Foreign investment the focus of Northern Australia Investment Forum

01 Dec 2017

Agribusiness and food, resources and energy, and tourism infrastructure were the focus of the second Northern Australia Investment Forum, held in Cairns on 19-21 November 2017.

The forum gave investors the chance to meet face-to-face with experts in irrigated agriculture, biosecurity, geology, infrastructure, labour and native title, and to highlight project opportunities.

More than 100 international investment companies from 24 countries attended the forum. Over 500 delegates in total were in attendance, including Australian businesspeople, experts and government officials.

Co-hosted by Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment; and Senator Matt Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia; the forum was a collaboration between the federal, Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian governments.

Minister Ciobo opened the plenary session with a speech that highlighted northern Australia’s advantages, particularly its proximity to the booming economies of South East Asia and Southern China.

‘The region's middle class is set to grow from 600 million to more than 3 billion over the next 20 to 30 years,’ says Minister Ciobo. ‘Opportunities will be increasingly driven by this surge in middle-class consumers, from India through to China and all the countries in between.’

During the forum, Austrade CEO, Dr Stephanie Fahey and China Development Bank’s Executive Vice President, Zhou Qingyu, signed the Austrade–China Development Bank (CDB) Strategic Collaboration. The Strategic Collaboration will promote investment cooperation and opportunities under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA). CDB may provide up to A$7 billion to facilitate Chinese investment in Australia across a number of priority areas, including agribusiness and food, resources and energy, manufacturing and technologies, tourism and infrastructure.

Indigenous business, native title matters and research were strong themes of the 2017 forum. Investors could view case studies on how to engage and partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities, in a culturally responsive way. ‘Being project proponents and undertaking their own projects on their land is an aspiration of many Indigenous communities,’ says Russell Baker, Manager, Northern Australia, Austrade. ‘Traditional owners are willing to seek external investment, capital and expertise to develop their businesses’.

Austrade has incorporated the case studies into its Investors’ guide to land tenure in northern Australia, which provides business-friendly data on land tenure and native title, mapping the information together with other data of interest to investors.