May 21, 2018 / 8:47 PM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-US Chamber of Commerce, others back changes to foreign investment bill

(Adds background, details on letter to Congress)

By Diane Bartz

May 21 (Reuters) - The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with business groups which lobby for oil, tech, and other industries, said on Monday that they supported changes to bills to tighten oversight of foreign investment, especially Chinese investment.

Because of concern about Chinese attempts to invest in sensitive U.S. technologies, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are considering measures to expand the clout of the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which reviews investments to ensure they do not harm national security.

The bills, which were introduced in November, were designed to address Defense Department concerns that U.S. soldiers could some day face U.S. technology on a future battlefield because the technology - like robotics or drones - had been acquired by foreign adversaries.

Draft changes to the measures are different but address business concerns. For example, both remove a measure that would require CFIUS to review joint ventures that could lead to technology transfer, delaying proposed transactions.

In a brief letter sent to the chairmen and top Democrats of the Senate Banking Committee and the House Committee on Financial Services, which are considering the bills, the groups said they backed the "broad consensus" that CFIUS focus on foreign investment in the United States and allow export control experts to manage outbound technology transfers, as might occur with a joint venture.

Signatories included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, BSA - The Software Alliance, Business Roundtable, Computing Technology Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, National Foreign Trade Council, Organization for International Investment, TechNet and the U.S. Council for International Business.

Both the Senate Banking Committee and the House Committee on Financial Services are scheduled to vote on the proposed changes on Tuesday. The measures may also be put in the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes defense spending and sets policies controlling how the funding is used.

The business groups' acceptance removes an obstacle to the bill moving forward. Supporters hope to have it through Congress by the end of the summer.

CFIUS, which is led by the Treasury Department, has killed a long list of deals, including attempts to purchase semiconductor companies such as Qualcomm Inc and the proposed acquisition of U.S. semiconductor testing company Xcerra Corp by a China state-backed investment fund. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; additional reporting by Ginger Gibson Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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