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Australian Watchdog May Block China Mengniu’s Milk Deal

 |  August 20, 2020

Australia’s government may block China Mengniu Dairy purchase of some of the country’s best-known milk brands, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, August 20, citing unidentified sources who blamed “diplomatic issues.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has gone against the advice of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), which was in favor of approving the AU$600 million (US$430.98 million) deal, the FT reported

It would mark the first government veto since Australia announced in July its biggest shake-up of foreign investment law in almost half a century. That gave the treasurer last-resort power to vary or impose conditions on deals even after FIRB approval, or force divestment in the event of a national security risk. 

The revision came partly in response to fear that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would make buying strategic assets easier for cashed-up foreigners. 

The law does not mention any specific country of origin. China Mengniu’s approach, however, came against a backdrop of increasing Sino-Australia tension after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus, which was first reported in China at the end of last year.