Australian PM wants federal veto over states’ belt and road deals with China, citing ‘national interest’

Australian PM wants federal veto over states’ belt and road deals with China, citing ‘national interest’

  • The state of Victoria last year signed a deal to join President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure plan but the new law would allow federal government to block that agreement
  • China remains Australia’s largest trading partner but relations have deteriorated since Canberra banned Huawei from its 5G network and passed a law to crack down on foreign interference

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking new powers to veto or scrap agreements that state governments reach with foreign powers, in a move aimed at weakening China’s ability to gain influence in the nation through its Belt and Road Initiative.

The legislation will be introduced next week by Morrison’s conservative government, which is in the midst of a deepening diplomatic spat with China. It will cover a broad range of sectors, including infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, cultural collaboration, science, health and education, including university research partnerships.The Victoria state government signed an agreement last year to join President Xi Jinping’s signature belt and road infrastructure plan. The federal government may seek to use the new law, which is expected to pass this year, to override the plan, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Thursday.