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.