Australia nixes state Belt and Road deals with China in first veto

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said today the federal government would override the Victorian state government’s decision to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative — a vast network of investments that critics say is cover for Beijing creating

Scott Morrison said a year ago about belt and road that it was a program Australia's foreign policy did not recognise "because we don't believe it is consistent with Australia's national interest".

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the BRI deal has been cancelled under the Commonwealth's new foreign veto laws.

In a statement, a Chinese Embassy spokesman condemned Australia's BRI move, which is expected to plunge the fractured relationship between the two countries into greater acrimony.

"It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself".

It also reflects the broader principle that foreign relations are a national matter and agreements by states and territories with foreign governments should not be at odds with the federal government's policies.

Payne, who makes the determinations under the foreign arrangements scheme, said the agreements were "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations" under the scheme's test.

Payne's statement also calls for agreements signed between Victoria and Iran, as well as Victoria and Syria, to be terminated.

- Protocol of scientific cooperation between the Ministry of Higher Education in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training of Victoria, signed 31 March 1999.

U.S. warns Russian Federation of consequences if Navalny dies in prison
Meanwhile, Maas' French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country is "extremely concerned" over Navalny's health. In an interview with the BBC , however, Russia's ambassador to Britain accused him of attention-seeking.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, she defended the government's decision and said she did not expect China to retaliate.

The Victoria state's decision to sign up to China's Belt and Road initiative, with two agreements in 2018 and 2019, drew criticism from the federal government, as well as then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The announcement came the same day a Chinese diplomat indicated that there will be no immediate thaw in ties between Beijing and Canberra.

Canberra has taken other steps to curtail China's influence in the country, including putting a ban on telecoms giant Huawei from building Australia's 5G network and tightening foreign investment laws.

China has slapped tariffs on more than a dozen Australian products in what many see as punishment for Canberra's increasingly assertive stance against its largest trading partner.

Australia has already infuriated China by calling for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and its latest move is likely to further inflame tensions.

It's the first time the new powers have been used by the conservative coalition government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

More than 1,000 existing and proposed foreign arrangements have been put to Payne by states and territories, local governments and public universities since the review launched on December 10.

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