06:00 GMT09 May 2021
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    A fresh trade row between two Asia-Pacific nations has sparked renewed tensions in the region, which could see key trading partners exchange tit-for-tat measures amid the disagreement.

    China's foreign ministry has said Australia's decision to cancel two major Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deals in the state of Victoria would cause "serious harm" to bilateral relations, global media reports revealed on Thursday.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbing slammed the move, stating it "recklessly interferes in and destroys normal exchange and cooperation, and seriously harms China-Australia relations".

    The Australian government has said it cancelled the agreements over allegations the project was not aligned with the Canberra's national interests.

    According to the Oceanic nation, keeping a "free and open Indo Pacific" was a key government goal.

    "We will always act in Australia's national interest to protect Australia, but to also ensure we can advance our national interest in a free and open Indo Pacific and a world that seeks a balance in favour of freedom," Australian prime minster Scott Morrison said in a statement on Thursday.

    Australian states will have to consult the foreign ministers prior to inking deals with other countries and that the policy was "not aimed at any one country", Payne told local radio as quoted by Reuters.

    Payne made the comments after talks with New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta. According to the foreign minister, Canberra sought clearer and more practical engagement with Beijing, namely after COVID-19.

    "We also have to acknowledge that China's outlook, the nature of China's external engagement, both in our region and globally, has changed in recent years, and an enduring partnership requires us to adapt to those new realities," Payne added.

    China is currently the largest trading partner to Australia and New Zealand, reports show.

    Further spats between Australia and China come amid Western accusations Beijing had committed genocide against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

    The accusations had surfaced in a UN report in 2018, leading Canadian, US and Australian MPs, among others, to seek to relocate the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to a new location, sparking sharp criticisms from the Chinese government.

     

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    Tags:
    free trade agreement, New Silk Road, Belt and Road Initiative, New Zealand, Australia, China
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