These three letters stand for foreign direct investment. The simplest explanation of FDI would be a direct investment by a corporation in a commercial venture in another country. A key to separating this action from involvement in other ventures in a foreign country is that the business enterprise operates completely outside the economy of the corporation’s home country. The investing corporation must control 10 percent or more of the voting power of the new venture.

According to history the United States was the leader in the FDI activity dating back as far as the end of World War II. Businesses from other nations have taken up the flag of FDI, including many who were not in a financial position to do so just a few years ago.

The practice has grown significantly in the last couple of decades, to the point that FDI has generated quite a bit of opposition from groups such as labor unions. These organizations have expressed concern that investing at such a level in another country eliminates jobs. Legislation was introduced in the early 1970s that would have put an end to the tax incentives of FDI. But members of the Nixon administration, Congress and business interests rallied to make sure that this attack on their expansion plans was not successful.

One key to understanding FDI is to get a mental picture of the global scale of corporations able to make such investment. A carefully planned FDI can provide a huge new market for the company, perhaps introducing products and services to an area where they have never been available. Not only that, but such an investment may also be more profitable if construction costs and labor costs are less in the host country.

The definition of FDI originally meant that the investing corporation gained a significant number of shares (10 percent or more) of the new venture. In recent years, however, companies have been able to make a foreign direct investment that is actually long-term management control as opposed to direct investment in buildings and equipment.

FDI growth has been a key factor in the “international” nature of business that many are familiar with in the 21st century. This growth has been facilitated by changes in regulations both in the originating country and in the country where the new installation is to be built.

Corporations from some of the countries that lead the world’s economy have found fertile soil for FDI in nations where commercial development was limited, if it existed at all. The dollars invested in such developing-country projects increased 40 times over in less than 30 years.

The financial strength of the investing corporations has sometimes meant failure for smaller competitors in the target country. One of the reasons is that foreign direct investment in buildings and equipment still accounts for a vast majority of FDI activity. Corporations from the originating country gain a significant financial foothold in the host country. Even with this factor, host countries may welcome FDI because of the positive impact it has on the smaller economy.


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Lucas Beaumont
Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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