Foreign Firms Want Piece of Stimulus Pie

by Chris Sturr | March 23, 2009

With Congress doling out $787 billion in stimulus money, foreign firms figure that no one will mind if they get some of it. And they’ll probably only take 40% or so out of the country. All you need to win is a U.S. subsidiary, some well-placed lobbyists, and a dream.

From the Washington Post:

Spain’s Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, visited New York and Washington last week on an unusual mission for one of Europe’s most glamorous celebrity couples: to drum up business for Spanish companies from the U.S. economic stimulus package.

“Only by working together with U.S. businesses and government, as well as coordinating our needs and priorities, can we get our countries, and world, back on track,” Felipe said at a Manhattan business luncheon, which also featured former vice president Al Gore.

U.S. firms are not the only ones hoping to cash in on the $787 billion stimulus program. Foreign nations and companies are stepping up their lobbying efforts in Washington and in state capitals, hoping to gain vital business in hard times. Hundreds of foreign-owned companies, many of them with significant operations in the United States, are selling their expertise in clean energy, high-speed transit and other technologies that undergird key aspects of President Obama’s stimulus efforts.
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Meanwhile, foreign companies, trade ministries and business groups are proceeding cautiously for fear of stoking nationalistic objections from U.S. lawmakers and their constituents. Lobbyists and consultants hired by the companies are warning them to proceed carefully and to emphasize that any contracts would lead to jobs in the United States rather than overseas.

But such firms are admittedly nervous about the idea of publicly angling for U.S. stimulus money, fearing the kind of political uproar that erupted in 2006 over plans by a United Arab Emirates-owned company to take over management of six U.S. seaports. In recent weeks, some lawmakers have objected to the revelation that billions of dollars in bailout money for American International Group ended up in the vaults of foreign-owned banks to which the company owed money.

If a foreign firm received a stimulus-related contract, most of the wages and product purchases would stay within the United States. But some portion, perhaps up to 40 percent, could leave the country, trade experts said.

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