Monday, February 15, 2010

The Debts of the Lenders: Chinese FDI Surpasses US Overseas Investment

In the 1992 US Presidential campaign, Independent candidate Ross Perot famously stated that ratification of the NAFTA treaty would lead to the "giant sucking sound of thousands of US jobs" to foreign locales such as Mexico. Fast forward to today and the focus has shifted from Mexico to another cheaper locale, China.

For years, most attention on China focused on FDI or foreign direct investment. In the 1990s, low interest rates in Japan drove investor funds to the mainland in search of higher yield (This trend is still continuing). These investors were later joined by adventurous Western (mostly American) funds in search of investment potential. Growth really took off though with the death spiral of US manufacturing as firms continue to offshore manufacturing away from North America.

But, 2009 marked the year when investment flows went the other way - from China towards the US. Does this mean that the dividends of globalization are finally starting to pay off for Washington lobbyists? Apparently not.

While Chinese investment remains very diverse, the focus of the political leadership is all too apparent:

. . .Chinese outbound investment (whether in the US or elsewhere outside of China) is still predominantly focused on securing natural resources and forward integrating into sources of critical raw materials deemed integral to China's manufacturing infrastructure and industrial capacity.

Meanwhile, US workers continue to wait for the long promised fruits of global integration. With real unemployment at record highs and no economic recovery in sight for the average American, they may have to wait a while longer. So far, it looks like Ross Perot may have been right.
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