Q How will Senator [Barack] Obama convince the global business community the US is ‘open for business’ amid claims of US protectionism?

A US attractiveness to foreign investors is ultimately a function of the vitality and productivity of the American economy and that is where it is important to look at the contrasting proposals of Senators Obama and [John] McCain. Not with respect to foreign investment as such but with respect to the future of the American economy; Senator Obama’s economic proposals are directed towards strengthening the middle class and thereby strengthening demand for the goods and services that are produced in the US.

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In contrast to Senator McCain, Senator Obama has made some very specific proposals for investments in infrastructure and basic science research that would help boost US productivity and make the US an attractive destination for foreign investors.

What is most important is not any specific investment-targeted policy, but instead, the growth trajectory of the American economy. That is where Senator Obama’s proposals for making investments in workforce productivity, paying for each of our planned proposals so as not to exacerbate fiscal problems, creates a more attractive future for the economy and in turn for foreign investors.

The characterisation [of protectionism] is a somewhat exaggerated response because a very small percentage of foreign acquisitions have actually been affected. Some of the concerns were a result of the Bush administration’s mishandling of proposed transactions in the US. The administration failed to make changes in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) process and keep Congress informed on its rationale for decisions in reviewing investments.

Q How would Senator Obama avoid another Dubai Ports World scenario?

A An Obama administration would take administration of the law seriously and would – from the top down as a matter of instinct and routine – be regularly keeping Congress apprised of what the administration was doing.

A lot of what has gone on was a lack of information on the part of Congress and frustration with not knowing what the administration was doing and why. Eventually, Congress passed the Foreign Investment Security Act, which strengthened the CFIUS process in a way that balanced well our interests in keeping investment flows coming into the US while safeguarding national security.

Q What are Senator Obama’s plans for the North American Free Trade Agreement [Nafta]?

A Senator Obama would amend Nafta so that labour and environmental standards become part of the main agreement, not the unenforceable side agreements they currently are.

We saw last year when the Peru Free Trade Agreement passed Congress, that it is feasible to include the kind of basic standards in a free trade agreement that are good for all citizens party to the agreement.

Q What is the Patriot Employer Act and why is Senator Obama supporting it?

A It is part of Senator Obama’s proposal for changing corporate tax policies.

He would alter the current method of taxing international income of US corporations, which can provide a tax preference for income from certain operations that are moved offshore. He would also change US corporate tax law to reduce taxes, in accordance with objective criteria, for companies. Senator Obama supports reforming corporate taxes in a manner that would help create jobs in America and simplifying the tax code by eliminating distortions and special preferences. He also supports making the research and development tax credit permanent.

Q Would Senator Obama increase visa quotas to address highly skilled worker shortages?

A Senator Obama favours comprehensive immigration reform and that would certainly include addressing the issue of allowing more skilled workers into the US, although in a manner consistent with ensuring protections for workers in this country.