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2024 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Next-level Screening? The Case of Outbound Investment Screening

Author : Jonas Fechter

Published in: Weaponising Investments

Publisher: Springer Nature Switzerland

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Abstract

Over the past couple of years, inbound investment screening has become a standard legal and economic instrument in many Western countries. In light of geopolitical challenges, the United States is currently debating the introduction of an outbound screening mechanism that would subject certain outbound investments by US companies to governmental scrutiny. In addition, the European Commission has announced that it intends to consider whether outbound investments by European companies need to be regulated more thoroughly. This article provides an overview of these developments and analyzes the draft legislation that is currently being debated in the United States. Furthermore, it examines the feasibility of outbound investment screening under European and German law and makes an initial proposal for such a law in the European setting.

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Appendix
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Footnotes
1
Thirteenth Act amending the Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (BGBl. 2009 I S. 770); the sector-specific investment screening mechanism for the military sector was introduced in 2004 by the Eleventh Act amending the Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (BGBl. 2004 I S. 1859).
 
2
Official data from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz (2023)), available at https://​www.​bmwk.​de/​Redaktion/​DE/​Publikationen/​Aussenwirtschaft​/​investitionspruf​ung-in-deutschland-zahlen-und-fakten.​pdf?​_​_​blob=​publicationFile&​v=​18 (accessed 1 February 2023).
 
3
BAnz AT 30.04.2021 V1.
 
5
Several Senators have developed a new draft which is, in fact, broader in scope than the original proposal and may have extraterritorial effects: Covington (2022) https://​www.​cov.​com/​en/​news-and-insights/​insights/​2022/​06/​revised-national-critical-capabilities-defense-act-of-2022-proposes-expansive-outbound-investment-review-regime (accessed 1 February 2023).
 
7
Willkie Farr & Gallagher (2022) https://​www.​willkie.​com/​-/​media/​files/​publications/​2022/​reversecfiusonth​ewayusgovernment​developingoutbou​nd.​pdf (accessed 1 February 2023), p. 5. In the meantime, there are increasing indications that President Biden will first issue an Executive Order before such an investment screening mechanism will be based on an act of Congress. However, the US government seems to want to convince allied countries to introduce such screening mechanisms as well. Cf. https://​www.​fdiintelligence.​com/​content/​news/​us-finalising-imminent-outbound-fdi-screening-rules-82488 (accessed 10 July 2023).
 
12
In fact, the NCCDA goes beyond FDI and also covers a whole range of other forms of technology transfers, see Part 3.3.
 
13
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2017:376 – C-2/15—Singapore Opinion, para. 80; Velten (2022), pp. 23 et seq.
 
14
Velten (2022), pp. 24 et seq.
 
15
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2017:376 – C-2/15—Singapore Opinion, para. 227.
 
16
However, Recital 9 EU-Screening-RL makes clear that portfolio investments are not covered by the Regulation.
 
17
See Part 3.3 for the NCCDA; for an overview on the law of export controls: Bungenberg (2017).
 
18
https://​www.​atlanticcouncil.​org/​blogs/​econographics/​is-the-us-going-to-screen-outbound-investment/​ (accessed 1 February 2023); for further reasons to screen outbound investments: https://​www.​faz.​net/​einspruch/​das-blueht-der-freiheit-des-kapitalverkehrs-18463726.​html (accessed 1 February 2023). The “European economic security strategy” also focuses on safeguarding international peace and security, which could be jeopardized by sensitive technologies falling into the hands of problematic actors, cf. https://​eur-lex.​europa.​eu/​legal-content/​EN/​TXT/​PDF/​?​uri=​CELEX:​52023JC0020 (accessed 10 July 2023), p. 11.
 
19
Krugman et al. (2019), pp. 57 et seqq.
 
20
Fukuyama (1989), pp. 3–18.
 
22
Sykes (2021).
 
23
Sykes (2021).
 
24
See the strategic paper by the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie from 2019: BDI (2019) “Partner und systemischer Wettbewerber – Wie gehen wir mit Chinas staatlich gelenkter Volkswirtschaft um?”, p. 3, available at https://​bdi.​eu/​publikation/​news/​china-partner-und-systemischer-wettbewerber/​ (accessed 1 February 2023).
 
25
Herrmann and Ellemann (2022) https://​verfassungsblog.​de/​weder-festung-europa-noch-gefangnis-europa/​ (accessed 1 February 2023). Cf. “European economic security strategy” https://​eur-lex.​europa.​eu/​legal-content/​EN/​TXT/​PDF/​?​uri=​CELEX:​52023JC0020 (accessed 10 July 2023), p. 11.
 
28
Sec. 721 (k) Defense Production Act of 1950.
 
29
Sec. 1003(b)(1)(A).
 
30
Sec. 1003(b)(1)(B)(i).
 
31
Sec. 1003(b)(2).
 
32
Sec. 1004(d).
 
34
This is a striking similarity to the German inbound screening mechanism through which the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is empowered to determine the scope of screening (§ 4(1)(Nr.4, 4a) and § 5(2) AWG).
 
37
Sec. 1001(5)(A)(ii).
 
39
The “European economic security strategy” indicates that the Commission would like to limit the scope of future outbound investment screening to a “narrow set of technological advances”, cf. https://​eur-lex.​europa.​eu/​legal-content/​EN/​TXT/​PDF/​?​uri=​CELEX:​52023JC0020 (accessed 10 July 2023), p. 11.
 
40
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2017:376 – C-2/15—Singapore Opinion, para. 36: “It is settled case-law that the mere fact that an EU act, such as an agreement concluded by it, is liable to have implications for trade with one or more third States is not enough for it to be concluded that the act must be classified as falling within the common commercial policy. On the other hand, an EU act falls within that policy if it relates specifically to such trade in that it is essentially intended to promote, facilitate or govern such trade and has direct and immediate effects on it.”
 
41
Calliess (2022a), Art. 2 TFEU para. 10.
 
42
Art. 3 Abs. 1 RL (EU) 2019/452.
 
43
Recital 9: “A broad range of investments which establish or maintain lasting and direct links between investors from third countries including State entities, and undertakings carrying out an economic activity in a Member State should be covered by this Regulation. It should, however, not cover portfolio investment.”
 
44
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:1981:93 – C-804/79—para. 30; Calliess (2022a), Art. 2 TFEU para. 9.
 
45
Streinz (2018), Art. 4 TFEU para. 45.
 
46
For a comprehensive analysis of the inbound scenario: Kretzschmar (2022), pp. 295 et seqq.
 
47
Herrmann (2019), p. 463. Advocate General Capeta also considers Art. 207 (2) TFEU to be the correct competence basis for inbound investment screening in the recently-decided Xella Magyarország case, while the ECJ does not expand on this issue because the Court considers the EU Screening Regulation not applicable in view of the facts of the underlying case, cf. AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 36.
 
48
In any event, Member States remain competent in matters of national security, Art. 4(2) TEU and Art. 346 TFEU.
 
49
Weiß (2021), Art. 207 TFEU para. 39: “Die EU-Zuständigkeit bezieht sich wegen des Adjektivs ausländisch sowohl auf Direktinvestitionen von EU-Bürgern und -Gesellschaften in Drittstaaten als auch umgekehrt auf Direktinvestitionen von Drittstaatlern und Drittlandsgesellschaften in der EU.”
 
50
Hahn (2022), Art. 207 TFEU para. 2.
 
51
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2017:376 – C-2/15—Singapore Opinion, para. 243.
 
52
Kretzschmar (2022), pp. 284 et seqq.; Calliess (2022b), Art. 5 TEU para. 8.
 
53
See also: Ukrow and Ress (2021), Art. 65 TFEU para. 13; Korte (2022), Art. 65 para. 5.
 
54
Bungenberg and Blandford (2022), § 33 para. 24.
 
55
Beuttenmüller (2011), p. 289: “Damit kann auch aus Art. 207 Abs. 6 AEUV der Schluss abgeleitet werden, dass trotz der lex specialis Regelung des Art. 207 AEUV gegenüber den Vorschriften aus der Kapitalverkehrsfreiheit zumindest die Beschränkungsbefugnis der Mitgliedstaaten aus Art. 65 AEUV auch künftig erhalten bleibt.”; Bings (2014), p. 91.
 
56
Bungenberg (2017), Art. 207 TFEU para. 312; Nettesheim (2018), Art. 207 TFEU para. 28.
 
57
Weiß (2021), Art. 207 para. 76 et seqq.; Beuttenmüller (2011), p. 288; Nettesheim (2018), Art. 207 para. 29; Kretzschmar (2022), pp. 389 et seq. Advocate General Capeta, on the other hand, understands the EU Screening Regulation (inbound investment control) “as a way of giving effect to Art. 207 (6) TFEU”, since third-country direct investment remains an internal market matter and the principle of subsidiarity must therefore be guaranteed. This approach, however, merges the competence bases in Art. 207 (2) TFEU and Art. 64 (2) and (3) TFEU. Cf. AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 36 f.
 
58
Ukrow and Ress (2021), Art. 65 TFEU para. 13.
 
59
Kretzschmar (2022), pp. 283 et seq.
 
60
On the freedom to provide services: ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2020:1001 – C-620/18—para. 104.
 
61
On inbound investment screening: Klamert and Bucher (2021), pp. 339 et seqq.
 
62
Korte (2022), Art. 49 TFEU para. 39.
 
63
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2012:707 – C-35/11—Test Claimants in the Fii Group Litigation, para. 97: “Since the chapter of the Treaty on freedom of establishment does not contain any provision which extends the application of its provisions to situations concerning the establishment of a company of a Member State in a third country or the establishment of a company of a third country in a Member State, legislation relating to the tax treatment of dividends originating in third countries is not capable of falling within the scope of Article 49 TFEU.”
 
64
Barnard (2019), p. 525.
 
65
Barnard (2019), p. 524.
 
66
Korte (2022), Art. 63 TFEU para. 27.
 
67
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2002:328 – C-503/99—Golden Shares, para. 37.
 
68
Barnard (2019), pp. 528 et seq.
 
69
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2002:328 – C-503/99—Golden Shares, para. 36 et seqq., 59; Clostermeyer (2011), pp. 193 et seqq.
 
70
For an early case on the control of investments: ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2012:694 – C-244/11—Commission/Greece, para 19 et seqq.; for a case on taxation law: ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2200 – C-47/12—Kronos, para. 29 et seqq.; Hindelang and Moberg (2020), pp. 1440 et seqq.
 
71
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2200 – C-47/12—Kronos, para. 29; Hindelang and Moberg (2020), pp. 1440 et seqq.
 
72
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2200 – C-47/12—Kronos, para. 31.
 
73
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2012:694 – C-244/11—Commission/Greece, para 23; Korte (2022), Art. 49 para. 39.
 
74
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2200 – C-47/12—Kronos, para. 32.
 
75
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2200 – C-47/12—Kronos, para. 41; with a critical analysis of the background of this case law: Lübke (2021), § 5 para. 49.
 
76
On the German inbound investment screening mechanism: Klamert and Bucher (2021), pp. 440 et seq.
 
77
Lübke (2021), § 5 para. 48.
 
78
Clostermeyer (2011), pp. 214 et seq.: “Die beiden Grundfreiheiten beschäftigen sich im innerunionalen Kontext mit unterschiedlichen Aspekten der Faktorallokation im Binnenmarkt. Während die Kapitalverkehrsfreiheit die optimale Allokation des Kapitals in der Union bezweckt, geht es bei der Niederlassungsfreiheit darum, dass die Unternehmer sich den Standort in der Union aussuchen können, an dem sie am effektivsten wirtschaften können.”
 
79
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2012:707 – C-35/11—Test Claimants in the Fii Group Litigation, para. 100.
 
80
Lübke (2021), § 5 para. 49.
 
81
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország.
 
82
The Hungarian investment screening mechanism is broader in scope than the German one and also covers transactions within the European Union and even within Hungary.
 
83
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 29 et seqq.
 
84
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 29 et seqq.; AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 38 et seqq.
 
85
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 52 et seqq.
 
86
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 42: “In accordance with settled case-law, national legislation intended to apply only to those shareholdings which enable the holder to exert a definite influence on a company’s decisions and to determine its activities falls within the scope of the rules on the freedom of establishment and not the rules on the free movement of capital.”
 
87
Since, in the opinion of the ECJ, the specific case involved an acquisition by a Member State company but not by a third country company, the court did not have to rule on the question raised here as to the applicability of fundamental freedoms in the third country context. However, given that the case would have been a chance for the Court to comment on the current geopolitical debates in the Union, this can be, on the one hand, interpreted as the ECJ insisting on a strict delimitation of the fundamental freedoms in accordance with previous case law, or, on the other hand, as the ECJ not wanting to anticipate legal developments.
 
88
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, Fn. 48: “As I have explained in point 63 of this Opinion on the issue of jurisdiction, depending on which subject one takes, the present case could be understood as restricting the free movement of capital (the Bermudan company) or the freedom of establishment (of Xella Germany, Xella Luxembourg, or even the Irish national at the end of the corporate ownership chain of the entire Xella group).”
 
89
See Part 4.1.
 
90
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2000:124, − C-54/99—Église de Scientology, para. 17; Gramlich (2017), Art. 65 para. 11.
 
91
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2000:124 – C-54/99—Église de Scientology, para. 17.
 
92
Ukrow and Ress (2021), Art. 65 TFEU para. 66.
 
93
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2000:124, C-54/99—Église de Scientology, para. 17.
 
94
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2000:124, C-54/99—Église de Scientology, para. 17.
 
95
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2000:124 – C-54/99—Église de Scientology, para. 17.
 
96
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2003:272 – C-463/00, para. 71; Korte (2022), Art. 65 TFEU para 20.
 
97
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2000:124, − C-54/99—Église de Scientology, para. 22; ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2012:694 – C-244/11—Commission/Greece, para 78.
 
98
Müller-Ibold and Herrmann (2022).
 
99
Herrmann (2019), pp. 451 et seqq.; for a different opinion: Hindelang (2009), pp. 242 et seq.
 
100
Herrmann (2019), pp. 451 et seqq. In any case, Advocate General Capeta was open to a reassessment of trade policy principles and their legal bases, cf. AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 3 et seqq.
 
101
Herrmann (2019), pp. 465 et seqq.
 
102
In particular, the due process clauses in Art. 3 EU-Screening-RL.
 
103
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 29 et seqq.
 
104
In fact, the ECJ refers to the requirements to justify interference with the free movement of capital as set out in the Scientology case: ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 66.
 
105
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 64.
 
106
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 65.
 
107
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 67.
 
108
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 68.
 
109
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 69.
 
110
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2023:568 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 71.
 
111
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 71.
 
112
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 76.
 
113
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 79.
 
114
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 82 ff.
 
115
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 86.
 
116
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 89.
 
117
AG Tamara Capeta, ECLI:EU:C:2023:267 – C-106/22—Xella Magyarország, para. 5: “The world has changed, as every EU citizen has seen and felt, whether in the form of empty supermarket shelves or higher energy bills. Indeed, the Russian aggression in Ukraine has laid painfully bare the dangers of the dependency on the goodwill of yesterday’s trading partners. Accordingly, and particularly when presented with measures that arguably represent a step backwards in the openness of the European Union’s internal market vis-à-vis trade with third countries, one should not jump to conclusions too quickly: tomorrow’s strategic geopolitical interests have the potential to influence today’s commitments to free trade.”
 
118
Pache (2017), Art. 51 CFR para. 15.
 
119
Pache (2017), Art. 51 CFR para. 19.
 
120
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2013:280 – C-617/10—Akerberg Fransson, para. 17 et seqq; BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2013:rs20130424.1bvr121507–1 BvR 1215/07—Antiterrordatei, para. 91; shedding light on the background: Wißmann (2021), § 23 para. 32.
 
121
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2055 – C-198/13—Hernández, para. 34; Kingreen (2022), Art. 51 CFR para. 8.
 
122
Schwerdtfeger (2019), Art. 51 CFR para. 47.
 
123
Jarass (2021), Art. 51 CFR para. 24; Masing (2015), p. 485.
 
124
Art. 4 EU-Screening-RL (excerpt):
(1) In determining whether a foreign direct investment is likely to affect security or public order, Member States and the Commission may consider its potential effects on, inter alia:
(a) critical infrastructure, whether physical or virtual, including energy, transport, water, health, communications, media, data processing or storage, aerospace, defence, electoral or financial infrastructure, and sensitive facilities, as well as land and real estate crucial for the use of such infrastructure;
(b) critical technologies and dual use items as defined in point 1 of Article 2 of Council Regulation (EC)
No 428/2009, including artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, cybersecurity, aerospace, defence, energy storage, quantum and nuclear technologies as well as nanotechnologies and biotechnologies;
(…)
 
125
Jarass (2021), Art. 51 CFR para. 26.
 
126
See Part 4.2.1.1
 
127
ECJ, ECLI:EU:C:1991:254 – C-260/89—ERT, para. 43; Pache (2017), Art. 51 CFR para. 28 et seqq.
 
128
Kingreen (2022), Art. 51 CFR para. 22 et seq.; Masing (2015), p. 485.
 
129
Velten (2022), p. 209, who also considers Art. 21(2) CFR for the inbound scenario; Becker (2023), pp. 118 et seqq.
 
130
Ruffert (2022), Art. 15 CFR para. 4; Jarass (2021), Art. 15 para. 4.
 
131
Jarass (2021), Art. 16 para. 10; for a fundamental analysis: Cloppenburg (2020). Some authors deny the applicability of Art. 16 CFR, based on the assumption that it does not grant access to the internal market.
 
132
Jarass (2021), Art. 16 CFR para. 12.
 
133
Kingreen (2022), Art. 52 CFR para. 69.
 
134
Velten (2022), p. 209, who attributes a wide margin of appreciation to the Union with regard to inbound investments.
 
135
Kingreen (2022), Art. 51 CFR para. 20.
 
136
BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2019:rs20191106.1bvr001613–1 BvR 16/13—Recht auf Vergessen I, para. 42 et seqq.
 
137
BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2019:rs20191106.1bvr027617–1 BvR 276/17—Recht auf Vergessen II, para. 42 et seqq.
 
138
BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2019:rs20191106.1bvr001613–1 BvR 16/13—Recht auf Vergessen I, para. 42, 49.
 
139
BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2019:rs20191106.1bvr001613–1 BvR 16/13—Recht auf Vergessen I, para. 43; Wißmann (2021), § 23 para. 144.
 
140
BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2019:rs20191106.1bvr027617–1 BvR 276/17—Recht auf Vergessen II, para. 42.
 
141
Dreier (2013), Art. 19 GG para. 37.
 
142
BVerfG, ECLI:DE:BVerfG:2011:rs20110719.1bvr191609–1 BvR 1916/09—para. 79.
 
143
For the inbound scenario: Dehne (2022), pp. 314 et seqq.
 
144
Becker (2023), pp. 122 et seqq.
 
145
Becker (2023), pp. 122.
 
146
Burgi (2017), p. 6.
 
147
Wißmann (2021), § 23 para. 2.
 
148
Wißmann (2021), § 23 para. 99.
 
149
Velten (2022), p. 209.
 
151
See Part 4.1.
 
152
See Art. 3(1) EU-Screening-RL.
 
153
See Art. 1(3) EU-Screening-RL; Hermann and Ellemann (2022) https://​verfassungsblog.​de/​weder-festung-europa-noch-gefangnis-europa/​ (1 February 2023)
 
154
See Part 4.2.
 
155
See Recital 9 EU-Screening-RL.
 
156
Cf. Art. 3 Abs. 6 EU-Screening-RL.
 
157
§ 55a(1)(4) Foreign Trade an Payments Ordinance.
 
158
On inbound screening: Hindelang and Moberg (2020), p. 1447.
 
159
See attachment at the end of the article.
 
160
Manager-Magazin (2022), p. 27.
 
163
The text of the draft is based on the EU Screening Regulation and adapted to the needs of the outbound scenario.
 
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Metadata
Title
Next-level Screening? The Case of Outbound Investment Screening
Author
Jonas Fechter
Copyright Year
2024
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/17280_2023_21

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