March 08, 2006

UPON CLOSER REVIEW...

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

English historian Arnold Toynbee wryly observed, â??America is like a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair.â?? Notwithstanding Toynbeeâ??s conceit, he alludes to an indisputable truism: when America takes military or economic action, at home or abroad, the rest of the world is affected. Our grand history has prepared us for this role and means that our nation carries a responsibility regarding to world affairs and stability. United States' national security decisions invariably sends ripples through international markets and, at times, decisions made in a corporate boardroom affect our national security. Caution, deliberation and consideration of all repercussions must guide critical decisions. Borders and ports must be secured while preserving an efficient flow of goods worldwide, to markets that benefit Idaho and American producers and manufacturers. The proposed purchase of the operation of container terminals at six major U.S. ports by a company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)â??highlights the tension between healthy foreign relations and secure borders. Since 1988, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), has evaluated certain foreign purchases of U.S. firms for national security implications. Comprised of representatives from 12 different federal departments and agencies, it conducts a 30-day review on the transaction in question with an additional 45-day review option. In these times of terrorism and the reality of globalization, our national security demands exhaustive examinations of any potential threats, no matter what the source. This is one of those times. Our seaports represent significant danger points and the additional 45-day review that has now been ordered is warranted. More importantly, Congress is conducting extensive fact-finding on this issue during hearings this month. Government systems should be reviewed periodically for efficacy. Last year, the Senate Banking Committee on which I serve held a two-part hearing on CFIUS. At the same time, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on CFIUS, highlighting serious concerns: -CFIUS defines national security differently than Homeland Security or Defense; -Reports to Congress about cases under review are not standard practice; -Because of the possible negative effect on foreign investment, CFIUS has been hesitant to initiate investigations. The Banking Committee held a hearing on March 2 to address these issues and legislation is planned for later this year to reform CFIUS. This and other hearings on the subject are for the explicit purpose of gathering all the facts about both this proposed sale and of CFIUS. That is the responsibility of Congress to American citizens, and one it will uphold. Idaho are keenly aware of the importance of positive relations with foreign countriesâ??provided those relationships do not violate our security. We must exercise caution and deliberative judgment when evaluating our international business relationships, evaluating the facts within the framework of national security. Over the coming weeks, Congress will closely examine the disclosures of all involved in this issue. Only that information will yield what is needed to make a decision that keeps the safety of Americans paramount. Another famous Brit, Sir Winston Churchill, may have said it best: â??I have great confidence in the judgment and the common sense of the American people and their leaders. They invariably do the right thing after they have examined every other alternative.â?? WORD COUNT: 546