Earnings repatriation hits global FDI numbers

Last Updated: Thu, Jun 13, 2019 16:38 hrs
U.S. dollar and Euro notes are seen in this picture illustration

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Global Foreign Direct Investment declined by 13 per cent in 2018 to $1.3 trillion from $1.5 trillion in 2017.

The UNCTAD released the World Investment Report 2019 on Wednesday. This has been the third consecutive fall in global FDIs and shows a major concern becoming into a trend. "FDI continues to be trapped, confined to post-crisis lows. This does not bode well for the international community's promise to tackle urgent global challenges, such as abject poverty and the climate crisis," UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

The decline was majorly attributed to a US policy mandating repatriation of earnings of US firms based across the globe. "The contraction was largely precipitated by the United States multinational enterprises (MNEs) repatriating earnings from abroad, making use of tax reforms introduced by the country in 2017, designed for that purpose," said the report.

The report also showed developed countries as being the hardest hit from the earnings repatriation policy, where flows fell by a quarter to $557 billion, a level last seen in 2004.

Kituyi further added, "Geopolitics and trade tensions risk continuing to weigh on FDI in 2019 and beyond."

The tax-driven fall in FDI, which occurred in the first two quarters, was cushioned by increased transaction activity in the second half of 2018, the report said, adding that the value of cross-border merger and acquisitions rose by 18 per cent, fuelled by American multinational enterprises using liquidity in their foreign affiliates.

However, developing country flows managed to hold steady, rising by 2 per cent, which helped push flows to the developing world to more than half (54 per cent) of global flows, from 46 per cent in 2017 and just over a third before the financial crisis, it said.

The UNCTAD report noted that despite the FDI decline, the United States remained the largest recipient of FDI, followed by China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

In terms of outward investors, Japan became the largest followed by China and France, it said.

On the outlook for 2019, it said that FDI is expected to recover in developed economies as the effect of the US tax reforms winds down.

Meanwhile, FDI in India has reportedly grown. The UNCTAD said that investment in India grew by 6% to $ 42 billion. "Investment was strong in manufacturing, communication and financial services -- the top three industry recipients," said its report.

"Notable mega-deals included the acquisition of Flipkart, India's biggest e-commerce platform, by Walmart (the US). In addition, telecommunication deals involving Vodafone (the UK) and American Tower (the US) amounted to $2 billion," it said.

With inputs from IANS.