Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison seeking veto powers over China deals

WION Web Team
Sydney, Australia Published: Aug 27, 2020, 09:17 AM(IST)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (File photo) Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Under the new law, the country's foreign minister would be able to cancel any agreements made by state and territory governments, local councils or public universities with foreign administrations if they 'adversely affect Australia's foreign relations' or are 'inconsistent with Australian foreign policy'.

The Australian government has proposed a law  that would give the federal government powers to cancel any agreements local authorities and public institutions make or have made with foreign governments.

While experts believe that the move aimed primarily at curbing infiltration by China. Australian Prime Minister said "These laws are about Australia's national sovereign interests." 

The new legislation comes as Canberra seeks to curtail Beijing's influence in Australia amid concerns over issues including trade and security, but Morrison denied the new law was designed with China specifically in mind.

Also read: The intended Australia and China decoupling

Under the new law, the country's foreign minister would be able to cancel any agreements made by state and territory governments, local councils or public universities with foreign administrations if they "adversely affect Australia's foreign relations" or are "inconsistent with Australian foreign policy".

The legislation will also be retrospective, and Morrison said Australia is aware of 130 agreements that government entities have struck with 30 different countries.

Also read: Australia warns citizens against 'arbitrary detention' risk in China

One of these deals includes Australia's second most populous state signing up to China's Belt and Road Initiative in 2018, a decision Morrison criticised at time.

Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have become increasingly strained, with Australia angering China by calling for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and blocking a recent agricultural deal.

China has targeted Australian exports of wine, barley and beef, and told its students and tourists to avoid travelling to Australia, citing racial discrimination.

China buys more than one-third of Australia's total exports, and sends more than a million tourists and students there each year.

On Wednesday, one of China's most senior diplomats in Australia said there was a "shadow" over the bilateral relationship.

The new legislation excludes commercial corporations and state-owned enterprises, although Australia has already given regulators and the treasurer additional powers to reject foreign takeovers of private companies.

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