Trade diplomat puts fears about China in perspective

A senior Chinese trade diplomat has said that fears about Chinese investment in Australia are out of step with the facts.

As The Daily Advertiser reports, Liu Yu, the commercial counsellor at China's consulate-general in Sydney said that, in reality, Chinese investment in Australia is much lower than investment from the US, the UK, and Japan.

Speaking at a China-Australia business conference last month, Liu said, “The total size of Chinese investment covered a very small share of just 1 per cent in Australia's inbound investment."

"In comparison, the US enjoys a share of 29 per cent, the UK 23 per cent and Japan 6 per cent … Do you think this matches China's status as Australia's largest trading partner?"

Liu also referred to a 2012 Lowy Institute poll that saddened her. According to the poll, 56 per cent of Australians thought too much Chinese investment was allowed.

She said that both nations would benefit from more Chinese investment in Australia.

These views were recently echoed by Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett. He claimed that Australia’s foreign investment rules discriminate against China.

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.

According to the Australia head of HSBC Bank, Tony Cripps, there is potential for Chinese investment in Australian agriculture to grow significantly.

It is expected that food-related exports to Asia will rise by 45 per cent by 2025. Much of this would be to China.

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