Don’t you just love it. There was Kevin Rudd sounding all Pauline Hanson about foreign investment, telling us he was a bit uncomfortable, that he was not as pro-market as Tony, that maybe we should insist on joint venture investments by foreigners, that he was really an economic nationalist (forget the fiscal conservative tag) and not a peep from Emmo.
But now it turns out that Emmo was appalled, as he writes in the op-ed page of The Australian.
But always the Labor politician, he has to slag off at Tony Abbott and his tentative concession to reduce the dollar threshold to $15 million for FIRB consideration of agricultural land purchase (a ridiculous policy change, by the way) and to tie this potential change as a reason why the free trade agreement between Australia and China has not been concluded or won’t be concluded.
This is just a big fat fib. It was the Labor government that failed to seal the deal with China, negotiations having gone on for literally years.
And the real reason has nothing to do with the above – note that all state-owned enterprise purchases are subject to FIRB approval irrespective of the dollar value and SOEs are the source of virtually all Chinese invesment in Australia (red herring, in other words).
The real blocker was Australia’s refusal to provide for private arbitration to deal with disputes. And the reason behind this refusal is partly tied up with the wobbly international legal status of Australia’s plain packaging laws for cigarettes. Surprising that Emmo didn’t mention this.
In fact, Australia has been particularly hopeless at concluding free trade agreements during Labor’s six years of rule. While we are all agreed that multilateral agreements are better, absent any progress in this space, there are some gains to be made from these PTAs and we have been left behind. NZ, for instance, has done well out of its free trade agreement with China.
If writing is Emmo is your thing, here is an idea for a column:
How trade policy faltered under Labor