National Security and Foreign Ownership

In a globalizing world, in which America benefits economically and strategically from openness and trade and cross-border investment, what national security rules and guidelines should govern our interaction with other countries? The concern is particularly acute, not for close allies like Britain, not for clear adversaries like North Korea, but for more complex cases such as China and a number of states where al Qaeda has had a strong presence in the past.

A number of specific questions have arisen in recent years, in response to China’s interest in obtaining the Unocal energy company, China’s ongoing economic assertiveness in places such as Panama, Iran, and Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates’ interest in managing operations at six U.S. ports. At what point, if any, are such developments dangerous for the United States? How do we figure that out in advance-so that we have appropriate legal frameworks for regulating such sales, and so that we avoid diplomatic brouhahas that harm relations with countries with which we are trying to construct cooperative partnerships?