Concerns voiced as China eyes Aussie resource sector

Treasurer Wayne Swan welcomes foreign investment from China but he says the government will protect Australia's national interests amid speculation over plans to curb takeovers by Chinese state-owned firms.

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The Treasurer's comments followed a report in The Australian newspaper that the government had delayed an attempt by Chinese giant Sinosteel to buy into West Australian iron ore miner Murchison Metals.

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Swan told reporters an interim order had been issued by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to have a decision within three months.

“We welcome foreign investment. We welcome it from everywhere, including from China, but we will apply decisions on a case-by-case basis in the national interest,” he said.

China eyes Aussie miner

Sinosteel wanted to buy a “substantial” piece of the $1.5 billion company, the paper said, citing speculation that Australia would impose a 49.9 percent ownership ceiling on sovereign funds.

The government earlier this year gave the Chinese group the go-ahead to acquire 100 percent of another Australian iron ore miner, Midwest.

Chinese interest in Australia's resources sector has grown as it seeks to secure supplies for its rapid economic expansion and in the face of steep price rises.

Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto said Monday that it had agreed a near doubling of the price of iron ore to Chinese steel maker Baosteel.

The treasurer refused to comment directly about Sinosteel's latest bid.

“The government will take its decision in Australia's interests,” he said.