Obama to foreign investors: Come to America!

Obama to foreign investors: Come to America!
By Stefan Grobe
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Embattled by the botched rollout of the health care law, partisan gridlock in Congress and allied fury over spying allegations, US President Barack Obama on Thursday drummed up support of the United States as a “land of opportunity”.

Speaking at the first “SelectUSA Investment Summit” in Washington, he called for a renewed effort to entice job-creating foreign business to open shop in the United States.

Obama announced he would expand and enhance the SelectUSA program, which was launched in 2011 to coordinate state and local incentive programs to attract overseas companies.

The President praised the competitiveness of the US economic climate which has made the country the number one destination of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world.

After leaving the US for a decade, jobs are now starting to come back again, Obama said, citing Caterpillar, Ford and Intel as domestic examples.

Obama also cited companies not based in the US like Japanese carmaker Honda that is expanding production operations in Ohio, in Alabama and Indiana. “And today, more Hondas are made in America than anyplace else in the world”, Obama added.

The two-day conference, sponsored by the US Commerce Department, brings together 1200 business leaders, global investors, government officials and representatives from states, territories and the District of Columbia to explore business and investment opportunities in the US.

The goal of the meeting is to promote the US as the first destination for business investment and to demonstrate the Obama administration’s commitment to business investment as an engine for economic growth and job creation.

Despite the recent political brinkmanship in Congress that brought the US within shouting distance of a default, Wall Street executives depicted the country as investment-safe.

“We have the most resilient capital markets in the world, the most robust banking in the loan market and were quickest to resolve the banking crisis”, said Larry Fink, CEO of investment firm BlackRock.

Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council, cited advanced manufacturing, cheap energy prices and an internationally coveted higher education system as additional reasons to invest in the US.

But Sperling and other participants were also quick to name a few obstacles. Among them were an underfunded infrastructure, the lack of comprehensive immigration reform and the looming fiscal wars in Congress, which create uncertainty and unpredictability for investors.

All in all, the US economy seems to be on track to renew its growth path, albeit slowly, according to analysts. Right now, the US is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world.

The five largest sources are the UK, Japan, Germany, Canada and France. Together with the rest of the EU and Australia, they represent nearly 80 percent of US FDI stock.

Direct investment in the US economy exists across industry sectors. According to the US government, more than one third of FDI is in manufacturing.

International companies maintain US manufacturing operations in chemicals, primary and fabricated metals, transportation components ranging from aerospace to motor vehicle manufacturing, textiles and more.

Stefan Grobe, Washington

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