Dubai-owned DP World has abandoned plans to takeover operations at six US ports, defusing an election-year showdown between President George Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress.
"DP World will transfer fully the US operations … to a United States entity," H Edward Bilkey, the company’s top executive, said in a surprise announcement on Thursday. It was unclear which American business might get the port operations, but the announcement immediately spread relief throughout the Capitol and the White House.
Just hours earlier, Republican House and Senate leaders privately told the president that Congress was all but certain to block DP World’s plan. Under pressure from a disapproving public, a House committee overwhelmingly voted against it on Wednesday, and it became clear the Senate would inevitably do the same, despite Bush’s threats to veto any legislation killing the deal. The company’s announcement gives the president a much-needed escape from what could have been a bruising show-down.
The plan was disclosed last month, setting off a political storm in the United States even though the company’s US operations were only a small part of the global transaction. Republicans denounced the plan, furious that they learned of it from news reports instead of the administration. They cited concerns over a company run by a foreign government overseeing operations at US ports already vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Democrats also pledged to halt the takeover and were pressing for a vote in the Senate.
Throughout the row, the Bush administration had defended the deal, calling the United Arab Emirates a strong ally in the war on terror and pledging to cast the first veto of his presidency if Congress voted to interfere.