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Ranked: Top Countries for Foreign Direct Investment Flows



One of the most significant phenomena in 21st-century globalization, driven by the ascent of multinational corporations and the removal of investing barriers, is the vast cross-border flow of foreign capital.

To analyze recent trends, Samidha Nayak utilized World Bank data spanning 2012–2022, charting the top 10 destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) and the leading investing countries annually.

A chart showing the top foreign direct investment flows (inflows) between 2012–2022.

Countries With the Most FDI Inflows (2012–2022)

In 2012, the United States had the highest FDI inflow, attracting about $250 billion in investment from the rest of the world.

ℹ️ Foreign direct investment is when a resident in one economy has 10 percent or more of the ordinary shares of voting stock of a resident enterprise in a different economy.

At second place, China’s FDI inflows stood about $9 billion lower at $241 billion.

The middle ranks have representatives from Europe (Netherlands, Cyprus), from Asia (Hong Kong) and from South America (Brazil).

Towards the bottom, three OECD countries—Germany, Ireland, and Australia—all attracted an average of $60 billion in foreign investment.

Unexpectedly, the British Virgin Islands came in 8th. Their lack of corporate tax makes it a popular place for companies to headquarter, in turn attracting FDI inflows.

2012Country2012 Inflows
(USD Billion)
2022Country2022 Inflows
(USD Billion)
1🇺🇸 U.S.$250.351🇺🇸 U.S.$388.08
2🇨🇳 China$241.212🇨🇳 China$180.17
3🇳🇱 Netherlands$239.673🇸🇬 Singapore$140.84
4🇧🇷 Brazil$92.574🇭🇰 Hong Kong$120.95
5🇭🇰 Hong Kong$74.895🇫🇷 France$105.42
6🇨🇾 Cyprus$69.976🇧🇷 Brazil$91.50
7🇩🇪 Germany$65.447🇦🇺 Australia$67.12
8🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands$61.128🇨🇦 Canada$53.71
9🇮🇪 Ireland$58.099🇸🇪 Sweden$50.05
10🇦🇺 Australia$57.5510🇮🇳 India$49.94

Ten years later however, the top 10 saw a shuffle. The U.S. and China retained their top spots, but the difference grew much larger—with the U.S. attracting nearly 50% more foreign investment ($388 billion) than China ($180 billion).

Singapore, which first appeared in the rankings in 2014, took third place with $141 billion.

Meanwhile the bottom half changed almost entirely with France, Canada, Sweden, and India replacing Cyprus, Germany, the British Virgin Islands, and Ireland.

Countries With the Most FDI Outflows (2012–2022)

Unlike the ranks of net inflows, the top 10 countries with the highest FDI outflows have stayed essentially the same.

A chart showing the top foreign direct investment flows (outflows) between 2012–2022.

The U.S. topped the list in both ends of the decade, despite briefly falling out of the top 10 entirely in 2018. There were only three new entrants (France, Australia, and the UK) in 2022 compared to 10 years prior, with Cyprus, Switzerland, and the British Virgin Islands dropping out of top spots.

2012Country2012 Outflows
(USD Billion)
2022Country2022 Outflows
(USD Billion)
1🇺🇸 U.S.$377.241🇺🇸 U.S.$426.25
2🇳🇱 Netherlands$237.942🇩🇪 Germany$178.87
3🇯🇵 Japan$117.633🇯🇵 Japan$175.40
4🇩🇪 Germany$99.084🇬🇧 UK$158.93
5🇭🇰 Hong Kong$88.125🇨🇳 China$149.69
6🇨🇾 Cyprus$75.256🇳🇱 Netherlands$125.89
7🇨🇳 China$64.967🇦🇺 Australia$123.36
8🇨🇦 Canada$62.258🇫🇷 France$118.76
9🇨🇭Switzerland$54.309🇭🇰 Hong Kong$106.86
10🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands$53.9410🇨🇦 Canada$83.11

Many of the countries who are in the top ranks for inflows (U.S., China, Canada, Australia) are also in the top ranks for outflows both in 2012 and 2022.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry in 2023

Services-producing industries account for the majority of U.S. GDP in 2023, followed by other private industries and the government.



u.s. gdp by industry

Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry

The U.S. economy is like a giant machine driven by many different industries, each one akin to an essential cog that moves the whole.

Understanding the breakdown of national gross domestic product (GDP) by industry shows where commercial activity is bustling and how diverse the economy truly is.

The above infographic uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to visualize a breakdown of U.S. GDP by industry in 2023. To show this, we use value added by industry, which reflects the difference between gross output and the cost of intermediate inputs.

The Top 10 U.S. Industries by GDP

As of Q1 2023, the annualized GDP of the U.S. sits at $26.5 trillion.

Of this, 88% or $23.5 trillion comes from private industries. The remaining $3 trillion is government spending at the federal, state, and local levels.

Here’s a look at the largest private industries by economic contribution in the United States:

IndustryAnnualized Nominal GDP
(as of Q1 2023)
% of U.S. GDP
Professional and business services$3.5T13%
Real estate, rental, and leasing$3.3T12%
Educational services, health care, and social assistance$2.3T9%
Finance and insurance$2.0T8%
Wholesale trade$1.7T6%
Retail trade$1.5T6%
Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services$1.2T4%
Other private industries$2.6T10%

Like most other developed nations, the U.S. economy is largely based on services.

Service-based industries, including professional and business services, real estate, finance, and health care, make up the bulk (70%) of U.S. GDP. In comparison, goods-producing industries like agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction play a smaller role.

Professional and business services is the largest industry with $3.5 trillion in value added. It comprises establishments providing legal, consulting, design, administration, and other services. This is followed by real estate at $3.3 trillion, which has consistently been an integral part of the economy.

Due to outsourcing and other factors, the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP has been declining for decades, but it still remains a significant part of the economy. Manufacturing of durable goods (metals, machines, computers) accounts for $1.6 trillion in value added, alongside nondurable goods (food, petroleum, chemicals) at $1.3 trillion.

The Government’s Contribution to GDP

Just like private industries, the government’s value added to GDP consists of compensation of employees, taxes collected (less subsidies), and gross operating surplus.

GovernmentAnnualized Nominal GDP
(as of Q1 2023)
% of U.S. GDP
State and Local$2.1T8%

Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.

State and local government spending, largely focused on the education and public welfare sectors, accounts for the bulk of value added. The Federal contribution to GDP amounts to roughly $948 billion, with 52% of it attributed to national defense.

The Fastest Growing Industries (2022–2032P)

In the next 10 years, services-producing industries are projected to see the fastest growth in output.

The table below shows the five fastest-growing industries in the U.S. from 2022–2032 in terms of total output, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

IndustrySectorCompound Annual Rate of Output Growth (2022–2032P)
Software publishersInformation5.2%
Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, and related servicesInformation3.9%
Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite)Information3.6%
Home health care servicesHealth care and social assistance3.6%
Oil and gas extractionMining3.5%

Three of the fastest-growing industries are in the information sector, underscoring the growing role of technology and digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, the projected growth of the oil and gas extraction industry highlights the enduring demand for traditional energy sources, despite the energy transition.

Overall, the development of these industries suggests that the U.S. will continue its shift toward a services-oriented economy. But today, it’s also worth noticing how services- and goods-producing industries are increasingly tied together. For example, it’s now common for tech companies to produce devices, and for manufacturers to use software in their operations.

Therefore, the oncoming tide of growth in service-based industries could potentially lift other interconnected sectors of the diverse U.S. economy.

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