In a Thursday speech, Attorney General William Barr cautioned American companies that do business in China against violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires Americans lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to identify themselves.
Barr criticized the relationship between American corporations and the Chinese Communist Party in remarks delivered at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich. The attorney general singled out “Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple” as examples of companies that have been “all too willing to collaborate with the CCP.”
“You should be alert to how you might be used, and how your efforts on behalf of a foreign company or government could implicate the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Barr warned. “FARA does not prohibit any speech or conduct. But it does require those who are acting as the ‘agents’ of foreign principals to publicly disclose that relationship and their political or other similar activities by registering with the Justice Department, allowing the audience to take into account the origin of the speech when evaluating its credibility.”
Barr’s speech comes amid heightened scrutiny of companies doing business in China, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. A bipartisan cohort of U.S. lawmakers, including Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, have lamented American reliance on Chinese supply chains for medical goods.
The U.S. is attempting to curb the influence of China globally. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated on Monday that the U.S. may ban various Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over concerns that the Chinese government may access user data from those apps.