New Delhi: So far, it has always been a case of India soliciting global foreign direct investment (FDI). In an interesting reversal, the US too has begun to conduct similar road shows. The US assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance, David Bohigian, who led the “Invest in America” initiative, spoke to Mint about the underlying imperatives. Edited excerpts:
Given that the US is the world’s largest recipient of FDI and the FDI figures have been showing a steady rise, what prompted the “Invest in America” initiative ?
This initiative has been around for almost 10 months now. There are around 12 million Americans who depend on trade for their jobs and another five million who depend on investment for their jobs. So, we thought that it was important more than ever to highlight that America offers the best returns for your investments.
Ombudsman: US assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance David Bohigian.
Some (people) in the global economy had questioned whether or not the US is open to (foreign) investment and I think that question has been answered with a resounding yes, that US is the most open major economy in the world.
What are the specifics of this initiative?
There are basically three roles for “Invest in America”. First is communicate in US and around the world the importance of open investing. So, my job is to knock down trade barriers by talking to governments.
Issue No. 2 is to continue to create the best policy environment for FDI. If you look at any global competitive index, the US is there at the top. The president continues to push policies that lower energy costs, lower health-care costs, reducing litigations or unnecessary regulation burdens.
In particular, late last year the US secretary of commerce released a report on the visa policy in the US and it highlights some of the best practices around the world. The waiting period for getting a US visa in India has been reduced from months to days.
Third aspect is the plain ombudsman role. We want to help companies navigate Washington, DC. We want to make sure the Indian companies are able to get to the right people.
In addition, we have posted on www.investamerica.gov a list of 50 state contacts so that people can immediately find the right investment and promotion officer.
Are there any specific areas where you expect more FDI?
We are not trying to pick between agriculture and manufacturing or services, but we are trying to track knowledge-based jobs that would sustain the tradition of innovation in the US.
You mentioned that a recent global study revealed that the US citizens have the most negative attitude towards foreign trade. Is there anything being done to address this?
Sure. The department of commerce now communicates about the benefits from foreign investments through speeches across the country in a fashion that just wasn’t done 10 months ago.
According to data from the US department of commerce, among the Asian countries, China’s investments in the US are just one-fifth that of India’s, but when it comes to receiving investments from the US, China attracts almost three times more than India. Do you see any particular roadblocks in India that hold back the US investments into India?
It’s not the US government’s policy to try and balance investments in certain countries. It’s the investors who are making the choices about where they may be getting better returns. It’s merely a signal of the market conditions.