WASHINGTON — It's the yin and the yang of the U.S. corporate climate.
At the White House, President Barack Obama played the role of business pitchman Tuesday, saluting 11 executives whose companies have chosen to gain or expand a footprint in the United States.
In Congress the same day, a group of 14 Democratic senators introduced legislation to keep U.S. firms from going in the other direction, using foreign acquisitions to avoid paying higher U.S. corporate tax rates.
The events illustrated competing factors facing U.S. and foreign businesses as they make investment, market and tax decisions. The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate, 35 percent, of industrialized countries. At the same time its workforce, low energy costs and access to consumers can make it an attractive destination.
"We want folks to know this is a great place to do business," Obama told the executives, including Ericsson North America CEO Angel Ruiz and Lufthansa chairman and CEO Carsten Spohr, who met just outside the Oval Office in the White House. "We don't always do what it takes to go after business around the world and make sure that they know the benefits of investing in the largest market on Earth."
The roundtable discussion by executives and top White House officials kicked off a week devoted to promoting foreign investments here — all part of a congressional election-year strategy to confront lingering public anxiety about employment and financial well-being.
An effort by Obama to streamline U.S. outreach to foreign companies, called SelectUSA, has resulted in $18 billion in new business investments in the United States and territories, White House officials said.
Overall foreign direct investments rose from $166 billion in 2012 to $193 billion in 2013, still far short of the $310 billion in 2008.
In addition to Ericsson and Lufthansa, firms represented at Tuesday were Ford, chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries, toy maker K'nex, South Korea's Hankook Tire, Danish biotechnology company Novozymes, Canadian apparelmaker Richelieu, Belgian materials technology company Umicore, French high-tech company Safran and Switzerland-based Zurich Insurance Group.