Acquisitions of U.S. businesses by SOEs, particularly Chinese SOEs, have been a key focus of concern about foreign investment in the United States. Chinese and other SOEs would be well-advised to acquaint themselves with the gathering focus in Washington on their U.S. investments, commercial activities (post-acquisition), and sovereign immunity under U.S. law and in U.S. litigation—non-Chinese SOEs should not assume that they will not be subjected to the same or similar scrutiny. At minimum, SOEs—Chinese and non-Chinese—may be well-served by understanding the origins of some Trump transition team (and later administration) proposals and/or their linkages to prior proposals. Privately-owned foreign enterprises should also take note, as sentiments about foreign investment in the United States may also directly or indirectly affect their planned or future investments (including, perhaps, favorably, if SOEs are (to an extent) taken out of competition for U.S. assets as a result of legal, policy, or political measures adopted in the United States).
The 2013 sale of American pork producer and processer Smithfield Foods to China’s Shuanghui International aroused concern among some U.S. lawmakers. The $4.7 billion deal ($7.1 billion including debt), was and remains the largest acquisition of a U.S. business by a Chinese entity. This year, some U.S. lawmakers are again raising concerns about a Chinese firm’s acquisition of an agricultural company: the proposed $43 billion acquisition by state-owned China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) of Syngetna AG , the Swiss agrochemicals company that does substantial business in the United States. If completed, the Syngenta deal would “transform ChemChina into the world’s biggest supplier of pesticides and agrochemicals.”With Chinese buyers, record-setting deals, and industry-leading acquisition targets in the mix, the Smithfield and Syngenta transactions provide the ingredients needed to stir media interest and controversy about foreign investment in and affecting the United States. Beyond deal optics, a more interesting, strategically-oriented, and potentially consequential policy and public discourse about foreign investment in U.S. agriculture is emerging in the United States, at least in some quarters
F ood insecurity is a global threat. The nature of food and the means of its production make food insecurity a uniquely complex problem with social, political, economic, and ethical dimensions. Serious efforts to promote food security must respond to the complexities of the challenge. At the national level, Middle Eastern countries have attempted to address food insecurity risks through food subsidies, export bans, price ceilings, and other policy measures. Others, particularly Gulf Cooperation Council (“GCC”) states, have sought to bolster food security by acquiring farmland overseas. Acquisitions of overseas farmland and land-use rights by Arab countries and other parties have not been without controversy. The acquisition of agricultural land to produce food exclusively for the benefit of acquirer countries is legally and politically risky. As a region, the Middle East has not explored its potential to sustainably bolster food security by marshaling its combined monetary, natural and human resources for the long-term benefit of its inhabitants. It is in the region’s best interest to identify and pursue strategies to bolster food security, through increased regional production and other means, in ways that are not only economically, legally, and environmentally sustainable, but also are politically, socially, and ethically sound.