NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 17, 2013

What industry could we buy from China?

The title is an engaging one! Other than freedom for their masses, which obviously is not for sale, they don’t seem to have anything we want bad enough to pay good money for except miscellaneous food products.

Are you aware or do you care, that since May 2103, the largest purchase of an American company by China has been on hold? Shaunghui, a $7 billion pork processor, is seeking to buy Smithfield Foods, our nation’s largest pork processor, for $4.7 billion. Now folks, this isn’t just pork-barrel politics; a government project yielding benefits such as patronage positions, increased employment or public spending to a political district and its political representative. No siree!!! This is down and dirty money on the barrel for a valued part of our American economy. So, what’s the holdup (bad choice of words here)? Demand for increased protein in the Chinese diet has strained food production as their economy is booming, a major reason for the selection. Smithfield, incidentally, is one of five top U.S. companies under acquisition by China for a total of $14.5 billion.

The acquisition of Smithfield has been subject to a national security review for months by the Committee on Foreign Investment. There are a number of issues concerning our government about the very lucrative offer. Does Smithfield have government contracts to supply our military or other security agencies, do they have special technologies like farm-rearing techniques that might be transferred to China and, finally, might it place Shaunghui in a position to disrupt the U.S. food supply or at least the supply of pork? Good questions deserve good answers, but the Chinese have not often replied in a timely manner. Shaunghui was hit by a food safety scandal in 2011 involving the illegal use of the veterinary additive, clenbuterol, which is believed to produce leaner meat. The company apologized. (They are good at that.) Neither Shaunghui nor the Chinese government has explained why 15,000 pig carcasses floated down a river in Shanghai several months ago.

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