* Obama says U.S. must do more to court investors
* U.S. global share of investment shrinks
* Embassies to focus on investment promotion
* Plan to create single point of contact for investors
By Mark Felsenthal and Elvina Nawaguna
WASHINGTON, Oct 31 President Barack Obama on
Thursday pledged an aggressive expansion of U.S. efforts to draw
foreign investment by clearing away red tape and having U.S.
diplomats court investors who want to break into the market.
"We know we can do more. We know we can do better," Obama
said at a conference his administration organized that attracted
business representatives from around the world.
While the United States drew $166 billion in direct
investment dollars in 2012, more than any other country, the
U.S. share of foreign direct investment has fallen to 17 percent
from more than a third in 2000, according to the Organization
for International Investment, a trade group that represents the
U.S. operations of global companies.
Seeking to reverse that trend, Obama said the United States
would start to coordinate efforts at the federal level to
attract investment in a way it has not before. Until now, states
and cities have been responsible for making pitches for business
"As a country, we don't always make our case in a
coordinated way that links our teams overseas to the right
senior officials in Washington," he said. "And we're going to
change that, make our advocacy more efficient, more effective,
The president's plug comes at a time of sluggish U.S.
economic growth and uncertainty over the country's fiscal
outlook as the president and congressional Republicans fight
over cuts to government spending and how much deficit cutting is
necessary to put the country on a sustainable fiscal course.
Obama said U.S. officials would seek to make it easier for
foreign firms to navigate the thicket of federal, state and
local requirements for doing business in the United States. He
promised "a single point of contact" for interested investors.
The decline of U.S. market share of global foreign direct
investment is due in part to rapid growth in emerging economies,
OFII President Nancy McLernon said. But the United has also
failed to market itself aggressively and has lagged Europe in
attracting investment from developing nations, she added.
Obama promised that top administration officials will play a
more active role in pitching the United States as an attractive
place to invest.
"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.
The remarks were made at the inaugural SelectUSA Investment
Summit, a two-day conference designed to promote direct
investment and job creation in the United States.
The conference drew more than 1,200 business leaders from
nearly 60 countries, and top U.S. executives, including Wal-Mart
Inc's Bill Simon, Deloitte's Joe Echevarria and Samsung
Electronics North America's David Steel.
Obama said he was making it a formal part of the portfolios
of embassies around the world to woo investors. The
administration said it will focus diplomatic outreach efforts on
32 countries it believes are potentially particularly attractive
sources of investment.
It is also going to increase the amount of information that
is available to states and localities to prepare them better to
attract investors, Obama said.
Since much of foreign direct investment in the United States
reflects firms buying up U.S. companies, there at times has been
White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling
sought to combat any such concerns.
"We want to make clear, this is not a xenophobic nation," he
said at the conference. "If you want to come here and make your
fortune playing by the rules, investing in the United States,
creating jobs, we don't just tolerate it, we welcome you with