MassPoint Legal and Strategy Advisory's Hdeel Abdelhady spoke about FARA enforcement mechanisms, recent and historical enforcement, recent developments and their implications, and questions that might arise in the near future. Ms. Abdelhady's presentation materials are provided here as a resource.
The United States has adopted a whole-of-government approach to counter China’s “economic aggression” or “economic espionage,” umbrella terms that encompass a range of conduct including IP theft, forced technology transfer, academic espionage, and influence operations in the United States. The whole-of-government approach illustrates that the most strategically significant and complex confrontation between the United States and China is not the “trade war.” Rather, the race to dominate future technologies like artificial intelligence and 5G underpins the most complex legal and policy issues between the two nations. The U.S.-China tech war, and the United States’ whole-of-government strategy, has put Chinese technology companies under the hot light of U.S. legal and political scrutiny. Companies like Huawei and ZTE, relative unknowns in the United States until recently, have found themselves on the wrong side of U.S. law enforcement.
FARA was enacted in 1938, but only recently entered the public consciousness through the Special Counsel’s investigation of Trump campaign and administration officials. Following the indictment of Paul Manafort for FARA and other violations, and Michael Flynn’s remedial registration under FARA after his previously undisclosed work on behalf of foreign governments came to light, lobbyists, public relations professionals and law firms, among others, reportedly were moved to register as foreign agents or assess their FARA registration obligations
On national security grounds, the United States is developing and implementing a whole-of-government approach to maintain the country’s technological edge through legal and policy measures to restrict Chinese access to U.S. technology and intellectual property, including by: (1) limiting or prohibiting certain foreign investment and commercial transactions; (2) adopting export controls on emerging technologies; (3) instituting supply chain exclusions; (4) curbing participation in academic and other research; and (5) combating cyber intrusions and industrial and academic espionage. Additionally, concerns about Chinese government influence have spurred proposals to regulate the activities of entities viewed as Chinese government influence operators.
If there remain doubts that the U.S.-China trade war and technology war present real risks for U.S. colleges and universities, a recent report that a U.S. university has secured insurance against the risk of material reductions in Chinese student enrollment should put those doubts to bed. The risks are so real that they are insurable.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently launched an initiative to “Combat Chinese Economic Espionage.” Announced on November 1, 2018 by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the China Initiative acts on the Trump Administration’s previous findings “concerning China’s practices” and “reflects the Department’s strategic priority of countering Chinese national security threats and reinforces the President’s overall national security strategy.” The China Initiative presents emerging issues for academia, the technology industry, and the private sector broadly.