Ahead of the Curve – Victoria Joins China’s Belt and Road Ambitions

5 November 2018

Last week, the Victorian government bypassed Canberra and formally signed up to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative, Belt and Road, in a deal it hopes will secure jobs and investment from the state in the multibillion-dollar spending program.

Labor Premier Daniel Andrews and China’s Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which makes Victoria the only Australian state to formally support the controversial initiative.

The move by Victoria, which wants to capitalise on the state’s expertise in big infrastructure projects to help companies benefit from the so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is the latest sign that the states are going it alone with efforts to forge closer business ties to China after the bilateral relationship soured under the Turnbull government.

In the last four years, Victoria has more than tripled its share of Chinese investment in Australia and nearly doubled its exports to China. The MoU would help Victorian companies bidding for BRI projects navigate the approval process, get on to tender lists and enable them to establish the right relationships in China. There would be benefits from Victorian firms working directly on infrastructure projects and toll roads as well as services firms such as accountants and lawyers, and healthcare companies.

The BRI, a reference to the overland route linking China to Central Asia, Russia and Europe and maritime links connecting the mainland to south-east Asia, India and Africa, was first announced by Mr Xi in September 2013. The spending program is estimated to be worth up to $US1 trillion ($1.4 trillion).

By Lee Xie (Senior Project Manager)

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