Obama: US is open for business

Updated: 2013-11-01 12:00

By Cai Chunying and Deng Xianlai in Washington (China Daily USA)

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 Obama: US is open for business

Charles Zhang, chairman and CEO of Chinese Internet company Sohu.com, is among a group of Chinese CEOs attending the SelectUSA summit. Photos by Sun Chenbei / China Daily

Obama: US is open for business

A summit in DC attracts potential investors from around the world

"I want to make sure we are doing everything we can so that companies like yours want to set up shop here in the United States," said President Barack Obama to hundreds of corporate executives and investors from 57 countries, including China, who were attending the first-ever Select-USA Investment Summit, in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday.

The two-day event, hosted by the White House and US Department of Commerce, has attracted 1,200 individuals including state and local economic development officials from 47 US states. "We are completely sold out," said Penny Pritzker, US Secretary of Commerce Department, who opened the summit.

Obama announced he would expand and enhance SelectUSA, the agency he established within the Commerce Department in 2011 to attract foreign investment, to create "the first-ever, fully coordinated US government effort to recruit businesses to invest and create new jobs in the United States".

Obama also made personal pledges. "Officials at the highest levels, up to and including me, are going to do even more to make the case for investing in America", he said.

Obama's cabinet members showed up at the summit yesterday, including Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarret, one by one touting the same message: America is open for business and the US is the best place to invest. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to speak on Friday.

The US is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world. According to Pritzker, the total FDI in the US reached $160 billion in 2012. This, however, was surpassed by China, which attracted the largest share worldwide last year with $253 billion, according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In his speech, Lew said, "China is currently conducting a series of high level meetings designed to inform their reform agenda, and we look forward to seeing how that plan evolves in the coming weeks."

Lew was referring to the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee scheduled for Nov 9 in which economic reforms are expected to be laid out.

China' commitment to reform is reflected in the country's recent move to open up negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty with the US, first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Obama during their June meeting in California. The 10th round of those treaty talks ended in Washington last Thursday.

Obama: US is open for business

According to Rhodium Group, a research firm that watches Chinese investment, there are 700 closed deals totaling $35.8 billion in the US from China. Although that amounts to only a small slice of the total FDI in the US, the potential looms large.

Over 80 investors and executives from China attended the summit.

Wei Gang, one of the four delegates from Beijing Automotive Group, told China Daily that his company was here to seek cooperation with its US counterparts in green energy.

"We believe that the US is where we can find quality cooperation partners to develop the technology," Wei said.

Wei's company, the fifth-largest automotive company in China, forged the first Sino-American auto joint venture with Chrysler in 1984, which gained fame at the earliest stages of China's opening up to the world.

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

According to a survey conducted by China Daily USA and APCO Worldwide on top executives from Chinese companies that have invested in the USA, one of the main challenges for these business leaders is to tackle the complex set of rules and regulations that come with investing in the US.

"This is a big country, and for a lot of foreign investors, it may be sometimes hard to navigate and figure out what exactly is going to fit the needs of your company," Obama said. He promised to get rid of the hurdles for them.

"We'll make sure that for the first time, companies who want to do business in America have a single point of contact at the federal level to cut through red tape.We're going to help you navigate national, state, local rules and regulations so that you can invest faster, open facilities faster, create jobs faster," Obama said.

Araon Brickman, deputy executive director of Select-USA, believed the future for Chinese companies is bright.

"I think the opportunities for Chinese industries in the United States are no different than the opportunities for European, Japanese, Brazilian or Mexican industries, or for home-grown American industries right here at home. And that is an unparalleled opportunity to succeed."

Contact the writers at caichun-ying@chinadailyusa.com

(China Daily USA 11/01/2013 page1)