WASHINGTON — Dubai Ports World, which abandoned its plan to take over operations at key U.S. ports because of bipartisan opposition, announced Wednesday that it would sell all of its American terminal operations within four to six months to an independent U.S. company.
“It is the first time we have gotten clarification that the intent is for a full divestiture,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), who sought legislation to quash the deal and to give Congress oversight of the foreign acquisition review process. “We have been seeking an American port operation completely independent of Dubai Ports World, and that is what they said they are going to do…and if that…occurs quickly, it will obviate the need for the legislation I have offered.”
Schumer said the action by the company, owned by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, should also clear the way for a lobbying reform package to move to a Senate vote. That legislation was derailed last week after Schumer attached an amendment to the bill that would have killed the ports takeover.
The controversy has resulted in legislation in Congress aimed at strengthening port security. On Wednesday, the Senate passed an amendment attached to a budget reconciliation package that provides $978 million in funding for maritime security in fiscal 2007. It allocates funding for the Container Security Initiative, improved data for cargo searches, and full background checks and security threat assessments at ports.
Meanwhile, Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said they will travel to Beijing and Shanghai next week to meet with government, economic and business officials to discuss China’s currency policy and intellectual property rights enforcement. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) will join them on a week-long trip that will also include a stop in Hong Kong to tour port facilities.
The visit comes as a March 31 deadline nears for a vote on a bill introduced by Schumer and Graham that has bipartisan support in the Senate. The legislation calls for a 27.5 percent tariff on all Chinese imports if the country does not reform its currency policies by a designated time. Critics of China’s currency policy, including U.S. textile executives, claim it artificially lowers the price of Chinese goods by as much as 40 percent and subsidizes exports, putting U.S. companies at a disadvantage and leading to job losses. They also feel China’s move last year to change the peg of the yuan to a basket of currencies from the dollar was insignificant.
Graham said, “My message to our Chinese trading partners is, there is plenty of willingness on our side to work with you, but we are not going to be run over anymore. In the next 45 days, we are going to make some major decisions about the future relationship between our countries.”