GOP senators want new reviews to flag Chinese action in U.S. economy during pandemic

By Tony Bertuca / April 10, 2020 at 11:26 AM

A group of Republican senators led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is urging the Trump administration to "scrutinize" any transaction or investment the Chinese government or its state-controlled companies are making in the U.S. industrial base that could "undermine" national security.

"There is clear and compelling evidence that our competitors see this as an opportunity to enhance their strategic position in key industries while other nations are paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic," the senators wrote in an April 9 letter to President Trump. "Specifically, the Chinese Communist Party and its vast political-industrial apparatus will undoubtedly prey upon cash-strapped American companies during this crisis."

The lawmakers urge the administration to aggressive use the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review any suspect economic activity.

Additionally, the senators, saying the nation would be "best served if our small businesses never feel pressure to accept investment from our adversaries to begin with," want Trump to ensure the Pentagon is working with defense contractors to protect vital supply chains.

"We must act -- and act now -- to shore up the entirety of the strategic supply chain so critical to our national security systems and platforms," they wrote. "This includes ensuring timely access to U.S. and benign foreign investment that is critical to stabilizing and sustaining the small, innovative, high-tech companies that supply our prime large- and mid-tier defense contractors. As cash flow becomes ever more constrained, these smaller companies may soon find themselves at a dangerous inflection point, at which funding from our adversaries could present the only perceived option for survival. We must not allow this to occur."

The lawmakers also want Trump to ensure the supply chains of U.S. allies are also protected from "malign activities."

"We encourage you and the secretary of state to raise this issue with our allies, share important intelligence and other information, and provide technical support as may be necessary to protect our supply chains and our national security," the letter states.