MODERATOR: Good morning. Thank you all for waiting. Welcome again to the Foreign Press Center. I’m Benjamin Weber, the director. And we are very, very pleased today to have a briefing today on SelectUSA.
Now, before we begin, I should say I know that last week the headlines were filled with trade reporting, but I want to emphasize that for today we are talking about SelectUSA. If you have questions about other trade issues, I’ll ask you please to send them to me instead, and we’ll make sure that we route them either to the Department of Commerce or USTR as appropriate.
SelectUSA is the premier annual event to facilitate job-creating business investment in the United States and to raise awareness of the critical role that foreign direct investment plays in the U.S. economy. To brief us on this topic, I’m very pleased to welcome Under Secretary for International Trade from the Department of Commerce Mr. Gilbert B. Kaplan. He is a recognized expert on international trade with long experience both in government and legal practice.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to him to make some opening remarks.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Good morning. Thank you, Benjamin, for your warm welcome and introduction. And thanks to the Foreign Press Center for hosting us this morning. I really appreciate the opportunity to join you today to highlight the upcoming SelectUSA Investment Summit and to tell you why this event, and attracting foreign direct investment into the United States, is such a priority for me and for our Department of Commerce and for our government as a whole.
The U.S. economy is strong, the strongest in the world, and it continues to improve. We have seen incredible gains in the financial markets. U.S. unemployment levels continue to decrease, recently hitting the lowest levels recorded in nearly 20 years. Tax cuts, regulatory reforms, and other pro-growth initiatives enacted in the last 18 months are making the United States a better place than ever to do business. This is reflected by the more than $3.7 trillion of foreign direct investment stock in the United States, which remains the largest share of FDI in the world. Global CEOs rank the United States as the best place in the world for business investment for the sixth year in the row, based on the AT Kearney Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index. President Trump has repeatedly said that the United States is open for business, and we are.
Next week, we will swing the shop doors open and welcome potential business investors from around the world to check out what we have to offer. This is why I’m here to talk to you today. The SelectUSA Investment Summit is the highest-profile event facilitating foreign direct investment in the United States. The summit promotes the United States as a premier investment destination and connects qualified foreign firms with U.S. economic development organizations to facilitate business investment and job creation. The event attracts serious potential business investors and U.S. economic development leaders. Participants at the first four investment summits have announced nearly 93 billion in green field FDI in the United States between October 2013 and September 2017, supporting more than 140,000 jobs.
The 2018 SelectUSA Investment Summit will continue the tradition of connecting global business investors with economic development officials from around the United States. Fifty U.S. states and territories will be represented at the summit. This year’s investment summit theme is: Invest Here. Grow Here. Succeed Here. And I have some up-to-date statistics about the investment summit. So far, we have 2,846 registrants. Over 1,000 foreign firms from 60 markets are confirmed to attend the summit; this is expected to grow to 1,200 firms from 64 markets.
Eighteen chiefs of mission confirmed – ambassadors from Norway – or Ambassador Braithwaite from Norway; Ambassador Terry Branstad from China; Ambassador Scott Brown’s coming in from New Zealand, Ambassador Duke Buchan from Spain; Ambassador Kelly Craft, Canada; Ambassador Richard Grenell, Germany; Ambassador Peter Hoekstra, Netherlands; Ambassador Kenneth Juster, India; Ambassador Hans Klemm, Romania; Ambassador Jamie McCourt, France; Ambassador Edward McMullen, Switzerland; Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Greece, CDA Reece Smyth from Ireland; and DCM Leslie Tsou from Israel; CDA Henry Wooster from Jordan.
We have over 700 economic development officials from 49 states confirmed to attend the summit, and 10 U.S. governors are confirmed: Bevin from Kentucky; Bryant, Mississippi; Fallin, Oklahoma; Herbert, Utah; Hickenlooper, Colorado; Holcomb, Indiana; Otter, Idaho; Ricketts, Nebraska; Rossello, Puerto Rico; and Walker, Wisconsin.
These attendees have already scheduled more than 1,200 meetings, during which they will meet one-on-one to discuss potential business deals.
In addition, SelectUSA is coordinating with U.S. EDOs to support 20-plus region and industry-specific SelectUSA Investment Summit spinoff events, either directly before or after the investment summit. These spinoff events will allow business investors to receive additional on-the-ground intel about U.S. investment opportunities and make connections with business leaders and local experts.
The investment summit is where international business happens, and I hope many of you will attend and cover the event. There will be several deal announcements during the summit. In addition, the investment summit matchmaking tool, which we can describe in more detail, helps participants set up on-site meetings with key attendees and maximize their time at the event.
The exhibition hall provides opportunities for networking, one-on-one matchmaking, and other opportunities to make connections between businesses, economic development teams, U.S. Government staff and service providers. SelectUSA investment counselors and investment-focused staff from relevant from U.S. Government agencies provide one-on-one counseling to support business investors and economic developers. And the SelectUSA Investment Academy is a full-day, interactive program providing educational sessions for business investors and economic development officials looking to make the most of their investment summit experience.
I hope that many of you and your colleagues attend this year’s investment summit. Applying for a press pass is simple. You can visit https://www.selectusasummit.us/ and click “apply.” And my team is here to help with any registration questions.
With that, I will gladly take your questions, and Seth Eisenberg from the SelectUSA team – he’s been a member of that team nearly from the very beginning of the program – will help me out on some of the more technical questions. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Sir. Okay. The under secretary has only a very brief window, so in addition to our typical rules – that we ask you to wait for the mic and then identify yourself by name and outlet when you get it – please do limit yourself to one question. And again, the topic for today will be SelectUSA. If you have other trade questions, please contact me or one of my colleagues and we’ll get it to the people who can answer it for you.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary, thank you for doing this. My name is Nadia Tsao, Washington correspondent for Liberty Times. First of all, my question is: This is a policy that – initiated by Obama administration, and then Trump administration decide to continue, so – which mean that it might be – in your assessment, it’s productive. Could you give us some concrete number, all this year, after SelectUSA, how many FDI have you actually attract? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Well some of that will be discussed at the summit, so this is like the preview. We can’t give you all the big – actually news, but this will be discussed at the actual summit, and Secretary Ross will discuss that in more detail. But as I noted, participants at the first four investment summits for the last four years have announced nearly 93 billion in green field FDI in the United States between October 2013 and September 2017, supporting more than 140,000 jobs.
MODERATOR: Let me go to New York, please. Sir, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, this is Manik Mehta. I’m a syndicated journalist. You have certain sectors which are considered to be priority sectors, notably aerospace, logistics. Could you give some more info on that and also provide details about tax holidays and other benefits for foreign investors? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Well, we’re looking across an enormous number of sectors. There’s certainly some specific programs on space and infrastructure that are occurring at the investment summit, but we are looking across the entire economy. There are people coming from almost every possible sector. In terms of tax holidays and the like, there’ll be a lot of discussion about that. Secretary Mnuchin will be talking about tax, as will other people. Maybe not so much tax holidays, but about the fact that the United States has dramatically lowered its corporate income tax rates just a few months ago now, making the United States highly competitive with respect to tax. Also many of the states will be there, and many of the states have very beneficial tax programs to attract foreign investment.
QUESTION: Thank you. Youyou from Hong Kong Phoenix TV. My question is: You mentioned the U.S. Ambassador to China Branstad will be here, and at the same time, the U.S. administration is trying – is considering putting trade restrictions and investment restrictions on China. So what kind of message are you trying to send to the Chinese investors? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Well, this summit is about investment in the United States, and we are open for investment from any country. And of course, there are some restrictions under CFIUS and other things. Those will be looked at with respect to China and any other investors. But we are open for investment. We think every country would find it very beneficial to invest here because we have such a strong market, a very large market, a very strong business climate and so many resources. Clean water, clean air, a great work force, regulatory reform going on, and we welcome investment from all countries.
MODERATOR: Take one more in Washington and then we’ll go to New York.
QUESTION: I’m Zhang Qi with China’s Caixin Media. I wanted to ask of the influence of a particular case you would think that would have impact on investors, which is about ZTE. So the administration has made a decision to choose another way – alternative penalty, but Congress is trying to reverse that. Are you concerned that their efforts on this regarding – what message would you think was sent to investors, as administration has made one decision, but seems like Congress will oppose it? This uncertainty – are you worried that would scare off Chinese investors, especially in tech – high-tech sectors? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: I think that’s a question you might want to put in writing or however to Benjamin and we’ll get that to the right people.
MODERATOR: Let’s go to New York and then we’ll come back.
QUESTION: Good morning, Under Secretary Gilbert Kaplan. My name is Deepak Arora, and I’m with The Tribune online, New Delhi, India. I’m keen to know that – what kind of investment are you looking from India, because President Trump is focusing on investment in USA. And similarly, Indian prime minister is focused on investment in India. So how do you see this and – because a lot of Indians are interested in investing abroad, especially in USA, but there are also reports that sometimes they do not understand the system, especially I’m talking about if you talk about small scale and medium scale industries.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Do you know how many people are coming from India? It’s one of our largest delegations.
MR. EISENBERG: Yeah, we’re up to 93.
QUESTION: There are 93 investors, representative government officials coming from India, and I just met with a large group from the Indian Government a couple days ago. I would be really reluctant to specify any one kind of investment. This is, I think, one of our biggest groups. We’re very happy to have Indian investment come to the United States, and we welcome big investment, but we also welcome investment by small and medium enterprises and smaller ventures. Those are obviously the backbone of the United States job base and the United States economy. So this summit is not just about enormous green field manufacturing plants. It’s about all kinds of investment from abroad into the United States.
MODERATOR: All right. I’m going to take one here and then we’ll come up front.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Dong Leshuo with China Daily. In the past few years, the Chinese delegation has been the largest group in the SelectUSA Summit. I just want to know if you can review the numbers of Chinese delegates to this year’s summit? And some of the Chinese investors were featured in the past summits. Is there any special programs this year? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: How many?
MODERATOR: Let us give you a mic, sir.
MR. EISENBERG: I don’t know the exact numbers for the Chinese delegation, but we’re over 100, and it’s right now again one of the largest. So it’s probably maintaining that – those same levels in some ways.
MODERATOR: Okay. I will take one more here, then I’m afraid we are out of time.
QUESTION: Dmitri Kirsanov, TASS. Sir, I wanted to ask you about the Trump administration’s approach to Russia in the business sphere. The message seems to be a bit schizophrenic. The ambassador, Ambassador Huntsman, just attended St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He was publicly speaking about the need and necessity to further expand economic ties. He was talking about how it’s time to do that now. At the same time, you know there is a constant crunch of sanctions and such. So what exactly is going on? Are you trying to expand it, or to do something on the contrary? And is there any delegation from Russia? I don’t think you mentioned Ambassador Huntsman. He was not on the list. Anybody else?
MR. EISENBERG: We don’t currently have delegates from Russia this year.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: And I would just say that obviously the sanctions are an issue and I think we certainly are very concerned about a variety of issues related to Russia, but the general issue of U.S.-Russia relations, again, I’d ask you to refer that to Benjamin and we’ll get an answer to that from you.
MODERATOR: Okay. Well, I apologize. We did say at the start that we had a very limited window, and I’m afraid we have to stop now. But if you do have additional questions, if you can please send them to me by email, I will make sure they get either to the under secretary’s team, or if they’re trade issues that perhaps are better directed to USTR, we can do that as well. Thank you very much to the under secretary for joining us today.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Thank you.
MODERATOR: And thank you all for coming out. One additional announcement as you turn around and see a lot of faces in the back, these are interns working at the Bureau of Public Affairs this summer, learning about the work that we do, and we’d love to give them the chance to perhaps have a word with you as well. To entice you to do so, we’ve put some coffee and refreshments in the back. (Laughter.) Drinking our coffee or eating our cake constitutes acceptance of the fact that this is an off-the-record event. (Laughter.) Thank you very much.
UNDER SECRETARY KAPLAN: Thank you very much and we hope to see you at the summit.