Column: Let’s keep a close eye on foreign investments, acquisitions

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Q: Why are you calling for new oversight of foreign investments and acquisitions of U.S. companies?

A:  As a U.S. senator, it’s my job to look out for America’s interests, especially when long-term economic prosperity and national security are at stake. For more than 241 years, America’s system of free enterprise encourages Americans to work hard and dream big.

The promise for prosperity drives economic growth, along with ingenuity, innovation and investment. Farmers, factory owners and job creators know that it takes money to make money. I’m working to keep the economy moving in the right direction for American families and U.S. workers.

It’s important to consider how global trade agreements, tax policies and foreign investments will impact wages, jobs and livelihoods here in the United States. President Trump campaigned to “put America first” and voters agreed by electing him to the highest office in the land. On a recent tour of five countries in Asia, the president told foreign leaders that he “is not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.” One area of concern involves foreign investors and state-owned enterprises that may put U.S. sovereignty and long-term strategic interests at risk, from food security to job security and even national security. Consider that half of all pork processing facilities in the U.S. are foreign-owned, for example. If that pace of foreign investment continues in our food supply chain and infrastructure, how will U.S. food security be affected?

More mergers are underway in the crops and chemicals sectors; the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) just recently gave the green light for Germany’s Bayer to buy Monsanto. It’s more important than ever to review what’s at stake before the horse is let out of the barn. That’s why I’ve introduced a bipartisan bill to put America’s strategic economic interests squarely in the mix before foreign investments, especially state-owned enterprises, buy up ownership and control of American companies.

Q: How important is foreign investment to the U.S. economy?

A: American workers can take pride in growing, producing, making, manufacturing and selling the best products in the marketplace. Our productivity also makes us the world’s best investment destination. According to the Commerce Department, foreign direct investment in the United States reached a record $348 billion in 2015, an increase from $201 billion in 2013.

The latest figures available show that more than 6 million U.S. workers were employed by majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities, and more than one-third of those were manufacturing jobs. These figures reflect why it’s important not to put a stop to foreign investment. And yet, policymakers also have a responsibility to make sure strategic, long-term economic interests aren’t put in jeopardy, from outsourcing U.S. jobs to losing ownership of sensitive technologies and critical infrastructure (including transportation, communications, energy and food), for example.

My bipartisan United States Foreign Investment Review Act would require a timely review of foreign investments by the U.S. Commerce Secretary. All foreign transactions worth more than $1 billion would trigger the review, as well as any investment or acquisition by a state-owned enterprise worth more than $50 million. Based on its analysis of the domestic economic impact, the Commerce Department would have the authority to approve, prohibit or require changes of the transaction within 60 days. What’s more, my bill would improve transparency and public disclosure, requiring an annual written report to Congress explaining the results of these reviews.  

It would be terribly short-sighted to allow foreign investments and state-owned enterprises to acquire U.S. companies without thoroughly vetting the impact on our long-term economic and strategic interests. Make no mistake. Our prosperity depends on America rolling out the welcome mat in the global economy to do business with our trade partners, from buying and selling products to securing investments that enable U.S. companies to hire workers, grow wages and keep their doors open for business. However, my bill would provide a critical new oversight tool to make sure foreign investors and state-owned enterprises aren’t given license to “Buy Up America” at the expense of workers, farmers and our nation’s long-term prosperity for generations to come.