Chairwoman Stabenow: Smithfield Hearing Reinforces Serious Concerns About Foreign Purchases of American Food Companies

Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing Examines Smithfield Acquisition by Chinese Firm, CEO Larry Pope Testifies

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said we need to take a “long-term view” of the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer and processor, by China’s Shuanghui International. Stabenow said the purchase would be precedent-setting as it would represent the largest purchase of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm ever.  Today’s hearing broadly examined how the government review process of foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies addresses American food safety, protection of American technologies and intellectual property, and the effects of increased foreign ownership of the U.S. food supply.

China’s one-sided trading policies that may have required the Smithfield purchase in order to increase exports to China was also highlighted.   

Smithfield CEO Larry Pope testified, as well as experts on US-China trade relations, global business, food safety and foreign acquisitions.

“I firmly believe that economic security is part of our national security, and that it should be considered when our government reviews foreign investment into the United States,” Stabenow said at a Committee hearing examining the purchase of Smithfield foods and future purchases of American food companies. “We need to evaluate how foreign purchases of our food supply will affect our economy broadly, and frankly, whether there is a level playing field when it comes to these kinds of business purchases. Could this sale happen, if it were the other way around? Could Smithfield purchase Shuanghui? Based on what we’ve heard from many experts already, it sounds like the answer is ‘no.’”

Chairwoman Stabenow, along with a number of Members of the Committee, urged the Secretary of the Treasury last month to include the USDA and FDA in the review process of the transaction, pressing that food safety and food security concerns have important implications for national and economic security.

“Smithfield might be the first acquisition of a major food and agricultural company, but I doubt it will be the last,” Stabenow said. “That is why we must take a long-term view of what is happening. We need to be having this conversation and evaluating what is in the best interests of American families and our American economy because of the importance of our food supply, security, and safety.”

Witnesses who testified include Mr. Larry Pope, President and CEO, Smithfield Foods, Inc., Smithfield, VA; The Honorable Matthew J. Slaughter, Associate Dean for Faculty, Signal Companies’ Professor of Management, Faculty Director of the Center for Global Business and Government, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; Dr. Usha Haley, Professor and Director, Robbins Center for Global Business and Strategy, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV; and, Mr. Daniel Slane, Commissioner, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC.

An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as the witness testimony, can be accessed on the Committee website at http://ag.senate.gov