Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne cancels Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal with China

7 NEWS Summer Woolley – Published: 21/04/2021 Updated: Wednesday, 21 April 2021 8:51 pm AEST

The federal government has cancelled Victoria’s “Belt and Road” agreement with China over concerns it is “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy”.

The Morrison government in December granted itself the ability to torpedo deals between individual states and foreign powers, with states and territories obliged to audit any existing agreements.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne issued a statement on Wednesday evening to confirm the controversial deal was among four arrangements that had been cancelled under the scheme.

More than 1,000 existing and proposed foreign arrangements have been put to Payne since the scheme launched on December 10.

Following her review and consideration, she advised four had been cancelled.

In a blow to Premier Daniel Andrews, all four were agreements made by Victoria.

Two of the arrangements include a memorandum of understanding in relation to the Chinese infrastructure initiative and a framework agreement signed between the Victoria Government and China in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

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.

Andrews has previously defended the deal, saying it carried the promise of Victorian jobs and investment, and warned cancelling the agreement would risk already-strained economic ties with China.

‘Inconsistent’

In a statement, Payne said she considered the four arrangements to be “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy” or “adverse to our foreign relations”.

“I will continue to consider foreign arrangements notified under the Scheme,” she said.

“I expect the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected.

“I look forward to ongoing collaboration with states, territories, universities and local governments in implementing the Foreign Arrangements Scheme.”

The decision came after states and territories completed an “internal audit of existing arrangements with foreign national governments”.

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