Monday, September 19, 2016

Trade Minister signals new foreign investment rules after China rebuff

The Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has signalled the federal government is preparing to update its foreign investment guidelines to appease disgruntled or confused Chinese investors.

Mr Ciobo is visiting Hong Kong where he reassuring Chinese investors that Australia is open for business, despite the Treasurer's decision last month to block the sale of the New South Wales electricity provider Ausgrid.

The rule changes are likely to provide clarity to proposals relating to critical infrastructure to ensure all investors have clear guidelines when they tender for assets up for sale in Australia.

Mr Ciobo told The World Today that while the government is not signalling that investment in Australia infrastructure is off the table, it is moving to provide great certainty for investors after the Ausgrid rejection.

"The Treasurer is working through a number of proposals in respect to critical infrastructure," Mr Ciobo said.

"It's not about putting forward a prescriptive of assets they can or cannot bid for."

Mr Ciobo, who is attending an investment conference in Hong Kong, confirmed he would be meeting with Cheung Kong Infrastructure, one of the unsuccessful bidders for Ausgrid to discuss proposed and current investments in Australia.

Mr Ciobo said he wanted to send the message that Australia has a non-discriminatory approach to foreign investment while retaining the power to veto proposals that could be in conflict with the national interest.

"Provided it's communicated well to to investors it means they can have certainty about investment proposals in Australia," Mr Ciobo said.

"But at the same time, Australians can have certainty that investment into Australia is going to be good for our country."

In a speech to be delivered later today in Hong Kong, Mr Ciobo is expected to single out the "critical power and communications services" that Ausgrid provides to Australian business and government.

But Mr Ciobo will stress the Treasurer's rejection of the Ausgrid proposal related to the "nature of the assets - not to any particular investor".