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Victoria

Event Recap - Beyond Buying the Farm - Chinese Investment in the Australian Agribusiness Sector

28 February 2017

On 28 February, our members, CPA Australia hosted ACBC’s sold-out forum ‘Beyond Buying the Farm – Chinese Investment in the Australian Agribusiness Sector’. This popular event was conceived by ACBC Victoria’s Agribusiness Working Group and featured Australia’s foremost foreign investment specialists disucssing and unpacking many of the misconceptions around Chinese investment in Australia.

The introduction by the Chinese Consul General, Mr Zhao Jian, highlighted the rapid growth of trade development between Australia and China.  He congratulated on ACBC on holding this event in Melbourne with such high-level leaders in the Agribusiness sector. 'Over the years, the bilateral relations between our two countries have grown from strength to strength which has provided a very solid business platform for expansion of cooperation.

Our two countries have established a strategic business partnership which develops cooperation across various sectors. In fact, the past 17 years have been a golden age for the development of bilateral relations between Australia and China and has overseen a dramatic increase in both inbound and outbound trade. Agribusiness has attracted a lot of attention from both sides.  Rapid increase of the investment in agriculture and agribusiness owes itself to the great benefits it has brought to both sides. The cooperation between our two countries has given China with a very reliable and stable supply of food products and the Chinese investment in Australian business has provided a good source of capital for the development of agribusiness and has helped Australian businesses people to continuously strengthen their competitiveness. Concerns expressed that the Chinese may buy out Australian agricultural land or that there may be ulterior motives around this investment are unnecessary and over-anxious as Chinese investment is still well behind the level of the US and UK," his remarks underlined. 

The opening address was delivered by the former Federal Trade and Investment Minister, and AsiaLink Business Chair, The Hon Andrew Robb AO, who outlined the crucial role foreign investment has played in Australia’s history and how this investment has up until recently been predominantly European. He remarked that Chinese investment into agribusiness is not the end of the family farm, but rather prudent overseas investment allows the potential for the property to become a larger and more efficient enterprise.

Chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), Mr Brian Wilson, remarked that greater information and the passage of time would put the Australian public more at ease with Chinese investment, just as it had with English, American and Japanese foreign capital that has occurred in the decades since Australia was founded. Mr Mick Keogh, CEO of The Australian Farm Institute commented on the added benefit of Chinese investment that can create a crucial supply chain for Australian exporters, while Professor James Laurenceson of the Australia China Relations Institute presented research on the Australian community being more at ease with foreign investment when there is a percentage of Australian ownership retained, and managerial roles are shared between Australians and their Chinese counterparts.

Mr Lyall Howard, ACBC Executive Committee Member and Head of Government Relations at Blackmores, urged foreign investors to become more visible in regional communities by investing in government and local community relations and gaining a better understanding of the cultural nuances of living in a country town in Australia.

Mr Nick Dowling, Managing Director and CEO of New Hope Group, offered insight from the perspective of a Chinese company that has successfully entered into joint ventures in Australia and other overseas countries. He outlined the befits of foreign capital investment in livestock, machinery and systems which has led to increased production on the properties they had partnered with, which has the flow-on effect of benefitting the regions in which they are located. The session was concluded by a Q&A panel session, moderated by Barry White, with the speakers and the valuable addition of Mr Tony Eyres, Senior Investment Specialist, Austrade

ACBC Victoria would like to thank event partners - the Commonwealth Bank; BDO - sponsors for the Agribusiness report being produced from this event and CPA Australia for their generosity in providing the venue and catering for the forum. With the event featured on the front page of The Australian the next day, and a second article in the paper on 2 March, the forum garnered much attention and provided a crucial platform to discuss and understand foreign investment in context.

Article from the front page of the Australian Newspaper on Wednesday 1 March and Thursday 2 March are included below for your information.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/avoid-aussie-icons-firb-bosss-tips-for-china-on-investment/news-story/5106ce5f467b9f35186ec1465549e4a6

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/in-depth/global-food-forum/aussies-accepting-farm-sales-to-china/news-story/60c00c83c4b137f6e775809e82e7dc04

An interactive report is being produced by BDO from the important information arising from the forum and will be available before the end of the month.