A TOP Chinese official has warned Australia not to reject business opportunities involving his country because of “discriminative ideas”, following the blocked sale of the Kidman cattle empire.
The warning came as Opposition trade spokeswoman Penny Wong on Tuesday said a Labor government would make it easier for international investors to buy Australian farms worth up to $50 million.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department deputy director-general Wang Xining said the two countries would be better off working together.
Treasurer Scott Morrison recently vetoed a second Chinese bid to buy the 100,000sq km of S Kidman & Co properties, worth $371 million.
Under current foreign investment rules, Chinese purchases of more than $15 million can be blocked by the Federal Government, but for other countries including the US and UK the sale price threshold is $1 billion.
Mr Wang said now that Australia’s industrial mix was becoming “more sophisticated”, the two countries “can match if we carefully calculate everything”
“Don’t reject anything out of discriminative idea(s), this is our hope,” Mr Wang said, at an interview organised by the East-West Centre.
Opposition trade spokeswoman Penny Wong.
“For this specific case (the Kidman sale) it’s up to the company, up to the particular state, up to the particular parliament to make the decision.
“Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we’re not, but we will speak frankly … But generally, particularly with the so-called ‘old West’ countries, do not see China as a communist, soviet, aggressive country. We are not. We are doves, we are pandas.”
The comments show China holds concerns about the xenophobic politics that Premier Jay Weatherill and business leaders believe has driven the federal decision. Mr Weatherill recently told The Advertiser: “I don’t think we’d be having this discussion if it were an American or a UK investor.”
Senator Wong yesterday said a federal Labor government would lift the threshold at which most proposed farm purchases by foreign companies are scrutinised by the Foreign Investment Review Board from $15 million to $50 million.
Labor would also scrap a special foreign investment review category for the purchase of agribusinesses.
“Australia relies on foreign capital to finance the shortfall between national savings and national investment,’’ she told a trade forum in Sydney.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce accused Labor of selling out Australian farms as the limit would not cover cases where an investor tried to buy several farms collectively worth over $50 million.
The Government also attacked Labor for proposing changes to free trade deals.