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Congress seeks OK on foreign investments

John Dimsdale May 9, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Over in the House, it’s a little bit of back to the future. Back to the Dubai ports deal, to be precise. Remember when the White House approved a Dubai company’s buyout of operations at six U.S. ports? Well, despite the fact that the deal was eventually scrubbed, Congress wants to make sure nothing like it ever sneaks by them again. But our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale reports businesses are worried about scaring away foreign investors.

JOHN DIMSDALE: The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States goes by the unwieldy acronym CFIUS. CFIUS already looks at buyouts of telecom companies, military contractors and the like. But after the CFIUS approval of the Dubai Ports deal, many in Congress are pushing for longer, more thorough investigations of foreign purchases, and more consultation with Congress every step of the way.

Businesses, though, worry that lengthy reviews and congressional leaks of corporate secrets will jeopardize the US record as the number one country for foreign investment. Bruce Josten is with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

BRUCE JOSTEN: It’s critically important for this country to keep that big off-ramp open for foreign direct investors to invest here in the United States, because US shareholders tend to be, in many instances, the largest shareholders of major foreign multinational companies. So there’s a two-way street here that we need to preserve.

Business lobbyists object to many of the rules in a Senate bill, such as reviews of whether a country is worthy of investing in the US. Tomorrow, a group of House members will introduce their own version, which co-sponsor Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York, says addresses those concerns.

CROWLEY: That’s why, I think, you’re seeing a moderation in the bipartisan legislation coming out of the House. As opposed to the legislation that came out of the Senate which really seemed to provide an over-reach on the issue of CFIUS.

House members hope to have a bill ready for floor action by the end of May.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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