China seeks clar­ity

Pilbara News - - News - An­drew Til­lett

Chi­nese Govern­ment of­fi­cials want Aus­tralia to make its for­eign in­vest­ment ap­provals process more trans­par­ent af­ter re­cent knock­backs of Chi­nese com­pa­nies’ bids for key as­sets.

A Min­istry of Com­merce of­fi­cial re­cently told Aus­tralian jour­nal­ists in Bei­jing it should be clearer which in­dus­tries were open to for­eign in­vest­ment and which ones were not.

The com­ments co­in­cide with a new deal emerg­ing for the sale of Aus­tralia’s big­gest pri­vate land­holder, pas­toral com­pany S. Kid­man and Co, af­ter the Fed­eral Govern­ment re­jected an ear­lier for­eign takeover bid.

Trea­surer Scott Mor­ri­son last year ad­vised it would be against the na­tional in­ter­est for Kid­man to fall into for­eign hands, in part cit­ing na­tional se­cu­rity grounds be­cause some of its land­hold­ings neigh­boured the weapons-test­ing range at Woomera in South Aus­tralia.

Un­der the fresh deal, the land near Woomera has been ex­cluded and min­ing mag­nate Gina Rine­hart will part­ner Chi­nese real es­tate firm Shang­hai CRED to buy Kid­man for $365 mil­lion.

The deal will re­quire For­eign In­vest­ment Re­view Board ap­proval, but Mrs Rine­hart has pointed out the level of for­eign own­er­ship would ac­tu­ally be re­duced slightly be­cause her com­pany Han­cock Prospect­ing would hold a 67 per cent stake in the joint ven­ture.

Bei­jing’s ire was also roused by Mr Mor­ri­son’s re­jec­tion of two Chi­nese suit­ors, in­clud­ing the State-owned StateGrid for NSW’s power dis­tri­bu­tion net­work, on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds.

With Chi­nese com­pa­nies keen to buy over­seas as­sets, Govern­ment of­fi­cials un­der­stood na­tional se­cu­rity was a sovereign right but stressed the need for Aus­tralia’s ap­provals process to be fair, trans­par­ent and non-dis­crim­i­na­tory.

“Some­times you read re­ports that some Aus­tralian busi­ness­men are com­plain­ing that maybe do­ing business in China is much harder than in Aus­tralia,” the Min­istry of Com­merce of­fi­cial said. “It’s true that China’s econ­omy is not as open as Aus­tralia’s, but if you go re­view our for­eign in­vest­ment pol­icy, we have a very clear line which area you can in­vest and which area you can’t.

“So we hope that ev­ery Govern­ment can have the same clear line.”

The of­fi­cial said Chi­nese com­pa­nies were en­cour­aged to find lo­cal part­ners be­cause they knew the market, cul­ture and le­gal sys­tem.

The re­porter trav­elled to Bei­jing as a guest of the Chi­nese Em­bassy and the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s In­sti­tute of For­eign Af­fairs.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Cows on Mardie Sta­tion.

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