WASHINGTON, June 21 More U.S. senators on Friday
raised concerns about a Chinese company's plan to buy U.S. pork
company Smithfield Foods Inc, particularly in light of
restrictions that China continues to place on imports of U.S.
"This review must be thorough and take into account the full
range of national security interests," the top Democrat and
Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said in a letter to
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and U.S. Trade Representative
"In particular, we urge that due consideration be given to
the impact of the transaction on food safety in the United
States," added Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and the
committee's chairman, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican.
That echoed a demand made on Thursday by 15 of the 20
members of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Chinese meat company Shuanghui International hopes to buy
Smithfield, the world's largest pork producer and processor, for
$4.7 billion in what would be the biggest takeover of a U.S.
company by a Chinese firm.
The companies, out of what lawyers said was "an abundance of
caution," filed the proposed deal with the Committee on Foreign
Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which reviews foreign
investment for any potential threat to national security.
Many CFIUS experts believe it is unlikely the Obama
administration will decide that Chinese investment in the U.S.
food sector is a national security threat.
"I think the Chinese will bring home the bacon," said
Timothy Keeler, a former U.S. Treasury and trade official who
now advises companies with deals that go before CFIUS.
In a statement on Thursday, Smithfield said it welcomed a
full review of the deal and would continue to cooperate with the
administration and Congress in that effort.
"We believe the proposed combination does not present any
national security concerns, is good for U.S. farmers and
agriculture and will advance U.S.-China relations," a
spokeswoman for Smithfield said.
Baucus and Hatch said the proposed sale threw a spotlight on
longtime Chinese restrictions on U.S. meat, and urged the Obama
administration to aggressively push back on those measures.
"The purchase of Smithfield - the largest pork producer in
the world - is difficult to square with China's restrictive
policies that effectively ban U.S. pork," the senators said.
China currently bans imports of pork containing any residue
of ractopamine, a feed additive used widely in the United States
with backing from the Codex Alimentarius, the international food
safety standards body.
It also blocks imports of almost all U.S. beef because of
mad cow disease concerns, despite a finding by the World Animal
Health Organization that U.S. beef is safe.
"As a result, while Chinese meat producers are free to bid
on U.S. companies accounting for a significant share of U.S.
pork production, our producers remain shut out of the important
Chinese market," the senators said.