More Australian businesses and academics are asking for the Northern Territory Government of Australia to support the engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, according to Australian Broadcasting Cooperation.
The report said Northern Territory businesses have turned to Chinese investment as a way to boost the economy, despite Australian authorities’ reluctance to join in the initiative.
China is said to have invested more than the Australian government in Northern Territory, and the investments are broadly supported by some of the country’s biggest banks, law firms, and consulting companies. A Belt and Road Conference is being organized by The Australia China Business Council (ACBC) to tie Northern Australian businesses with Chinese investors.
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Daryl Guppy, president of the territory’s ACBC branch, said that the Federal Government made a mistake declining China’s offer to link northern Australian development with the Belt and Road.
“The reality is that we don’t have our own internal domestic funding that will help develop northern Australia,” he said. “We can’t stop China’s expansion, that’s an inevitability and the rest of Australia should have recognized that.”
According to the report, the Australian Labor Party wants Australia to formally align itself with the project and has held talks with the Federal Government on the issue.
Northern Territory is located in the central and central northern regions of Australia, making up 40% of the land but with only 5% of the Australian population. Largely driven by mining, the Northern Territory has remained prosperous after the end of gold rush with the help of China.
The Chinese-owned company Landbridge bought large grounds in Darwin, the capital city of territory, as well as a 99-year lease of Darwin Port in 2015, which is just the tip of the iceberg, as China has invested 30 billion AUD ($23 billion) in Australia over the past two years, according to data released by KPMG.
Former U.S. President Barrack Obama even expressed worry towards Australian Premier Malcolm Turnbull because of the port’s close proximity to a U.S. Marine Corps military base in Top End, according to Financial Times.
The Northern Territory Government acknowledges that overseas investment is vital to the development of northern Australia. State Grid Corporation of China is building a $630-million natural gas pipeline from the Northern Territory to Queensland. Direct flights from China to the Northern Territory could begin in a matter of months as part of the government’s plan to double the number of visitors from China.
Proposed by China in 2013, the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. The initiative is actually the combination of two projects: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
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