Barnett says foreign investment rules discriminate against China

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett claims that Australia’s foreign investment rules discriminate against China.

The ABC reports that Barnett, who is currently in China discussing trade issues, said yesterday that restrictions on Chinese investment in Australia should be eased.

As it stands, privately-owned Chinese companies can invest $248 million in Australia without it being reviewed by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

However, the United States and New Zealand can invest more than $1 billion in Australia without being scrutinised by the FIRB.

And, in the case of Chinese state-owned enterprises, all investments must be approved by the FIRB.

Barnett says that this threshold needs to be changed because it is holding back potential investment.

"Chinese investors are going to be a lot more discerning," he said. "The government has got to change the threshold of FIRB."

"There were certainly problems three or four years ago where Chinese state-owned enterprises were very unhappy with Foreign Investment Review Board procedures and rules."

As the Australian reports, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop has suggested that a future Coalition government would review the FIRB rules.

However, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is on record as saying that it is rarely in Australia's interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business.

Barnett has previously voiced concern about Australia’s policies on Asia. Late last year, he described the Federal Government's Asian Century White Paper as "underwhelming".