Foreign direct investment flows

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is a key element in international economic integration. FDI creates direct, stable and long-lasting links between economies. It encourages the transfer of technology and know-how between countries, and allows the host economy to promote its products more widely in international markets. FDI is key to the creation of many global value chains by allowing firms to link and organise production across countries. FDI is also an additional source of funding for investment and, under the right policy environment, can be an important vehicle for development.


Foreign direct investment is a category of investment that reflects the objective of establishing a lasting interest by a resident enterprise in one economy in an enterprise that is resident in an economy other than that of the direct investor. The direct or indirect ownership of 10% or more of the voting power is evidence of such a relationship.

FDI flows are cross-border financial transactions within a given period (e.g. year) and between affiliated enterprises that are in a direct investment relationship. FDI flows include equity capital, reinvestment of earnings and inter-company debt.


In 2014, the implementation of the latest international standards for compiling FDI statistics came into widespread use, which generally enhanced the comparability of FDI statistics across countries. However, some differences remain. For example, data for Brazil, India, Korea, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland are on an asset/liability basis while data for the other countries are on a directional basis. Implementation of the new standards also caused major changes to FDI statistics. Therefore, long historical series are not available for all countries.

Data for Austria, Chile, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain exclude resident Special Purpose Entities.

The EU28 aggregate has an evolving composition: EU15 until end 2003; EU25 in 2004-06; and EU27 for 2007-12.


Despite large quarterly fluctuations, global FDI flows remained stable overall in 2014 as compared to 2013, at around USD 1 385 billion. FDI activity gained momentum in the second half of 2014 after falling sharply in the first quarter due to a single large deal which reduced both inward FDI flows in the United States and outward FDI flows from the United Kingdom. Preliminary information for 2015 indicate that global FDI flows continued to rise in the first half of 2015. However, global FDI flows have stalled at levels substantially below the peak levels reached before the financial crisis (at USD 2 077 billion) and ensuing global recession that began in 2008.

OECD investors accounted for around 65% of global FDI outflows in 2014 at USD 895 billion and were up 2% as compared to 2013. The top three investing countries were the United States, Japan and Germany, representing 40% of global FDI outflows. OECD countries received 42% of global FDI inflows at USD 588 billion, representing an 18% decrease as compared to 2013. 40% of global FDI inflows were hosted by four countries: China (the top recipient of FDI worldwide since 2010), the United States, Brazil and Canada.


Further information

Analytical publications

Statistical publications

Methodological publications


Table. Outflows and inflows of foreign direct investment

FDI flows
As a percentage of GDP, 2014 or latest available year