U.K.'s Cameron to China, India: We're open for business

May 23, 2013: 8:46 AM ET

Prime Minister David Cameron says openness to foreign investment is competitive advantage for Britain (and Ratan Tata is always welcome at Downing Street).

By Stephanie N. Mehta

David Cameron

David Cameron

FORTUNE -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron says he's "not embarrassed" that foreign companies are investing in and acquiring British brands; indeed, he thinks Britain's open door policy makes it a good place for businesses to operate.

"I said to the Chinese Investment Corporation the other day, 'I'm not embarrassed you own 10% of our biggest water company or a big chunk of Heathrow Airport. I think its absolutely great,'" Cameron told a group of Time Inc. editors in New York last week. He was in the city for, among other things, an international development summit. (Time Inc. is Fortune's parent.)

Cameron faces major political challenges at home. The far right of his own party questions his conservative credentials and opposes Britain's continued membership in the European Union. (Cameron favors remaining part of the E.U.) For more see Cameron's European Gamble on Time.com (subscription required).

In response to a question about efforts to make Britain business friendly, Cameron offered a wide ranging list of benefits to businesses operating in the U.K, from a low corporate tax rate to incentives for pharmaceutical companies setting up manufacturing in Britain. But he seemed most passionate about his efforts to encourage investment from outsiders.

The China Investment Corporation, the nation's sovereign wealth fund, acquired a nearly 9% stake Kemble Water, a utility holding company. It also owns a 10% stake in the U.K.'s largest airport.

MORE: The great expatriate hiring boom

"I'm proud of it, I think it's absolutely great," Cameron declared. "We want to be the destination for Chinese investment. Tell the other Chinese investors to come to London and spend your money."

According to the OECD, the U.K. received some $63 billion in outside investments in 2013. Only China ($253 billion), the U.S. ($175 billion) and Brazil  ($65 billion) received more. But the U.K. also recorded $72 billion in outflows in 2012, the OECD says.

Cameron noted that outside investment had helped revive Britain's auto industry. Tata Motors (TTM), a subsidiary of India's Tata Group, acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. (F) in 2002. The Jaguar and Land Rover brands have changed hands over the years but Cameron credits the Tata conglomerate and its chairman emeritus, Ratan Tata, with bolstering U.K. car exports.

"Far from being embarrassed I say personally to Ratan Tata, 'Every time you come to London feel free to come through the door of Downing Street, come have a cup of tea with me and let's talk about the British economy and how you can expand into even more of it.'"

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