Chinese Companies to Face More Scrutiny as Bill Clears House

Chinese Companies to Face More Scrutiny as Bill Clears House

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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that will increase oversight of Chinese companies listed on American stock markets, the latest attempt by the United States to scrutinize financial ties with China.

The bill, called the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, would require companies listed on American exchanges to disclose more information about any ties to foreign governments and the Chinese Communist Party, and remove them from U.S. exchanges altogether after three years if they do not provide U.S. regulators access to their audit information.

A companion bill passed the Senate in May, and President Trump is expected to sign it into law.

Politicians of both parties have criticized the lack of transparency in the Chinese financial system, saying it could be putting American investors at risk of fraud. Chinese law restricts auditors from transferring certain company financial information out of the country, limiting the visibility of American regulators into the finances of China-based operations.

Many major Chinese companies currently do not comply with American regulatory standards, including Baidu, China Mobile, PetroChina and the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, according to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the U.S. auditing regulator. Under the new legislation, they could eventually be pushed off American stock exchanges if China does not change its financial practices.

Senator John Kennedy, the Louisiana Republican who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said U.S. policy had permitted China to “flout rules that American companies play by,” creating a dangerous situation for American investors in public companies.

“Today, the House joined the Senate in rejecting a toxic status quo, and I’m glad to see this bill head to the president’s desk,” he said.

The Trump administration has passed a series of measures aimed at severing economic ties between the United States and China, and it shows little sign of letting up in its final months in office.

Increasingly, those measures have focused on the financial investments that link the world’s two largest economies. Last month, Mr. Trump issued an executive order prohibiting American investment in a list of Chinese companies with ties to the military.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has also proposed regulations that would prohibit Chinese companies from conducting initial public offerings on American stock markets or delist Chinese companies that don’t comply with American auditing rules. Under pressure from the Trump administration, a federal retirement fund also halted plans earlier this year to invest in Chinese companies.

On Wednesday, Customs and Border Protection also issued another round of restrictions barring imports of goods made with cotton from the Xinjiang region, a far western region where China has detained as many as a million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in internment camps and prisons.

The administration has accused several companies of using forced labor to make their products and on Wednesday said it would block imports produced by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and paramilitary group that plays an important role in Xinjiang’s development, or its affiliates.

The XPCC is responsible for a substantial amount of cotton production in Xinjiang, which in turn grows 85 percent of the cotton in China. It also runs detention facilities for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China, officials from U.S. customs said, which use slave or forced labor to farm and process cotton.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said in a statement Wednesday that the legislation would “prevent Chinese companies from exploiting U.S. capital markets and running afoul of our laws and regulations.”

“If Chinese companies want access to U.S. capital markets, they must comply with American laws and regulations for financial transparency and accountability,” he said.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The NY Times
Keyword: Chinese Companies to Face More Scrutiny as Bill Clears House

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