National Security

The European Commission (the “Commission”) issued a White Paper on Outbound Investments (the “White Paper”) on 24 January 2024, setting out non-binding proposals for a detailed analysis of EU outbound investment. With its initiative, the Commission aims to understand whether the current limited regulation in the area of outbound investments is allowing leakage of strategic technologies and leading to potential risks to security. The conclusions of any review would inform possible EU policy responses, including whether to adopt EU-level rules regarding the screening of outbound investment to third countries. The White Paper is one of five initiatives set out in the Commission’s European Economic Security Package (the “EESP”) that aim to address the national security and public order concerns that the Commission has identified (see our Global Policy Watch blog).

In this blogpost, we discuss the key aspects of the outbound investment White Paper at the EU level. These are the main takeaways:

  • The White Paper does not introduce any immediate change to legislation or create an EU- level outbound investment screening framework, but is a step towards the EU identifying whether (and what) legislation may be necessary to close perceived ‘gaps’ in regulation that permit outbound investments made by EU businesses which could lead to potential security risks.
  • The White Paper envisages a joint effort by the Commission and Member States to explore the need to regulate and control outbound investment, prompted by the Commission’s perception of growing geopolitical tensions and technological shifts.
  • The Commission suggests a multi-stage process to evaluate risks potentially associated with outbound investments. This process began with a consultation (following the White Paper’s publication) followed by a monitoring period. Based on the findings of both the public consultation and monitoring, the Commission will assess the need and possible content of any policy response in Autumn 2025.

Continue Reading Outbound investment screening in the EU – A major step forward?

On October 17, 2023, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) published a report on mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”) in the defense industrial base. The report details the current M&A review process of the Department of Defense (“DOD”) and provides recommendations to proactively assess M&A competition risks.

Currently, DOD’s Industrial Base Policy (“IBP”) office, with input

Belgium introduced an FDI screening mechanism anticipated to enter into force on July 1, 2023, adding yet another jurisdiction in the EU which has adopted national measures to implement the EU’s FDI Regulation (EU) 2019/452. The new Belgian regime may place additional compliance obligations on companies, and, for some investments, it will entail modifications to initially planned transactions. For companies considering transactions – directly or indirectly – in Belgium, the new regime creates an additional layer of deal conditionality, besides merger control and the EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation (also due to be implemented this year – see our previous blogpost here).

Key Takeaways:

  • The FDI screening mechanism will cover key sectors for the Belgian economy; for example, critical infrastructures, essential technologies or raw materials, defense, and energy;
  • Notification is mandatory and the investors cannot close the transaction before the foreign investment has been cleared, or they risk incurring hefty fines;
  • The preliminary assessment phase can take up to 30 calendar days and where a more in-depth review is required, this can take up to an additional month, but extensions and suspensions are possible.
  • The Interfederal Screening Commission (“Screening Commission”) will review the notifications. The competent minister will clear the investment, impose remedies, or prohibit the investment where no remedies can overcome the concerns over Belgian national security, public order or strategic interests.

Continue Reading Belgium takes action to screen foreign direct investment (FDI) on its territory

On the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, and U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, 2022 accelerated a sweeping effort within the U.S. government to make national security considerations—especially with respect to China—a key feature of new and existing regulatory processes. This trend toward broader national security regulation, designed to help maintain U.S. strategic advantage, has support from both Republicans and Democrats, including from the Biden Administration. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s remarks in September 2022 capture the tone shift in Washington: “…[W]e have to revisit the longstanding premise of maintaining ‘relative’ advantages over competitors in certain key technologies…That is not the strategic environment we are in today…[w]e must maintain as large of a lead as possible.”

This environment produced important legislative and regulatory developments in 2022, including the CHIPS and Science Act (Covington alert), first-ever Enforcement and Penalty Guidelines promulgated by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS” or the “Committee”) (Covington alert), President Biden’s Executive Order on CFIUS (Covington alert), new restrictions under U.S. export control authorities targeting China (Covington alert), and proposals for a new regime to review outbound investments by U.S. businesses (Covington alert). The common thread among these developments is the U.S. government’s continuing appetite to use both existing and new regulatory authorities to address identified national security risks, especially where perceived risks relate to China.

With a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives riding the tailwinds of this bipartisan consensus, 2023 is looking like a pivotal moment for national security regulation—expanding beyond the use of traditional authorities such as trade controls and CFIUS, into additional regulatory domains touching upon data, communications, antitrust, and possibly more. In parallel, the U.S. focus on national security continues to gain purchase abroad, with foreign direct investment (“FDI”) regimes maturing in tandem with CFIUS, and outbound investment screening gaining traction, for example, in the European Union (“EU”). It is crucial for businesses to be aware of these developments and to approach U.S. regulatory processes with a sensitivity towards the shifting national security undercurrents described in greater detail below.Continue Reading Will 2023 Be an Inflection Point in National Security Regulation?