Australia may veto foreign agreements over China dispute

Sydney, Australia, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- Australia approved Thursday a law that allows the country to veto agreements between a regional or local government or institution and a foreign nation, as bilateral relations with China grow strained.

According to this law, the government, led by the National Liberal coalition, will reject any agreement with a “foreign entity” if it affects or is likely to “negatively” affect relations with other nations or is “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy.”

The measure seeks to avoid a repetition of a 2018 controversy, when an agreement was signed between China and the Labor Party-led state of Victoria – Australia’s second-largest economic hub – promoting infrastructure, trade, finance projects and cooperation.

Asked if the law could was a provocation toward China, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra that “the policies, plans and laws implement in our country are made here in Australia according to our needs and interests. ”

The law was passed after Morrison unsuccessfully demanded Monday that Beijing apologize and withdraw a controversial tweet posted by a senior Chinese official criticizing alleged war crimes committed by a group of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan between 2005 and 2006.

China, which has imposed trade measures against several Australian products, such as imposing high tariffs on its wines because it considers that they are sold at a lower price, has refused to apologize for the tweet and urged Canberra to examine the facts.

After an appearance in which he called the tweet “disgusting” and “offensive,” Morrison lowered his tone Thursday, adding that he seeks a constructive dialogue with Beijing.

“The relationship with China is mutually beneficial,” the president said referring to his country’s main trading partner, with whom he maintains deep disagreements due to ideological differences and Australia’s historical alliance with the United States.

Bilateral tension worsened when Australia launched an investigation into the origin of COVID-19, two years after Australia vetoed Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from concessions on their fifth-generation (5G) network for security reasons.

Canberra also promoted laws to prevent political interference and orchestrated espionage from other nations, without referring directly to China, although last month it detained an influential Chinese-Australian businessman on suspicion of foreign interference.

Morrison’s administration announced in June that it would toughen foreign investment laws, without directly mentioning China, although it has previously blocked acquisitions by companies from the Asian giant, considering they violated its national interests. EFE-EPA


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