WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Democratic lawmaker will introduce a bill on Thursday that seeks to broaden the powers of a U.S. government panel that reviews mergers for national security concerns, including giving it the ability to block a deal if it could cause job losses, but it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House.
According to a draft copy of the proposed legislation reviewed by Reuters, the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) would be able to review a deal “to determine whether such transaction is of net benefit to the United States.”
If the legislation passed, CFIUS would consider a proposed deal’s effect on employment, product innovation, and public health and safety, as well as national security, according to the draft reviewed by Reuters. It would also consider factors like whether a foreign company purchasing a U.S. company abides by U.S. rules concerning disclosure and transparency.
But it is unclear whether the measure, which will be introduced by Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, has support from other lawmakers in the House.
A spokesman for Republicans in the House Committee on Financial Services, which considered an earlier version of the bill in 2014, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Even if the DeLauro bill passed the House, there would need to be companion legislation passed in the Senate and then it would still need to get signed into law by President Barack Obama. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate, according to a source on Capitol Hill. DeLauro introduced her previous bill following the U.S. approval of China-based Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd’s $4.7 billion acquisition of pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc, but it never went to the full House for a vote.
While the House bill does not target China specifically, it could have most implications for the country. In 2014, the last year for which data is available, CFIUS looked at more deals involving China than any other country for the third year in a row.
It comes amid signs of increased concerns in Washington about a flurry of proposed takeovers of American companies by Chinese entities. Still, such sweeping legislation could be a tall order for the administration at a time of already tense Sino-U.S. relations.
Earlier this month, 46 U.S. lawmakers, most of them Republicans, urged CFIUS to take a hard look at a bid by a Chinese company, Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group, to buy the storied Chicago Stock Exchange because of fears that the deal would give China access to the data of U.S. companies who use the exchange. In the past few weeks alone, CFIUS concerns have killed three proposed Chinese investments. On Tuesday, Western Digital Corp (WDC.O) said China’s Unisplendour Corp Ltd (000938.SZ) backed out of buying a stake in the U.S. company because CFIUS planned to probe it.
Additional reporting by Joel Schectman in Washington; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Martin Howell