John Snow, US Treasury secretary, will on Thursday use a visit to a Maryland-based Volvo plant to campaign in defence of foreign investment in the US, an issue many in the business community say was lost during the controversy over Dubai Ports World’s acquisition of US port terminals.

Mr Snow’s speech on Thursday to employees at the Swedish carmaker’s engine plant comes as lawmakers in Congress continue to negotiate proposals to revamp Cfius, the Treasury-led inter-agency committee that vets foreign takeovers of US assets on national security grounds. The 12-member panel has come under attack from lawmakers who say they should have more say in whether deals get approved – a stance taken by key lawmakers during the DP World debacle.

Leading the charge is Republican senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the banking committee, who is expected to introduce legislation within a week that would force Cfius to extend investigations for complex cases, establish the Defense Department as the vice- chair of Cfius and compel the committee to investigate fully any deal by a state- controlled company that has national security implications.

Mr Shelby is also considering a “joint resolution of disapproval”, a measure still being finalised, which could give Congress a veto over any deal the White House approves. While he is expected to secure wide support from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, it is unclear whether the legislation will prevail.

Other proposals would put specific restrictions on certain kinds of deals, such as prohibiting non-US groups from owning or operating critical infrastructure.

Some would call on the Department of Homeland Security to chair the Cfius process – which Mr Shelby opposes.

The Bush administration has in the past defended Cfius while acknowledging that there are ways to improve the process, including clarifying the committee’s mandate to investigate deals on “national security” grounds – a term that has been criticised by some lawmakers for being too vague.

“We’re open to Cfius reform,” a Treasury spokesman said. “There has been a good exchange of views on the issue with members of Congress. There is an understanding by key members of the importance of foreign investment in the US.”

Efforts to overhaul Cfius may be tempered by two factors: opposition from the business community and the resolution of the DP World controversy, which some business groups think has sapped momentum for change. Business lobbyists who were reluctant to get involved in the debate over DP World are now weighing in on a possible Cfius overhaul, warning that radical change would discourage foreign investment in the US.

While most lobbyists representing business see the passage of some legislation as inevitable, groups including the National Association of Manufacturers have stressed that national security reviews should be fact-based, controlled by the executive branch and not require public disclosure of sensitive information.

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