News

ChAFTA and what it means for Canberra

12.11.2015

If Canberra wants a slice of the money expected to flow from the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (“ChAFTA”) it will have to ramp up its efforts to sell its attractiveness as a place to invest, especially in the property market.

That’s the assessment of the expert panellists who presented at the Property Council of Australia ACT Division ChAFTA lunch held on 30 October at the National Museum. The lunch – sponsored and hosted by Moulis Legal – attracted a large cross section of national and Canberra-based businesses keen to hear about the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Leading international lawyer Daniel Moulis, whose firm specialises in international trade and Chinese investment, facilitated the discussion, which explored the win-win options for investors and the property development industry in Canberra.

Andrew Ballantyne, Head of Capital Markets Research at JLL, quickly put things into perspective with his disclosure that “last year alone, direct foreign investment from China topped USD100 billion and 20 percent of that investment was in real estate.” However, “only a relatively small portion of this property investment was in the ACT,” he said.

The panellists noted that the Chinese government is actively encouraging investment into Australia, particularly since it recently relaxed outbound investment rules and it dramatically lifted cash ceilings. The key targets of this investment so far had been in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, with the agribusiness and mining sectors also involving large property transactions.

So how can Canberra get a look in? Laura Mattiazzi, head of inbound Asian investment at NAB, highlighted the importance of lifestyle assets to Chinese HNW investors, and recommended that Canberra leverage its education and tourism to attract more investment.

Ian Cox, Executive Direct of Economic Development with the ACT Government, spoke about the relationship between business migration programs – SIV and PIV – and property investment. He said the family connections of Chinese students in Canberra were a remarkable source of wealth and investment interest.

Mark McConnell, a Canberra businessman who has facilitated many hundred-million dollar Chinese investments into Australia, said Canberra has a lot to offer, and called for an integrated approach across all Canberra industry to attract investment. Mark also recommended that Canberra focus on marketing to Tier 3 cities in China who, unlike Canberra’s sister city Beijing, would “fall over themselves” to have the prestige of a link up with the Australian capital.

 

Moulis Legal is active in helping both Australian and Chinese companies in their investment and trade activities between the two countries, and assists clients in a range of local and national property, development and construction projects. For more information, please contact Daniel Moulis or Charles Zhan in our Canberra office on +61 2 6163 1000 (daniel.moulis@moulislegal.com and charles.zhan@moulislegal.com) or Christopher Hewitt in our Brisbane office on +61 7 3367 6900 (christopher.hewitt@moulislegal.com).