China has urged the Australian government to create a more fair and open environment for foreign investment, after Treasurer Scott Morrison announced tough new restrictions on offshore ownership of farmland and power infrastructure.
Treasurer Scott Morrison yesterday announced stricter new conditions for the sale of agricultural land to foreign interests, as well as assets in electricity generation, distribution and transmission.
Mr Morrison said the rule changes were made to allow Australians the opportunity to invest in agricultural assets, while also ensuring the ownership of critical power generation infrastructure would not become a national security threat.
In response, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying called on the federal government to make the foreign investment process more transparent.
“The Chinese government always asks its enterprises to abide by local laws and regulations as well as international rules when investing and operating overseas,” Ms Hua said at a regular press conference yesterday.
“Meanwhile, the relevant country should also create an open, fair and transparent environment for Chinese enterprises.
“We hope that all parties could join hands in creating favorable conditions and environment for normal business cooperation.
Under yesterday’s announcement, sellers of agricultural land are now required to advertise and market properties to Australians via a public sales process for a minimum of 30 days, prior to selling assets to any offshore group.
“Concerns about the ability of Australians to participate in the sales process of agricultural land acquisitions have been a factor in my previous foreign investment decisions, including approval of the sale of S. Kidman & Co Limited,” Mr Morrison said.
The restrictions in the power generation sector are to ensure that ownership remains fragmented, with no foreign entity allowed to control large swaths of the industry.
Mr Morrison said electricity distribution and transmission infrastructure were critical national assets, and the new rules would strengthen national security.
The Government is committed to an open foreign investment regime that strikes the right balance in managing national security risks, while promoting job opportunities and enabling economic growth,” he said,
“With electricity distribution assets, the stakes are higher, and Australians expect additional foreign investment protections in place.
“Today’s announcement gives clarity to potential investors and avoids surprises for state governments and private sellers of electricity transmission, distribution, and generation assets.”