Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Mnuchin Signals U.S. Won't Further Restrict Foreign Investments

(Bloomberg) -- A U.S. government panel that reviews foreign takeovers of American companies should continue to focus on national security, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, downplaying speculation the Trump administration would expand its authority.

“For national security reasons, we can block investment, and that will be something we continue to do,” Mnuchin said Monday in an interview with Bloomberg Television, when asked about the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which is known as CFIUS.

Chaired by Mnuchin, the panel reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies for national security risks. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been pressing the Treasury Department for years to broaden CFIUS’s purview to include foreign investments into so-called “soft power” institutions, such as Hollywood movie studios.

“This is not about cultural issues. This is about national security,” Mnuchin said when asked whether the panel would look into Chinese investments into companies such as Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures Corp.

“CFIUS does a lot and there’s a lot of tools we have -- there are certain things where it could be expanded slightly and Congress is working on certain changes -- but I think it gives us a lot of protections, and again this isn’t about targeting any one country from not investing here,” he said.

Republicans have support from some in Congress to propose legislation that would create a tiered system that requires CFIUS to review investments from countries that pose the highest risk, such as China, according to a congressional aide. China was the leading source of investments reviewed by CFIUS from 2012 to 2014, accounting for almost a fifth, according to Rhodium Group, a private research firm.