A new executive order has formalised Team Telecom, a previously ad hoc committee which for many years has reviewed applications for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorisations involving non-US parties, typically for US-international telecoms service or submarine cable landings. The committee has the primary responsibility of reviewing applications for FCC authorisations which involve foreign ownership to identify national security or law enforcement risks.
Through an array of legislative and administrative measures, the government has made significant strides in recent years to limit, and perhaps end altogether, the proliferation of Chinese-origin telecoms technology in US infrastructure. While some of the legislation is company agnostic, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which remains on the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security's Entity List, is a primary target.
The Commerce Department recently took significant steps to revise the Export Administration Regulations to address military-civil fusion. Specifically, the Bureau of Industry and Security issued two final rules regarding licence exception civil end users and military end-use and end-user controls, as well as a proposed rule which would eliminate a provision of the licence exception additional permissive re-exports that currently authorises certain re-exports to China and other countries.
After a more than one-year wait, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has imposed controls on its first 'emerging technology' – software specially designed to automate the analysis of geospatial imagery. This software now requires a BIS authorisation to be exported or re-exported to any country other than Canada. Companies that develop or use AI to solve geospatial problems or in geospatial applications must review the new rules closely.
In the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act and the Export Control Reform Act, Congress essentially gave the Department of Commerce the authority to decide how narrowly or widely to set the jurisdiction for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States over non-passive minority investments involving emerging and foundational technologies. Yet, at times, the department has seemed almost paralysed by this question.
Providers of telecoms, internet and digital services, as well as IT vendors and equipment manufacturers, will soon find doing deals with foreign entities a little more risky and complicated. A new review process soon to be underway at the Department of Commerce is designed to ferret out transactions that pose a threat to US national security, but provides parties whose deals are being evaluated little time to comment.
The Treasury Department, on behalf of the full Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), recently released the long-awaited comprehensive draft regulations to implement the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act. The regulations will significantly expand CFIUS's jurisdiction to cover a wider range of transactions, likely resulting in a dramatic spike in CFIUS reviews in 2020 and beyond.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is finalising its draft regulations to implement the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act 2018 (FIRRMA). FIRRMA overhauled the operations and jurisdiction of CFIUS, but one aspect of the new law that has received little attention is the expansion of CFIUS's jurisdiction to cover a broader range of real estate transactions.
Among other recent blows to Huawei, the Department of Defence, the General Services Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have issued an interim rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation to implement a key provision of the John S McCain National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2019. In light of this, US companies should carefully review their transactions with Chinese tech companies to ensure that they do not fall foul of any prohibitions.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is drafting the implementing regulations for the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act. Foreign investors are closely following how CFIUS will exercise its new 'country specification' authority – specifically, whether it will create a negative or positive list of specific countries whose transactions are, respectively, either required to undergo or exempt from CFIUS review.
Between the addition of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd – the world's largest telecoms equipment maker – to the Entity List and a new executive order declaring a national emergency relating to information and communications technology and services, May 2019 has proved to be a period of non-stop excitement for the export control world. This article discusses what these changes mean for US companies.