Premier Li leaves Australia empty-handed on mine and port deal

China’s Premier Li Keqiang has just concluded an official five-day visit to Australia, focused on boosting trade ties between the two countries.

Media reports had suggested that the visit was timed to coincide with a government decision on whether to greenlight Yancoal’s bid for Coal & Allied assets in New South Wales. No decision appears to have been made however, and China’s second most powerful man departed from Sydney on Sunday without a deal for the Chinese state-owned miner.

He did however manage to sign a $600 million agreement on beef exports, and also found time to enjoy a game of footy in Sydney.

China’s Yancoal is currently seeking to buy coal assets in the Hunter Valley, along with a major stake in Newcastle Port. If successful, this would make Yancoal the biggest coal-only miner operating in Australia.

The deal first has to receive approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), which makes recommendations to the government on whether a proposed investment is in the national interest. Once FIRB has made its recommendation, the Treasurer will then make a final decision.

Chinese government ownership of Australian national assets such as ports or infrastructure is a highly contentious issue in Australia, following growing public concern about the extent of Beijing’s influence in the country.