UNCTAD's Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Investment for Productive Capacity-Building and Sustainable Development concluded on 30 January, against a background in which global FDI inflows declined by 18% in 2012. The meeting focused on "Regional integration and foreign direct investment."
James Zhan, Director of the organization's Division on Investment and Enterprise, told the three-day gathering, that "FDI recovery will take longer than expected."
He predicted that FDI flows will rise moderately to US$1.4 trillion in 2013 and to $1.6 trillion in 2014, but noted "significant risks" that could derail such progress, "including structural weaknesses in major developed economies and in the global financial system."
The picture for developing countries has been somewhat rosier than for industrialized nations, he noted. In 2013, for the first time, FDI channeled to developing countries exceeded that invested in developed countries. The difference came to some $130 billion.
Mr. Zhan said regional economic integration, an approach that makes practical and economic sense and has been "relatively successful" for such regional groups as the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), could help developing regions of the globe.
In light of a complex, multi-layered and atomized regime of more than 3000 IIAs, and in the absence of a multilateral investment system, the use of regional investment policymaking offers important opportunities to strengthen the new generation of investment policies that effectively promote sustainable development.
In addition, he said, inconsistencies exist between investment treaties and between national and international policies on FDI; and there is a lack of coherence between trade and investment policy and related public policies.
Experts attending the session explored four sub-themes. They are "Regional integration: the trade and investment nexus;" "Regional value chains and productive capacity building;" "Regional integration and policy coherence;" and "Regional integration and sustainable development."
The meeting identified ways and means to further promote investment for sustainable development and inclusive growth in the regional context, including through making use of UNCTAD's Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development. The meeting also made a number of suggestions for further work by the Secretariat on the subject matter.