Global business leaders are pursuing FDI growth strategies grounded in informed optimism.
The Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index®, established in 1998, examines the overarching trends in FDI. The top 25 ranking is a forward-looking analysis of how political, economic, and regulatory changes will likely affect countries’ FDI inflows in the coming years. Over its 17-year history, there has been a strong correlation between the rankings and global FDI flows. Since its inception, countries ranked in the Index have consistently received at least half of global FDI inflows roughly one year after the survey.
As in past editions, this year’s Index offers valuable insights into how business leaders regard the medium-term economic outlook. Several major trends emerge from the findings:
- Developed markets reign in the Index. Seven of the top 10 countries on the Index and nearly three-fourths of all countries ranked in the top 25 are developed markets, highlighting how investors are seeking safer ground for new opportunities. Interest in frontier (newly emerging) markets varies drastically by region. American investors are least interested in frontier markets, with 42 percent not invested or seeking to divest.
- Europe sets an all-time record with 15 countries in the top 25. No region has ever dominated the top 25 of the Index like Europe in 2015. The continent’s 60 percent share of the rankings is a sharp rise from its 40 percent last year and roughly 30 percent in 2013. Third-ranked United Kingdom leads the way, continuing a three-year upward trend. Germany moves up to 5th, Italy jumps eight positions to 12th, and the Netherlands moves up nine positions to 13th. Austria (21st) makes its first appearance in the Index since 2002. Norway (24th) and Finland (25th) join the list for the first time ever, rounding out a strong Nordic showing, with Sweden 18th and Denmark 20th. Switzerland remains steady at 14th, while Spain (17th) and Belgium (19th) move up the list. Turkey moves up to 22nd and Poland (23rd) rejoins the list after a one-year absence.
- The United States tops the Index for the third straight year. The United States’ lead over second-place China shrank from last year’s record-setting margin, but it still leads all countries when it comes to investors’ positive macroeconomic outlook. Forty-six percent of business executives say they are more optimistic about the U.S. economy’s outlook than they were a year ago, and only 10 percent say they are more pessimistic. Asia-headquartered companies are the most optimistic about the U.S. economy, with 44 percent predicting GDP growth above 3.6 percent over the next three years. International business executives even say that they are willing to overlook continued political gridlock in Washington, D.C.
- China is second for the third straight year. Business executives are carefully watching China for economic growth of around 7 percent, and for signs of a successful transition to a consumption-led economy. If those indicators emerge, most executives say their companies would increase investment activity into China. Overall, countries in Asia Pacific have a mixed showing in the Index, with Japan rising to 7th (from 19th last year), and South Korea reentering the Index at 16th after going unranked last year. Australia (10th), India (11th), and Singapore (15th) fall in the rankings but maintain top 20 positions.
- Business executives are optimistic about the Americas. Investors are more optimistic about the Americas than any other region, led by the United States but also including Canada (4th), Brazil (6th), and Mexico (9th). Fifty-one percent of respondents are more optimistic about economies in the Americas than last year and only 8 percent are more pessimistic. In contrast, investors are more pessimistic about the economies of both the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa, where no countries make this year’s rankings.
- Global FDI flows hold steady, but still lag their pre-2009 peak. By next year, two-thirds of companies plan to return