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Sun 25 May 2008 12:09 PM

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US wealth fund task force heads for UAE

Congressional delegation set to hold meetings in Abu Dhabi, before heading to Saudi and Dubai.

A US sovereign wealth fund task force will touch down in Abu Dhabi Sunday night for high-level talks as controversy in the West surrounding the powerful state-backed funds continues to grow.

The Congressional delegation is set to hold meetings with officials from Abu Dhabi investment vehicle Mubadala Development Company on Monday, before heading to Saudi Arabia and Dubai for similar talks, UAE daily The National reported on Sunday.

The task force, headed by Congressmen Jim Moran and Tom Davis, aims to educate fellow US lawmakers on wealth funds and show how important they are to the US, a spokesperson for Moran said.

The spokesperson said the task force hopes to prevent a repeat of the DP World scandal.

In 2006 the Dubai-owned ports operator was forced to sell US port terminal operations it acquired through its takeover of UK-based P&O amid a political firestorm that the deal posed a threat to American national security.

Sovereign wealth funds, many of which come from oil-rich Gulf states and Asian countries with large trade surpluses, are thought to control assets worth an estimated $3 trillion, which could grow to grow to $12 trillion by 2015, according to some analysts.

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) is the world's largest wealth funds, controlling assets worth around $875 billion.

Adia was among several wealth funds that came to the rescue of US and European banks in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis and ensuing credit crunch.

The growing influence of wealth funds has raised concerns in the West over transparency and accountability, with some claiming foreign governments may harbour political motivations when investing in the US and Europe.

Voluntary investment codes of conduct have been drawn up in both the US and EU, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set up a working group with 25 wealth funds to draft the first ever best practice guidelines.

However wealth funds have resisted calls for increased regulation, stating that restrictions on investment will see them take their money elsewhere.

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