The Chinese embassy in Canberra has criticized Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s move to veto two agreements signed by the state of Victoria.
The move has been called “provocative” by the Chinese embassy, which added that it will further damage the relationship between the two countries: the step “is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China. It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations. It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself.”
Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have deteriorated since the government in Canberra called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, prompting trade retaliation from Beijing.
The Australian government has canceled two trade agreements between the state of Victoria and China regarding China’s ambitious and controversial Belt and Road Initiative development project.
Payne on Tuesday specified that Australia is a federation and states entering into agreements with foreign governments are now required to consult the federal government.
“This scheme is very focused on Australia’s national interest. Its about ensuring consistency of our foreign relations across Australia and it’s most certainly not aimed at any one country,” Payne told ABC radio’s AM programme.
Beijing had been informed of the decision before it was made public Wednesday night.
Speaking to reporters in New Zealand after meeting with his counterpart Nanaia Mahuta, Payne said Australia has been trying to weave a practical and clear relationship with China, particularly since the world came out of COVID-19.
China is New Zealand and Australia’s largest trading partner.
Mahuta on Thursday after saying New Zealand values the Five Eyes security alliance – which also includes Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States – questioned whether it was the right platform for New Zealand to talk about human rights issues.
Payne said the Five Eyes is a vital strategic alliance and that Australia has sought to deepen cooperation with its partners, who are liberal democracies.
In a joint written statement that did not mention China, Payne and Mahuta said “they reaffirmed their intent to work together to preserve the liberal international order that has underpinned stability and prosperity in the region, and to foster a sustainable regional balance where all countries- large and small — can freely pursue their legitimate interests”.