Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Panel Clears Chinese Company's Takeover Of Syngenta


We may be about to see the largest-ever foreign acquisition by a Chinese company. The state-owned China National Chemical Corporation is trying to take over Swiss seed giant Syngenta. The deal was held up while the U.S. scrutinized its impact on the American food supply chain. But now the U.S. has cleared the way. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The planned takeover bid of Syngenta by ChemChina is worth $43 billion. If it goes through, it could make the Chinese company a major player worldwide in pesticides and genetically modified seeds. It could also help China provide food security for its growing population.

Even though Syngenta is a Swiss company, it does about a quarter of its business here in the U.S. And the sale was held up because the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. wanted to see if it presented a threat to national security.

ANNE SALLADIN: I think they'd be examining whether or not what they produce here is something that is of importance to the U.S. government.

NORTHAM: Anne Salladin is a Washington lawyer who used to work on Foreign Investment reviews when she was with the Treasury Department. She says she wouldn't be surprised if the committee focused on what impact the Chinese takeover of Syngenta would have on U.S. food security.

SALLADIN: Whether or not there is particular technology that is of strategic interest to the United States government that could be useful, for example, in some sort of a food emergency.

NORTHAM: The government has the power to prevent the company from doing business in the U.S. The ChemChina deal provoked widespread concern among many farmers and members of Congress who said it could give Beijing a foothold on America's agricultural infrastructure and could prompt more similar deals.

Harry Clark is a lawyer who advises companies on the Foreign Investment reviews. He says he expects more national security reviews in the future as mergers and acquisitions heat up.

HARRY CLARK: I do. The levels of international investment in the United States, particularly from China, have been growing.

NORTHAM: The U.S. may have approved the takeover bid. But now ChemChina has to get past European regulators. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.