Governors oppose port deal with Mideastern company

| 2/21/2006

Battle lines are being drawn over a controversial decision to allow a company from the United Arab Emirates to control operations in six major U.S. ports.

One would expect partisan politics to play a role, but in this case the battle lines do not equal party lines.

Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced strong opposition to the deal, which was announced the week of February 12. A company named Dubai Ports World – which is owned by the tiny country of United Arab Emirates – has been cleared by the U.S. government to acquire the British business Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

The deal would give Dubai Ports World control over the management of the ports of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans.

Democratic Sens. Robert Menéndez of New Jersey and Hilary Clinton of New York said late in the week they would introduce legislation to prohibit the sale of U.S. port operations to foreign governments.

On Monday, Feb. 20, The Associated Press reported that two Republican governors – Gov. George Pataki of New York and Gov. Robert Ehrlich of Maryland – joined the fray, threatening to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their respective states if the deal is allowed to progress.

Also on Feb. 20, the Bush Administration – which has constantly maintained that the company was thoroughly researched before the deal was approved – got an unlikely ally in the form of former President Jimmy Carter.

Carter told CNN that he didn’t think the deal presented a security risk.

“I’m sure the president’s done a good job with his subordinates to make sure this is not a threat,” he said.

The AP reported that at least one Senate oversight hearing is planned before the end of February.