Foreign Direct Investment Report Finds U.S., California Largest Recipients


The United States is the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), according to a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. California attracted the most investments of all the states—$119 billion, or 28% of the total.

The report, Foreign Direct Investment in the United States: Update to 2013, examines recent trends in FDI and highlights newly released “greenfield” FDI data from the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The report notes that foreign direct investment trends identified in earlier reports have continued to 2015.

BEA collects three broad sets of data on foreign direct investment in the United States: (1) international transactions (balance of payments) and direct investment position data; (2) financial and operating data of U.S. affiliates of foreign entities, including “majority” and “minority” owned U.S. affiliates; and (3) new foreign direct investment.


The report’s findings include:

• The United States is the largest recipient of global FDI; its inward FDI stock was $2.9 trillion on a historical-cost basis in 2014. On a current-cost basis, the United States’ FDI stock was more than three times larger than that of the next largest destination country in 2014.

• Investment in the United States remains strong; total FDI stock in the United States grew an average of 6% per year from 2009–2014.

• FDI inflows in 2015 alone totaled a record $348 billion, rebounding from 2014 ($172 billion), and well above 2013 inflows ($201 billion).

• The largest sources of FDI into the United States are advanced economies, led by the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.

• Majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities produced $360 billion in goods exports in 2013. These firms are a catalyst for research and development (R&D) in America, investing $53 billion in R&D and accounting for a record high 16.4% of the U.S. total expenditure on R&D by businesses.

• Majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities employed 6.1 million U.S. workers in 2013, up from 5.8 million in 2011. These firms generally provide compensation at higher levels than the U.S. average, at nearly $80,000 per U.S. employee in 2013, as compared to average earnings of $60,000 for workers in the economy as a whole.

• The U.S manufacturing sector continues to benefit greatly from inbound FDI flows, as nearly 70% of FDI flows in 2015, and more than one-third of jobs at U.S. majority-owned affiliates of foreign entities in 2013 were in manufacturing.

• Newly collected data shows that “greenfield” investment expenditures by foreigners totaled $16.6 billion in 2014, with expenditures on establishing new businesses totaling $13.8 billion and expenditures on expanding existing businesses totaling $2.8 billion.

• In 2014, foreign investors spent $224.7 billion acquiring U.S. companies; therefore, total first-year expenditures by foreign entities (acquisitions plus expansions plus establishment of new businesses) were $241.3 billion.

By Industry, Country, State

Expenditures for new investment in manufacturing were $281.4 billion in 2015. As in 2014, manufacturing accounted for more than half of total new investment expenditures. Within manufacturing, expenditures were largest in chemicals, mostly in pharmaceuticals and medicines. There also were large expenditures in finance and insurance, in real estate and rental and leasing, and in professional, scientific and technical services.

By country of ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), the largest source country was Ireland, at $176.5 billion. There also were substantial expenditures from Canada and Germany.

Of the eight countries with the largest FDI in the United States—United Kingdom, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and France—six also are among the top eight countries for new foreign direct investment.

Greenfield Expenditures

Greenfield investment expenditures—to either establish a new U.S. business or to expand an existing foreign-owned U.S. business—totaled $12.6 billion in 2015. In 2014, greenfield expenditures were $14.8 billion. Total planned greenfield expenditures for investment initiated in 2015, which include both first-year expenditures and planned spending in other years, totaled $31.2 billion.

In 2015, greenfield expenditures were largest in real estate, and rental and leasing ($6.2 billion), which accounted for about half of total first-year greenfield expenditures. New York attracted the most expenditures for greenfield investment, $4 billion. There also were large greenfield investments in Pennsylvania and California.


In 2015, 422,200 workers were employed at newly acquired, established, or expanded foreign-owned businesses in the United States. (Statistics on employment at expanded business include only employment at the expanded portion of the business.)

Total planned employment, which includes current employment of acquired enterprises, the planned employment of newly established business enterprises once they are fully operating, and the planned employment associated with new facilities, was 461,600. Of these totals, the current employment of acquired enterprises was 418,000.

By industry, manufacturing accounted for the largest number of 2015 employees, at 139,500.

Employment was also substantial in administration, support, and waste management, and in retail trade. The largest number of employees was accounted for by Canada and France.

By U.S. state, the largest numbers of employees were in California and Arizona.

More Information

For more information, visit the Web page on FDI at

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

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Susanne T. Stirling, senior vice president, international affairs, has headed CalChamber international activities for more than four decades. She is an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Export Council, and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy Committee, the California International Relations Foundation, and the Chile-California Council. Originally from Denmark, she studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, where she served as a regent from 2012 to 2021. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California.