Publication Date



[Excerpt} Foreign direct investment in the United States dropped sharply in 2012 after rebounded slowly in 2010 and 2011 after falling from the $310 billion recorded in 2008. According to preliminary data, foreign direct investment in the United States in 2013 could fall by 10% below the amount recorded in 2012. (Note: The United States defines foreign direct investment as the ownership or control, directly or indirectly, by one foreign person [individual, branch, partnership, association, government, etc.] of 10% or more of the voting securities of an incorporated U.S. business enterprise or an equivalent interest in an unincorporated U.S. business enterprise (15 CFR §806.15 [a][1]). In 2012, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data, foreigners invested $166 billion in U.S. businesses and real estate, down 28% from the $230 billion invested in 2011. Foreign direct investments are highly sought after by many state and local governments that are struggling to create additional jobs in their localities. While some in Congress encourage such investment to offset the perceived negative economic effects of U.S. firms investing abroad, others are concerned about foreign acquisitions of U.S. firms that are considered essential to U.S. national and economic security.

On October 31, 2013, the Obama administration launched a new initiative, known as Select USA, to attract more foreign direct investment to the United States. According to the Administration, the aim of the program is to make attracting foreign investment as important a component of U.S. foreign policy as promoting exports. As a result, the President reportedly instructed commerce and state department officials to make attracting foreign investment one of their “core priorities.” In addition, the program has designated global teams led by U.S. ambassadors in 32 key countries to encourage foreign investment into the U.S., and has established a “coordinated process” to connect prospective investors with senior U.S. officials. The initiative ( offers a number of tools for foreign investors looking to invest in the United States, including a list of various state and federal programs that may be available to foreign investors.


Suggested Citation
Jackson, J. K. (2013). Foreign direct investment in the United States: An economic analysis. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

An earlier version of this report can be found here: