China Passes U.S. As No. 1 Destination For Foreign Investment As Coronavirus Upends Global Economy

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TOPLINE As the world struggled to contain the coronavirus crisis, foreign direct investment in the United States plummeted 49% in 2020 while investment in China rose 4%, making China the largest recipient of foreign inflows for the first time, according to a report released Sunday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

FDI in India rose 13% in 2020, while FDI in the European Union fell by two-thirds.

The U.N. expects foreign investment overall to remain weak in 2021.

BIG NUMBER

42%. That’s how much foreign direct investment fell across the globe in 2020, from $1.5 trillion in 2019 to $859 billion in 2020. Most of that decline occurred in developed countries, the U.N. said.

KEY BACKGROUND

Despite increasingly frosty relations between the U.S. and China, western firms are continuing to pour their resources into the rapidly growing economy there. Last month, Goldman Sachs took full ownership of its Chinese joint venture partner. JPMorgan did the same in November. Tesla is ramping up production in China and early last year, PepsiCo spent $705 million to buy a Chinese snack brand.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“U.S. and other foreign firms will continue to invest in China as it remains one of the most resilient economies during the global pandemic and as future growth potential there remains stronger than most other major economies,” Rhodium Group analyst Adam Lysenko told Bloomberg last month.

China had $163bn (£119bn) in inflows last year, compared to $134bn attracted by the US, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in its report

In 2019, the US received $251bn in new foreign direct investment while China received $140bn.

While China may be number one for new foreign investment, the US still dominates when it comes to total foreign investments.

This reflects the decades it has spent as the most attractive location for foreign businesses looking to expand overseas.

But experts say the figures underline China’s move toward the centre of the global economy which has long been dominated by the US, the world’s biggest economy.

China, currently involved in a trade war with the US, has been predicted to leapfrog it to the number one position by 2028, according to the UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

Trump slump

Foreign investment in the US peaked in 2016 at $472bn, when foreign investment in China was $134 billion.

Since then, investment in China has continued to rise, while in the US it has fallen each year since 2017.

The Trump administration encouraged American companies to leave China and re-establish operations in the US.

Watch President Trump saying China could have stopped the coronavirus outbreak before it swept the world

Video captionWatch President Trump saying China could have stopped the coronavirus outbreak before it swept the world

It also warned Chinese companies and investors that they would face new scrutiny when investing in America, based on national security grounds

While the US economy has been struggling since the Covid-19 outbreak last year, China’s economy has picked up speed.

China’s economic growth, measured in gross domestic product (GDP), grew 2.3% in 2020, official data showed this month.

This makes China the only major economy in the world to avoid a contraction last year. Many economists have been surprised with the speed of its recovery, especially as it navigated tense relations with the US.

Overall, global foreign direct investment (FDI) dropped dramatically in 2020, falling by 42%, according to the UNCTAD report. FDI normally involves one company taking control of an overseas one, typically through a merger or acquisition.

The UK saw a fall of more than 100% in new foreign direct investment last year from $45bn in 2019 down to -$1.3bn.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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