Sun, Oct 09, 2011 - Page 11 News List

US business chiefs call for more foreign investment

AFP, Washington

US officials and business leaders stressed the need on Friday to encourage China, India, Brazil and other countries to increase their investments in the US as a means to create US jobs.

“In 2009 the United States attracted 12 percent of total global investment, down from 25 percent over a decade ago,” acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank told US President Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

“That’s despite having the world’s largest consumer market, a highly educated workforce, strong intellectual property protection and fluid capital markets,” she told the forum chaired by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“In the face of increased competition, we need to step up our game,” Blank said, adding that the US has a total of US$2.3 trillion in foreign direct investment.

“We need to show not only that we are open for business, but to use every tool in our tool box to attract it,” Clinton said.

Antonio Perez, a member of Obama’s jobs council as well as chairman and chief executive officer of the Eastman Kodak Co, echoed what he called a “troubling” trend in the US declining share of global investments.

“Even more troubling than that is the fact that out of the 12 percent, only 2.5 percent comes from the combination of Brazil, India and China,” he said, adding that “does not bode well for the future of this country.”

Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of the General Electric Co, who heads the jobs council, underlined the same concerns before a gathering of top US executives and those from US affiliates of firms based in other countries.

“Our direct investment from places like China, India, Brazil — the people that really have a hot hand today — are minuscule, almost non-existent,” Immelt said.

“And there’s no reason why those countries shouldn’t be investing more broadly in the US than they are today,” he told executives from Germany’s Daimler Trucks and Siemens AG, as well as France’s L’Air Liquide SA and others.

Executives of foreign-based firms said the US produced top-notch engineers, but needed to improve its workers vocational skills. They also complained of costly and complicated visas for non-American executives or skilled workers, rising healthcare costs for workers and declining infrastructure as competitive disadvantages.

“The fundamental question is, will America step up and invest in infrastructure, because that will bring jobs quickly,” said Peter Loescher, the American chief executive officer of Siemens.

Immelt said good infrastructure “adds productivity and it creates jobs and it creates competitiveness,” adding that Obama has taken the call seriously.

Immelt called on the US to step up to the mark.

“When you think about what Singapore does or what other countries do to attract investment in their countries, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be a lot more aggressive and lot more competitive and a lot more welcoming and a lot hungrier, quite honestly, as a country,” Immelt said.

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