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Peak trade group says move to quash Belt and Road deal is ‘the last thing we need’

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The federal government is moving to tear up Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement with China, among other international deals made by states and territories.

The government will introduce a bill to Parliament next week which effectively allows any deals between state or territory governments and foreign powers to be overturned by the federal government if they are found not to be in Australia’s national interest.

Chairman of the Australia China Business Council, David Olsson, says the timing couldn’t be worse.

“We’re certainly in troubled waters at the moment,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“The timing of this announcement … does seem somewhat unusual at the moment, particularly when we’re in a COVID-19 environment.

“The last thing we need, really, is another level of complexity.”

Mr Olsson says Australia already has a comprehensive system of checks on international deals.

He says the changes proposed are not only unnecessary, but will likely be detrimental to Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“I am concerned that by adding another level of complexity to our already reasonably robust vetting system for foreign investment into Australia, that we’re just going to make Australia that much less competitive at a time when we need to be even more competitive,” he said.

“I’ve got no doubt that it will have an impact to our entire China relationship.”

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Federal government moves to thwart Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with China