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US Panel: China State Firms Should be Banned from Buying US Companies

FILE - Tsinghua Unigroup logo is seen at its office in Beijing, China, Nov. 15, 2015. Tsinghua Holdings is one state-owned company that has had an investment deal opposed by CFIUS.

A U.S. congressional commission charged with monitoring security and trade links between the United States and China has recommended that CFIUS, the body that vets acquisitions from foreign firms, be required to block purchases from Chinese state-owned companies.

In its annual report to the U.S. Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said on Wednesday the Chinese Communist Party has used state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as the primary economic tool to advance and achieve its national security objectives.

"The Commission recommends Congress amend the statute authorizing the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to bar Chinese state-owned enterprises from acquiring or otherwise gaining effective control of U.S. companies," the report said.

The suggestion, one of 20 recommendations made to Congress, comes just a week after the election of Donald Trump, who has repeatedly blasted China's trade policies while on the presidential campaign trail and proposed slapping a 45 percent import tariff on Chinese goods. Trump's transition team is currently formulating policies and choosing personnel to fill key economic and security positions.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, created in 2000, is mandated to monitor, investigate and report to Congress on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and China.

The United States was the most targeted nation by Chinese acquirers this year, with mainland buyers launching a record $64.5 billion worth of deals, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The push into the United States is part of a global overseas buying spree by Chinese companies that this year has seen a record $200 billion worth of deals, nearly double last year's tally.

The U.S.-China commission did not make any reference to CFIUS, the U.S Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, in its 2015 report.

CFIUS has shown a higher degree of activism against Chinese acquirers this year, catching some Chinese by surprise.

Prominent deals that fell victim to CFIUS include Tsinghua Holdings' $3.8 billion investment in Western Digital.

Overall, data do not demonstrate CFIUS has been a significant obstacle for Chinese investment in the United States. In 2014, the latest year for which data is available, China topped the list of foreign countries in CFIUS review with 24 deals reviewed out of more than 100 scrutinized by CFIUS.

Although the number of Chinese transactions reviewed rose in absolute terms, it fell as a share of overall Chinese acquisitions, the reported noted, and the vast majority of deals reviewed by CFIUS were cleared.

But the report added that both private and public Chinese entities present significant risks to U.S. economic and national security, as the degree of state ownership does not necessarily reflect a business' strategic importance.