SYDNEY, July 3 (Xinhua) -- The Australian Labor Party (ALP) is proposing to raise the threshold for Chinese investment from 200 million Australian dollars (187 million U.S. dollars) to 1 billion Australian dollars (940 million U.S. dollars) as part of the nation's free-trade agreement (FTA) with China, The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday.
Under the plan, these higher Chinese investments will not require regulatory approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), however will be restricted to non-sensitive sectors, according to ALP trade spokeswoman Penny Wong.
Wong will deliver a speech on Thursday arguing in favor of free trade and opposing Australian Coalition government plans for restrictions on foreign investment in agriculture.
"The Australian government should also secure agreement to remove protectionist measures adopted during the global financial crisis and to implement the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement expeditiously," she will say.
Wong will say if the nation is serious about significantly expanding food exports to Asia, "we must front up to the reality and necessity of foreign investment in our agricultural sector."
In contrast to ALP's policy, the Coalition plans to lower the foreign investment threshold from 248 million Australian dollars ( 242 million U.S. dollars) to 15 million Australian dollars (14 million U.S. dollars) and publish a register of land and agribusiness holdings.
"It is inconceivable that we will be able to scale up production to fully tap into the growing consumer markets of Asia without foreign investment," Wong will say. "Placing hurdles in the way of foreign investment in our primary production industries will only jeopardize their growth."
Wong will back moves to put China, the nation's No. 1 trading partner, on the same footing as the United States when it comes to investing in Australia.
She says lower thresholds should continue to apply for investments in sensitive sectors or by state-owned enterprises where issues of national interest can arise.
Wong will argue that if an Australia-China FTA is sealed, investors from the United States, South Korea, China and New Zealand will all have the same 1 billion Australian dollar FIRB thresholds.
"It is hard to see why we should discriminate against other major trading partners," she will say. "Accordingly, Australia should consider unilaterally extending the FIRB screening rules offered to the U.S., China and New Zealand to all countries."