US Senators Approve Amendments to Restrict Farmland Purchases and High-Tech Investments by China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia
In a significant move, US senators have unanimously approved bipartisan amendments to the annual defense policy bill that aim to ban China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from purchasing farmland in the United States. The amendments would also enable the review of American investment in high-tech ventures on foreign adversary soil.
The measure, which was passed by a 91-7 vote, directs the president to halt or waive agricultural land transactions by these four nations and requires the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to evaluate any such deals. Notably, the committee already reviews other inbound investment transactions.
Concerns regarding national security have been the driving force behind these amendments. The US Department of Agriculture reported that of the 40 million acres of US forest and farmland owned by foreign investors, China accounted for less than 1%, or approximately 383,935 acres, at the end of 2021. Nonetheless, several incidents have prompted lawmakers to take action, such as the purchase of 300 acres near a North Dakota Air Force base by a Chinese-owned corn processing company and the presence of a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana, which is home to numerous US nuclear missiles.
The co-sponsors of this amendment include Republican Senators Mike Rounds, Steve Daines, John Kennedy, Joni Ernst, Cynthia Lummis, Ted Cruz, Kevin Cramer, John Hoeven, Katie Britt, and Democratic Senators Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown.
Senators also voted in favor of an amendment that screens American investment in high-tech sectors, such as artificial intelligence, advanced semiconductors, satellite communications, and quantum computing, in China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. The amendment, which was passed by a vote of 91-6, seeks to counter the economic espionage tactics employed by the Chinese government.
The annual defense bill effectively acknowledges the need to address the technological competition faced by the United States, particularly with the People’s Republic of China. Unchecked offshoring of supply chains in industries and locations with national security implications poses a significant risk.
Accordingly, the Casey-Cornyn amendment, sponsored by Democratic Senator Bob Casey and Republican Senator John Cornyn, requires US corporations and other entities to notify the Secretary of the Treasury before engaging in deals involving these high-tech sectors abroad. While foreign investments coming into the US are thoroughly screened, there is currently no federal mechanism to regulate the investments made by American companies outside the country.
It is worth noting that US outbound investment reached $6.58 trillion by the end of 2022, with the largest proportion flowing into the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Canada. The Casey-Cornyn amendment intends to ensure greater transparency and scrutiny in investments in high-tech sectors to prevent the exploitation of US research and innovation by foreign adversaries.
These amendments reflect the senators’ commitment to safeguarding national security and food supply chains by protecting sensitive military sites and controlling investments in strategic industries. By imposing restrictions on farmland purchases and high-tech investments from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, the US is taking proactive measures to mitigate potential risks and maintain its competitive edge in the global landscape.