US will stage foreign investment summit

Updated: 2013-10-25 10:31

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)

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The United States is stepping up efforts to attract more foreign direct investment, including from China, by launching its first ever investment summit next week.

The SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit, scheduled for Oct 31 and Nov 1 in Washington DC, will be hosted by the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration as part of a government-wide initiative to promote direct investment in the country.

President Barack Obama, who launched SelectUSA in 2011 and announced the summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last year, is expected to address the opening ceremony, which will also be attended by other senior administration officials.

More than 1,000 participants have signed up to attend the event, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced on Wednesday. "It will be a tremendous opportunity to connect these firms with communities looking to attract investment," Pritzer said.

Economic development organizations from 47 US states, the District of Columbia and three US territories have confirmed participation. Domestic organizations will be joined by enterprises from more than 60 counties and regions around the world, according to the organizers.

The summit's agenda will include lectures on up-to-date investment trends, special seminars, and group discussions on investment opportunities and projects. It will introduce the relevant investment resources and present economic development organizations at state, regional and local levels. The participants will have one-on-one communications with organizers to meet potential investment partners.

FDI inflows to the US amounted to $175 billion in 2012, trailing China, which attracted the largest share worldwide that year with $253 billion, according to statistics from the Organization of Economics Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Despite the 25 percent drop from $234 billion in 2011, the US remained the first FDI destination within the OECD area, according to the OECD report released in April.

China's Ministry of Commerce report last month showed that the US is the second largest destination for Chinese FDI following Hong Kong. Total Chinese FDI in the US increased 124 percent in 2012 to exceed $4 billion.

The SelectUSA Investment Summit will come just days after China and the US held their four-day 10th round of Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) talks in Washington which end today.

China agreed to start negotiating with the US for a BIT that includes all stages of investment and sectors, a gesture welcomed by US officials.

While the US hopes the BIT will allow for more market access for US companies in China, Chinese government officials and business leaders also expect the treaty to provide better protection of the growing Chinese investment in the US.

Despite the growing interest of Chinese investment in the US, several high-profile cases regarding the frustration experienced by Chinese companies, such as Huawei, ZTE and Sany, have cast a shadow among Chinese investors.

A report by two members of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee last October cited Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese telecom equipment firms, as posing a potential national-security threat to the US. That followed US President Barack Obama's executive order in September for Chinese-controlled Ralls Corp to divest its wind farm investment near a US Navy weapons-testing facility in Oregon.

Viking Tao, director of Kane Russell Coleman & Logan PC, a law firm based in Houston, Texas, whose business includes helping Chinese companies invest in the US, said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, an inter-governmental agency that reviews foreign investment in the US for national security concerns, continues to be a hurdle for Chinese investment in the US by increasing uncertainty and costs in closing deals.

"The recent CFIUS approval of Shuanghui's acquisition of Smithfield is a positive result," said Tao, referring to the $4.7 billion purchase of the largest pork producer in the US.

However, Marisa Lago, US assistant secretary of treasury, told a seminar at the Council on Foreign Relations last month that the US encourages foreign investment in the US, including from China.

"Despite the data on rising Chinese investment in the United States, and the fact that numerous Chinese investments have passed successfully through the CFIUS process, there still seem to be some misconceptions about the United States' commitment to open investment," she said.

"CFIUS is efficient, non-discriminatory, precisely circumscribed, and clearly and publicly articulated process, designed to remain true to the United States' commitment to open investment," Lago said.

Tao said Chinese companies are buying American businesses when synergy can be created to serve the Chinese consumer market, citing the examples of Dalian Wanda's acquisition of AMC and Shuanghui's acquisition of Smithfield.

She said real estate has become a new favorite sector for Chinese investors during the past six to 12 months. High-profile deals include Vanke's joining force with Tishman Speyer to develop luxury residential towers in San Francisco and a $680 million acquisition by Soho China's Zhang Xin of a 40 percent stake in the General Motors building in New York City and Fosun's $725 million purchase of One Chase Manhattan Plaza from JP Morgan Chase.

On a smaller scale, many Chinese investors are looking at small to medium size real estate deals. "From product type point of view, multifamily and office buildings are most popular," Tao said.

Deng Xianlai contrubuted to this story.