By Kate Chapman of NZPA
Brisbane, Aug 4 NZPA - Changes to overseas investment rules will allow Australians to invest more money in New Zealand businesses without having to gain approval, Prime Minister John Key said today.
Currently, any business activity over $100 million by international investors must gain approval.
That level will be lowered for Australian investors, Mr Key told reporters in Brisbane, but he would not say by how much.
That will be discussed when Mr Key returns to Australia in a couple of weeks to hold talks with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
"I anticipate a new threshold being set, under that threshold approval from the Overseas Investment Office wouldn't be required in New Zealand," Mr Key said.
"I think that's good for investors from Australia into New Zealand and equally good for New Zealand investors into Australia."
More than $120 billion is currently invested between the two countries and Mr Key said the changes would also streamline the process.
Changes to the overseas investment rules for Australians was part of working towards a single economic market, Mr Key said.
The global economic crisis had provided New Zealand and Australia with an opportunity to progress a trans-Tasman economy and both countries were working "step-by-step" towards a single market.
Relaxing trans-Tasman travel arrangements was one of those steps, he said.
New Zealand travellers in Australia and vice versa were likely to still need passports but other restrictions would be eased, Mr Key said.
The proposal required a "reasonably significant" capital investment from New Zealand and that had been approved by the Government.
Speaking to the Queensland University of Technology Business Leaders' Forum in Brisbane today, Mr Key said a single economic market would be a priority during talks with his Australian counterpart.
While discussions had been under way for some years a "vibrant and robust" trans-Tasman economy would help both countries grow out of the global recession, he said.
A single economy would "serve as an important springboard into Asia and beyond".
"With strong trans-Tasman businesses, we're in a better position to access those markets -- whether directly or in partnerships.
"We've already come a long way, but together Kevin (Rudd) and I are keen to take this to the next level."
Since New Zealand signed a free trade agreement with China a year ago two-way trade between the countries had grown by 19 percent to more than $9 billion in the year to February, Mr Key told the forum.
"Asia offers exciting markets for tourism, education services, our high quality agriculture products, the resource sector and many more."
After his speech Mr Key was due to meet Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in Brisbane before heading to Cairns for the start of the four-day Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit.
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