The deputy managing director of Citic Pacific Limited has told a conference in Perth that Australia's foreign investment regulations are stringent and appear to cause confusion among investors.
Mr Peter Lee told the In the Zone conference at The University of Western Australia that Australia has one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world.
"Australia needs a first class regulatory regime," he said.
Mr Lee said that decisions about foreign investment should be based, subject to the national interest, on commercial considerations and be made on a timely basis. "The question should not be whether we should have Chinese investment but how Chinese investment should be attracted."
He said that Chinese investment currently delivered the best outcome for Australians and there were a number of advantages.
"China is well and truly ‘open for business'. While international investors face major challenges securing finance, Chinese funding is available," Mr Lee said. "Chinese projects have more flexibility to get development projects under way, for example, undertaking engineering and design work while obtaining project approvals."
He drew on the experiences of CITIC Pacific's Sino Iron Project, a massive magnetite iron ore project under construction in the state's north-west that, once complete, will become the first 100 percent Chinese-invested mining company to ship iron ore products from WA to China.
The project, with a capital cost investment of approximately US$4 billion, will include an open pit mine, concentrator, pipeline, pellet plant, gas-fired power station, desalination plant and port facility. It will create some 4,500 jobs, contracts for local industry and economic, social and environmental benefits.
"Major investments such as the Sino Iron Project are among those that prove just how successful collaboration between China and Australia can be," Mr Lee said.
In a session moderated by Sam Walsh, Chief Executive Rio Tinto Australia Operations, the President of the North West Shelf Australia LNG, Peter Cleary, said Australia needs to continue to develop a relationship with its Asian neighbours that is based on mutual respect, trust and understanding.
Mr Cleary said it was important to overcome the cultural distance between Australia and its Asian trading partners.
"Through the rise of Asia we are now in the right place at the right time and we should capitalise on that," Mr Cleary said. "We need ambassadors to Australia. Through the Australia-China gas fund we train Chinese executives who remain the greatest ambassadors to Australia when they return home."
Gualdino da Silva, President, National Petroleum Authority, Timor Leste, said that despite his country being a relative newcomer to the region, as an independent state, it would become increasingly significant to regional resources activity.
He said the country was benefiting from international support and investment, including the assistance of researchers from UWA in geological mapping.
Despite the inadequate infrastructure and other limitations for the fledgling country, Mr da Silva believed the country was an attractive place for investment and was a stable exploration area that would continue to be improved.
"One day we will become real player and real supplier of resources to the region," he said.
IN THE ZONE is a major public policy conference initiated by The University of Western Australia positioning Western Australia as a thought leader within the time zone it shares with 60 per cent of the world's population and the nations which promise the greatest economic growth for the 21st century.
2009 marks the inaugural IN THE ZONE Conference. This will become a biennial event and a strategic meeting point for the Australian and wider regional community to engage in dialogue about the zone we inhabit and to deepen the policy, trade and investment relationships.
Information about In the Zone, including the conference program: http://www.zone.uwa.edu.au
NB: MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES MUST REGISTER TO COVER THE CONFERENCE. GO TO: http://www.zone.uwa.edu.au/news/media_registration