The workshop The Politics and Regulation of Investment Screening Mechanisms (PRISM), organized by Sophie Meunier and Sarah Bauerle Danzman, was held at Princeton University on October 7. Scholars from around the world participated in the intense discussions on the dramatic rise of investment screening mechanisms (ISM), which empower governments to restrict foreign mergers and acquisitions, especially in strategic sectors.
The recent expansion of investment screening challenges accepted wisdom about the role of state authority in the global economy, the ways in which governments compete with each other for mobile capital, and the influence of electoral politics in shaping orientations toward the global market. Yet, though part of a growing trend towards the securitization and geopoliticization of economic policy, ISMs are an understudied phenomenon, both in the International Political Economy and International Security literatures. We know little about why they have increased exponentially in recent years, what explains variation in their design features, and what costs they impose on the various actors involved. This workshop was one of the first gatherings ever of political science scholars who study this issue.
The politics of investment screening may seem like a wonky topic, but it is eminently political! Just look at the news: Germany’s controversial decision to allow China’s COSCO to acquire 25% of the port of Hamburg, worries about Chinese purchases of farmland in North Dakota, and a proposal for US screening of outbound investment making its way through the legislative, these are all recent examples of investment screening and politics!
For a primer on the politics of investment screening, read “Mapping the Characteristics of Foreign Investment Screening Mechanisms: The New PRISM Dataset”, by Sarah Bauerle Danzman and Sophie Meunier, International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming.