Garrett Calls on Administration to Suspend Port Newark Transfer
"Assurances are not enough - Congress and the public deserve to know the facts"
Washington, Feb 22 -
Congressman Scott Garrett (R-Sussex) called on the Bush Administration to suspend the acquisition of Port Newark and five other American ports by a UAE-owned company.
"I know there is a process in law for reviewing Foreign Direct Investment, or FDI," said Garrett. "But simply saying that all the boxes were checked off is not sufficient, particularly when American lives are at stake. Congress deserves more information, and so do the American people."
Congressman Garrett sent a letter to President Bush urging him to suspend the acquisition and to conduct a thorough review of the impact on national security of such transactions. He also sent a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow, who chairs the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) charged with conducting these reviews, and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Garrett asked the Secretaries for a full and immediate briefing on the steps that have been taken in this instance to ensure that homeland security interests were paramount in the review of this acquisition.
A provision of law, commonly known as the "Exon-Florio provision," sets up a review and investigation process by CFIUS to ensure that foreign investment in the U.S. is fair and nondiscriminatory, but that national security interests are protected. Other agencies involved in the Exon-Florio review include the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce; the U.S. Trade Representative; and the Attorney General. The law gives the President the authority to suspend or prohibit any foreign acquisition, merger, or takeover of a U.S. corporation that is deemed a threat to national security.
"American ports remain a vulnerable entry point into our nation," said Garrett. "Allowing a state-owned company with incontrovertible connections to nuclear trafficking to Iran, North Korea, and Libya; ties to 9/11 hijackers; and sympathies with the Taliban to be in a position of authority at the ports makes no sense at all. The burden is on the Administration. Transfer should be suspended ensure that national security interests can be satisfied."
Congressman Garrett also announced legislation which would reverse the burden of proof in the law so that FDI transactions must be suspended until it can be proven that national security interests are not compromised. Under current law, the burden of proof allows for transactions to proceed pending proof of a credible threat.
Text of Congressman Garrett's letter to President Bush is below:
February 21, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to urge you to use the authority given to you under the Exon-Florio provision of the Defense Production Act to suspend the acquisition of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) by Dubai Ports World (DP World) unless a thorough examination of the situation and its potential consequences can be conducted and national security interests can be absolutely protected.
Port Newark is one of six American ports which could be operated by the Dubai-owned DP World if approval is granted for this acquisition. It flies in the face of all we have learned about how terrorists operate to allow such a transfer to occur. My constituents were deeply affected by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and Port Newark is right on their border. It simply asks too much of them to take the assurances of government officials that a secret review of this matter will protect them from terrorist retribution.
I have written Treasury Secretary John Snow and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to ask for a full and immediate briefing on the facts of this case. I am hopeful to have such a briefing in the coming days. In the meantime, I strongly urge you to suspend this acquisition to ensure that national security interests remain paramount in this matter.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Member of Congress