CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has new powers to veto or scrap agreements that state governments reach with foreign powers under laws that could stymie China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Australia and further inflame tensions between the trading partners.
The laws passed by Parliament on Tuesday (Dec 8) will give the foreign minister the ability to stop new and previously signed agreements between overseas governments and Australia’s eight states and territories, and with bodies such as local authorities and universities.
Mr Morrison’s government will be able to block or curtail foreign involvement in a broad range of sectors such as infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, cultural collaboration, science, health and education, including university research partnerships.
An early target is likely to be an agreement the Victoria state government signed in 2018 to join President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure-building BRI.
The laws could further worsen ties between Australia and its largest trading partner, which have been in free fall since April, when the prime minister called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus.