Scrutinizing foreign investments - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Scrutinizing foreign investments

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Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2003 6:03 pm | Updated: 2:03 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

With the war on terrorism a top national and local priority, the mere possibility that some Arizona public funds might be underwriting rogue nations is chilling.

The Tribune's Jennifer Ryan reported last week that millions of dollars in state retirement funds are invested in several companies with ties to countries that have been identified by the U.S. government as terrorist sponsors.

So it's little wonder that legislation that would require the state treasurer to find and report such investments is flying through the Legislature.

Whether the sources are public or private, good ol' Yankee greenbacks should not be going to produce ballistic missiles in North Korea or VX gas in Iraq.

But few investments are that obvious. And there's the rub.

One of the companies identified by Ryan as doing business with Iran, through a subsidiary, is General Electric. Arizona retirement funds are also invested in TotalFinaElf, a French oil company with business dealings with Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan and North Korea. The federal government identifies all five countries, plus Iraq, as terrorism sponsors.

Perhaps the state funds, which total more than $600 million, should be yanked. Then too, should all GE light bulbs be yanked from state buildings?

State Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, correctly points out that France's strong business ties with Iraq are helping drive its opposition to the tough U.S. stance on disarming Saddam Hussein. Doing business with despots seriously compromises foreign policy.

But given the vastness and complexity of the global economy, some American dollars invariably find their way to rogue regimes. Requiring the state treasurer to track down every such indirect investment would be an expensive and futile exercise.

Obvious problem investments should be identified and halted. But anything beyond that would be best coordinated by the federal government.

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