China suspends economic accord with Australia


BSS/AFP

China said on Thursday it had suspended an economic agreement with Australia, in an apparent tit-for-tat response to Canberra’s scrapping a Belt and Road infrastructure pact and threat to undo a deal leasing Darwin Port to a Chinese company.

The China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue deal has been pulled “based on the current attitude” of the Australian government, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement, blaming some officials of “ideological discrimination.”

Beijing will “indefinitely suspend all activities under the framework” of the agreement, the statement said. The Australian dollar sank 0.6 percent soon after the news.

The Australian government has previously described the deal — designed to boost trade between both sides and introduce large Chinese investors — as one of the “premier bilateral economic meetings with China”.

But relations between the two have plunged into the deep freeze.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government scrapped a Belt and Road deal between Beijing and the state of Victoria — part of China’s massive infrastructure initiative across Asia and the world.

And this week Australia said a Chinese company’s controversial 99-year-lease on Darwin Port was also under review and could be scrapped.

Darwin is the most important port on Australia’s north coast, the closest to Asia and a base for US Marines who rotate in and out of the country.

The announcement prompted a furious response from China, which warned of “serious harm” in the already fractured relationship.