Victoria seeks investment interest from China

Australian state delegation of more than 600 makes case to Beijing and private companies in bid to boost development and job creation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 1:42am


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Australia is lobbying mainland companies to put more money into the country as it tries to boost foreign investment and create more jobs.

The latest campaign to lure investment Down Under was led by Ted Baillieu, premier of the state of Victoria, with a business delegation that visited 13 mainland cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, last week.

They met senior officials and representatives from big mainland companies.

The high-profile tour came after Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan announced in July that Australia planned to work with China to allow direct currency exchange between the Australian dollar and the yuan.

The move is part of Australia's ambition to join Hong Kong, Singapore, and Britain as offshore yuan-trading centres.

The Victorian delegation made a stopover in Hong Kong after its mainland tour, where Baillieu held talks with business leaders including Victor Li, the elder son of Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing.

"China's economy is shifting, with a greater emphasis on consumption rather than just applications and resources," Baillieu said.

"We have an opportunity to join with China in various areas."

He said Australian agriculture firms had "significant success" in finding new prospects during the visit.

The Victorian delegation of more than 600 people representing more than 400 companies was a big jump from a party of just 20 that visited China last year.

The mainland has become Australia's biggest trade partner due to demand for natural resources such as iron ore and coal. Two-way trade between the two nations last year totalled US$116.4 billion, 39 per cent of which was for trade in iron ore.

However, as economic growth in China slows, Australia is focusing more on other business possibilities.

In Hong Kong, Baillieu had a meeting with Victor Li, the presumed heir of his father's business empire, about investment opportunities in Australia.

Kam Hing-lam, deputy managing director of Cheung Kong, also attended the meeting, which lasted more than an hour.

Baillieu declined to elaborate on the talks, beyond saying: "They [Cheung Kong] already have very significant investments in Victoria. They are friends of Victoria and we would welcome any further investments."

A spokesman for Cheung Kong could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cheung Kong, the business empire that was set up by Li Ka-shing, is well-connected to Beijing and operates telecommunications and power distribution businesses in Australia.

On the mainland, the Victorian delegation held investment meetings with 20 major companies, mostly cash-rich state-owned enterprises.

Areas of focus included public transport, roads, tourism, agriculture, and the wine-making industry.

The visit comes as some Australian legislators have expressed concern about the growing Chinese investment in the country, citing national security.