Wednesday, October 17, 2012
James K. Jackson
Specialist in International Trade and Finance
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is comprised of nine members, two ex officio members, and other members as appointed by the President representing major departments and agencies within the federal executive branch. While the group generally has operated in relative obscurity, the proposed acquisition of commercial operations at six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World in 2006 placed the group’s operations under intense scrutiny by Members of Congress and the public. Prompted by this case, some Members of the 109th and 110th Congresses questioned the ability of Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities given the general view that CFIUS’s operations lack transparency. Other Members revisited concerns about the linkage between national security and the role of foreign investment in the U.S. economy. Some Members of Congress and others argued that the nation’s security and economic concerns have changed since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that these concerns were not being reflected sufficiently in the Committee’s deliberations. In addition, anecdotal evidence seemed to indicate that the CFIUS process was not market neutral. Instead, a CFIUS investigation of an investment transaction may have been perceived by some firms and by some in the financial markets as a negative factor that added to uncertainty and may have spurred firms to engage in behavior that may not have been optimal for the economy as a whole. In the 112th Congress, some Members expressed their concerns to the Obama Administration over the national security implications of a proposed acquisition of a U.S. technology company by the Chinese-owned Huawei Technologies.
In the first session of the 110th Congress, the House and Senate adopted S. 1610, the Foreign Investment and National Security Act (FINSA) of 2007. On July 11, 2007, the measure was sent to President Bush, who signed it on July 26, 2007. It is designated as P.L. 110-49. On January 23, 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order 13456 implementing the law. The Executive Order also established some caveats that may affect the way in which the law is implemented. These caveats stipulate that the President will provide information that is required under the law as long as it is “consistent” with the President’s authority “to (i) conduct the foreign affairs of the United States; (ii) withhold information the disclosure of which could impair the foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive’s constitutional duties; (iii) recommend for congressional consideration such measures as the President may judge necessary and expedient; and (iv) supervise the unitary executive branch.” Despite the relatively recent passage of the amendments, some Members of Congress and others have questioned the performance of CFIUS and the way the Committee reviews cases involving foreign governments, particularly with the emergence of direct investments through sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). The Obama Administration issued a statement on June 30, 2011, supporting an open investment policy, a commitment to treat all investors in a fair and equitable manner, and support for business investment from sources both home and abroad in the economy. On September 28, 2012, President Obama used the authority granted to him under FINSA to block a Chinese acquisition of a U.S. energy firm.
Date of Report: October 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL33388
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