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Report: Chinese foreign investment in U.S. up by 30 percent

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Chinese direct foreign investment in the United States hit a record $15 billion and grew by 30 percent last year, but Florida was only moderately successful in piquing the interest of Chinese investors, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Sunshine State attracted a little more than $1.1 billion in investment from Chinese companies from 2000 to 2015. Among the most important Chinese investments in Florida are DDS Lab, which develops custom dental equipment in Tampa, and Miami-based Plaza Construction, a subsidiary of China Construction America.

“Overall, Chinese investment in Florida remains low given the dynamism of the state’s economy,” said the report New Neighbors: 2016 Update. It was produced by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm.

The report, which looked at Chinese investment by congressional district, found that the South ranked first among all regions in the United States, with more than $21.5 billion of total Chinese investment. But not one Florida congressional district ranked among the top10 Southern districts in terms of jobs created by Chinese investment.

Still, the study found that the level of Chinese direct investment more than tripled in Florida in 2015. Last August, for example, Dalian Wanda bought Tampa-based World Triathlon Corp, which organizes Ironman Triathlons , for $650 million. The acquisition reflects Wanda’s desire to increase the market for Ironman events in China and expand in the entertainment sector.

Florida’s 14th Congressional District, represented by Tampa Bay Rep. Kathy Castor, was the most successful Florida district in attracting Chinese direct investment, with investments worth $690 million that had created 190 direct jobs at the end of 2015.

Although Chinese annual economic growth slowed to 6.9 percent in 2015 — the lowest rate in 25 years — foreign direct investment by Chinese companies grew globally by nearly 15 percent and hit a record $120 billion.

“China’s FDI in the U.S. continued to grow, reflecting the ongoing shift of Chinese investment activity from developing to high-income economies,” the report noted.

“While much of this year’s political campaign rhetoric has focused on jobs leaving the United States, Chinese investment is supporting more and more jobs on this side of the Pacific — over 90,000 and growing,” noted Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

A total of 171 Chinese transactions in 2015 resulted in 327 new Chinese-owned operations in 42 states, the report said.

New York led the states in attracting Chinese investment last year with several large commercial real estate transactions and Chinese investments in financial and business services, but California still hosts the highest level of overall Chinese investment.

With more than $30 billion in pending Chinese investment deals already in progress in 2016, this is likely to be another record year for Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States.

Orlins said there were a record-setting 2.56 million outbound trips from China to the United States last year and that number is expected to double by 2020. As a result, Chinese companies have begun to invest heavily in the U.S. hospitality and travel logistics industries.

Going forward that trend could attract more Chinese investment to Florida.

“Tourism, real estate, and agriculture are likely to interest Chinese investors aiming to expand their footprints in Florida,” the report noted.