Trump backs off imposing China investment limits

Trump takes softer approach to restricting Chinese investment backs bipartisan legislation expanding reviews

United States officials have highlighted Beijing's "Made in China 2025" industrial development plan as a source of concern, since they say it is a map for dominating significant high-tech industries from space to telecommunications, robotics, and electric cars.

It comes as the U.S. and China both prepare to slap tariffs on $34bn worth of each others' goods.

The US President said on Wednesday that he would rely on improvements to the current rules and proposals to strengthen the mandate of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to restrict the transfer of US technology to China.

President Trump on Wednesday softened proposed limits on China's right to invest in US technology companies, the latest sign of an on-again, off-again trade war that is raising doubts about his ability to wring concessions from Beijing. On Tuesday, the House bill was approved by a margin of 400 to 2. While CFIUS reviews are technically voluntary, the bill would require foreign investors that are at least 25 percent owned by foreign governments to go through CFIUS when they are acquiring at least a 25 percent stake in a US business.

In his approach to China, Trump repeatedly has oscillated between tough talk and conciliation.

Trump's White House has charged Beijing with conducting predatory practices in an attempt to undermine the USA edge on technology, including cybertheft and forcing US companies to turn over technology in exchange for access to China's market.

DeBusk said that trade tensions have driven the U.S. stock market down and said that Trump might be seeking a way to avoid "a potentially catastrophic" trade war with China.

The new legislation, called the "Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act" (FIRRMA), would require the CFIUS to evaluate entire sectors, rather than individual proposed deals, for potential security threats.

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Trump also said that he has directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to examine US export controls and recommend modifications that may be needed "to defend our national security and technological leadership".

The White House announced on Wednesday that it will not limit Chinese investment in USA companies beyond what a current bill in Congress already promises to do. By opting for the expanded use of CFIUS instead of new controls on Chinese investment, Trump appears to be trying to ease the tensions between the two sides slightly. "It's confused the Chinese about what the US really wants".

Officials had considered limiting Chinese-owned companies from acquiring more than 25 percent of American firms that own sensitive technologies, and reaction to the easing from one prominent Republican was negative.

"Peter Navarro lost, and Steve Mnuchin won, and we ended up with what's actually a good policy", said Rod Hunter, a lawyer who served as an economic official on the National Security Council in President George W. Bush's administration.

Chinese investment in the U.S. has taken a big hit since Donald Trump became president.

So what changed to get the White House to announce this three days early?

Through this review, United States will assess its export controls and make any modifications that may be needed to strengthen them to defend national security and technological leadership.

"I have concluded that such legislation will provide additional tools to combat the predatory investment practices that threaten our critical technology leadership, national security, and future economic prosperity."

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