From a trade and investment perspective, the COVID-19 focus has been on business continuation, including trade impacts and maintaining key trade relationships.
However, the Federal and State Governments still welcome foreign investment as a vital component in supporting jobs growth both now and in the longer term.
Read the release Major reforms to Australia's foreign investment framework
Temporary foreign investment changes were announced by the Treasurer on 29 March 2020, with immediate effect, with a further guidance note released on 18 May covering the practical effects of the changes.
The changes temporarily reduce the threshold for requiring Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval to $0, down from previous levels of:
- $1.192 billion for Free Trade Agreement (FTA) nations
- $275m for non-FTA nations
- $60m in agribusiness
This change is to allow extra government oversight in the national interest at a time of actual and potentially distressed asset values.
On 5 June 2020 the Government also flagged a new plan for FIRB to review all investments in a sensitive national security business, regardless of value, with an intention to commence this new system in force by 1 January 2021.
- It is envisaged this will apply to assets and businesses involved in communication, technology, energy, defence and transport
- The proposed changes would also increase the Treasurer’s powers to assess investment before, during or even after an acquisition (a last resort power to apply or vary conditions on a deal, or even order the divestment of an asset)