January 13, 2020 / 9:30 PM / a month ago

U.S. exempts Australia, Canada, UK from some foreign investment review

People walk past the New York Stock Exchange in the Manhattan borough of New York, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration will exempt some companies from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom from beefed up scrutiny of foreign investments in the United States, under rules released on Monday, a senior Treasury official said.

The finalized rules, which will go into effect on Feb. 13, extend the powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, which has increasingly flexed its muscle against Chinese firms.

They are part of a bid, enshrined into law in 2018, to extend the panel’s powers to review non-controlling investments made by foreigners in key areas like critical technologies, infrastructure and sensitive personal data.

The rules, proposed in September, also allow the committee to review more real estate transactions, part of a bid to protect them from adversaries like China and Russia.

Australian, Canadian and UK investors that meet certain criteria will be exempted from those expanded powers, and CFIUS “can and may expand the excepted foreign list in the future,” the senior Treasury official said.

Intervention by CFIUS, which reviews mergers and stock purchases to ensure they do not harm national security, has already helped to slow Chinese investment in the United States dramatically, as Beijing and Washington have been locked in a heated trade and technology dispute.

Tensions with China could ease. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a limited trade deal with Chinese officials on Wednesday to boost protections of U.S. intellectual property, lower tariffs and increase Chinese purchases of U.S. goods.

But Chinese investors are not the only ones taking a hit from CFIUS’s stepped up scrutiny.

A report by the Committee released in November showed that more overseas companies investigated by U.S. authorities for national security concerns have abandoned investments in the United States since Trump took office, signaling headwinds for key sources of funding for U.S. companies.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell

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