Obama, Lew make case for investing in US

Both the President and the Treasury Secretary referenced infra investment as a means to maintaining the country’s competitive edge during an event aimed at attracting foreign direct investment.

Investing in the “21st century infrastructure that 21st century businesses need” was one of several mentions made to infrastructure during the SelectUSA 2015 Investment Summit, which was held in Washington DC earlier this week, to remind the audience of the asset class’ relevance in boosting the US’ competitiveness.

Created in 2011 by President Barack Obama as a one-stop shop aimed at encouraging US businesses to bring jobs back home and attracting foreign investment, the SelectUSA event nowadays essentially serves as a showcase of the advantages the US offers for doing business.

Attendees of the 2015 edition, which numbered more than 2,600 and included delegations from 70 countries, had the chance to listen to high-ranking government officials and leaders of companies such as Google, Siemens and NovoNordisk. They also had the opportunity to hear from Obama himself, who on the first day of the two-day event delivered the luncheon keynote speech.

“We’re a country that always believes we can be better, a country that adapts and advances, and sets new standards for new times,” Obama said. “It’s one of the reasons why I put forward a budget for this coming fiscal year that reflects the realities of the new economy,” he added, noting that his proposed budget calls for investments in education, job training and infrastructure.

“Now that’s my budget. I recognise there’s something called Congress here and there are going to be some negotiations taking place,” Obama remarked, underscoring the fact that his proposed budget needs Congressional approval to pass, which may prove difficult at a time when both legislative chambers are controlled by Republicans.

Still, the president remained upbeat, confident as he was “that we can find a path that doesn’t undermine our standing but strengthens it.” Underpinning this confidence was his belief that “there shouldn’t be anything partisan about making sure that our kids get the best education possible or that we’ve got world-class infrastructure.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also referred to the president’s proposed budget in greater detail in a keynote he delivered on Tuesday morning.

After recounting some of the current administration’s achievements, such as the creation of 12 million jobs since 2008 and a drop in unemployment rate to seven-year lows last month, Lew turned to the US corporate tax system, acknowledging that it “needs to be fixed.”

Like Obama has done before, Lew tied tax reform to investment in infrastructure, two components featured in the President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016.

“As part of his business tax reform plan, the President wants to do more to repair and rebuild America’s infrastructure – our roads, railways, runways and internet connections,” Lew said. “The fact is there will be one-time revenues generated while we make the transition to a smarter business tax system and the President wants to use those revenues to help pay for needed infrastructure upgrades across our country,” he explained, referring to Obama’s proposal to require US companies to pay a one-time 14 percent tax on their previously untaxed foreign earnings.

This “transition revenue” would go towards eliminating the Highway Trust Fund shortfall, which would in turn be used for investments in the country’s transportation sector.

Lew reckoned that the President’s focus on improving the state of US infrastructure since he first came to office six years ago had allowed the country to make significant progress. “Still”, he noted, “we have to continue pressing ahead on a strong infrastructure agenda.”