Daymark Community Monitor The special case of overseas investment from China: time to address public concerns

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1 Daymark Community Monitor The special case of overseas investment from China: time to address public concerns November 2015 Executive Summary The issue this Daymark Community Monitor seeks to understand is that of community attitudes and concerns toward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China. Key findings from a representative survey of 1504 people across Australia are: Nearly half of respondents (46%) believe overseas investment from China has significantly increased in the past five years. Only 4% of respondents believe FDI has significantly increased from the US and the UK. In reality FDI from all of these countries have all increased by a relatively similar amount. The view that FDI from China has significantly increased is more strongly held by men and people in the States of New South Wales and Queensland. It is also a view that strengthens with age. The most important benefits from FDI are perceived to be contribution to the growth of the economy (21%), increased employment (14%), the opportunity for new export markets (13%) and building trade connections (13%). Agriculture and commercial real estate emerge as two areas where FDI is perceived as having a negative impact: 35% of respondents considered FDI has a negative impact on the agriculture sector and 29% of respondents say it is the case for the commercial real estate sector. This compares with FDI in the technology sector where nearly 60% of respondents consider it can have a positive impact. When it comes specifically to China, over 40% of the public are very or moderately concerned with Chinese investment in agriculture and farming, with a similar level of concern about commercial real estate. Concern is far less acute in the leisure and retail, technology and education sectors. The proportion of people who hold neutral views about FDI diminishes by 10% to 50% when China FDI is considered - depending on the sector. There is a strong preference for a level of government control over both the volume and direction of investment from China with 70% of the population believing there should not only be macro benefits but also localised benefits from investment. Despite some hardened views about FDI from China, only about 10% of the population has an unmoving concern with aspects of such investment. Between 10% and 30% of respondents have no concern at all with aspects of FDI. Overall there is more work to do to overcome negative public perceptions of Chinese investment in Australia. There is a possibility that China, which is a very important investment partner for Australia, may see public attitudes as a deterrent to undertaking further investment. Opportunities exist to engage more effectively with key stakeholders to address perceived issues and improve understanding so Australia can fully recognise China as an important trading partner and in doing so, deliver significant benefits for both countries. Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 1

2 Introduction Australia s economy relies significantly on overseas or Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). It has a high demand for capital to develop natural resources. Only through FDI can Australia meet the investment shortfall from national savings that many sectors of the economy require to thrive. In return Australia enjoys better economic and employment growth and improved access to export markets. This Daymark Community Monitor explores perceptions of overseas investment in Australia, and specifically that from China. In a representative sample of 1504 people across Australia, the Community Monitor tests perceptions and understanding across the following critical areas: How the level of FDI has changed over the past five years Knowledge about the benefits to Australia from FDI Whether there is a positive or negative benefit from FDI in different industry sectors The level of concern with investment from China in different industry sectors. We conclude the monitor by looking at what would make investment from China more acceptable to the Australian public and overcome perception issues with this vital overseas investor. We chose this topic for our fourth Community Monitor because of the high visibility of trade deals with China, the recent progress of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement and a perceived uplift in Chinese interest in many sectors and assets in Australia. This has been particularly the case with mineral developments, acquisition of agricultural land, and more recently with commercial real estate. About overseas investment from China in Australia KPMG and the University of Sydney produce a regular and detailed report on Chinese investment in Australia. According their most recent report, Chinese outbound direct investment in Australia reached $9.46 billion in 2014, a decline of 9.1% in US dollar terms from 2013 due to a downward trend in mining and energy sector investment. 1 The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports total foreign investment figures. At the end of 2014 total foreign investment in Australia reached $2.78 trillion of which the USA accounted for 27%, the UK 17%, Belgium 8%, Japan 6% and Hong Kong 3%. Total investment from China of $64.5 billion represents 2% of total ODI. 2 This was a 23.7% increase over the year making China Australia s 7 th largest investor. 3 1 KPMG and the University of Sydney: Demystifying Chinese Investment in Australia, May 2015 Update 2 ABS International Investment Position, Australia: Supplementary Statistics, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website: China free trade agreement and Australia and Foreign investment pages Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 2

3 Public perceptions of Chinese investment are out of kilter with reality The first part of this Community Monitor examines people s perceptions of how FDI has changed in the past five years. Nearly half of respondents (46%) said the overseas investment from China had significantly increased. A further 22% said it had slightly increased in the past five years. This contrasts the actual reality in which, Chinese investment into Australia has decreased over the last two years. For other countries in the survey, the majority of responses were that overseas investment had remained about the same over the past five years, in particular for New Zealand (67% said it had remained about the same), the UK (66%), Europe (63%) and South America (71%). Investment in China has certainly increased in the past five years, but off a low base. Total FDI from China in Australia in 2009 was $9.1 billion and by 2014 had increased to $64.5 billion, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48%. This is a significant increase but is on par with the US (CAGR of 50%), the UK (51%) and New Zealand (44%). 4 In percentage terms, FDI from China in 2009 represented 2.1% of total FDI in Australia. This had grown to 2.3% by 2014 (US total FDI has increased from 22% of FDI to 27%; the UK 14% to 17%) FDI figures from Australian Trade Commission data alert (based on ABS figures) figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 3

4 The view that overseas investment from China has significantly increased is more strongly held by men and people in NSW and Queensland. It is also a view that strengthens with age. By way of a reference point for differences across the States, KPMG reports that 72% of Chinese investment in Australia went to NSW in 2014 (12% to WA, 8% to QLD, 8% to NSW) with investment concentrated in commercial real estate, leisure and retail, infrastructure and energy. 5 Benefits of overseas investment are generally known We then sought to understand people s level of knowledge about the benefits or otherwise of FDI. From a list of 11 attributes, most responses were recorded for contributing to the growth of the economy (21% of responses) followed by increased employment (14%), the opportunity for new export markets (13%) and building trade connections (13%). Six percent were recorded for none of these. Investment in new ideas or technology is seen as less of a benefit or a priority, suggesting new markets not new ideas are more top of mind benefits from FDI. 5 KPMG and the University of Sydney: Demystifying Chinese Investment in Australia, May 2015 Update Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 4

5 Not all sectors are equal when it comes to overseas investment Agriculture and commercial real estate emerge as two areas where FDI is perceived as having a slightly or very negative impact. Thirty five percent of respondents considered FDI had a negative impact on the agriculture sector and 29% of respondents for the commercial real estate sector. Another way to look at these results is that two-thirds of respondents are either negative or neutral on FDI in agriculture and real estate only one-third think it is a positive thing. This compares with FDI in the technology sector where nearly 60% of respondents consider it can have a positive impact. An important feature of the results to this question is the large neutral group. As will be seen, this neutral group reduces quite significantly for some sectors when it comes to FDI from China. China is singled out for special concern There are clear levels of public concern with Chinese FDI in Australia. Even if we ignore the somewhat and slightly concerned group (leaving moderately and extremely concerned ), over 4 in 10 are concerned with Chinese investment in agriculture and farming with a similar level of concern about commercial real estate. Perceptions differ from reality here: 46% of Chinese investment occurred in commercial real estate in 2014 and only 1% in Agribusiness (others: 11% mining; 7% oil and gas; 2% manufacturing; 12% leisure and retail; 21% infrastructure). 6 6 KPMG and the University of Sydney: Demystifying Chinese Investment in Australia, May 2015 Update Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 5

6 Concern is far less acute for sectors such as leisure and retail, technology and education. These results will still be of concern to Chinese investors with 1 in 5 still moderately or extremely concerned. Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 6

7 When we look across the demographics of those moderately or extremely concerned we see views are again more strongly held by men and increase with age. Finally in this section we examine concern with investment from China vs perceived levels of positive impact from FDI in general. This allows us to see whether positive features of overseas investment can outweigh concerns specifically arising from overseas investment form China. The survey reinforces the point that agriculture and real estate are the key areas of concern in relation to FDI in Australia. In these sectors, concerns with Chinese investment outweigh and mute any perceived benefits. In all industries, FDI is seen as being on the positive side of the ledger with an opportunity for the benefits to outweigh concerns with investment from China. Unpacking views about investment from China To unpack some specific views about investment from China we put forward a series of statements to test different levels of agreement. The results show it is clear that respondents believe that FDI should be tapered to address specific concerns. For example there is a strong preference for a level of government control over both the volume and direction of investment, with 70% of the population believing there should not only be macro benefits but also localised benefits from investment. Around half the population specifically single out China for special scrutiny. There is more work to do to overcome negative perception issues of Chinese FDI. Few people see China as a priority source of investment dollars for Australia. Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 7

8 Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 8

9 All is not lost Our final questions aimed at getting a definitive answer from respondents about concerns with China. This points to where some of the public discussion should go when it comes to putting forward the rationale for investment from this important trading partner. Despite some hardened views coming forward in other questions, generally only about 10% of the population has an un-moving concern with aspects of FDI from China. Between 10% and 30% of respondents have no concern at all with aspects of FDI. Overall this question points to the fact that there are several rational areas of concern that need to be answered to satisfy public perceptions of overseas investment in Australia. Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 9

10 What does all this mean? A renewed effort is required to overcome a fairly clear negative perception of FDI from China. This is particularly the case with land based investments in agriculture and commercial real estate. If left unchecked, the difference between public perceptions about the level of FDI from China versus the actual level will add increasing risk to investing in Australia. The Daymark Community Monitor points the way to address this perception issue: For the time being investors and domestic parties need to recognise that when it comes to FDI, China needs to be viewed as a special case even if this is not borne out in the relative status of China as an overseas investor. Attention needs to be paid to communicating the local or sector benefits from Chinese FDI. As with any communication, putting a face to an investor will be the most effective way of communicating these positive attributes. Getting a positive message out is important, as opposed to no message at all. There is a proportion of the public who hold neutral views about FDI from China. Left unchecked this group has the potential to form more negative views about FDI from China. These risks are elevated for land-based investments. Here communication and community engagement needs to focus on the checks and balances that are in place and the benefits to the local economies. In less sensitive sectors, for example education, technology and leisure and travel, there is a need to show how this is working well and how China FDI is leading to innovation and improvements for the Australian economy that would not be possible without interest from China. The overall goal here is to remove the heightened concern around FDI from China and have this trading partner viewed like any other. This will not happen by itself and needs a concerted effort by both those willing to invest in Australia and those domestically who seek and can benefit from FDI from China. Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 10

11 About the survey The Daymark Community Monitor details results from survey of a representative sample of 1504 respondents across all Australian States and conducted on behalf of Daymark by The Digital Edge. The survey was conducted on 4 6 November The sample was proportionally spread by State, gender, age and income. All questions from the survey are detailed in the back of this report. Questionnaire 1. In your view has the level of investment in Australia from the following countries increased or decreased in the past five years? (Scale: significantly increased, slightly increased, remained about the same, slightly decreased, significantly decreased) United States India New Zealand UK China Europe South America 2. What are the most important reasons for Australia to allow overseas investment in Australia? Choose up to three Import of overseas know-how Increased employment The opportunity for new export markets Contribution to growth of the economy Stimulates demand (eg for housing) Access to innovation Funds for high tech investment Lowers the risk for Australian businesses Builds trade connections Boost our profile as welcoming overseas investment Other (please specify) None of these 3. In your view, does overseas investment have a positive or negative impact on the following sectors Scale: Very positive impact, slightly positive impact, neutral, slightly negative impact, very negative impact Manufacturing Agriculture and farming Mining Energy (oil and gas) Leisure and retail Infrastructure Commercial real estate Education Technology Finance Automotive 4. When it comes to overseas investment from China into Australia, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 11

12 Scale: strongly agree, agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree, strongly disagree It is OK as long as a majority interest is held by an Australian company China should be treated like any other overseas investor Investment by China should vary depending on the sector of the economy There should be a maximum level of investment set by the Australian Government Overseas investment from China should be a priority for Australia It should only occur where a local benefit can be demonstrated It should only occur where an economic benefit to Australia can be demonstrated We should place extra scrutiny around investment from China 5. What is your level of concern with investment from China in the following sectors? Scale: not at all a concern, slightly concerned, somewhat concerned, moderately concerned, extremely concerned Manufacturing Agriculture and farming Mining Energy (oil and gas) Leisure and retail Infrastructure Commercial real estate Education Technology Finance Automotive 6. What is your view on the following aspects of overseas investment in Australia Scale: generally a concern, only a concern with investment from China, not a concern Level of ownership Where the profits go Local employment Where the exports go Security Transparency of who is investing What the investment is How long term the investment is About the Daymark Community Monitor Daymark is a specialist reputation and issues management consultancy that navigates organisations through public issues and opportunities to protect and build their brand. This survey is one in a regular series of community monitors that looks at the community view of critical public issues on the radar of organisations, commentators, regulators or government. They are issues which have the potential to impact the reputation of institutions held close to the heart of the Australian public. The aim of the Daymark Community Monitor is to inform the debate around critical community issues so they can be discussed in a common-sense way. The research is commissioned independently of any Daymark client. For transparency, the full survey results and questions are detailed in this report. Previous Daymark Community Monitors have examined community views on the RBA cash rate, sports betting in Australia and perceptions of income levels. Daymark Community Monitor: Investment from China 12

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