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Can Foreign Investment Revive U.S. Manufacturing?

Amid growing concerns over Greek debt and the probability of another economic slowdown, the administration quietly launched SelectUSA last week, an initiative designed to attract foreign direct investment to the United States. While announced at a Business Roundtable event, SelectUSA went relatively unnoticed by the media, far less so than the highly-publicized National Export Initiative of 2010. However, this does not mean that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States is less important than growing U.S. exports.

According to a recent U.S.  Department of Commerce study, during the last ten years, majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign companies have employed between 5 million and 6 million workers.  In terms of the survival (if not revival) of U.S. manufacturing--FDI supported 2 million manufacturing jobs, which have been less affected by the sector-wide losses in employment than domestic company manufacturing jobs.

The recession and the growing economic power of emerging countries have increasingly eroded the U.S. public’s openness to everything that’s foreign, be it companies or people. But a job with a BMW plant in South Carolina is as American as a GM job in Michigan. Moreover, as the Department of Commerce study shows, a job with a subsidiary of a foreign company is not only a good job, it pays better than a domestic company: Workers at majority-owned U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies receive 30 percent higher pay than non-FDI supported jobs.