Archive for July, 2019

Hockey’s comments put new scrutiny of foreign investment in land in question

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Treasurer Joe Hockey has refused to confirm the Coalition will insist on a new $15 million threshold for scrutiny of foreign investment bids for land in its negotiations with the Chinese for a free trade agreement.

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The lowering of the threshold for bids from non-state owned enterprises from $248 million was proposed in a Coalition paper before the election. It is strongly supported by the Nationals, making any walking away from it very tricky. Under the present policy all land bids by state owned enterprises automatically trigger Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny.

Hockey, speaking from Washington, dodged questions on whether the government would be flexible in its discussions with China.

“The $15 million threshold applies to those countries that have not signed the free trade agreement with Australia, and therefore we deal with them on a case by case basis. We will see where the negotiations take us,” Hockey told Sky.

“I’m not going to preempt the outcome of any of the negotiations, but I do want to emphasise that Australia is open for investment and we need foreign investment. We need foreign investment because Australia cannot fund its own needs.”

He also dodged when pressed on the long standing Chinese request to be given the same concession granted to the Americans of a $1 billion threshold for investments before there was a FIRB inquiry.

“I’m not going to preempt the outcome of negotiations,” he said, “It’s a balancing act and I’m very confident we will get it right if we are to conclude a free trade negotiation with China.”

He said that in his discussion with the finance minister of China “we were both very frank with each other about the fact that it is important that [an agreement] had a two-way negotiation and a two-way investment flow.”

The Nationals are expected to reaffirm their support in their party room for the $15 million threshold for land bids.

Victorian Liberal Dan Tehan last week said thresholds should be part of the FTA negotiation.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that he wants an FTA with China concluded within a year.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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AM Finance Update – what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar is lower after talks to extend the US debt ceiling collapsed.

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At 0630 AEDT on Monday, the local unit was trading at 94.23 US cents, down from 94.76 cents on Friday.

And the Australian market looks set to open higher after Wall Street closed higher for a second straight session on rising optimism about a Washington deal to avert a debt default.

At 0645 AEDT on Monday, the December share price index futures contract was up 33 points at 5,262.

ELSEWHERE:

WASHINGTON – As debate rages over the US budget and borrowing limit, International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde has warned US spending cuts must not be too drastic or they could threaten global economic recovery.

WASHINGTON – With House Republicans blaming President Barack Obama for the collapse of talks on extending US borrowing authority, the Senate is scrambling to piece together a bipartisan exit strategy.

DUBLIN – Ireland will become the first eurozone country to exit its bailout in December, Prime Minister Enda Kenny says.

SEOUL – The world’s leading energy officials will meet this week in South Korea to discuss the sector’s major challenges, ranging from climate change to the rise of fracking and nuclear power’s uncertain future.

BUCHAREST – Thousands of people are blocking a major road in downtown Bucharest to protest plans to build what would be Europe’s biggest gold mine.

BEIJING – Chinese construction giant Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG) has signed a deal with British firms to develop a business district around Manchester airport, the companies involved in the project say.

BERLIN – Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier says the European planemaker will overtake its US rival Boeing to become the world’s biggest producer within four or five years, in an interview with a German Sunday newspaper.

WASHINGTON – Yahoo says it has acquired tech company Bread, a URL shortener that allows users to design then target advertisements to readers who click on their links.

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Coach Markarian ends Peru tenure behind closed doors

The stands at Lima’s Estadio Nacional will be empty after Peru were punished by FIFA for crowd trouble at their previous home qualifier last month when fans threw objects at Argentine referee Patricio Loustau after a 2-1 defeat by Uruguay.

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“This is the last (qualifying) match and we’re going to play as if it were the most important,” Markarian told a news conference. “It’s surely my last match with the national team, I feel great sadness at leaving this job.”

The highlight of the 68-year-old Uruguayan’s three years in charge was third place at the 2011 Copa America in Argentina but during his time in the job he failed to end Peru’s World Cup qualification drought dating back to 1982.

“I leave with more players consolidated (in the Peru team) than I found,” Markarian said.

“We have definitely built a squad for the future … the directors backed me all the time. I tried to do my best but it wasn’t enough.”

Markarian, whose team have won four and lost nine of their 15 qualifiers, gave a qualifying debut to teenager Cristian Benavente on Friday when Peru lost 3-1 to South American group winners Argentina in Buenos Aires and is excepted to give him his first start on Tuesday.

“We’re looking to change Peruvian football’s image. We must find solutions to face the next qualifiers (for the 2018 World Cup) successfully,” midfielder Benavente, who is on Real Madrid’s books, told reporters.

Peru have produced many skilled players over the years, from Teofilo Cubillas, who inspired them to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1970, to Paolo Guerrero, top scorer at the 2011 Copa America.

They have been let down by poor organisation, indiscipline and the failure of players to become more tactically aware.

Markarian earned his appointment in 2010 after several years in Peru coaching club sides Universitario and Sporting Cristal and winning the league title with both in the 1990s. He has also coached in Paraguay, Greece, Mexico and Chile.

(Reporting by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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Malta urges clear EU strategy on migrants

Malta has called on the European Union to develop a “clear strategy” to deal with migrants fleeing conflicts to their shores after two shipwrecks claimed hundreds of lives.

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“We are no superpower,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told AFP. “But we do not only control our border but also Europe’s borders, and Italy is doing the same.”

Also on Sunday, Syrian refugees who survived a boat capsize off Malta said they were fired on by “militiamen” as they set out on their perilous journey from Libya.

At least 36 people perished after the boat sank on Friday, a week after another shipwreck off Italy left at least 359 dead.

“Those people had a life and a stable job in their country but could not live there any longer,” Muscat said. “The group that arrived (in Malta) yesterday included 10 medical doctors and a neurosurgeon.”

The prime minister complained of the “very little response” Malta had received in appeals for EU solidarity over the humanitarian crisis.

“This situation cannot be solved with money but with political commitment and a clear strategy,” he said.

Earlier on Sunday, Muscat held a surprise meeting in Libya with his counterpart Ali Zeidan, saying afterwards that the north African country was “part of the solution”.

A boat carrying up to 400 migrants, mostly Syrians, left the western Libyan port of Zwara on Thursday.

Some of the more than 200 survivors said Libyan militiamen shot wildly at them, leaving several people dead and causing the vessel to take on water and sink.

Italian and Maltese forces on Sunday rescued a total of 386 people aboard two boats and escorted them to Sicily. Around 100 were taken to Malta.

Italian customs police meanwhile rescued around 200 migrants who were expected to head to southern Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has announced an “Italian sea and air humanitarian mission” in the Mediterranean on Monday that would triple available vessels and add aviation to ward off further tragedies.

Foreign Minister Emma Bonino stressed that patrols should serve to rescue migrants rather than “telling them to stay where they are”.

Italy has also appealed to fellow EU states for help in managing the crisis and wants migration to be put on the agenda of summit talks in Brussels later this month.

According to UNHCR estimates, some 32,000 migrants have arrived in Malta and Italy this year.

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Amnesty brands AU’s ICC call ‘deplorable’

The African Union’s call for the International Criminal Court to defer the crimes against humanity trials of Kenya’s leadership is “deplorable”, Amnesty International says.

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The London-based human rights organisation said on Sunday the AU, which is also calling for sitting heads of state to be exempt from appearing before the court in The Hague, sent out the wrong message.

“This declaration sends the wrong message, that politicians on the African continent will place their political interests above those of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty’s deputy director of law and policy.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have been charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding a vicious campaign of ethnic violence that left at least 1100 dead and more than 600,000 homeless after disputed 2007 elections.

Following last month’s Islamist militant attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, Kenyatta has already demanded he be allowed to appear by video link so he can deal with national security issues.

On Saturday he attacked the ICC as the “toy of declining imperial powers”.

However, Hondora said the trials should still go ahead.

“Requesting the deferral of the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto would send a strong message that the victims of the post-election violence in Kenya don’t matter.

“Victims of the post-election violence have waited over five years to see the cogs of justice turn after Kenya failed to deliver justice and the ICC stepped in.

“These trials should and must go ahead.”

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