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Monday, June 05, 2006

Australians are Feeling a Little American Xenophobia

An Australian newspaper calls attention to what it describes as a rising level of American concern over foreign investment. It says Australian interests such as Macquarie Bank were slow to recognize the phenomenon.

The story cites Macquarie's role in the lease of the Indiana Toll Road and goes on to quote Governor Daniels, State Representative Jeff Espich, and U.S. Representative Mark Souder.

According to a congressional source observing the legislative process and intimate with intense business lobbying to try to tone down the legislation - in which Australian representation has been mostly absent - Macquarie has been playing "catch-up" on the issue.

"The issue of 'critical infrastructure' could still be a problem for them," the source said.

In a hearing on Homeland Security on May 24, Indiana Republican congressman Mark Souder asked specifically if lease deals such as Macquarie's would be subject to foreign investment review under the present legislation governing CFIUS - the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the equivalent to Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

He was told by witness Clay Lowery, assistant secretary for international affairs at the US Treasury, that the legislation only related to acquisitions.

While Mr Souder said he welcomed foreign investment, his line of questioning - which included queries on the leasing of Indianapolis's airport - indicated that perhaps leasing deals needed to be included in new legislation too.

"I'm thrilled to bring in the investment to Indiana," Mr Souder said. "I'm just wondering what kind of process goes through lease management, because these are - particularly an airport - a major airport would be a critical infrastructure."


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