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Global Outlook: United States Remains the Largest Destination for FDI in the World

March 17, 2020
Kara Mazachek is an Economic Research Analyst at SelectUSA.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the latest issue of its Global Investment Trends Monitor in January. With this release, the Investment Research team at SelectUSA was excited to analyze the latest global 2019 numbers and better understand a few of the key global foreign direct investment (FDI) trends during the last year!

In 2019, global FDI flows totaled $1.39 trillion, which was a one percent decrease from $1.41 trillion in 2018. These global flows reflect both mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and greenfield investment activity. This slight decline in FDI flow accompanied global patterns of slowed economic growth and policy uncertainty. While there is great country-specific variation in trend, FDI flows to developed countries decreased six percent to a historically low level of $643 billion. Simultaneously, flows to developing countries were constant at $695 billion. Announced greenfield projects, an indicator of future trends, overall performed better than cross-border M&As in 2019. Globally, announced greenfield projects decreased 22 percent, compared to a 40 percent decrease in announced cross-border M&As.

UNCTAD Blog 031720

In contrast to larger declines in other developed economies, the United States received consistent inward FDI between 2018 and 2019, with $251 billion in inflows in 2019. These preliminary estimates indicate that the United States is still the largest destination for FDI in the world, with inflows at least $100 billion greater than those of any other destination market. Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands were the largest source markets of FDI flows to the United States, while U.S. inflows from Canada and the broader European Union (EU) significantly declined.

Overall, the EU saw a 15 percent decrease in FDI inflows to $305 billion. Despite being the top destination for FDI in Europe, the United Kingdom’s FDI inflows fell by six percent as it approached Brexit. France and Germany also were in the top 10 destination markets for FDI inflows at $52 billion and $40 billion, respectively.

FDI inflows to developing Asia made up one-third of global FDI flows in 2019, despite its FDI value declining six percent from 2018. Hong Kong drove much of this drop as its own inflows fell by 48 percent amid divestment and unrest. However, Hong Kong remained the sixth-highest destination market in the world for FDI. Inflows to China saw almost no change from 2018 to 2019, leaving China the second-highest destination market for FDI in the world at $140 billion, followed by Singapore at $110 billion.

Lastly, despite these trends in other parts of the world, the Latin America and Caribbean region saw inflows increase by 16 percent, reaching $170 billion in 2019. Within the region, Brazil’s inward FDI flows increased by 26 percent to $75 billion, cementing itself as the fourth-largest recipient of FDI in the world. UNCTAD gives some of the credit for this jump to Brazil’s new privatization program, which launched in July 2019 as an effort to revitalize the economy.

What does this mean for 2020? The global outlook is optimistic! UNCTAD projects that global FDI flows will increase slightly during the next year alongside continuing high corporate profits and growing international trade. UNCTAD also expects GDP growth and capital investment to increase globally. While UNCTAD noted a 22 percent decrease in global greenfield FDI announcements from 2018 to 2019, the opposite was true for the United States. Data from fDi Markets indicated that the value of greenfield FDI announcements into the United States totaled $91.7 billion in 2019, a 26.9 percent increase from 2018.

With consistently strong U.S. growth in greenfield FDI and a positive global forecast, SelectUSA is excited to welcome and facilitate even more greenfield investment in the United States throughout 2020.

About SelectUSA
Housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, SelectUSA promotes and facilitates business investment in the United States. To learn more about SelectUSA’s services, the U.S. business and investment climate, and how FDI benefits the U.S. economy, visit selectusa.gov and follow @SelectUSA on Twitter.