After months of negotiation, Congress recently passed, and the president is expected to sign, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (“FIRRMA”).[1]  FIRRMA updates the national security review of inbound investments undertaken by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (“CFIUS” or “the Committee”), an interagency body located within the

On Wednesday, President Trump issued a statement in support of restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States in firms with critical technologies, and in greater protection of those technologies through enhanced export controls.  In particular, the President has thrown his support behind the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), bipartisan legislation that passed in the House on Tuesday.  FIRRMA intend to strengthen the existing Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) by expanding the scope of foreign investment restrictions that the Administration could block for national security reasons.

CFIUS is an inter-agency committee that has jurisdiction to review transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person  If CFIUS determines the transaction presents a national security risk, it can take action to mitigate the risk or refer the case to the President for further action.  The reforms under FIRRMA would expand CFIUS’s jurisdiction to review foreign minority investments in start-ups in key sectors, certain sensitive real estate transactions, and joint ventures – all of which are currently not subject to examination.  The FIRRMA bill passed in the House specifically notes that the “national security risks related to foreign investment, particularly those emanating from countries such as China and Russia, warrant an appropriate modernization of the processes and authorities of {CFIUS}.”  FIRRMA would also expand existing export controls that govern trade in sensitive technologies.
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A bipartisan group of co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate recently introduced the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”).  These substantively identical bills demonstrate that Congress is now considering increasing the scrutiny of foreign investment in the U.S., particularly from China.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) is the interagency body is responsible for reviewing incoming foreign investments for national security risks, so long as they are “covered transactions.”  FIRRMA would broaden the scope of “covered transactions” to include, among other things: the purchase or lease by a foreign person of real estate located near U.S. military or national security interests; non-passive investments in critical technologies or critical infrastructure; and the contribution of U.S. critical technology to a foreign person, including through joint ventures, among others.  The bills would also update certain terms and definitions, including “critical technology,” which can include emerging technologies that are not necessarily controlled for export.  Notably, FIRRMA would not extend CFIUS jurisdiction to “greenfield” investments, which the regulations carve out from CFIUS review. 
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