| CANBERRA, April 9
CANBERRA, April 9 Australia's Resources
Minister Martin Ferguson backed stronger investment links with
China on Thursday, as Australia considers China's $19.5 billion
tie up with Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX)
Two opinion polls in the past week point to growing public
concern in Australia about China buying into its resource
firms, while Greens, independent and rural-based National Party
politicians have also spoken out against growing Chinese
But Ferguson cautioned against a retreat to protectionist
"This is no time for a retreat to protectionism or
xenophobia," Ferguson said in a speech to the mining industry
in the southern city of Melbourne on Thursday, adding
Australia's industry needed to prepare for a return of global
Ferguson was backed by Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen, who
on Thursday said most foreign investment from China was in
Australia's national interest.
"As a country rich in resources, we need some foreign
investment to develop those resources," Bowen wrote in an
opinion piece in Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
"Most foreign investment, including that from China, is in
our national interest, especially at a time like this. It
creates jobs," he said, adding China's economic rise was good
for both China and countries which engage with China.
Treasurer Wayne Swan is considering whether to approve
Rio's link up with China's state-owned Chinalco, which includes
Chinalco taking an 18 percent stake in the global miner.
Swan last week gave foreign investment approval to a $438
million Chinese investment in iron ore miner Fortescue Metals
Group (FMG.AX), but rejected on national security grounds an
investment by another state-owned Chinese firm, Minmetals, in
Australian miner OZ Minerals (OZL.AX).
A revised Minmetals deal with OZ which addresses those
national security concerns is now being considered by the
For full coverage of the Rio-Chinalco deal, see
A poll of 890 people by Canberra-based private firm
Essential Research on Monday found 57 percent believed
Australia should resist Chinese investment in mining companies.
A Newspoll in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday found 59
percent opposed Chinalco's planned investment in Rio Tinto,
with 31 percent supporting the deal.
Ferguson said China's interests in Australian resources
were no different to previous interest from Japan, Australia's
largest export market.
He said Australia encouraged foreign investment, and the
decisions on Fortescue Metals, and on Minmetals and Oz
Minerals, proved each investment proposal was decided on its
individual merit against national interest criteria.
(Editing by James Thornhill)