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Australia moves to anger China amid tensions

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gained new powers, able to veto or cancel agreements reached by state governments with other countries.

The move could have a major hindrance to China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), amid rising tensions between Canberra and Beijing.

According to Bloomberg, new laws passed by the Australian parliament on December 8 will give the government the ability to suspend new or previously signed agreements between foreign governments and eight states and territories. Australia, as well as with local governments and universities.

The Morrison administration will be able to prevent or reduce foreign involvement in areas such as infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, culture, science, health, and education.

The initial goal of passing these new laws could be an agreement signed by the Victorian government in 2018 to participate in the construction of China’s BRI infrastructure.

Daniel Andrews, Victoria state chief, told reporters last week that the state government is not considering withdrawing from the BRI agreement due to the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, according to AAP.

The new law could allow the federal government to review and flip back to memoranda of understanding between Beijing and the governments of Western Australia, South Australia and the Tasmanian region in areas ranging from investment cooperation, science and outreach. Antarctic.

Australia’s states and territories have at least 130 agreements with 30 countries that could be affected by the new laws, according to the Australian Prime Minister. The new law will establish a public register to provide transparency of Australian government decisions. States and territories will have 3 months to review existing agreements.

Partnerships between Australian universities and Chinese sponsors may be canceled. Concern arose among intelligence circles about China’s influence with Australian universities.

Under the new law, Mr. Morrison cannot cancel transactions between state governments and commercial or state-owned enterprises. That means the Australian government cannot interfere with a 2015 strategic port lease in Darwin, between the Northern Territory government and a Chinese company.

Australia’s passing of new laws could anger China and worsen relations between the two countries. Tensions between Beijing and Canberra came when the Australian Prime Minister called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, which originated in China. Beijing has since made a series of trade moves allegedly in retaliation including imposing tariffs on Australian barley and alcohol and blocking Canberra’s coal shipments.

Relations between the two countries hit their lowest levels last week when a Chinese diplomat posted on Twitter an image of an Australian soldier holding a knife against the neck of an Afghan child. After Mr. Morrison called for an apology for this “blamed” post, a senior Chinese diplomat denied the Australian request.