The U.S. State Department just released its annual “investment climate statements” that examine trade, investment, rule of law and related issues for more than 170 foreign markets. As I explained at an event organized by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), these statements provide invaluable information for U.S. manufacturers and other businesses that seek access to foreign markets through exports, investments and other partnerships.
International commerce and investment are critical to manufacturers in the United States. Exports support the jobs of more than half of America’s 12 million manufacturing workers, and foreign investment by U.S. companies spurs those exports.
Foreign investment and U.S. exports work hand-in-hand to benefit U.S. companies, consumers and workers. Indeed, U.S. companies that invest overseas are outsized participants in the U.S. economy and are stronger because of their access to foreign markets. In fact, the primary reason that companies invest abroad is to sell to foreign consumers and bolster their U.S. operations.
Based on the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, consider that U.S. companies that invest overseas are some of America’s:
- Largest exporters, exporting 47 percent of all U.S.-manufactured goods sold overseas ($660 billion in 2014). More than 40 percent ($269 billion) of those manufactured exports go to the overseas operations of American companies to help promote U.S. products in foreign markets.
- Biggest producers, accounting for nearly $1.4 trillion, or almost 65 percent, of all U.S. private-sector value-added manufacturing output in 2014.
- Most important innovators, expending nearly $269 billion on research and development in the United States in 2014. Of that, 68 percent (or $183 billion) was spent by manufacturers.
- Largest investors in capital expansion, investing $713.5 billion, or 24 percent, of all spending on new property, plants and capital equipment in the United States in 2014.
- Most generous employers, paying U.S. manufacturing workers on average $96,030, or about 18 percent more than average U.S. manufacturing wages in 2014.
For manufacturers and other businesses seeking foreign customers, identifying the most promising foreign markets is a difficult, time-consuming process that requires extensive knowledge. The State Department “investment climate statements” provide a valuable resource to businesses, offering detailed information on many of the critical factors they need to understand, including:
- Openness to trade and investment, market barriers and business requirements;
- Rule of law, including transparency, impartial rulemaking, corruption and the legal system;
- The protection of private property (foreign and domestic), including innovation and intellectual property, the sanctity of contracts and land rights;
- Competition policy, including with respect to state-owned enterprises,
- Political risk; and
- Digital policy trends.
Manufacturers welcome this year’s analysis of digital issues, including regulations on cross border data flows and the localization of information and communications technology infrastructure. As manufacturers implement technology and data in overseas sales, production and product usage, these issues have become increasingly important.
These investment climate statements also aid foreign countries looking to bolster their commercial climate. Many of manufacturers’ strong concerns with barriers, distortions and weak standards that are limiting U.S. growth appear in these statements.
Given the significance of international commercial engagement to the U.S. economy, manufacturing sector and workforce, the National Association of Manufacturers advocates open markets overseas, robust standards of governance and the protection of property. This includes investment and intellectual property as well as strong enforcement mechanisms like neutral investment dispute settlement mechanisms to prevent foreign country mistreatment or theft of U.S. property.