Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull plays down Belt and Road fears

Chinese President Xi Jinping is pursuing a Beijing-led international trade initiative. (AAP)

Malcolm Turnbull says economic and business concerns are reasons for Australia's delay in signing up to China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Australia's delay in signing up to China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road development strategy is purely business related, despite reports of national security concerns.

The cross-continental foreign policy initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping has signed up 68 countries, including New Zealand.

Australia rejected an opportunity to join at the time of a visit from the Chinese premier Li Keqiang earlier this year.

"An agenda is probably the best way to describe it," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"We obviously welcome Chinese investment that meets our foreign investment guidelines but we'd prefer to focus on specific projects and investments rather than engaging in generalities."

There was already no shortage of Chinese investment in Australia, Mr Turnbull said.

The Belt and Road Initiative seeks to fund infrastructure projects and provide aid in order to boost international trade along one overland and one maritime route.

The heads of the Australian immigration and defence departments reportedly advised the government against signing up for the scheme earlier this year, the ABC has reported.

Labor has indicated it will be open-minded when it comes to the Belt and Road Initiative.

In September, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen proposed co-ordinating the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund with the Chinese initiative.

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