China’s government to split the Australian domestic consensus on the BRI, handing Beijing an easy public relations win.

They’ve also warned it might dilute Australia’s attempts to press other regional countries to tread warily before signing investment deals under the BRI, and complained federal officials were not shown the final version of the agreement before it was signed by the Victorian government.

When the federal government introduced the veto legislation last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied the laws were aimed primarily at Victoria’s BRI agreement with China.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye in Melbourne who are both holding compendiums.
Daniel Andrews signed a new deal to deepen the state’s engagement in the initiative in 2019.(Supplied: Chinese Embassy)

But the two other agreements scrapped are both relatively obscure.

One is an agreement between Victoria’s Department of Education and Training and an Iranian government agency, while the other is a1999 Memorandum of Understanding designed to encourage scientific cooperation between Syria’s Ministry of Higher Education and the Victorian Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said all four agreements signed by Victoria’s government were unfavourable to Australia’s foreign relations.

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

Senator Payne said the federal government had already scrutinised more than 1,000 agreements with foreign nations.

“I will continue to consider foreign arrangements notified under the Scheme. I expect the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected,” she said.

The announcement is likely to draw an angry response from the Chinese government.

Last year, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the BRI agreement with Victoria delivered “benefits for both sides of the deal”.

When asked about moves to strike it down he said: “We hope Australia will view such co-operation objectively and reasonably, stop putting bacteria into this relationship and do more to improve our mutual benefits.

A Victorian government spokeswoman said: “The Foreign Relations Act is entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government.”

“Victoria will continue to work hard to deliver jobs, trade and economic opportunities for our state.”

CNA/ABC/Reuters/

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Apr.22: 2021:

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