Q It’s been more than a year now since the Open Economies initiative and Invest in America were launched. How do you feel it has gone since then?

A The word has gotten out that we welcome and we want foreign investment. I think it is a very timely message and as I travel around I am hearing it played back from governments around the world. But it is the type of message that we must continue to repeat and continue to get out there, because some people still remember the Dubai Ports debate and they don’t realise that was really a debate – it wasn’t a ruling, it wasn’t a rejection, but it was a very significant debate.

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So we have to be out there very frequently and getting the message out and repeating the message that we welcome foreign investment, that this a great place to invest and it continues to be one of the greatest places in the world, if not the greatest place, to put your money.

Q Have you been out there on the issue of the controversial Anheuser-Busch acquisition?

A It got done; it got done in the private market the way these things should get done. But those are the types of things that people watch. The government didn’t play a role in that because that was a transaction that took place in the private market between two entities.

Q What can you do to reassure people who feel upset by it?

A In the country what we can say and what we do say is that foreign investment creates jobs. There are over five million jobs created by foreign investors; 25% of those are in manufacturing. That’s higher than the average of manufacturing. And they are high paying jobs. That’s good for our country, it’s good for our economy. And for overseas investors, we want them to know this is a place where their capital is welcome.

Q Do you feel that it is hard to get the message across in an election year?

A There is some tendency out there to talk about protectionist policies and to talk about economic isolationism. I would hope and I think that there is more wisdom out there than we give the American people credit for. I think they understand, especially when they see a foreign manufacturer come into their community and all of a sudden create hundreds, in some cases thousands, of jobs. They see that and they welcome that.

Q What happens now in the absence of a Doha agreement on trade – press ahead with bilateral agreements?

A We are doing that; the bilateral agreements have been great. The problem with bilateral agreements is we don’t have enough. Just to give you an idea, the agreements that have been signed during the president’s time in office, if you add all of those up, we went from a $3bn trade surplus to over a $20bn surplus.

An example: DR-CAFTA. We had a deficit and we now have a surplus. So these free trade agreements are good. People sometimes confuse trade with free trade agreements; we only have 14 free trade agreements. What we need is a lot more because they allow us to establish rules, they allow us to develop enforcement mechanisms. They allow us to manage the relationship better.

People talk about China: we don’t have a trade agreement with China and with countries with which we don’t have trade agreements, we have to have more enforcement on anti-dumping, countervailing duties, etc. It requires more enforcement. It’s wrong to say that free trade agreements somehow are bad for our economy; it’s just the opposite.

The rest of the world is very aggressive in negotiating free trade agreements; everyone is. I heard a figure that in the world there are about 100 trade agreements pending or being negotiated. We have three. The rest of the world is moving a lot quicker than we are and we don’t want to have to find ourselves in a position where we are at a disadvantage because other countries have been doing a better job of opening up markets for their workers, exporters and farmers than we have.

Q What are the chances of getting the Colombian trade deal through?

A Colombia is a matter of when. But timing is very important. We signed the deal more than 600 days ago. Colombian exports come here duty free and our exports pay a duty going to Colombia. In that time our exporters have paid almost $1.5bn in tariffs that they wouldn’t have to pay if the agreement were approved.

It just doesn’t make any sense that we keep on paying tariffs that we don’t have to. So the sooner the better; we want that done before the elections. We do not believe that it is good for exporters and workers that an agreement that makes so much sense be held up for political reasons, but that’s what’s happening.

Q What’s your outlook for how steady you think FDI levels will be this year in the face of an economic slowdown?

A We continue to believe there are going to be healthy inflows. We haven’t made projections and we don’t publicise projections of what we expect in growth rates. But we think this is a great time. Even though there are a lot more economies in which companies can invest they are realising that as you compare the US economy you get intellectual property rights protection, which you don’t get around the world. You have great universities, so you have great talent. There is very strong rule of law, transparency, people know what the rules are, they know that they’ll be applied evenly to foreign companies as well as US companies the same way, they know what the tax laws are – and those are huge advantages aside from the fact that this is the largest economy in the world.

Q Do you think the quotas for H1B visas hurts the US in terms of competitiveness and attracting investment?

 

A I think we should look at those quotas. This was part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the president wanted to get through in 2006. Today with the H1B visa, that limit that we have is usually taken up in the month of January. The 65,000 H1B visas are done by the time we get to February. As I talk to companies around the country they will say ‘we need more engineers, we need scientists’. It’s always been an advantage to our country that we attract the best scientists from the world. So, yes, comprehensive immigration reform – not just high skilled but also low skilled – is something we have to tackle. We can’t continue to ignore it.

Q So how do you get a sensible immigration bill through Congress?

A Because we weren’t able to get reforms through in 2006, we said a couple things were going to happen. One is that you’re going to see businesses start to suffer, because we’re obligating businesses to either hire illegals or not hire or not grow. And we also said you’re going to see a lot of local laws being put in place, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. The country’s being splintered into these local laws, different laws and we’re hearing from companies who are suffering. We’re hearing of farms moving to Mexico, at a time when you’re also hearing that there is concern about the safety of food supply from around the world, but we’re losing that food supply from our own country.

What I see more and more is companies speaking out and saying ‘we need a way of getting legalised labour into the country because if not we’re just not going to able to grow’.

Q Do you feel the pressure of time because the days of the administration are winding down?

A Sure. Absolutely. And the president has said he wants a sprint to the finish. We know that our time is limited so therefore we’ve got a lot of things that we want to get done, like these trade agreements, so we’re working really hard to try to do everything possible to get them into this administration.

CURRICULUM VITAE

 

CARLOS M GUTIERREZ

2005US Department of Commerce

Secretary

2000Kellogg Company

Chairman of the board

1999Kellogg Company

President/CEO