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Bill protects U.S. jobs from foreign investment

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said Monday that he is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would protect U.S. jobs from foreign investment.

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said Monday that he is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would give the Commerce Department the ability to review foreign purchases of —  or investment in — U.S. industries to determine if they are in the best economic interest of American workers.

The United States Foreign Investment Review Act would set up a swift and efficient process to review foreign investment in U.S. industry and give the commerce secretary the ability to approve, prohibit, or modify any deals.

It would apply to deals that result in foreign control of any U.S. entity worth more than $1 billion or any transaction by a foreign state-owned enterprise that would result in control of a U.S. entity worth more than $50 million. And Congress would have the right to request an additional review.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) is a co-sponsor of the bill. There is no complementary bill yet in the House of Representatives.

“We sometimes see foreign investment in the U.S. that raises concerns,” said Mr. Brown, who announced the legislation during a news conference at United Auto Workers Local 12 hall on Ashland Avenue.

The senator said there are growing examples of foreign investment in U.S. firms squarely aimed at giving those newly acquired entities an “unfair advantage” against their U.S.-owned competitors. On some occasions there have been billion-dollar investments or acquisitions that took place “and we didn’t even know it was happening,” Mr. Brown said.

Laws exist to prevent foreign powers or foreign companies from purchasing assets or businesses vital to the U.S. defense industry. “But there’s nothing to protect our domestic industries,” the senator said.

Rich Rankin, UAW Region 2-B director, said the UAW currently is concerned about Fuyao Glass in Dayton, which is Ohio’s largest Chinese-owned auto glass manufacturing operation. The company, whose workers rejected UAW representation earlier this month, pays workers $10 to $14 an hour, Mr. Rankin said.

“At that price, they’re taking a lot of the work that other U.S. plants perform,” he said.

Mr. Rankin said if Senator Brown’s legislation had been in place three years ago, Fuyao might have been forced to modify its 2014 purchase of a former General Motors plant in Dayton. “The world’s changing, and our country’s changing. This bill is going to bring protection to our workers,” the UAW director said.

Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower said, had a Foreign Investment Review Act been in place last March, workers at Jeep might have been alerted when Chinese appliance maker Midea paid $5 billion to purchase Kuka AG, the German robotics firm whose North American operations include the factory that welds together Wrangler bodies for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Toledo Assembly Complex.

The UAW didn’t learn that the Chinese firm had bought Kuka until months after the sale. “We were a little surprised that can happen and we didn’t even know about it,” Mr. Baumhower said.

Mr. Brown said he has been thinking about this legislation for a couple of years but now seemed the right time to go forward with it.

“We’re hopeful that House Speaker [Paul] Ryan will move forward on this and that the President will look favorably on this issue,” Mr. Brown said.

Contact Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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