Ambassador King Remarks at Opening of UNCTAD Investment Commission

 

May 2, 2011

On behalf of the United States, I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to Secretary-General Supachai, Investment & Enterprise Division Director James Zhan and the Secretariat staff for organizing this intergovernmental meeting and for their leadership and contributions to international investment policymaking throughout this past year.

Investment is becoming an increasingly important factor in international economic policymaking. Foreign investment is the wellspring of new capital, technology, competitive spirit and ideas. Investment drives jobs, innovation and increasingly trade. We have seen foreign direct investment stock roughly triple worldwide. That trend holds true for developing countries as well as developed economies.

UNCTAD is one of the premier international organizations in which countries can discuss these issues and brings a particular focus on the role that investment plays in spurring economic development. In partnership with the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) and other relevant institutions, UNCTAD is undertaking much of the policy analysis and research necessary to ensure that all countries maximally benefit from investment. Together UNCTAD and OECD have played a unique and important role in combining a forum for intergovernmental dialogue on policy best practices, with analysis of emerging issues, and advice to governments seeking to undertake policy reforms to improve their ability to attract and benefit from foreign investment. We urge member states to seek ways in which these institutions can strengthen cooperation between them and with other international groups.

In September 2010, UNCTAD brought together one of the largest gatherings of investment policymakers worldwide at the World Investment Forum in Xiamen, China. Along with Ghanaian Vice President John Mahama, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Economic, Energy & Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats co-chaired a Ministerial Roundtable that drew 42 Ministerial-level participants, many of them from the member states represented here today. That event provided one of the most robust exchanges on investment policy matters in the last year and focused high-level attention on how much of our shared prosperity depends on foreign investment. We look forward to UNCTAD’s next World Investment Forum, slated to take place in April 2012 in Doha, Qatar.

The United States commends and frequently consults UNCTAD’s World Investment Report, a highly regarded series of annual reports that track global trends in investment flows and stocks as well as international investment agreements, and studies the impact of foreign investment on developing nations. We know UNCTAD’s staff is busily preparing the 2011 edition, and we look forward to its publication in the fall.

One of UNCTAD’s most valuable contributions is its policy advice on investment to national governments. That takes place through a broad range of on-the-ground assessments and programs, and through its rigorous Investment Policy Reviews. The United States regards these intensive reviews highly, and we look forward to learning more through this year’s review of Guatemala. We also applaud UNCTAD’s work to help developing countries better manage and prevent investment disputes. We have seen a rising trend of investment disputes in some regions of the world, and UNCTAD’s work is an important contributor to countering this trend and laying the groundwork to ensure that countries can attract and retain foreign investment.

As the global economy and investment flows continue to recover from the financial/economic crisis, a key challenge facing all of our nations is the need to ensure that our markets remain open to investment. In response to the G20’s pledge to avoid protectionism, UNCTAD and OECD jointly monitor investment policy developments to help governments’ efforts to hold one another accountable.

This week the Investment Commission will consider two key issues: First, best practices in how investment in basic infrastructure can support development; and secondly, what policies developing countries can adopt to strengthen entrepreneurship policies and improved science and innovation policies. In February, UNCTAD held two successful expert-level meetings on these topics. The first highlighted successful examples of public and private partnerships in addressing the infrastructure needs of developing countries. The second made clear the essential role that strong intellectual property regimes play in foreign investors’ selection of markets and that the bulk of technology that is transferred flows within the framework of the integrated international production system. It also made clear that mandates for technology transfer are counterproductive and deter foreign investment and hamper the deeper international collaboration on research and development that is the hallmark of innovation. UNCTAD can play an important role on these topics in sharing best practices and knowledge.

UNCTAD’s strength as a key contributor to investment policymaking relates directly to its capacity for cooperative discourse and agreement among nations. The United States is committed and urges all member states to commit to making this intergovernmental meeting a success by translating what we have learned into outcomes that all member states can agree on. With our past agreements secure, we have all the tools we need to build cooperation among ourselves and to ensure that UNCTAD can continue to strengthen its role as a premier institution on investment policymaking.

Thank you.