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New UN Report Highlights United States Lead in Global FDI and Digital Economy

August 15, 2017

By Harrison Frye, Intern, SelectUSA

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) plays an important role in the U.S. economy by creating jobs, increasing wealth, and raising living standards. The United States continues to hold the largest amount of FDI in the world. A new report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed that the United States was also the largest recipient of FDI flows in 2016.

UNCTAD data reflecting FDI inflows, measured in billions of dollars.

UNCTAD data reflecting global FDI inflows, measured in billions of dollars.

How can different numbers tell the same story? FDI is measured in both stocks and flows. Flows are the recorded value of cross-border transactions during a certain period of time. Inward flows are the transactions that increase the net amount of investment foreign investors have in enterprises within the reporting country’s borders. This is different from FDI stocks, which measure the total level of foreign direct investment at any point in time.

After an impressive rise in 2015, global FDI flows faltered during the past year, falling by 2 percent to $1.75 trillion.  This drop can be attributed to weak economic growth and significant policy risks, as seen by multinational enterprises.

This decline was not felt in the Unites States, however, which saw a 12 percent increase in inflows. The $391 billion of inflows to the United States was a record, and accounted for a quarter of global FDI inflows. The large increase in FDI into the country can be attributed to high investor confidence in the American economy and our developed workforce. Moreover, UNCTAD’s business survey found the United States was the top prospective host economy for FDI looking forward to 2017-2019.

More than half of the FDI inflows to the Unites States were in manufacturing, and about one-fifth were in finance and insurance. New apprenticeship programs proposed by the White House are aimed at preparing the next generation of Americans to be successful workers in the years to come, keeping the United States as the most attractive destination for potential investors.

Another area where the United States is seeing significant growth is the digital economy – the secondary focus area of the UNCTAD report. Noting that digital multinational enterprises (MNEs) are expanding at a dramatically faster rate than other multinationals, the report highlights notes that more than 60 of the top 100 digital MNEs are U.S.-based (for Internet platforms this rises to 10 of the top 11). This in turn is shaping global investment patterns in the 21st century economy. Demand-side factors such as income levels, population size, economic growth, and education levels are key elements in determining the amount of private investment in internet infrastructure, putting the United States ahead of other global competitors in attracting digital enterprises.

Are you interested in exploring the digital economy? SelectUSA’s investment specialists help companies understand the overall economy and investment trends using consumer information and industry overviews. SelectUSA also helps connect potential investors to economic development organizations, who then provide guidance and incentives at the local level. Learn more at www.selectusa.gov.

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