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Bill Would Clear Path for Global Companies to Invest in the U.S. | Commentary

The House this month passed the Global Investment in American Jobs Act and the Senate is currently considering companion legislation. That’s good news for our economy, since this legislation would help clear a path for global companies to invest in the United States.

This legislative effort, which has overwhelming support from both political parties, would require federal officials to identify outdated investment barriers and outline a road map for attracting global investment to our shores, something that could give a strong boost to the U.S. economy.

Why is global investment so important? Currently, U.S. subsidiaries of global companies employ more than 5 million Americans and account for more than 17 percent of our manufacturing workforce. These companies add an astonishing $649 billion in value to the U.S. economy every year. They’re responsible for 14 percent of all domestic research-and- development activities. They produce nearly 18 percent of all U.S. exports. And they pay $26.6 billion annually in corporate income taxes.

If estimates are correct, multinational companies today are sitting on roughly $5 trillion in cash reserves. There are a variety of explanations, but the effect is pretty simple: It’s money not being invested in new projects, new products or new jobs. Attracting even a small slice of these resources would generate huge domestic employment gains and help revitalize our economy.

In 1999, 41 percent of all foreign investment entered the United States. In recent years, that share has fallen to slightly more than 17 percent. The cause of this dramatic decline is no mystery. International competition has increased. Other countries have reformed their business environments to be more welcoming to foreign capital. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development now ranks the United States in the bottom half of its Regulatory Restrictiveness Index — behind countries such as Turkey and Latvia.

But even with this drop, the United States is still a premier location for international investment. To attract some of the trillions of dollars now sitting in cash overseas, the United States needs to take proactive steps to make this country’s key institutions more competitive with the rest of the world. That’s why the bill that passed the House is so important.

The Global Investment in American Jobs Act would go a long way in creating new policies and adding new tools that can attract new foreign investment. The bill prescribes a first-of-its-kind interagency review to examine key U.S. policies, global economic trends and local, as well as international, best practices that could have a meaningful effect on America’s ability to attract and retain foreign direct investment.

This review is akin to holding a mirror up to ourselves to examine what we might do better, and it will help to ensure that the U.S. adopts the right policies to attract global companies. Are our policies consistent with businesses operating in the 21st century? Are there unnecessary obstacles for companies that must navigate between U.S. laws and their home countries? Do we have a strategy to attract and address barriers facing companies from emerging markets? This bill will ensure that these issues become a forethought rather than an afterthought and will help catalyze foreign investment in the United States.

The good news is that many companies are already firmly committed to their American operations. Volkswagen, for example, has invested $4 billion in the United States. The company recently launched a new $1 billion assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. This investment created more than 12,000 new jobs in the area and is expected to generate $12 billion in local income growth.

Michelin is also expanding its American workforce with a new $750 million tire-manufacturing facility in Anderson County, S.C. This is the firm’s ninth facility in the state and 19th in North America. It’s expected to create 500 new jobs.

Our lawmakers have a golden opportunity to strengthen the national business climate and recruit more global investment. They shouldn’t waste it.

Nancy McLernon is president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment.

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