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Training plan for Australians doing business in China

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says there are huge opportunities for Australian businesses in China, but they need to also understand the risks.

Australians doing business in China will be offered training in how to play by its rules and avoid jail under a program that will launch within a week.

At least four Australian business executives working in China have been jailed in recent times for questionable reasons, but little action has been taken to address the issue.

Attending the Boao Forum for Asia on the Chinese resort island of Hainan, which has trade and investment talks at its core, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said there were huge opportunities for Australians doing business in China and her trip would help build these.

“But there are also risks ... and we believe it’s very necessary for people to understand that degree of risk,” Ms Gillard told reporters on the sidelines of the forum.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson, who is travelling with the prime minister and Foreign Minister Bob Carr, said the previously announced training program will take potential investors through the processes they need to follow to do business in China and how to mitigate risk.

However Dr Emerson was at pains to emphasise China was not being singled out as a risky place to do business.

“In any country there are risks in doing business,” he said.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson says the program for Australian businesses will take potential investors through the processes they need to follow to do business in China.

Ms Gillard’s first full day of talks on her second visit to China in two years included a meeting with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and a business forum with Chinese and Australian executives.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop, who is also at the Boao Forum, said Australia had neglected its relations with China and policies such as the mining and carbon taxes and Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) decisions were putting investment at risk.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello says prospective foreign investors need certainty about Australian government rules.

She was backed up by another forum participant, former federal treasurer Peter Costello, who told AAP the greatest risk was the government “changing the rules” and creating uncertainty for investors.

“None of this gives Australia a good reputation overseas and I think the best thing the Australian government could do is return some certainty to the rules ... announce them and keep them,” Mr Costello said.

Ms Gillard said the FIRB had not knocked back one of the 380 Chinese investment proposals in 10 years, but had put conditions on six of them.

“We have a foreign investment review system which is appropriate,” she said.

The prime minister said the federal coalition would put the eight-year-old Australia-China Free Trade Agreement talks at risk if they changed the FIRB’s investment-checking thresholds.

Later on Saturday, the prime minister was due to meet with former PM Bob Hawke, New Zealand leader John Key and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.

Ms Gillard will address the Boao Forum on Sunday, and meet with China’s new president Xi Jinping before heading to Shanghai on the next leg of her trip.


The Australian Financial Review

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