Australia open to China investors but security issues crucial – FIRB

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SYDNEY, Oct 14 (Businesshala) – Australia isn’t closed to Chinese investors, but national security concerns and the safety of critical infrastructure are now key factors determining the deal’s approval, the head of its Foreign Investment and Review Board (FIRB) said. said on Thursday.

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Chinese investment in Australia has fallen by more than 50% over the past four years to nearly $12 billion ($8.86 billion), driven by tighter capital controls by Beijing and worsening relations between the countries.

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“We run a non-discriminatory investment policy … both in terms of the areas in which you can invest … (and) in terms of origin, the country the investment comes from,” said FIRB President David Irwin Citi Investment Conference.

He highlighted that 20% of the accepted transactions last year had Chinese participation in some form or the other.

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“We continue to welcome investment applications from Chinese interests. If they are in areas of national security interest, they will be considered in the same way as others who invest in those areas.”

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with exports reaching a record A$19.4 billion in July. However, diplomatic relations have soured in recent years and China has limited imports of coal, wine and barley amid the controversy.

Australia last year introduced the biggest reform to its foreign investment laws in nearly half a century, including giving the government the power to force the sale of a business if it poses a national security risk.

Former Australian intelligence chief Irwin said the background to those reforms was the recognition that a growing element of global warfare is the disruption of critical infrastructure and that Australia should take this into account, something other countries are doing as well.

“The Australian environment is tough, he says, and yes I hear those complaints all the time. But in reality, Australia is not the only one to focus more on national security issues in its investment regime.”

($1 = 1.3539 Australian Dollar)

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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