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Albania

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoA understands that private sector development and increased levels of foreign investment are critical to supporting sustainable economic development. Albania maintains a liberal foreign investment regime designed to attract FDI. The Law on Foreign Investment outlines specific protections for foreign investors and allows 100 percent foreign ownership of companies, except in the areas of domestic and international air passenger transport and television broadcasting. Albanian legislation does not distinguish between domestic and foreign investments.

The Law on Strategic Investments approved in 2015 offers incentives and fast-track administrative procedures, depending on the size of the investment and number of jobs created, to both foreign and domestic investors who apply before December 31, 2021.

The Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA) is the entity responsible for promoting foreign investments in Albania. Potential U.S. investors in Albania should contact AIDA to learn more about services AIDA offers to foreign investors ( http://aida.gov.al/ ). The Law on Strategic Investments stipulates that AIDA, as the Secretariat of the Strategic Investment Council, serves as a one-stop-shop for foreign investors, from filing the application form to granting the status of strategic investment/investor. Despite supporting legislation, only a few foreign investors have benefited from the “Strategic Investor” status.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic investors have equal rights of ownership of local companies, based on the principle of “national treatment.” There are only a few exemptions regarding ownership restrictions:

  • Domestic and international air passenger transport: foreign interest in airline companies is limited to 49 percent ownership by investors outside the Common European Aviation Zone, for both domestic and international air transportation.
  • Audio and audio-visual broadcasting: An entity, foreign or domestic, that has a national audio or audio-visual broadcasting license cannot hold more than 20 percent of shares in another audio or audio-visual broadcasting company. Additional restrictions apply to the regional or local audio and audio-visual licenses.
  • Agriculture: No foreign individual or foreign incorporated company may purchase agricultural land, though land may be leased for up to 99 years.

Albania currently lacks an investment-review mechanism for inbound FDI. However, in 2017, the government introduced a new provision in the Petroleum Law, which allows the government to reject a petroleum-sharing agreement or the sale of shares in a petroleum-sharing agreement to any prospective investor due to national security concerns. Albanian law permits private ownership and establishment of enterprises and property. Foreign investors do not require additional permission or authorization beyond that required of domestic investors. Commercial property may be purchased, but only if the proposed investment is worth three times the price of the land. There are no restrictions on the purchase of private residential property. Foreigners can acquire concession rights on natural resources and resources of the common interest, as defined by the Law on Concessions and Public Private Partnerships.

Foreign and domestic investors have numerous options available for organizing business operations in Albania. The 2008 Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies and Law Establishing the National Registration Center (NRC) allow for the following legal types of business entities to be established through the NRC: sole proprietorship; unlimited partnership; limited partnership; limited liability company; joint stock company; branches and representative offices; and joint ventures.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) completed a Trade Policy Review of Albania in May 2016 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp437_e.htm  ). In November 2017, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) completed the first Investment Policy Review of South-East European (SEE) countries, including Albania ( http://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=1884  ).

Business Facilitation

The National Business Center (NBC) serves as a one-stop shop for business registration. All required procedures and documents are published online ( http://www.qkb.gov.al/information-on-procedure/business-registration/ ). Registration may be done in person or online via the e-Albania portal. Many companies choose to complete the registration process in person, as the online portal requires an authentication process and electronic signature and is only available in the Albanian language. When a business registers in the NBC it is also automatically registered with the Tax Office, Labor Inspectorate, Customs, and the respective municipality. According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, it takes 4.5 days and five procedures to register a business in Albania.

Outward Investment

Albania neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Algeria

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Algerian economy is both challenging and potentially highly rewarding. While the Algerian government publicly welcomes FDI, a difficult business climate, an inconsistent regulatory environment, and sometimes contradictory government policies complicate foreign investment. There are business opportunities in nearly every sector, including agribusiness, consumer goods, energy, healthcare, mining, pharmaceuticals, power, recycling, telecommunications, and transportation.

The urgency for Algeria to diversify its economy away from reliance on hydrocarbons has increased amid low and fluctuating oil prices since mid-2014, a youth population bulge, and increased domestic consumption of energy resources. The government reiterated its intention to diversify in its August 2020 plan to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The government has sought to reduce the country’s persistent trade deficit through import substitution policies, currency depreciation, and import tariffs as it attempts to preserve rapidly diminishing foreign exchange reserves. On January 29, 2019, the government implemented tariffs between 30-200 percent on over one-thousand goods it assessed were destined for direct sale to consumers. Companies that set up local manufacturing operations can receive permission to import materials the government would not otherwise approve for import if the importer can show materials will be used in local production. Certain regulations explicitly favor local firms at the expense of foreign competitors, most prominently in the pharmaceutical sector, where an import ban the government implemented in 2009 remains in place on more than 360 medicines and medical devices. Frequent, unpredictable changes to business regulations have added to the uncertainty in the market.

Algeria eliminated state enterprises’ “right of first refusal” on most transfers of foreign holdings to foreign shareholders, with the exception of identified “strategic” sectors. Though the 2020 Complementary Finance Law eliminated the 51/49 domestic ownership requirement with the exception of “strategic sectors,” the 2021 Finance Law restored the requirement for importers of products for domestic resale, and regulations governing the auto industry released in September 2020 required automobile importers to be wholly domestically owned.

There are two main agencies responsible for attracting foreign investment, the National Agency of Investment Development (ANDI) and the National Agency for the Valorization of Hydrocarbons (ALNAFT).

ANDI is the primary Algerian government agency tasked with recruiting and retaining foreign investment. ANDI runs branches in Algeria’s 58 states (wilayas) which are tasked with facilitating business registration, tax payments, and other administrative procedures for both domestic and foreign investors. U.S. companies report that the agency is understaffed and ineffective. Its “one-stop shops” only operate out of physical offices and do not maintain dialogue with investors after they have initiated an investment. The agency’s effectiveness is undercut by its lack of decision-making authority, particularly for industrial projects, which is exercised by the Ministry of Industry, the Minister of Industry themself, and in many cases the Prime Minister.

ALNAFT is charged with attracting foreign investment to Algeria’s upstream oil and gas sector. In addition to organizing events marketing upstream opportunities to potential investors, the agency maintains a paid-access digital database with extensive technical information about Algeria’s hydrocarbons resources.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Establishing a presence in Algeria can take any of three basic forms: 1) a liaison office with no local partner requirement and no authority to perform commercial operations, 2) a branch office to execute a specific contract, with no obligation to have a local partner, allowing the parent company to conduct commercial activity (considered a resident Algerian entity without full legal authority), or 3) a local company with 51 percent of capital held by a local company or shareholders. A business can be incorporated as a joint stock company (JSC), a limited liability company (LLC), a limited partnership (LP), a limited partnership with shares (LPS), or an undeclared partnership. Groups and consortia are also used by foreign companies when partnering with other foreign companies or with local firms.

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. However, the 51/49 rule requires majority Algerian ownership in all projects involving foreign investments in the “strategic sectors” of energy, mining, defense, transportation infrastructure, and pharmaceuticals (with the exception of innovative products), as well as for importers of goods for resale in Algeria.

The 51/49 investment rule poses challenges for various types of investors. For example, the requirement hampers market access for foreign small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as they often do not have the human resources or financial capital to navigate complex legal and regulatory requirements. Large companies can find creative ways to work within the law, sometimes with the cooperation of local authorities who are more flexible with large investments that promise significant job creation and technology and equipment transfers. SMEs usually do not receive this same consideration. There are also allegations that Algerian partners sometimes refuse to invest the required funds in the company’s business, require non-contract funds to win contracts, and send unqualified workers to job sites. Manufacturers are also concerned about intellectual property rights (IPR), as foreign companies do not want to surrender control of their designs and patents. Several U.S. companies have reported they have policies that preclude them from investing overseas without maintaining a majority share, out of concerns for both IPR and financial control of the local venture, which thus prevent them from establishing businesses in Algeria.

Algerian government officials defended the 51/49 requirement as necessary to prevent capital flight, protect Algerian businesses, and provide foreign businesses with local expertise. For sectors where the requirement remains, officials contend a range of tailored measures can mitigate the effect of the 51/49 rule and allow the minority foreign shareholder to exercise other means of control. Some foreign investors use multiple local partners in the same venture, effectively reducing ownership of each individual local partner to enable the foreign partner to own the largest share.

The Algerian government does not officially screen FDI, though Algerian state enterprises have a “right of first refusal” on transfers of foreign holdings to foreign shareholders in identified strategic industries. Companies must notify the Council for State Participation (CPE) of these transfers. In addition, initial foreign investments remain subject to approvals from a host of ministries that cover the proposed project, most often the Ministries of Commerce, Health, Pharmaceutical Industry, Energy, Telecommunications and Post, Industry, and Mines. U.S. companies have reported that certain high-profile industrial proposals, such as for automotive assembly, are subject to informal approval by the Prime Minister. In 2017, the government instituted an Investments Review Council chaired by the Prime Minister for the purpose of “following up” on investments; in practice, the establishment of the council means FDI proposals are subject to additional government scrutiny. According to the 2016 Investment Law, projects registered through the ANDI deemed to have special interest for the national economy or high employment generating potential may be eligible for extensive investment advantages. For any project over 5 billion dinars (approximately USD 38 million) to benefit from these advantages, it must be approved by the Prime Minister-chaired National Investments Council (CNI). The CNI previously met regularly, though it is not clear how the agenda of projects considered at each meeting is determined. Critics allege the CNI is a non-transparent mechanism which could be subject to capture by vested interests. In 2020 the operations of the CNI and the CPE were temporarily suspended pending review by the former Ministry of Industry, but a final decision as to their status has not been made.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Algeria has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). The last investment policy review by a third party was conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2003 and published in 2004.

Business Facilitation

Algeria’s online information portal dedicated to business creation www.jecreemonentreprise.dz and the business registration website www.cnrc.org.dz are under maintenance and have been so for more than a year. The Ministry of Commerce is currently developing a new electronic portal at https://cnrcinfo.cnrc.dz/qui-somme-nous/ . The websites provide information about several business registration steps applicable for registering certain kinds of businesses. Entrepreneurs report that additional information about requirements or regulation updates for business registration are available only in person at the various offices involved in the creation and registration process. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also recently established an Information Bureau for the Promotion of Investments and Exports (BIPIE) to support Algerian diplomats working on economic issues abroad, as well as provide local points of contact for Algerian companies operating overseas.

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report, Algeria’s ranking for starting a business was unchanged at 157 out of 190 countries ( http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/algeria ).

This year’s improvements were modest and concerned only three of the ten indicator categories. The World Bank report lists 12 procedures that cumulatively take an average of 18 days to complete to register a new business. New business owners seeking to establish their enterprises have sometimes reported the process takes longer, noting that the most updated version of regulations and required forms are only available in person at multiple offices, therefore requiring multiple visits.

Outward Investment

Algeria does not restrict domestic investors from investing overseas, provided they can access foreign currency for such investments. The exchange of Algerian dinars outside of Algerian territory is illegal, as is the carrying abroad of more than 10,000 dinars in cash at a time (approximately USD 76; see section 7 for more details on currency exchange restrictions).

Algeria’s National Agency to Promote External Trade (ALGEX), housed in the Ministry of Commerce, is the agency responsible for supporting Algerian businesses outside the hydrocarbons sector that want to export abroad. ALGEX controls a special promotion fund to promote exports, but the funds can only be accessed for limited purposes. For example, funds might be provided to pay for construction of a booth at a trade fair, but travel costs associated with getting to the fair – which can be expensive for overseas shows – would not be covered. The Algerian Company of Insurance and Guarantees to Exporters (CAGEX), also housed under the Ministry of Commerce, provides insurance to exporters. In 2003, Algeria established a National Consultative Council for Promotion of Exports (CCNCPE) that is supposed to meet annually. Algerian exporters claim difficulties working with ALGEX including long delays in obtaining support funds, and the lack of ALGEX offices overseas despite a 2003 law for their creation. The Bank of Algeria’s 2002 Money and Credit law allows Algerians to request the conversion of dinars to foreign currency in order to finance their export activities, but exporters must repatriate an equivalent amount to any funds spent abroad, for example money spent on marketing or other business costs incurred.

Andorra

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Andorra has established an open framework for foreign investments, allowing non-residents to create companies in the country, open businesses, and invest in all kinds of assets.

The Foreign Investment Law came into force in July 2012, completely opening the economy to foreign investors. Since then, foreigners, whether resident or not, may own up to 100 percent of any Andorra-based company. The law also liberalizes restrictions on foreign professionals seeking to work in Andorra. Previously, a foreigner could only begin to practice in Andorra after twenty years of residency. Under the current regulations, any Andorran legal resident from a country that has a reciprocal standard can work in Andorra, although special working permits are required for specific professions.

The Government of Andorra created the ACTUA-Invest program ( www.actua.ad ) as Andorra’s economic development and promotion office in order to provide counseling services to both Andorran companies looking to grow and foreign investors wanting to start new businesses in Andorra. ACTUA’s mission is to increase competitiveness, innovation, and the sustainability of the economy.

ACTUA’s three key priorities are:

  • Economic diversification through the development of priority industries such as blockchain, fintech, health, wellness, biotechnology, education, and sports, among others.
  • Attracting direct foreign investment and supporting national companies throughout their internationalization process.
  • Supporting entrepreneurs: promoting collaboration between the public and private sectors and giving support to the development of new business initiatives.

The Andorran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Services of Andorra ( www.ccis.ad ) is a public body that aims to promote and strengthen Andorra’s financial and business activity as well as provide services to foreign companies. The Chamber’s activities include organizing a census of commercial, industrial, and service activities; the protection of the general interests of commerce, industry, and services; promoting fair competition; and issuing certificates of origin and other commercial documents.

The Andorran Business Confederation (CEA) provides support to national companies to navigate within Andorra’s new legal, labor, and fiscal framework and facilitates companies’ international expansion projects. CEA also works to foster international investment into the country through its Iwand project, which provides information about Andorra’s economic and fiscal environment ( www.cea.ad ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Andorran legal framework has also adapted to international standards. The most relevant laws passed by Parliament to accompany the economic openness include the law of Companies (October 2007), the Law of Business Accounting (December 2007), and the Law of Foreign Investment (April 2008 and June 2012).

The OECD removed Andorra from its “tax haven list” in 2009 after the country signed the Paris Declaration, formally committing to sharing fiscal information outlined by the agreement. With the approval of the Law 19/2016, of November the 30th, on automatic exchange of information on tax matters, Andorra will exchange financial information with signatories of the “Common Reporting Standard” (CRS), developed by the G20 and approved by the OECD Council on July 2014.

From 2011 to 2019, the Parliament approved direct corporate, non-resident, capital gains, and personal income taxes. These regulations aim at establishing a transparent, modern, and internationally comparable regulatory framework. At 10 percent, well below the European average, Andorra’s corporate tax is more competitive than rates in neighboring Spain or France.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years neither the Government nor any international organization has conducted an investment policy review, be it the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); World Trade Organization (WTO); or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

Andorra established the ACTUA program as a public/private agency, made up of several ministries, government agencies, associations, and organizations from the private sector. It aims to increase competitiveness, innovation, and sustainability. It provides counseling services, to Andorran companies and potential foreign investors to facilitate investment and economic diversification.

Andorran regulations allow for two types of commercial companies: Limited Liability Company (Societat de Responsabilitat Limitada – SL), which has a minimum capital requirement of 3,000 euros; and Joint Stock Company (Societat Anonima – SA) which is normally required for multiple shareholders and has a minimum capital requirement of 60,000 euros.

The business establishment procedures and for share acquisitions or transfers are quite similar to those of other countries, requiring the filling of a simple application form, with the additional unique condition of the presentation of any prior investment authorization received in the country. This same procedure is applicable for incorporation, establishment, extension, branching, or other form of business expansion. Once the company is registered, the foreign investment is established, and the investor is required to deposit the share capital with an Andorran banking entity and proceed to public deed of incorporation before a notary.

Outward Investment

The Government’s ACTUA programs provide grants, counseling, and online resourced to small and medium size companies to foster competitiveness and facilitate internationalization.

The Andorran Chamber of Commerce ( www.ccis.ad ) helps companies search for business opportunities abroad.

Angola

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Although the GRA demonstrated political will to significantly increase foreign direct investment (FDI), Angola remains a difficult operating environment for investment to thrive. FDI remains low, volatile, and largely concentrated in the extractives sector. The GRA continues to pursue an ambitious plan to reform the business and investment environment. The Private Investment Law (“PIL”) introduced in 2018 has proven to be slow to promote FDI and retain investment. At the end of May 2020, the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers gathered to discuss some changes to the PIL, with a particular focus on attracting foreign investment through a mechanism to negotiate benefits and special conditions depending on the specific project. There have been, however, no legislative changes related to foreign direct investment since the enactment of the 2018 PIL and the Competition Law of 2018.

President João Lourenço implemented economic reform policies that provide a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors and leveraged efforts to combat and deter corruption and money laundering. Foreign investors were also encouraged to participate in the ongoing Privatization Program designed to privatize over 195 State-Owned Enterprises (SOES) by 2022. AIPEX, the country’s Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency is billed as the investors ‘one stop shop’ for business establishment. AIPEX is tasked with facilitating investment and is also supposed to manage the state’s investment portfolio to ensure the equitable implementation of the PIL and distribution of private investment, especially foreign investment. Theoretically the country prioritizes investment retention, but it does not appear to have institutional capacity to pursue and advocate for investment retention.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The 2018 PIL establishes the general principles and basis of private investment in Angola, determining the benefits and concessions that the GRA grants private investors and the criteria for accessing them, as well as establishing rights, duties and guarantees of private investors. The PIL is applied to private investments of any value, whether it is carried out by domestic or foreign investors, although waivers may exist under a bilateral agreement framework. Companies incorporated in conformity with the Angolan law, even with capital from abroad are, for all legal purposes, subject to the existing Angolan legislation. After the completion of a private investment project, foreign investors have the right, after approval by the GRA and settlement of taxes, to transfer abroad:

  1. Values corresponding to dividends;
  2. Values corresponding to the proceeds of the liquidation of their enterprises;
  3. Values corresponding to due compensations;
  4. Values corresponding to royalties or other earnings of remuneration from indirect investments, associated with the transfer of technology.

These processes are very bureaucratic and tedious. Foreign investors and companies with majority foreign ownership are only eligible for domestic credit after having fully implemented their respective investment projects.

On October 20, 2020 Presidential Decree No. 271/20, revoking Order No. 127/03, of 25 November 2003, was published, approving the new Legal Framework on Local Content in the Oil Sector. The statute aims to promote economic diversification, the participation of local businesses in the oil sector, the increase of domestic production and reduction of imports of goods for the sector, as well as the creation of employment and increased training of Angolans in the oil industry workforce. The statute establishes new rules on ‘Angolanization’ and procurement of goods and services for the sector, which will have a significant impact on company activities. For example, priority will be given to procurement of nationally produced goods and services, especially the obligation to contract Angolan companies included in the database approved by the National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG). In addition, all companies operating in any segment of the petroleum-sector value chain will be required to present an annual local content plan to the ANPG. Failure to comply with the rules established in the new statute will result in fines in local currency to the equivalent of between USD 50,000 and USD 300,000. Additional penalties may also be applied, such as barring companies from entering new contracts or operating altogether.

Although the GRA eliminated the 35 percent local content requirement in foreign investment and encourages foreign companies to invest in the domestic economy, some FDI screening processes continue. Foreign ownership remains limited to 49 percent in the oil and gas sector, 50 percent in insurance, and 10 percent in the banking and telecommunications sectors, though there have been some exceptions recently in which the foreign investment goes beyond the limit. There are several objectives that the GRA seeks to accomplish through its FDI screening processes: 1) create jobs for Angolans or transfer expertise to Angolan companies as part of an “Angolanization” plan; 2) protect sensitive industries such as defense and finance; 3) prevent capital flight or other behavior that could threaten the stability of the Angolan economy; and 4) diversify the economy and increase competitiveness of local industries.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Angola has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996. The WTO performed a policy review of Angola in September 2015. At the government’s request, the last Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Angola’s business and economic environments was completed on September 30, 2019 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD of Angola’s The IPR was part of a broader EU funded technical assistance project aimed to assist Angola in attracting and benefitting from FDI beyond the extractives industry and to support the GRA’s objective of increasing economic diversification and sustainable development. The full report and policy recommendations are accessible at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2019d4_en.pdf

The review identified remaining policy gaps and bottlenecks, including the complex system for FDI entry and establishment, burdensome operational regulations, the persistence of restrictive business practices and a lack of institutional capacity and coordination. These affect the country’s ability to fully take advantage of its strategic location, abundant natural resources, and preferential access to external markets.

The Review also devoted special attention to investment in agribusiness and its contribution to sustainable development. It calls for measures to foster responsible investment and promote inclusive modes of production in agriculture. The recommendations emphasize the need to strike a policy balance between food security and export development objectives, improve access to land and infrastructure, and promote entrepreneurship and skills development.

Business Facilitation

The World Bank Doing Business 2020 report ranked Angola 177 out of 190 countries and recorded an improvement in Angola’s monitoring and regulation of power outages, and in facilitating trade through the implementation of an automated customs data management system, ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) World, and by upgrading its port community system to allow for electronic information exchange between different parties involved in the import/export process. To commence a business, investors typically register with the General Tax Administration (AGT) Social Security Institute (INSS), National Press, and a local bank Launching a business typically requires 36 days, compared with a regional average of 27 days, with Angola ranked 146 out of the 190 economies evaluated.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency of trade facilitation reform to improve competitiveness in non-oil business sectors. With this, export procedures in the country cost USD 240 and take 98 hours, compared to an average of USD 173 and 72 hours for sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the reforms necessary to improve conditions for Angolan businesses, such as automating customs procedures or creating a single window, are addressed by the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which Angola ratified in April 2019. To facilitate opening, changing, or closing a company, the Guiche Único de Empresas one stop shop for investors (GUE) was folded into the Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX) in 2019. It combines the main public services for constitution of companies, GUE and AIPEX, allowing the investor to open and register companies and be able to access the tax benefits and other incentives resulting from the Private Investment Law.

On October 19, 2020, to facilitate the establishment of businesses and as a COVID-19 imposed biosafety measure, the GRA simplified procedures by creating an online registration portal for companies (www.gue.gov.ao). The online portal will allow for faster registry of companies (taking only 30-60 minutes) and replace the publication of the company registry in the Gazette (Diário da República), a procedure that took more than five days. There is still the option to set up a company in person, which is estimated to also take as little as 30 minutes to an hour. The cost to establish a sole proprietorship is USD 16 dollars and USD 54 for partnerships, corporations, and other entities. Payments are also made electronically.

In April 2020, to simplify bureaucracy and in anticipation of the economic slowdown eventually caused by COVID-19, the GRA proposed revoking the procedure for issuing business licenses for all economic activities and requiring companies to carry out statistical registration in the act of incorporation. With the abolition of the Company License Document (a commercial permit) and Statistical Registration, to begin business activities, companies need to register their activity with the local administration office. The office will issue an electronic operating license. Some exclusions from this regime are foreseen, such as those related to the trade in foodstuffs, live plant species, animals, birds and fisheries, medicines, car sales, lubricants and chemicals. For these sectors, a physical license is still required as they are considered high risk economic activities which may affect human, animal, environmental and state safety.

The state-run private investment and export promotion agency’s website is http://www.aipex.gov.ao/PortalAIPEX/#!/  . Contact Information: Departamento de Promoção e Captação do Investimento; Agencia de Investimento Privado e Promoção de Investimentos e Exportações de Angola (AIPEX). Rua Kwamme Nkrumah No.8, Maianga, Luanda, Angola Tel: (+244) 995 28 95 92| 222 33 12 52 Fax: (+244) 222 39 33 81.

Outward Investment

The Angolan Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict Angolans from investing abroad. Investors are free to invest in any foreign jurisdiction. According to data from the BNA, in 2018, the government did not invest abroad but received returns on previous investments abroad.

Domestic investors prefer to invest in Portuguese-speaking countries, with few investing in neighboring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The bulk of investment is in real estate, fashion, fashion accessories, and domestic goods. Due to foreign exchange constraints, there has been very little or no investment abroad by domestic investors. Although investing in real estate is cheaper abroad, a few invest in real estate domestically. The average Angolan invests in affordable investments with quick returns.

Antigua and Barbuda

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Antigua and Barbuda encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, enhance economic activity, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Diversification of the economy remains a priority.

Through the ABIA, the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services. ABIA offers complementary support services to investors exploring business opportunities, including facilitation of incentives and concessions, project monitoring, and general assistance. ABIA’s website is http://investantiguabarbuda.org . The government launched an additional website in early 2021 to serve as a “business hub for potential investors,” http://antiguabarbuda.com .

While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, it has identified tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy as priority investment areas. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment, and a local or foreign entrepreneur needs about 40 days from start to finish to transfer the title on a piece of property. In 1995, the government established a permanent residency program to encourage high-net-worth individuals to establish residency in Antigua and Barbuda for up to three years. As residents, their income is free of local taxation. In 2020, the government established the Nomad Digital Residence Visa program in which eligible remote workers can apply for a two-year special resident authorization. These programs are separate from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.

The ABIA evaluates all foreign direct investment proposals applying for government incentives and provides intelligence, business facilitation, and investment promotion to establish and expand profitable business enterprises. The ABIA also advises the government on issues that are important to the private sector and potential investors to increase the international competitiveness of the local economy.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda treats foreign and local investors equally with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECS, of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Established in 2006, the ABIA facilitates foreign direct investment in priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment. The ABIA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors. Its website is http://investantiguabarbuda.org . It also offers an online guide that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors. The guide is available at http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/antiguabarbuda .

All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the ABIA to ensure the project is consistent with national interests and provides economic benefits to the country.

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranked 130th out of 190 in the ease of starting a business. The establishment of a new business takes nine procedures and 19 days to complete. This time was reduced by three days because the government made improvements to the exchange of information between public entities involved in company incorporation. The general practice is to retain a local attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents. A business must register with the Intellectual Property and Commercial Office (IPCO), the Inland Revenue Department, the Medical Benefits Scheme, the Social Security Scheme, and the Board of Education.

The Antigua and Barbuda Science Innovation Park (ABSIP) launched in 2019 to support and create business startup opportunities that will generate sustainable business enterprises. ABSIP provides business incubation and financing, access to business financing, branding, training, partnership establishment, and other services. ABSIP’s website is http://absip.gov.ag .

The Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP) supports the creation of micro and small businesses with the intent of increasing the Antiguan and Barbudan ownership share of the country’s economy. Priority sectors in which EDP grants loans are agriculture and agroprocessing, manufacturing, information technology, e-business, and tourism.

Outward Investment

Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda prioritizes investment return as a key component of its overall economic strategy, there are no formal mechanisms in place to achieve this. To sustain future economic growth, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy depends on significant foreign direct investment.

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad. Local companies in Antigua and Barbuda are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Argentina

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Argentina has identified its top economic priorities for 2021 as resolving its debt situation with the IMF, controlling inflation, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing financial aid to the most vulnerable sectors of society. When the Fernandez administration took office in late 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Worship became the lead governmental entity for investment promotion.  The Fernandez administration does not have a formal business roundtable or other dialogue established with international investors, although it does engage with domestic and international companies.

Market regulations such as capital controls, trade restrictions, and price controls enhance economic distortion that hinders the investment climate in the country.

Foreign and domestic investors generally compete under the same conditions in Argentina. The amount of foreign investment is restricted in specific sectors such as aviation and media. Foreign ownership of rural productive lands, bodies of water, and areas along borders is also restricted.

Argentina has a National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency that provides information and consultation services to investors and traders on economic and financial conditions, investment opportunities, and Argentine laws and regulations. The agency also provides matchmaking services and organizes roadshows and trade delegations. Upon the change of administration, the government placed the Agency under the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to improve coordination between the Agency and Argentina´s foreign policy. The Under Secretary for Trade and Investment Promotion of the MFA works as a liaison between the Agency and provincial governments and regional organizations. The new administration also created the National Directorate for Investment Promotion under the Under Secretary for Trade and Investment Promotion, making the Directorate responsible for promoting Argentina as an investment destination. The Directorate´s mission also includes determining priority sectors and projects and helping Argentine companies expand internationally and/or attract international investment.

The agency’s web portal provides information on available services ( https://www.inversionycomercio.org.ar/ ). The 23 provinces and the City of Buenos Aires also have their own provincial investment and trade promotion offices.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic commercial entities in Argentina are regulated by the Commercial Partnerships Law (Law 19,550), the Argentina Civil and Commercial Code, and rules issued by the regulatory agencies. Foreign private entities can establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity in nearly all sectors.

Full foreign equity ownership of Argentine businesses is not restricted, for the most part, with exception in the air transportation and media industries. The share of foreign capital in companies that provide commercial passenger transportation within the Argentine territory is limited to 49 percent per the Aeronautic Code Law 17,285. The company must be incorporated according to Argentine law and domiciled in Buenos Aires. In the media sector, Law 25,750 establishes a limit on foreign ownership in television, radio, newspapers, journals, magazines, and publishing companies to 30 percent.

Law 26,737 (Regime for Protection of National Domain over Ownership, Possession or Tenure of Rural Land) establishes that a foreigner cannot own land that allows for the extension of existing bodies of water or that are located near a Border Security Zone. In February 2012, the government issued Decree 274/2012 further restricting foreign ownership to a maximum of 30 percent of national land and 15 percent of productive land. Foreign individuals or foreign company ownership is limited to 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) in the most productive farming areas. In June 2016, the Government of Argentina issued Decree 820 easing the requirements for foreign land ownership by changing the percentage that defines foreign ownership of a person or company, raising it from 25 percent to 51 percent of the social capital of a legal entity. Waivers are not available.

Argentina does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment. U.S. investors are not at a disadvantage to other foreign investors or singled out for discriminatory treatment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Argentina was last subject to an investment policy review by the OECD in 1997 and a trade policy review by the WTO in 2013. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has not done an investment policy review of Argentina.

Business Facilitation

In 2019, stemming from the country’s deteriorating financial and economic situation, the Argentine government re-imposed capital controls on business and consumers, limiting their access to foreign exchange.  Strict capital controls and increases in taxes on exports and imports the Argentine government instituted at the end of 2019 have generated uncertainty in the business climate.

With the stated aim of keeping inflation under control and avoiding production shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government increased market interventions in 2020, creating further market distortions that may deter investment. Argentina currently has two consumer goods price control programs, “Precios Cuidados, a voluntary program established in 2014, and “Precios Máximos, an emergency program established in March 2020. The Argentine Congress also passed the Shelves Law (No. 27,545), which regulates the supply, display, and distribution of products on supermarket shelves and virtual stores. Key articles of the Law are still pending implementing regulations. Private companies expressed concern over the final regulatory framework of the Law, which could affect their production, distribution, and marketing business model.

In August 2020, the government issued an edict freezing prices for telecommunication services (mobile and land), cable and satellite TV, and internet services until December 2020, later extending the measure into 2021. In Argentina’s high inflation environment, companies sought a 20 to 25 percent increase, however, the regulator allowed the telecom sector a five percent rate increase as of January 2021. The health sector was also subject to limits on price increases. In February 2021, the Secretary of Trade took administrative action against major consumer firms and food producers for purportedly causing supermarket shortages by withholding production and limiting distribution. Companies are currently contesting this decision. In March 2021, the Secretary of Domestic Trade issued Resolution 237/2021 establishing a national registry to monitor the production levels, distribution, and sales of private companies. If companies fail to comply, they could be subject to fines or closure. Tighter import controls imposed by the Fernandez administration have affected the business plans of private companies that need imported inputs for production. The private sector noted increased discretion on the part of trade authorities responsible for approving import licenses.

The Ministry of Production eased bureaucratic hurdles for foreign trade through the creation of a Single Window for Foreign Trade (“VUCE” for its Spanish acronym) in 2016. The VUCE centralizes the administration of all required paperwork for the import, export, and transit of goods (e.g., certificates, permits, licenses, and other authorizations and documents). The Argentine government has not fully implemented the VUCE for use across the country. Argentina subjects imports to automatic or non-automatic licenses that are managed through the Comprehensive Import Monitoring System (SIMI, or Sistema Integral de Monitoreo de Importaciones), established in December 2015 by the National Tax Agency (AFIP by its Spanish acronym) through Resolutions 5/2015 and 3823/2015. The SIMI system requires importers to submit detailed information electronically about goods to be imported into Argentina. Once the information is submitted, the relevant Argentine government agencies can review the application through the VUCE and make any observations or request additional information. The list of products subject to non-automatic licensing has been modified several times since the beginning of the SIMI system. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government reclassified goods needed to combat the health emergency previously subject to non-automatic import licenses to automatic import licenses. Approximately 1,500 tariff lines are currently subject to non-automatic licenses.

The Argentine Congress approved an Entrepreneurs’ Law in March 2017, which allows for the creation of a simplified joint-stock company (SAS, or Sociedad por Acciones Simplificada) online within 24 hours of registration. However, in March 2020, the Fernandez administration annulled the 24-hour registration system. Industry groups said this hindered the entrepreneurship ecosystem by revoking one of the pillars of the Entrepreneurs´ Law.

In December 2020, the government issued the regulatory framework for the Knowledge Based-Economy Law, which was passed in October 2020. The Law establishes tax benefits for entrepreneurs until December 2029. The complete list of activities included in the tax benefit can be found at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do;jsessionid=56625A2FC5152F34ECE583158D581896?id=346218 .

Foreign investors seeking to set up business operations in Argentina follow the same procedures as domestic entities without prior approval and under the same conditions as local investors. To open a local branch of a foreign company in Argentina, the parent company must be legally registered in Argentina. Argentine law requires at least two equity holders, with the minority equity holder maintaining at least a five percent interest. In addition to the procedures required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing itself in Argentina must legalize the parent company’s documents, register the incoming foreign capital with the Argentine Central Bank, and obtain a trading license.

A company must register its name with the Office of Corporations (IGJ, or Inspección General de Justicia). The IGJ website describes the registration process and some portions can be completed online ( https://www.argentina.gob.ar/justicia/igj/guia-de-tramites ). Once the IGJ registers the company, the company must request that the College of Public Notaries submit the company’s accounting books to be certified with the IGJ. The company’s legal representative must obtain a tax identification number from AFIP, register for social security, and obtain blank receipts from another agency. Companies can register with AFIP online at www.afip.gob.ar or by submitting the sworn affidavit form No. 885 to AFIP.

Details on how to register a company can be found at the Ministry of Productive Development’s website: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/produccion/crear-una-empresa . Instructions on how to obtain a tax identification code can be found at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/obtener-el-cuit-por-internet .

The enterprise must also provide workers’ compensation insurance for its employees through the Workers’ Compensation Agency (ART, or Aseguradora de Riesgos del Trabajo). The company must register and certify its accounting of wages and salaries with the Secretariat of Labor, within the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security.

In April 2016, the Small Business Administration of the United States and the Ministry of Production of Argentina signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to set up small and medium sized business development centers (SBDCs) in Argentina.  Under the MOU, in June 2017, Argentina set up a SBDC in the province of Neuquén to provide small businesses with tools to improve their productivity and increase their growth.

The Ministry of Productive Development offers attendance-based courses and online training for businesses. The training menu can be viewed at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/produccion/capacitacion .

Outward Investment

The National Directorate for Investment Promotion under the Under Secretary for Trade and Investment Promotion at the MFA assists Argentine companies in expanding their business overseas, in coordination with the National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency. Argentina does not have any restrictions regarding domestic entities investing overseas, nor does it incentivize outward investment.

Armenia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Armenia officially welcomes foreign investment. The Ministry of Economy is the main government body responsible for the development of investment policy in Armenia. Armenia has achieved respectable rankings on some global indices measuring the country’s business climate. Armenia’s investment and trade policy is relatively open; foreign companies are entitled by law to the same treatment as Armenian companies. Armenia has strong human capital and a well-educated population, particularly in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, leading to significant investment in the high-tech and information technology sectors. Many international companies have established branches or subsidiaries in Armenia to take advantage of the country’s pool of qualified specialists and position within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). However, many businesses have identified challenges with Armenia’s investment climate in terms of the country’s small market (with a population of less than three million), limited consumer buying power, relative geographic isolation due to closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and concerns related to weaknesses in the rule of law.

Following a revolution in April/May 2018 fueled in large measure by popular frustration with endemic corruption, Armenia’s government launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign. The campaign has yielded a number of high-profile cases. Beyond these successes, the fight against corruption needs to be institutionalized in the long term, especially in critical areas such as the judiciary, tax and customs operations, and health, education, military, and law enforcement sectors. Foreign investors remain concerned about the rule of law, equal treatment, and ethical conduct by government officials. U.S companies have reported that the investment climate is tainted by a failure to enforce intellectual property rights. There have been concerns regarding the lack of an independent and strong judiciary, which undermines the government’s assurances of equal treatment and transparency and reduces access to effective recourse in instances of investment or commercial disputes. Concerns about equal treatment, particularly on the basis of nationality, are fueled by perceptions of the uneven application of laws and regulations across enterprises in specific industries. Representatives of U.S. entities have raised concerns about the quality of stakeholder consultation by the government with the private sector and government responsiveness in addressing concerns among the business community. Government officials have publicly responded to private sector concerns about perceptions of slow movement in the government bureaucracy as a function of needing to guard against corruption-related risks. The Armenian National Interests Fund and Investment Support Center are responsible for attracting and facilitating inward foreign direct investment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are very few restrictions with regard to limitations on foreign ownership or control of commercial enterprises. There are some restrictions on foreign ownership within the media and commercial aviation sectors. Local incorporation is required to obtain a license for the provision of auditing services.

The Armenian government does not maintain investment screening mechanisms for foreign direct investment in particular. Government approval is required to take advantage of certain tax and customs privileges, and foreign investors are subject to the same requirements as domestic investors where regulatory approvals may be involved.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2019, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published its first  investment policy review for Armenia . The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a  Trade Policy Review for Armenia  in 2018.

Business Facilitation

Armenia has traditionally fared well in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report.  The government has announced its commitment to addressing deficiencies that prevent Armenia from obtaining a higher ranking. Companies can register electronically here .  This single window service was launched in 2011 and allows individual entrepreneurs and companies to complete name reservation, business registration, and tax identification processes all at once.  The application can be completed in one day. An electronic signature is needed in order to be able to register online. Foreign citizens can obtain an e-signature and more detailed information from the e-signature portal .  In December 2019, the government launched a new e-regulations platform that provides a step-by-step guide for business and investment procedures. The platform is available here . According to the World Bank’s most recent Ease of Doing Business report, it takes four days to complete the company registration process in Armenia.

Outward Investment

The Armenian government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Australia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Australia is generally welcoming to foreign direct investment (FDI), with foreign investment widely considered to be an essential contributor to Australia’s economic growth. Other than certain required review and approval procedures for designated types of foreign investment described below, there are no laws that discriminate against foreign investors.

A number of investment promotion agencies operate in Australia. The Australian Trade Commission (often referred to as Austrade) is the Commonwealth Government’s national “gateway” agency to support investment into Australia. Austrade provides coordinated government assistance to promote, attract, and facilitate FDI, supports Australian companies to grow their business in international markets, and delivers advice to the Australian Government on its trade, tourism, international education and training, and investment policy agendas. Austrade operates through a number of international offices, with U.S. offices primarily focused on attracting foreign direct investment into Australia and promoting the Australian education sector in the United States. Austrade in the United States operates from offices in Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. In addition, state and territory investment promotion agencies also support international investment at the state level and in key sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Within Australia, foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises and may engage in all forms of remunerative activity in accordance with national legislative and regulatory practices. See Section 4: Legal Regime – Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment below for information on Australia’s investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other than the screening process described in Section 4, there are few limits or restrictions on foreign investment in Australia. Foreign purchases of agricultural land greater than AUD 15 million (USD 11 million) are subject to screening. This threshold applies to the cumulative value of agricultural land owned by the foreign investor, including the proposed purchase. However, the agricultural land screening threshold does not affect investments made under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). The current threshold remains AUD 1.216 billion (USD 940 million) for U.S. non-government investors. Investments made by U.S. non-government investors are subject to inclusion on the foreign ownership register of agricultural land and to Australian Tax Office (ATO) information gathering activities on new foreign investment.

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), which advises Australia’s Treasurer, may impose conditions when approving foreign investments. These conditions can be diverse and may include: retention of a minimum proportion of Australian directors; certain requirements on business activities, such as the requirement not to divest certain assets; and certain taxation requirements. Such conditions are in keeping with Australia’s policy of ensuring foreign investments are in the national interest.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Australia has not conducted an investment policy review in the last three years through either the OECD or UNCTAD system. The WTO reviewed Australia’s trade policies and practices in 2019, and the final report can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp496_e.htm .

The Australian Trade Commission compiles an annual “Why Australia Benchmark Report” that presents comparative data on investing in Australia in the areas of Growth, Innovation, Talent, Location, and Business. The report also compares Australia’s investment credentials with other countries and provides a general snapshot on Australia’s investment climate. See: http://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Resources/Benchmark-Report .

Business Facilitation

Business registration in Australia is relatively straightforward and is facilitated through a number of government websites. The government’s business.gov.au website provides an online resource and is intended as a “whole-of-government” service providing essential information on planning, starting, and growing a business. Foreign entities intending to conduct business in Australia as a foreign company must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). As Australia’s corporate, markets, and financial services regulator, ASIC’s website provides information and guides on starting and managing a business or company in the country.

In registering a business, individuals and entities are required to register as a company with ASIC, which then gives the company an Australian Company Number, registers the company, and issues a Certificate of Registration. According to the World Bank “Starting a Business” indicator, registering a business in Australia takes two days, and Australia ranks 7th globally on this indicator.

Outward Investment

Australia generally looks positively towards outward investment as a way to grow its economy. There are no restrictions on investing abroad. Austrade, Export Finance Australia (EFA), and various other government agencies offer assistance to Australian businesses looking to invest abroad, and some sector-specific export and investment programs exist. The United States is the top destination, by far, for Australian investment overseas.

Austria

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Austrian government welcomes foreign direct investment, particularly when such investments have the potential to create new jobs, support advanced technology fields, promote capital-intensive industries, and enhance links to research and development.

There are limited restrictions on foreign investment. American investors have not complained of discriminatory laws against foreign investors. Austria strengthened its national security investment screening law, lowering the threshold at which government approval of the transaction is required to 10 percent foreign ownership for sensitive sectors. Please see the “Laws and Regulations on Foreign Investment” section below for further details. The corporate tax rate, a 25 percent flat tax, is above the OECD average of 21.5 percent. The government announced plans to reduce it to 21 percent in 2024 but the global pandemic may delay these plans. U.S. citizens and investors have occasionally reported that it is difficult to establish and maintain banking services since the U.S.-Austria Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) Agreement went into force in 2014, as some Austrian banks have been reluctant to take on this reporting burden.

Potential investors should also be aware of Austria’s lengthy environmental impact assessments in their investment decision-making. Some sectors also suffer from heavy regulation that may affect certain investments. For example, the requirement that over 50 percent of an energy provider must be publicly owned places a potential cap on investments in the energy sector. Strict liability and co-existence regulations in the agriculture sector restrict research and virtually outlaw the cultivation, marketing, or distribution of biotechnology crops. The mining and transportation sectors are also heavily regulated.

Austria’s national investment promotion organization, the Austrian Business Agency (ABA), is a useful first point of contact for foreign companies interested in establishing operations in Austria. It provides comprehensive information about Austria as a business location, identifies suitable sites for greenfield investments, and consults in setting up a company. ABA provides its services free of charge.

The Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Austria (Amcham) are also good resources for foreign investors. Both conduct annual polls of their members to measure their satisfaction with the business climate, thus providing early warning to the government of problems identified by investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are limited restrictions on foreign ownership of private businesses in Austria. A local managing director must be appointed to any newly established enterprise. For non-EU citizens to establish and own a business, the Austrian Foreigner’s Law mandates a residence permit that includes the right to run a business. Many Austrian trades are regulated, and the right to run a business in regulated trade sectors is only granted when certain preconditions are met, such as certificates of competence, and recognition of foreign education.

Austria’s updated national security investment screening law, strengthened in July 2020, retains an investment screening process to review potential high-risk foreign acquisitions of 25% or more of a company essential to the country’s infrastructure, lowering the threshold to 10% ownership for sensitive sectors (see the “Laws and Regulations on Foreign Investment” section below for further details). In April 2019, the EU Regulation on establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments entered into force. It creates a cooperation mechanism through which EU countries and the European Commission will exchange information and raise concerns related to specific investments which could potentially threaten the security of other EU countries.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Not applicable.

Business Facilitation

While the World Bank ranked Austria as the 27th best country in 2020 with regard to “ease of doing business” (www.doingbusiness.org ), starting a business takes time and requires many procedural steps (Austria ranked 127th in this category in 2020). The average time to set up a company is 21 days, while the average time in OECD high income countries is 9.2 days.

In order to register a new company or open a subsidiary in Austria, a company must first be listed on the Austrian Companies Register at a local court. The next step is to seek confirmation of registration from the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO) establishing that the company is really a new business. The investor must then notarize the “declaration of establishment,” deposit a minimum capital requirement with an Austrian bank, register with the tax office, register with the district trade authority, register employees for social security, and register with the municipality where the business will be located. Finally, membership in the WKO is mandatory for all businesses in Austria.

For sole proprietorships, it is possible under certain conditions to use an online registration process via government websites in the German language to either found or register a company: https://www.usp.gv.at/Portal.Node/usp/public/content/gruendung/egruendung/269403.html : or www.gisa.gv.at/online-gewerbeanmeldung . It is advisable to seek information from ABA or the WKO before applying to register a firm.

The website of the ABA contains further details and contact information and is intended to serve as a first point of contact for foreign investors in Austria: https://investinaustria.at/en/starting-business/ .

Outward Investment

The Austrian government encourages outward investment. Advantage Austria, the “Austrian Foreign Trade Service” is a special section of the WKO that promotes Austrian exports and also supports Austrian companies establishing an overseas presence. Advantage Austria operates six offices in the United States (Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Francisco). Overall, it has about 100 trade offices in 70 countries across the world, reflecting Austria’s strong export focus and the important role the WKO plays. (https://www.wko.at/service/aussenwirtschaft/aussenwirtschaftscenter.html#heading_aussenwirtschaftscenter ) The Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and the WKO run a joint program called “Go International,” providing services to Austrian companies that are considering investing for the first time in foreign countries. The program provides grants for market access costs and provides “soft subsidies,” such as counseling, legal advice, and marketing support.

Azerbaijan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Azerbaijani government actively seeks foreign direct investment. Flows of foreign direct investment to Azerbaijan have risen steadily in recent years, primarily in the energy sector. Foreign investment in the government’s priority sectors for economic diversification (agriculture, transportation, tourism, and ICT) has thus far been limited.

Foreign investments enjoy complete and unreserved legal protection under the Law on the Protection of Foreign Investment, the Law on Investment Activity, and guarantees contained within international agreements and treaties. In accordance with these laws, Azerbaijan will treat foreign investors, including foreign partners in joint ventures, in a manner no less favorable than the treatment accorded to national investors. Azerbaijan’s Law on the Protection of Foreign Investments protects foreign investors against nationalization and requisition, except under specific circumstances. The Azerbaijani government has not shown any pattern of discriminating against U.S. persons or entities through illegal expropriation.

Azerbaijan’s primary body responsible for investment promotion is the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Agency (AzPromo). AzPromo is a joint public-private initiative, established by the Ministry of Economy and Industry in 2003 to foster the country’s economic development and diversification by attracting foreign investment into the non-oil sector and stimulating non-oil exports. A January 2018 decree called for new legislation, which has not yet been introduced, to ensure Azerbaijan conforms to international standards to protect foreign investor rights. The Azerbaijani government meets regularly with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) to solicit the input from the business community, particularly as part of AmCham’s biennial white paper process. In 2018, AmCham reported the government accepted around 50 percent of the proposals put forth in their white paper. The next white paper, planned for 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreigners are allowed to register business entities by opening a fully owned subsidiary, acquiring shares of an existing company, or by creating a joint venture with a local partner. Foreign companies are also permitted to operate in Azerbaijan without creating a local legal entity by registering a representative or branch office with the tax authorities.

Foreigners are not permitted to own land in Azerbaijan but are permitted to lease land and own real estate. Under Azerbaijani laws, the state must retain a controlling stake in companies operating in the mining, oil and gas, satellite communication, and military arms sectors, limiting foreign or domestic private ownership to a 49 percent share of companies in these industries. Foreign ownership in the media sector is also strictly limited. Furthermore, a special license to conduct business is required for foreign or domestic companies operating in telecommunications, sea and air transportation, insurance, and other regulated industries. Azerbaijan does not screen inbound foreign investment, and U.S. investors are not specifically disadvantaged by any existing control mechanisms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Azerbaijan has not conducted an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) investment policy review, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) investment policy review, or a WTO Trade Policy Review.

Business Facilitation

Azerbaijani law requires all companies operating in the country to register. Without formal registration, a company may not maintain a bank account or clear goods through customs. As part of the ongoing business law reforms, a “Single Window” principle was introduced January 1, 2008, significantly streamlining the registration process. Businesses must now only register with the tax authorities, which takes approximately three days for commercial organizations. Since 2011, companies have also been able to e-register at http://taxes.gov.az .

In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, Azerbaijan’s final published score was 78.5, ranking 28 out of 190 countries worldwide. This rank placed Azerbaijan as a “top ten reformer” country per the report.

Outward Investment

Azerbaijan does not actively promote or incentivize outward investment, though Azerbaijani entities, particularly the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), have invested in various countries, including the United States. SOFAZ investment is typically limited to real estate, precious metals, and low-yield government securities. SOCAR has invested heavily in oil and gas infrastructure and petrochemicals processing in Turkey and Georgia, as well as gas pipeline networks in Greece, Albania, and Italy as part of the Southern Gas Corridor that transports Azerbaijani gas to European markets. The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing overseas.

Bahamas

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government encourages FDI, particularly in the tourism and financial services sector. The National Investment Policy (NIP) and the Commercial Enterprises Act (CEA) explicitly encourage foreign investment in certain sectors of the economy: touristic resorts; upscale villas, condominium, timeshare, and second home development; international business centers; aircraft and maritime services; marinas; information and data processing; information technology services; light industry manufacturing and assembly; agro-industries; mari-culture; food and beverage processing; banking and other financial services; offshore medical centers and services; e-commerce; arbitration; international arbitrage; computer programming; software design and writing; bioinformatics and analytics; and data storage and warehousing.

The Bahamas has an investment promotion strategy that includes multiple government agencies working to attract foreign direct investment. The Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) ( www.bahamas.gov.bs/bia ) takes the lead on administering investment policies, functions as the investment facilitation agency, and acts as a ‘one stop shop’ to assist investors in navigating the cumbersome approvals process. All foreign investors must apply for approval from the BIA. Each administration has consistently supported new investment and has generally honored agreements made by previous administrations. The current government has introduced policies and legislative support for Small and Medium Enterprises (which represent 85 percent of registered businesses), and in 2018 launched the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC). The SBDC provides business advisory services, training, professional development opportunities, incubation services, access to capital, and advocacy for individual businesses. In response to the pandemic and to create opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs, the government earmarked $250 million in 2020 for loans and grants over five years to local small and medium enterprises.

The Bahamas reserves certain sectors of the economy for Bahamian investors. The reserved areas are: wholesale and retail operations (although international investors may engage in the wholesale distribution of any product they produce locally); agencies engaged in import or export; real estate agencies and domestic property management; domestic newspapers and magazine publications; domestic advertising and public relations firms; nightclubs and restaurants except specialty, gourmet, and ethnic restaurants, and those operating in a hotel, resort or tourist attraction; security services; domestic distribution of building supplies; construction companies except for special structures requiring foreign expertise; personal cosmetic or beauty establishments; commercial fishing including both deep water fishing and shallow water fishing of crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and sponges; auto and appliance services; public transportation including boat charters; and domestic gaming. The government does make exceptions to this policy on a case-by-case basis, and the Embassy is aware of several cases in which the Bahamian government has granted foreign investors full market access.

With the exception of these sectors, the Bahamian government does not give preferential treatment to investors based on nationality, and investors have equal access to incentives, which include land grants, tax concessions, and direct marketing and budgetary support. The government provides guidelines for investment through the National Investment Policy (NIP), administered by the BIA, and through the Commercial Enterprises Act (CEA) administered by the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration. The CEA provides incentives to domestic and foreign investors to establish specific investment projects, including approval of a specified number of work permits for senior posts and the expedited issuance of work permits.

Large foreign investment projects, particularly those that require environmental and economic impact assessments, require approval by the National Economic Council (NEC) of The Bahamas. This process generally requires review by multiple government agencies prior to NEC consideration. Bureaucratic impediments are not limited to the NEC approvals process, and the country continues to lag on international metrics related to starting a business. According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business rankings, The Bahamas scores 119 out of 190 countries overall, 181 in registering property, 77 in getting construction permits, 152 in access to credit, and 71 in resolving insolvency. All these categories saw a decrease in ratings from 2019 metrics, with the exception of getting construction permits. The Embassy is aware of cases of significant delays in the approvals process, including cases where the Bahamian government failed to respond to investment applications. Despite bureaucratic challenges and the impact of COVID-19, investment continues in tourism, finance, construction, and fast-food franchises.

In response to the losses from Hurricane Dorian and the economic fallout from COVID-19, the government announced efforts to accelerate FDI, including liberalization of requirements for investment and accelerating the review process for proposals. In April 2020, the government also appointed an Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) – a public-private coalition to develop recommendations for government policies to addresses the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERC’s full report can be accessed via https://opm.gov.bs/economic-recovery-committee-executive-summary-report-2020/ .

The ERC’s nearly two dozen recommendations were intended to transform the Bahamian investment regime, remove structural impediments, and incentivize domestic and foreign investment. The government accepted certain recommendations, including the establishment of an entrepreneur visa for persons wishing to work or study from The Bahamas for one year ( www.bahamasbeats.com ), limiting approvals for projects under $10 million, creating special economic zones on lesser developed islands, and establishing an autonomous agency to oversee a modern investment regime (INVESTBAHAMAS). With this new agency in place, bureaucratic delays, functionality and transparency are expected to improve. The agency will reportedly give priority to high-tech financial products, biotechnology, renewable energy investments, and climate adaptability projects. INVESTBAHAMAS remains in the planning stages.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have the right to establish private enterprises and, after approval, most companies operate unencumbered. Key considerations for approval include economic impact, job creation, infrastructural development, economic diversification, environmental protection and corporate social responsibility. With the assistance of a local attorney, investors can create the following types of businesses: sole proprietorship, limited or general partnership, joint stock company, or subsidiary of a foreign company. The most popular all-purpose vehicles for foreign investors are the International Business Company (IBC) and the Limited Duration Company (LDC). Both benefit from income, capital gains, gift, estate, inheritance, and succession tax exemptions. Investors are required to establish a local company and be registered to operate in The Bahamas.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Bahamas ranks 119 out of 190 countries in terms of “ease of doing business” in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. See http://doingbusiness.org/rankings . The Bahamas is the only Western Hemisphere country not in the WTO, and therefore has never benefitted from a WTO trade policy review. The current government launched accession negotiations with the WTO in April 2019, initially announcing the goal of full membership later the same year. However, the government later described the 2019 target as purely aspirational, confirming it was unlikely accession would take place before 2025. A vocal domestic constituency opposes WTO accession on the grounds that membership will hurt domestic producers and service providers.

Neither the OECD nor UNCTAD have conducted investment policy reviews. The Bahamas achieved the G-20 standard on transparency and cooperation on tax matters, a standard initially advanced by the OECD.

Business Facilitation

According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Index, starting a business in The Bahamas takes 12 days, requires seven procedures, and costs the same for both men and women. In 2017, the Bahamian government streamlined this process and launched an e-business portal, which allowed companies to apply for or renew their business licenses online ( http://inlandrevenue.finance.gov.bs/business-licence/copy-applying-b-l/ ).

In 2020, as part of the business license application process, the government expanded provisional licenses for many small, domestic businesses so the majority would be able to start operations while awaiting formal approval. The government also removed the fee for starting a new business and renewed business licenses in under 48 hours. Foreign companies and most larger businesses are not eligible for provisional licenses, expedited renewals, or new business license fee exemptions.

All companies with an annual turnover of $100,000 or more are required to register with the government to receive a Tax Identification Number and a Value Added Tax Certificate. The lengthy registration processes are generally viewed as an impediment to the ease of doing business.

Outward Investment

The Bahamian government neither promotes nor prohibits its citizens from investing internationally, however, all outward direct investments by residents require the prior approval of the Exchange Control Department of the Central Bank of The Bahamas ( https://www.centralbankbahamas.com/exchange-control-notes-and-guidelines ). Applications are considered in light of the probable impact the investments may have on The Bahamas’ balance of payments, specifically business activities that promote the receipt of foreign currency.

Bahrain

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOB has a liberal approach to foreign investment and actively seeks to attract foreign investors and businesses. Increasing FDI is a top GOB priority. The GOB permits 100 percent foreign ownership of a business or branch office, without the need for a sponsor or local business partner. The GOB does not tax corporate income, personal income, wealth, capital gains, withholding or death/inheritance. There are no restrictions on repatriation of capital, profits or dividends, aside from income generated by companies in the oil and gas sector, where profits are taxable at the rate of 46 percent. Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), charged with promoting FDI in Bahrain, places particular emphasis on attracting FDI to the manufacturing, logistics, ICT, financial services and tourism and leisure sectors. As a reflection of Bahrain’s openness to FDI, the EDB won the 2019 United Nations Top Investment Promotion Agency in the Middle East award for its role in attracting large-scale investments.

The United States and Bahrain signed an MOU in 2021 to establish a U.S Trade Zone in Bahrain, which aims to facilitate U.S. trade to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market.

To date, U.S. investors have not alleged any legal or practical discrimination against them based on nationality.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GOB permits foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. The GOB imposes only minimal limits on foreign control, and the right of ownership and establishment of a business. The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism (MoICT) maintains a small list of business activities that are restricted to Bahraini ownership, including press and publications, Islamic pilgrimage, clearance offices, and workforce agencies. The U.S.-Bahrain FTA outlines all activities in which the two countries restrict foreign ownership.

U.S citizens may own and operate companies in Bahrain, though many such individuals choose to integrate influential local partners into the ownership structure to facilitate quicker resolution of bureaucratic issues such as labor permits, issuance of foreign visas, and access to industrial zones. The most common challenges faced by U.S firms are those related to bureaucratic government processes, lack of market information, and customs clearance.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducts a formal Trade Policy Review of Bahrain every seven years. Its last formal review  was in 2014. Bahrain is on the WTO’s Provisional Programme of Reviews for December 2021.

Business Facilitation

Bahrain ranked 43 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s overall Ease of Doing Business Indicator in 2020.

The CBB’s regulatory sandbox allows local and international FinTech firms and digitally focused financial institutions to test innovative solutions in a regulated environment, allowing successful firms to obtain licensing upon successful product application.

The MoICT operates the online commercial registration portal “Sijilat” ( www.sijilat.bh ) to facilitate the commercial registration process. Through Sijilat, local and foreign business owners can obtain a business license and requisite approvals from relevant ministries. The business registration process normally takes two to three weeks but can take longer if a business requires specialized approvals. In practice, some business owners retain an attorney or clearing agent to assist them through the commercial registration process.

In addition to obtaining primary approval to register a company, most business owners must also obtain licenses from the following entities to operate their businesses:

  • MoICT
  • Electricity and Water Authority
  • The Municipality in which their business will be located
  • Labour Market Regulatory Authority
  • General Organization for Social Insurance
  • National Bureau for Revenue (Mandatory if the business revenue exceeds BD 37,500)

To incentivize foreign investment in Bahrain’s targeted sectors and investment zones, the GOB provides industrial lands at reduced rental rates; customs duty exemptions for industrial and manufacturing projects, including imports of raw material, plant machinery equipment, and spare parts; and a five-year exemption of the “Bahrainization” recruitment restriction.

Outward Investment

The GOB neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment. The GOB does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Bangladesh

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Bangladesh actively seeks foreign investment. Sectors with active investments from overseas include agribusiness, garment and textiles, leather and leather goods, light manufacturing, electronics, light engineering, energy and power, information and communications technology (ICT), plastic, healthcare, medical equipment, pharmaceutical, ship building, and infrastructure. It offers a range of investment incentives under its industrial policy and export-oriented growth strategy with few formal distinctions between foreign and domestic private investors.

Foreign and domestic private entities can establish and own, operate, and dispose of interests in most types of business enterprises. Four sectors, however, are reserved for government investment:

  • Arms and ammunition and other defense equipment and machinery.
  • Forest plantation and mechanized extraction within the bounds of reserved forests.
  • Production of nuclear energy.
  • Security printing (items such as currency, visa foils, and tax stamps).

The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) is the principal authority tasked with supervising and promoting private investment. The BIDA Act of 2016 approved the merger of the now-disbanded Board of Investment and the Privatization Committee. BIDA is directly supervised by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Executive Chairman of BIDA holds a rank equivalent to Senior Secretary, the highest rank within the civil service. BIDA performs the following functions:

  • Provides pre-investment counseling services.
  • Registers and approves private industrial projects.
  • Issues approval of branch/liaison/representative offices.
  • Issues work permits for foreign nationals.
  • Issues approval of royalty remittances, technical know-how, and technical assistance fees.
  • Facilitates import of capital machinery and raw materials.
  • Issues approvals of foreign loans and supplier credits.

BIDA’s website has aggregated information regarding Bangladesh investment policies, incentives, and ease of doing business indicators:  http://bida.gov.bd/  

In addition to BIDA, there are three other Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) responsible for promoting investments in their respective jurisdictions.

  • Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) promotes investments in Export Processing Zones (EPZs). The first EPZ was established in the 1980s and there are currently eight EPZs in the country. Website: https://www.bepza.gov.bd/
  • Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) plans to establish approximately 100 Economic Zones (EZs) throughout the country over the next several years. Site selections for 97 EZs have been completed as of February 2021, of which 11 private EZs are already licensed and operational while development of several other public and private sector EZs are underway. While EPZs accommodate exporting companies only, EZs are open for both export- and domestic-oriented companies. Website: https://www.beza.gov.bd/
  • Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA) is responsible for attracting and facilitating investments in the high-tech parks Bangladesh is establishing across the country. Website: http://bhtpa.gov.bd/

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities can establish and own, operate, and dispose of interests in most types of business enterprises. Bangladesh allows private investment in power generation and natural gas exploration, but efforts to allow full foreign participation in petroleum marketing and gas distribution have stalled. Regulations in the area of telecommunication infrastructure currently include provisions for 60 percent foreign ownership (70 percent for tower sharing). In addition to the four sectors reserved for government investment, there are 17 controlled sectors that require prior clearance/ permission from the respective line ministries/authorities. These are:

  • Fishing in the deep sea.
  • Bank/financial institutions in the private sector.
  • Insurance companies in the private sector.
  • Generation, supply, and distribution of power in the private sector.
  • Exploration, extraction, and supply of natural gas/oil.
  • Exploration, extraction, and supply of coal.
  • Exploration, extraction, and supply of other mineral resources.
  • Large-scale infrastructure projects (e.g., elevated expressway, monorail, economic zone, inland container depot/container freight station).
  • Crude oil refinery (recycling/refining of lube oil used as fuel).
  • Medium and large industries using natural gas/condensate and other minerals as raw material.
  • Telecommunications service (mobile/cellular and land phone).
  • Satellite channels.
  • Cargo/passenger aviation.
  • Sea-bound ship transport.
  • Seaports/deep seaports.
  • VOIP/IP telephone.
  • Industries using heavy minerals accumulated from sea beaches.

While discrimination against foreign investors is not widespread, the government frequently promotes local industries, and some discriminatory policies and regulations exist. For example, the government closely controls approvals for imported medicines that compete with domestically manufactured pharmaceutical products and it has required majority local ownership of new shipping and insurance companies, albeit with exemptions for existing foreign-owned firms. In practical terms, foreign investors frequently find it necessary to have a local partner even though this requirement may not be statutorily defined. In certain strategic sectors, the GOB has placed unofficial barriers on foreign companies’ ability to divest from the country.

BIDA is responsible for screening, reviewing, and approving investments in Bangladesh, except for investments in EPZs, EZs, and High-Tech Parks, which are supervised by BEPZA, BEZA, and BHTPA respectively. Both foreign and domestic companies are required to obtain approval from relevant ministries and agencies with regulatory oversight. In certain sectors (e.g., healthcare), foreign companies may be required to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the relevant ministry or agency stating the specific investment will not hinder local manufacturers and is in line with the guidelines of the ministry concerned. Since Bangladesh actively seeks foreign investments, instances where one of the Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) declines investment proposals are rare.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2013 Bangladesh completed an investment policy review (IPR) with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD):  https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=756  

A Trade Policy Review was done by the World Trade Organization in April 2019 and can be found at:  https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp485_e.htm  

Business Facilitation

In February 2018, the Bangladesh Parliament passed the “One Stop Service Bill 2018,” which aims to streamline business and investment registration processes. The four IPAs — BIDA, BEPZA, BEZA, and BHTPA — are mandated to provide one-stop services (OSS) to local and foreign investors under their respective jurisdictions. Expected streamlined services include company registration, taxpayer’s identification number (TIN) and value added tax (VAT) registration, work permit issuance, power and utilities connections, capital and profit repatriation, and environment clearance. In 2019 Bangladesh made reforms in three key areas: starting a business, getting electricity, and getting credit. These and other regulatory changes led to an improvement by eight ranks on the World Bank’s Doing Business score, moving up from 176 to 168 of the 190 countries rated. BIDA offers more than 40 services under its OSS as of March 2021 and has a plan to expand to 154 services covering 35 agencies. The GOB is also planning to integrate the services of all four investment promotion agencies under a single online platform. Progress on realizing a comprehensive OSS for businesses has been slowed by bureaucratic delays and a lack of interagency coordination.

Companies can register their businesses at the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC):  www.roc.gov.bd  . However, the online business registration process, while improving, can at times be unclear and inconsistent. Additionally, BIDA facilitates company registration services as part of its OSS, which is available at:  https://bidaquickserv.org/ . BIDA also facilitates other services including office set-up approval, work permits for foreign employees, environmental clearance, outward remittance approval, and tax registration with National Board of Revenue. Other agencies with which a company must typically register are:

City Corporation – Trade License

National Board of Revenue – Tax & VAT Registration

Chief Inspector of Shops and Establishments – Employment of Workers Notification

It takes approximately 20 days to start a business in the country according to the World Bank. The company registration process at the RJSC generally takes one or two days to complete. The process for trade licensing, tax registration, and VAT registration requires seven days, one day, and one week respectively, as of February 2021.

Outward Investment

Outward foreign direct investment is generally restricted through the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947. As a result, the Bangladesh Bank plays a key role in limiting outbound investment. In September 2015, the government amended the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947 by adding a “conditional provision” that permits outbound investment for export-related enterprises. Private sector contacts note the few international investments approved by the Bangladesh Bank have been limited to large exporting companies with international experience.

Barbados

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Barbados, through Invest Barbados, welcomes foreign direct investment with the stated goals of creating jobs, earning foreign exchange, transferring technology, enhancing skills, and contributing to economic growth. In 2021, the government announced plans to focus on encouraging foreign direct investment in renewable energy, manufacturing, technology, and biogenetic engineering.

Barbados encourages investment in the following key sectors: international financial services, information technology, and ship registration, as well as developing areas like financial technology, creative industries, agricultural processing, medical schools, medical tourism, and renewable energy. In the international financial services sector, the government maintains regulatory oversight via the Central Bank of Barbados to prevent money laundering and tax evasion.

Through Invest Barbados, the government facilitates domestic and foreign private investment. Invest Barbados’ mandate is to actively promote Barbados as a desirable investment location, to provide advice, and to assist prospective investors. Invest Barbados also provides customized support for investors to assist with the expansion and sustainability of the initial investment. It also serves as the primary liaison for existing investors. In April 2020, the government established a Jobs and Investment Council charged with supporting economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic recovery. In March 2021, the government announced plans to establish a Barbados Free Zone to help attract foreign direct investment.

Investors interested in doing business in Barbados must register in person with the country’s Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office. While this is a requirement for foreign and domestic investors, the continuing barriers to international travel posed by COVID-19 currently make it more difficult for foreign investors without established local partners and legal representation to comply with this requirement. The government of Barbados has announced plans to fully digitize the registration process before the end of 2021.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in Barbados. Nationals and non-nationals may establish and own private enterprises and private property in Barbados. These rights extend to the acquisition and disposition of interests in private enterprises.

No industries are closed to private enterprise, although the government reserves the right not to allow certain investments. Some activities, such as telecommunications, utilities, broadcasting, franchises, banking, and insurance require a government license. There are no quotas or other restrictions on foreign ownership of a local enterprise or participation in a joint venture.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Barbados has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Invest Barbados is the main investment promotion agency that attracts and facilitates foreign investment. Invest Barbados offers guidance and direction to new and established investors seeking to pursue investment opportunities in Barbados. The process is transparent and considers the size of capital investment as well as the economic impact of a proposed project.

Invest Barbados offers a website that is useful for navigating applicable laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors. This is available at http://www.investbarbados.org . Invest Barbados’ iGuide website is an online guide which provides local and foreign investors with up-to-date information required to make certain investment decisions, including steps for setting up a business, opportunities for investment, labor and other business costs, and legal requirements, among other data. This is available at https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/barbados . The Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) maintains an online e-registry filing service for matters pertaining to the Corporate Registry. It is available to registered agents, who are usually attorneys. Information is available at www.caipo.gov.bb .

Barbados ranks 102nd out of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business, which takes seven procedures and approximately 16 days on average to complete, according to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report. The general practice is to retain an attorney to prepare relevant incorporation documents. The business must register with CAIPO, the Barbados Revenue Authority, the Customs and Excise Department, and any relevant sector-specific licensing agencies.

The government of Barbados continues to facilitate programs and partnerships to assist entrepreneurs who are women and/or people with disabilities. The government of Barbados remains committed to working with civil society and other organizations to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Outward Investment

While no incentives are offered, Barbados generally encourages local companies to invest in other countries, particularly within the Caribbean region. Local companies in Barbados are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities related to the country’s membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The Barbados Investment Development Corporation (BIDC) provides market development support for domestic companies seeking to enhance their export potential.

Belarus

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Attracting FDI is one of the government’s stated foreign policy priorities; net inflows of FDI have been included in the list of government performance targets since December 2015. The GOB has no specific requirements for foreigners wishing to establish a business in Belarus. Despite this official pro-investment stance, both the central and local governments’ policies reflect a deeply rooted, Soviet-style distrust of private enterprise – whether local or foreign. Technically the legal regime for foreign investments should be no less advantageous than the domestic one, yet FDI in many key sectors is limited, particularly in the petrochemical, agricultural, and alcohol production industries. FDI is prohibited for national security reasons in defense as well as production and distribution of narcotics and dangerous and toxic substances. FDI can also be restricted in activities and operations prohibited by law or in the interests of environmental protection, historical, and cultural values, public order, morality protection, public health, and rights and freedoms of individuals. Investments in businesses that have a dominant position in the commodity markets of Belarus are not allowed without approved by the Ministry of Trade and Antimonopoly Regulation.

Belarusian law officially provides for equal treatment and rights for all investors and foreign investors have the same right as local investors to conduct business operations in Belarus by incorporating separate legal entities. However, selective application of existing laws and practices often discriminate against the private sector, including foreign investors, regardless of the country of their origin. Investments in sectors dominated by SOEs have been known to come under threat from regulatory bodies. Local business owners and independent media observe that selective law enforcement and unwritten practices discriminate against private businesses, including those operated by foreign investors regardless of their country of origin. Serious concerns remain about the independence of the judicial system and its ability to objectively adjudicate cases rather than favor the powerful central government and state companies.

Belarus’ investment promotion agency is the National Agency of Investments and Privatization (NAIP). The NAIP is tasked with representing the interests of Belarus as it seeks to attract FDI into the country. The NAIP is a one-stop shop with services available to all investors, including: organizing fact-finding missions to Belarus; assisting with visa formalities; providing information on investment opportunities, special regimes and benefits, and procedures necessary for making investment decisions; selecting investment projects; and providing solutions and post-project support. https://investinbelarus.by/en/naip-and-what-we-do/ 

To maintain an ongoing dialogue with investors, Belarus has established the Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) chaired by the Prime Minister. FIAC activities include: developing proposals to improve investment legislation; participating in examining corresponding regulatory and legal acts; and approaching government agencies for the purpose of adopting, repealing or modifying the regulatory and legal acts that restrict the rights of investors. The FIAC includes the heads of government agencies and other state organizations subordinate to the GOB, as well as heads of international organizations and foreign companies and corporations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

While the GOB claims foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity, in reality the GOB imposes limits on a case-by-case basis. The limits on foreign equity participation in Belarus are above the average for the 20 countries covered by the World Bank Group’s Investing Across Borders indicators for Eastern Europe and the Central Asia region. Belarus limits foreign equity ownership in service industries in particular. Sectors such as fixed-line telecommunications services, electricity transmission and distribution, and railway freight transportation are closed to foreign equity ownership. In addition, a comparatively large number of sectors are dominated by government monopolies, including, but not limited to, those mentioned above. Those monopolies make it difficult for foreign companies to invest in Belarus. Finally, the government may restrict investments in the interests of national security (including environmental protection, historical and cultural values), public order, morality protection, and public health, as well as rights and freedoms of people.

While Belarus has no formal national security investment screening mechanism, it retains significant elements of a Soviet-style command economy and screens investments through an informal and hierarchical process that escalates through the bureaucracy depending on the size of the investment or the size of incentives an investor seeks from the GOB. The President and his administration prescreen and approve even multi-million-dollar foreign investments.

Additionally, Belarus’ Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade is responsible for reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns (whether domestic or international).

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The UN Conference on Trade and Development reviewed Belarus’ investment policy in 2009 and made recommendations regarding the improvement of its investment climate. http://unctad.org/en/Docs/diaepcb200910_en.pdf  

Belgium

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Belgium maintains an open economy and its prosperity remains highly dependent on international trade.  Since World War II, making Belgium attractive to foreign investors has been the cornerstone of successive Belgian governments’ foreign and commercial policy.  Competence over policies that weigh on the attractiveness of Belgium as a destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) lie predominantly with the federal government, which is responsible for developing domestic competition policy, wage setting policies, labor law and most energy and fiscal policies.  Attracting FDI is, however, a responsibility of Belgium’s three regional governments and their investment promotion agencies: Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT), Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency (AWEX), and Brussels Invest and Export (BIE).  One of their most visible activities is the organization of the Royal Trade Missions.  In October 2021, a Royal Trade Mission led by Princess Astrid is planned to visit Atlanta, New York City, and Boston.  Neither the federal government nor the regional governments currently maintain a formal dialogue with investors.

There are no laws in place that discriminate against foreign investors.  Belgian authorities are developing a national security-based investment screening law, which will not likely be finalized and delivered to Parliament for a vote before the second half of 2021.  The Belgian government, however, has coordinated with the European Commission on its investment screening mechanism.  In practice, this arrangement allows the European Commission to issue opinions when an investment poses a threat to the security or public order of more than one member state.  Furthermore, the regulation sets certain requirements for EU member states that wish to maintain or adopt a screening mechanism at the national level.  Member states will keep the last word on whether or not a specific investment should or should not be allowed in their territory.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are currently no limits on foreign ownership or control in Belgium and there are no distinctions between Belgian and foreign companies when establishing or owning a business, or setting up a remunerative activity.  The forthcoming investment screening mechanism may establish some limits based on national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In July 2019 the OECD published an in-depth productivity review of Belgium:

https://www.oecd.org/belgium/in-depth-productivity-review-of-belgium-88aefcd5-en.htm

Belgium was included in the WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union, which took place February 18-20, 2020: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp495_e.htm

Business Facilitation

In order to set up a business in Belgium, one must:

1. Deposit at least 20% of the initial capital with a Belgian credit institution and obtain a standard certification confirming that the amount is held in a blocked capital account;

2. Deposit a financial plan with a notary, sign the deed of incorporation and the by-laws in the presence of a notary, who authenticates the documents and registers the deed of incorporation. The authentication act must be drawn up in either French, Dutch or German (Belgium’s three official languages); and

3. Register with one of the Registers of legal entities, VAT and social security at a centralized company docket and obtain a company number.

In most cases, the business registration process can be completed within one week (https://www.business.belgium.be/en/setting_up_your_business).  The process is bureaucratic and can be challenging for foreigners, particularly if they do not speak the language of the region.  Assistance from the regional Investment Authorities (see below) is recommended; these authorities are competitive and will offer support and incentives to companies considering establishing in their territory.  Contacting the office of the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels for assistance is also recommended.

Based on the number of employees, the projected annual turnover and the shareholder class, a company will qualify as a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) according to the meaning of the Promotion of Independent Enterprise Act of February 10, 1998.  For a small or medium-sized enterprise, registration will only be possible once a certificate of competence has been obtained. The person in charge of the daily management of the company must prove his or her knowledge of business management, with diplomas and/or practical experience.  In the Global Enterprise Register, Belgium currently scores 7 out of 10 for ease of setting up a limited liability company.

Business facilitation agencies provide for equitable treatment of women and under-represented minorities in the economy.

A company is expected to allow trade union delegations if it employs 20 or more full-time equivalents (FTEs).

The three Belgian regions each have their own investment promotion agency, whose services are available to all foreign investors:

Flanders: Flanders Investment & Trade, https://www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com/en

Wallonia: Invest in Wallonia, http://www.investinwallonia.be/home

Brussels: Brussels Invest & Export, http://why.brussels/

Outward Investment

Belgium does not actively promote outward investment.  There are no restrictions for domestic investors to invest in certain countries, other than those that fall under UN or EU sanction regimes.

Belize

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Belize’s government encourages FDI to relieve fiscal pressure and diversify the economy.  While the government is interested in attracting FDI, certain bureaucratic and regulatory requirements impede investment and growth.

There are no laws that explicitly discriminate against foreign investors.  In practice, however, investors complain that lack of transparency, land insecurity, bureaucracy, delays, and corruption are factors that make it difficult to do business in Belize. In 2020, businesses increasingly complained that foreign exchange shortages constrained both local and foreign owned operations as the Central Bank of Belize tighten measures to obtain approval for foreign exchange. U.S. firms have also identified challenges in participating and competing in areas related to the bidding, procurement and dispute settlement processes, particular to SOEs.

The Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE; www.belizeinvest.org.bz ) is the investment and export promotion agency.  It promotes FDI through various incentive packages and identified priority sectors for investment such as agriculture, agro-processing, fisheries and aquaculture, logistics and light manufacturing, food processing and packaging, tourism and tourism-related industries, business process outsourcing (BPOs), and sustainable energy.  Export-orientated businesses operating in less developed areas also receive preferential treatment.

The Economic Development Council, https://edc.gov.bz , is a public-private sector advisor body established to advance public sector reforms, to promote private sector development and to inform policies for growth and development.  The Cabinet Sub–Committee on Investment is composed of ministers whose portfolios are directly involved in considering and approving investment proposals.  Additionally, there is an Office of the Ombudsman who addresses issues of official wrongdoing.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Belize acknowledges the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activities.  Foreign and domestic entities must first register their business before engaging in business. They must also register for the appropriate taxes, including business tax and general sales tax, as well as obtain a social security number and trade license.

Generally, Belize has no restrictions on foreign ownership and control of companies; however, foreign investments must be registered with the Central Bank of Belize and adhere to the Exchange Control Act and related regulations.  To register a business name with the government, foreigners must apply with a Belizean partner or someone with a permanent residence. Additionally, persons seeking to open a bank account must also comply with Central Bank regulations. These may differ based on the applicant’s residency status and whether the individual is seeking to establish a local or foreign currency account.  Note: many Belizeans perceive foreigners to receive favorable treatment from the government over access to capital during the start-up process.

Foreign investments must be registered and obtain an “Approved Status” from the Central Bank to facilitate inflows and outflows of foreign currency.  Investments with “Approved Status” are generally granted permission to repatriate funds gained from profits, dividends, loan payments and interest.  Additionally, the Exchange Control Regulation Act was amended in 2020 to relax the requirement for non-residents to obtain prior permission from the Central Bank to conduct transaction in securities and real estate. The amendment now provides for prior written notice to the Central Bank with full particulars of the transaction.

Some investment incentives show preference to Belizean-owned companies.  For example, to qualify for a tour operator license, a business must be majority-owned by Belizeans or permanent residents of Belize ( http://www.belizetourismboard.org ).  This qualification is negotiable particularly where a tour operation would expand into a new sector of the market and does not result in competition with local operators.  The government does not impose any intellectual property transfer requirements.

The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Investment investigates investment projects which do not fall within Belize’s incentive regime or which may require special considerations.  For example, an investment may require legislative changes, a customized memorandum of understanding or agreement from the government, or a public–private partnership.  The government assesses proposals based on size, scope, and the incentives requested.  In addition, proposals are assessed on a five-point system that analyses: 1) socio-economic acceptability of the project; 2) revenues to the government; 3) employment; 4) foreign exchange earnings; and 5) environmental considerations.  There is no statutory timeframe for considering projects as the process largely depends on the nature and complexity of the project.

Foreign investors undertaking large capital investments are advised to adhere to environmental laws and regulations.  Government requires project developers to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), should a project meet certain parameters such as land area, location, or industry criteria.  When purchasing land or planning to develop in or near an ecologically sensitive zone, government recommends that the EIA fully address any measures by the investor to mitigate environmental risks.  Developers must obtain environmental clearance prior to the start of site development.  The Department of Environment website, http://www.doe.gov.bz  has more information on the Environmental Protection Act and other regulations, applications and guidelines.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, there has been no investment policy review of Belize by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Belize concluded its third Trade Policy Review in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2017.

Business Facilitation

BELTRAIDE ( http://www.belizeinvest.org.bz  ), a statutory body of the Government of Belize, operates as the country’s investment and export promotion agency.  Its investment facilitation services are open to all investors – foreign and domestic.  While there are support measures to advance greater inclusion of women and minorities in entrepreneurial initiatives and training, the business facilitation measures do not generally distinguish by gender or economic status.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government launched its National Economic Recovery Strategy, as well as, various fiscal and economic stimulus packages. In April 2020, BELTRAIDE concluded an online National Rapid Private Sector Economic Impact Assessment Survey to determine some of the challenges MSMEs faced as a result of the pandemic. Government thereafter launched its MSME Support Program (MSP) in August 2020 to offer an estimated US $7 million in financial relief through small grants, loans and wage subsidies to enterprises affected by the pandemic.

The Belize Companies and Corporate Affairs Registry (tel: +501 822 0421; email: info@belizecompaniesregistry.gov.bz ; website: https://belizecompaniesregistry.gov.bz  ) is responsible for the registration process of all local businesses and companies.  On line services are available by downloading requisite forms off the Registry’s website, making payments to a local bank and emailing proof of payments. Belize does not operate a single-window registration process.

Businesses must register with the tax department to pay business and general sales tax.  They must also register with their local city council or town board to obtain a trade license to operate a business.  An employer should also register employees for social security.  The 2020 Doing Business report ( http://www.doingbusiness.org  ) estimates it takes on average 48 days to start a company in Belize.  The same report ranks Belize at 135 of 190 economies, losing ten spots compared to 2019.

Outward Investment

Belize does not promote or incentivize outward investments.  Its government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  However, the Central Bank places currency controls on investment abroad, with Central Bank approval required prior to foreign currency outflows.

Benin

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Beninese government encourages foreign investment, which it views as critical for economic development and successful implementation of the $15 billion PAG. APIEX aims to promote foreign direct investment and reduce administrative barriers to doing business. APIEX serves as the single investment promotion center and conduit of information between foreign investors and the Beninese government. It is the technical body responsible for reviewing applications for approval under the Investment Code and the administrative authority for special economic zones (SEZs). The agency has significantly reduced processing times for registration of new companies (from 15 days to one day) and construction permits (from 90 to 30 days), but the World Bank 2020 Doing Business report indicates that it takes 88 days to deal with construction permits. In practice, APIEX faces capacity constraints, processing times can be longer than stated, and its website is often out of date and lacks information on the latest regulations and laws. The Investment Code, amended in 2020, establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment. Additional information on business startup is available at https://monentreprise.bj/  .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Beninese law guarantees the right to own and transfer private property. The court system enforces contracts, but the judicial process is inefficient and suffers from corruption. Enforcement of rulings is problematic. Most firms entering the market work with an established local partner and retain a competent Beninese attorney. A list of English-speaking lawyers and legal counselors is available on the Embassy’s website: https://bj.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Business Facilitation

In an effort to facilitate business travel and tourism, Benin implements a visa-free system for African nationals and an online e-visa system for other foreign nationals. The country is working to open four new trade offices abroad to enhance Benin’s international business opportunities. One is already underway in Shenzhen, China; others are planned for Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

Benin’s 2017 Property Code made property registration simpler and less expensive in order to boost the real estate market, improve access to credit, and reduce corruption in the registration process. The measures apply to real personal property, estate and mortgage taxes, and property purchase receipts. In order to register property, individuals and businesses must present a taxpayer identification number (registration for which is free). Land registration and property purchase certifications are free, but there is a fee for obtaining a property title.

Benin Control – a private company operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport – is charged with expediting customs clearances and minimizing processing barriers to clearing cargo at the Port of Cotonou. Benin Control makes it possible to obtain cargo clearance within as little as 48 hours after its off-loading at the Port of Cotonou, though in practice this can take longer. The reinstitution of the cargo inspection and scanning program known as PVI, first tried in 2012, resumed operations at the Port of Cotonou in 2017. Under the PVI program, Benin Control scans between 30 and 45 randomly selected shipping containers per hour. Benin Control bills all containers exiting the Port of Cotonou – regardless of whether they are selected for scanning – at the rate of 35,000 FCFA ($68) for a 20-foot container, and 45,000 FCFA ($78) for a 40-foot container.

The government, through the state-owned Benin Water Company (SONEB) and Beninese Electric Energy Company (SBEE), provides service connections to potable water and electricity free of charge to Small and Medium Size Enterprises and Industries.  Eligible companies are responsible for paying the water and electricity meter installation fees.  Online application is available at https://www.soneb.bj/soneb15/pme-pmi-raccordement-gratuit and https://www.sbee.bj/site/demande-de-raccordement-des-pme-pmi-conditions/

Outward Investment

Bermuda

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment 

Bermuda welcomes foreign direct investment (FDI). The Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) is an independent, public-private partnership, funded by both the Bermuda Government and the private sector. The agency is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of senior industry professionals representing the diversity of Bermuda’s financial services sector.  The BDA carries out pro-active, targeted marketing and business development strategies to stimulate growth in the Bermuda economy and create and maintain jobs. (http://bda.bm)

The BDA acts as a partner for existing Bermuda-based companies and assists entities that are considering establishing operations in Bermuda. It connects prospective companies with industry partners and relevant representatives in the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) and the Bermuda Government’s Business Development Unit, making formal introductions, troubleshooting, and communicating with clients to simplify the process. The BDA has segmented its business development efforts into four distinct pillars or industry areas of focus: Risk (insurance, reinsurance, captives, and insurance linked securities), Asset Management, Trust & Private Client, and International Commerce (technology, international markets, etc.). These are key sectors of the Bermuda marketplace, or areas for potential growth, and the BDA has separate business development managers, strategies and goals for each.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment 

The 60/40 rule in Bermuda requires all companies to be controlled by at least 60% Bermudians. In February 2020, the Bermuda Government proposed to introduce a bill that will reduce the current required ownership regulations for a local company from 60% owned by a Bermudian, to 40%, as outlined in the 2020 Budget Report, to help stimulate and promote economic competition.

Some local businesses support relaxing the 60/40 rule to encourage FDI, increase liquidity in the local market, and boost the economy. Other businesses oppose it out of concern that they might not be able to compete with majority foreign-owned businesses.

In addition to ownership regulations, there are restrictions governing ownership of land by businesses.

‘Control’ is defined as the percentage of Bermudian directors, and the percentage of its shares beneficially owned by Bermudians, in the company being not less than 60% in each case. Amendments are expected to create more opportunities and foreign investments by Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) holders who reside on the island.

Local companies can be exempted from the 60/40 rule by obtaining a license (pursuant to section 114B of the Companies Act) from the Minister of Finance, who decides if the granting of a license is in the best interest of the country. When considering an application for a Section 114B license, the Minister considers:

  • The economic situation in Bermuda and the due protection of persons already engaged in business in Bermuda.
  • The nature and previous conduct of the company and the persons having an interest in the company whether as directors, shareholders or otherwise.
  • Any advantage or disadvantage which may result from the company carrying on business in Bermuda.
  • The desirability of retaining in the control of Bermudians the economic resources of Bermuda.

Certain activities are excluded from the requirement of a license, including:

  • Doing business with other exempted undertakings (e.g., exempted companies, permit companies, exempted partnerships and exempted unit trust schemes) in furtherance of the business of the exempted company that is being conducted outside Bermuda.
  • Dealing in securities of exempted undertakings, local companies, or partnerships; and
  • Carrying on business as manager or agent for, or consultant or advisor to, any exempted company or permit company which is affiliated (whether or not incorporated in Bermuda) with the exempted company or an exempted partnership in which the exempted company is a partner or, in the case of mutual funds, selling or distributing their shares in Bermuda.

In 2012 local companies were exempted from the 60/40 rule if its shares were listed on a designated Stock Exchange, the company conducted business in a material way in a ‘prescribed industry,’ or if the company was a wholly owned subsidiary of such a listed company.

The prescribed industries are capital-heavy and include, inter alia, telecommunications, energy, insurance, hotel operations, banking, or international transportation services (by ship or aircraft).

Other Investment Policy Reviews 

Bermuda is a World Trade Organization (WTO) member through the United Kingdom. Bermuda has not conducted an investment policy review through the OECD, WTO, or UNCTAD within the past three years.

Business Facilitation 

The Investment Business Act 2003 is the statutory basis for regulating investment business in Bermuda. The act provides a licensing regime for any person or entity (unless otherwise exempted or excluded) engaging in investment business, as defined by the act, either in or from Bermuda.

There are several options for registering a business in Bermuda which depend on the nature of the business and whether business will be conducted in the local market. The Registrar of Companies (ROC) is responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities regarding the administration of companies including name reservation, fees, insolvency and real estate. (https://www.gov.bm/department/registrar-companies).

Formation of a limited company, partnership or LLC, which does not require consent of the Minister of Finance may be accomplished within one day after an application is received. Where a business requires the consent from the Minister, the processing time can take up to one week. The ROC reviews all information relating to the company, and all personal declarations from the proposed beneficial owners.

The Bermuda Government requires those seeking to establish a limited company, partnership or LLC, to get assistance from a law firm, accounting firm, or corporate service provider (CSP) located in Bermuda for guidance on completing steps towards establishing a company, including:

  • Name reservation
  • Disclosure and vetting of proposed beneficial owners of the company, including personal declarations where required
  • Drafting the Memorandum of Association and byelaws of the company
  • Based on the nature of the proposed business activities, any license or permit applications required to be submitted
  • Selecting a registered office in Bermuda
  • Selection of directors, officers, and company secretary
  • Payment of government fees
  • Regulations for the emerging Fintech industry have been established. Fintech Bermuda offers information to assist those seeking to establish a digital business on the island (https://fintech.bm/start-a-business/) In 2018, the Government of Bermuda established the Digital Asset Business Act, which outlines the foundation for the government’s regulatory approach towards the industry. The Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) also provides guidance for those seeking to establish a digital business on the island and can provide information about immigration, tax and social insurance applications. The BDA also liaises with the Bermuda Monetary Authority, Department of Immigration, Ministry of Finance, Fintech Business Unit and ROC as needed for new incorporations and to monitor the processing of new applications.

Outward Investment 

Bermuda is not involved in outward investment.

Bolivia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

In general, Bolivia remains open to FDI.  The 2014 investment law guarantees equal treatment for national and foreign firms.  However, it also stipulates that public investment has priority over private investment (both national and foreign) and that the Bolivian Government will determine which sectors require private investment.

U.S. companies interested in investing in Bolivia should note that in 2012 Bolivia abrogated the BIT it signed with the United States and a number of other countries.  The Bolivian Government of former President Evo Morales claimed the abrogation was necessary for Bolivia to comply with the 2009 Constitution.  Companies that invested under the U.S. –Bolivia BIT will be covered until June 10, 2022, but investments made after June 10, 2012 are not covered.

Pursuant to Article 320 of the 2009 Constitution, Bolivia no longer recognizes international arbitration forums for disputes involving the government.  The parties also cannot settle the dispute in an international court.  However, the implementation of this article is still uncertain.

Specifically, Article 320 of the Bolivian Constitution states:

  1. Bolivian investment takes priority over foreign investment.
  2. Every foreign investment will be subject to Bolivian jurisdiction, laws, and authorities, and no one may invoke a situation for exception, nor appeal to diplomatic claims to obtain more favorable treatment.
  3. Economic relations with foreign states or enterprises shall be conducted under conditions of independence, mutual respect and equity.  More favorable conditions may not be granted to foreign states or enterprises than those established for Bolivians.
  4. The state makes all decisions on internal economic policy independently and will not accept demands or conditions imposed on this policy by states, banks or Bolivian or foreign financial institutions, multilateral entities or transnational enterprises.
  5. Public policies will promote internal consumption of products made in Bolivia.

Article 262 of the Constitution states:

“The fifty kilometers from the border constitute the zone of border security.  No foreign person, individual, or company may acquire property in this space, directly or indirectly, nor possess any property right in the waters, soil or subsoil, except in the case of state necessity declared by express law approved by two thirds of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly.  The property or the possession affected in case of non-compliance with this prohibition will pass to the benefit of the state, without any indemnity.”

The judicial system faces a huge backlog of cases, is short staffed, lacks resources, has problems with corruption, and is believed to be influenced by political actors.  Swift resolution of cases, either initiated by investors or against them, is unlikely.  The Marcelo Quiroga Anti-Corruption law of 2010 makes companies and their signatories criminally liable for breach of contract with the government, and the law can be applied retroactively.  Authorities can use this threat of criminal prosecution to force settlement of disputes.  Commercial disputes can often lead to criminal charges and cases are often processed slowly.  See our Human Rights Report as background on the judicial system, labor rights and other important issues.

Article 129 of the Bolivian Arbitration Law No. 708, established that all controversies and disputes that arise regarding investment in Bolivia will have to be addressed inside Bolivia under Bolivian Laws.  Consequently, international arbitration is not allowed for disputes involving the Bolivian Government or state-owned enterprises.

Bolivia does not currently have an investment promotion agency to facilitate foreign investment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There is a right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activity.

There are some areas where investors may judge that preferential treatment is being given to their Bolivian competitors, for example in key sectors where private companies compete with state owned enterprises.  Additionally, foreign investment is not allowed in matters relating directly to national security.

The Constitution specifies that all hydrocarbon resources are the property of the Bolivian people and that the state will assume control over their exploration, exploitation, industrialization, transport, and marketing (Articles 348 and 351).  The state-owned and operated company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) manages hydrocarbons transport and sales and is responsible for ensuring that the domestic market demand is satisfied at prices set by the hydrocarbons regulator before allowing any hydrocarbon exports.  YPFB benefitted from government action in 2006 that required operators to turn over their production to YPFB and to sign new contracts that gave YPFB control over the distribution of gasoline, diesel, and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to gas stations.  The law allows YPFB to enter into joint venture contracts with national or foreign individuals or companies wishing to exploit or trade hydrocarbons or their derivatives.  For companies working in the industry, contracts are negotiated on a service contract basis and there are no restrictions on ownership percentages of the companies providing the services.

The Constitution (Article 366) specifies that every foreign enterprise that conducts activities in the hydrocarbons production chain will submit to the sovereignty of the state, and to the laws and authority of the state.  No foreign court case or foreign jurisdiction will be recognized, and foreign investors may not invoke any exceptional situation for international arbitration, nor appeal to diplomatic claims.

According to the Constitution, no concessions or contracts may transfer the ownership of natural resources or other strategic industries to private interests.  Instead, temporary authorizations to use these resources may be requested at the pertinent ministry (Mining, Water and Environment, Public Works, etc.).  The Bolivian Government needs to renegotiate commercial agreements related to forestry, mining, telecommunications, electricity, and water services, in order to comply with these regulations.

The Telecommunications, Technology and Communications General Law from 2012 (Law 164, Article 28) stipulates that the licenses for radio broadcasts will not be given to foreign persons or entities.  Further, in the case of broadcasting associations, the share of foreign investors cannot exceed 25 percent of the total investment, except in those cases approved by the state or by international treaties.

The Central Bank of Bolivia is responsible for registering all foreign investments.  According to the 2014 investment law, any investment will be monitored by the ministry related to the particular sector.  For example, the Mining Ministry is in charge of overseeing all public and private mining investments.  Each Ministry assesses industry compliance with the incentive objectives.  To date, only the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy has enacted a Law (N 767) to incentivize the exploration and production of hydrocarbons.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Bolivia underwent a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review in 2017.  In his concluding remarks, the Chairperson noted that several WTO members raised challenges impacting investor confidence in Bolivia, due primarily to Bolivia’s abrogation of 22 BITs following the passage of its 2009 constitution.  However, some WTO members also commended Bolivia for enacting a new investment promotion law in 2014 and a law on conciliation and arbitration, both of which increased legal certainty for investors, according to those members.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 rankings, Bolivia ranks 150 out of 190 countries on the ease of doing business, much lower than most countries in the region.  Bolivia ranks 175 out of 190 on the ease of starting a business.

FUNDEMPRESA is a mixed public/private organization authorized by the central government to register and certify new businesses.  Its website is www.fundempresa.org.bo and the business registration process is laid out clearly within the tab labeled “processes, requirements and forms.”  However the registration cannot be completed entirely online. A user can download the required forms from the site and can fill them out online but then has to mail the completed forms or deliver them to the relevant offices.  A foreign applicant would be able to use the registration forms.  The forms do ask for a “cedula de identidad,” which is a national identification document; however, foreign users usually enter their passport numbers instead.  Once a company submits all documents required to FUNDEMPRESA, the process takes between 2-4 working days.

The steps to register a business are: (1) register and receive a certificate from Fundempresa; (2) register with the Bolivian Internal Revenue Service (Servicio de Impuestos Nacionales) and receive a tax identification number; (3) register and receive authorization to operate from the municipal government in which the company will be established; (4) if the company has employees, it must register with the national health insurance service and the national retirement pension agency in order to contribute on the employees’ behalf;  and (5) if the company has employees, it must register with the Ministry of Labor.  According to Fundempresa, the process should take 30 days from start to finish.  All steps are required and there is no simplified business creation regime.

Outward Investment

The Bolivian Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.  Nor does the government restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Bosnia and Herzegovina struggles to attract foreign investment.  Complex labor and pension laws, the lack of a single economic space, and inadequate judicial and regulatory protections deter investment.  Under the BiH constitution, established through the Dayton Accords that ended the 1990s war, Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth “the state”) is divided into two “entities,” the Federation of BiH (the Federation) and the Republika Srpska (RS).  A third, smaller area, the Brčko District, operates under a separate administration.  The Federation is further divided into ten cantons, each with its own government and responsibilities.  There are also 143 municipalities in BiH: 63 in the RS and 80 in the Federation.  As a result, BiH has a multi-tiered legal and regulatory framework that can be duplicative and contradictory, and is not conducive to attracting foreign investors.

Employers bear a heavy burden toward governments.  They must contribute 69 percent on top of wages in the Federation and 52 percent in the RS to the health and pension systems.  The labor and pension laws are also deterrents to investment, though both are being reformed to decrease burdens on employers.  While corporate income taxes in the two entities and Brčko District are now harmonized at 10 percent, entity business registration requirements are not harmonized.  The RS has its own registration requirements, which apply to the entire entity.  Each of the Federation’s ten cantons has different business regulations and administrative procedures affecting companies.  Simplifying and streamlining this framework is essential to improving the investment climate.  The EU Reform Agenda targets changes that should improve the investment climate by clarifying and simplifying regulation and procedures while decreasing fees faced by businesses at the entity, canton, and municipal levels.

Generally, BiH’s legal framework does not discriminate against foreign investors.  However, given the high level of corruption, foreign investors can be at a significant disadvantage in relation to entrenched local companies, especially those with formal or informal backing by BiH’s various levels of government.

The Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA) is a state-level organization mandated by the Council of Ministers to facilitate and support FDI (www.fipa.gov.ba).  FIPA provides data, analysis, and advice on the business and investment climate to foreign investors.  All FIPA services are free of charge.

BiH does not maintain an ongoing, formal dialogue with foreign investors.  Sporadically, high-ranking government officials give media statements inviting foreign investments in the energy, transportation, and agriculture industries; however, the announcements are rarely supported by tangible, commercially-viable investment opportunities.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

According to the Law on the Policy of FDI, foreign investors are entitled to invest in any sector of the economy in the same form and under the same conditions as those defined for local residents.  Exceptions include the defense industry and some areas of publishing and media where foreign ownership is restricted to 49 percent; and electric power transmission, which is closed to foreign investment.  In practice, additional sectors are dominated by government monopolies (such as airport operation), or characterized by oligopolistic market structures (such as telecommunications and electricity generation), making it difficult for foreign investors to engage.  There have been no significant privatizations of government-owned enterprises in the past few years.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the BiH government has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the World Trade Organization (WTO); or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

Establishing a business in BiH can be an extremely burdensome and time-consuming process for investors.  The World Bank estimates there are an average of 13 procedures (actual number depends on the type of business), taking a total of 81 days, to register a new business in the capital city of Sarajevo.  Registration in BiH can sometimes be expedited if companies retain a local lawyer to follow up at each step of the process.  The RS established a one-stop shop for business registration in the entity.  On paper, this dramatically reduced the time required to register a business in the RS, bringing the government-reported time to register a company down to an average of 7 to 14 days.  Some businesses, however, report that in practice it can take significantly longer.

The entity, cantonal, and municipal levels of government each establish their own laws and regulations on business operations, creating redundant and inconsistent procedures that enable corruption.  It is often difficult to understand all the laws and rules that might apply to certain business activities, given overlapping jurisdictions and the lack of a central information source.  It is therefore critical that foreign investors obtain local assistance and advice.  Investors in the Federation may register their business as a branch in the RS and vice versa.

The most common U.S. business presence found in BiH are representative offices.  A representative office is not considered to be a legal entity and its activities are limited to market research, contract or investment preparations, technical cooperation, and similar business facilitation activities.  The BiH Law on Foreign Trade Policy governs the establishment of a representative office.  To open a representative office, a company must register with the Registry of Representative Offices, maintained by the BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs (MoFTER) and the appropriate entity’s ministry of trade.

Additional English-language information on the business registration process can be found at:

BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade & Economic Relations (MoFTER):
Ph: +387-33-220-093
www.mvteo.gov.ba

BiH Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA):
Ph: + 387 33 278 080
www.fipa.gov.ba

Republika Srpska Company Registration Website: http://www.investsrpska.net

Outward Investment

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  There are no programs to promote or incentivize outward investment.

Botswana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoB publicly emphasizes the importance of attracting (FDI) and drafted an investment facilitation law recommended by the 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Investment Review. While the draft was completed in 2016 with technical assistance from UNCTAD, it was never enacted. The draft is still under review and will be presented to Parliament for approval. The GoB has launched initiatives to promote economic activity and foreign investment in specific areas, such as establishing a diamond hub which brought more value-added businesses (i.e., cutting and polishing) into the country. Additional investment opportunities in Botswana include large water, electricity, transportation, and telecommunication infrastructure projects. Economists have also noted Botswana’s considerable potential in the mining, mineral processing, beef, tourism, solar energy, and financial services sectors. BITC assists foreign investors with projects intended to diversify export revenue, create employment, and transfer skills to Botswana citizens. The High Level Consultative Council (HLCC), chaired by the President, and an Exporter Roundtable organized by BITC and Botswana’s Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), are mechanisms employed by the GoB to focus on a healthy business environment for FDI.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Botswana’s 2003 Trade Act reserves licenses for citizens in 35 sectors, including butcheries, general trading establishments, gas stations, liquor stores, supermarkets (excluding chain stores), bars (other than those associated with hotels), certain types of restaurants, boutiques, auctioneers, car washes, domestic cleaning services, curio shops, fresh produce vendors, funeral homes, hairdressers, various types of rental/hire services, laundromats, specific types of government construction projects under a certain dollar amount, certain activities related to road and railway construction and maintenance, and certain types of manufacturing activities including the production of furniture for schools, welding, and bricklaying. The law allows foreigners to participate in these sectors as minority joint venture partners in medium-sized businesses. Foreigners can hold the majority share if they obtain written approval from the trade minister.

The Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) administers the citizen participation initiative and takes an expansive interpretation of the term chain stores, so that it encompasses any store with more than one outlet. This broad interpretation has resulted in the need to apply exemptions to certain supermarkets, simple specialty operations, and general trading stores. These exceptions were generally granted prior to 2015 and many large general merchandise markets, restaurants, and grocery networks are owned by foreigners as a result. Since 2015, the GoB has denied some exception requests, but reports they have approved some based on localization agreements directly negotiated between the ministry and the applying company. These agreements reportedly include commitments to purchase supplies locally and capacity building for local workers and industry. BITC conducts due diligence on companies that are looking to invest in the country and the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) handles background checks for national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December of 2014, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review on Botswana. ( http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/finance-and-investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-botswana-2014_9789264203365-en ).

Botswana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. In 2016, the WTO conducted a trade policy review of the Southern African Customs Union to which Botswana belongs ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp322_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

To operate a business in Botswana, one needs to register a company with the GoB’s CIPA through the OBRS at:   https://www.cipa.co.bw/types-of-entities 

CIPA asserts that the company registration process can be completed in a day and is integrated with BURS which allows for a fast-tracked tax registration in 30 days. Additional work is required to open bank accounts and obtain necessary licenses and permits. The World Bank ranked Botswana 159 out of 190 in its ease of starting a business category.

BITC ( www.bitc.co.bw ), the GoB’s investment promotion agency, was designed to serve as a one-stop shop to assist investors in setting up a business and finding a location for operation. BITC’s ability to streamline procedures varies based on GoB entity and bureaucratic requirements. BITC assesses investment projects on their ability to diversify the economy away from its continued dependence on diamond mining, contribute towards export-led growth, and job creation for and skills transfer to Batswana citizens. BITC also hosts the Botswana Trade Portal ( https://www.botswanatradeportal.org.bw ) that is designed to ease trade across borders. It is a single point of contact for all information relating to import and export to and from Botswana and represents a number of ministries and parastatals.

Botswana has several incentives and preferences for both citizen-owned and locally based companies. Foreign-owned companies can benefit from local procurement preferences which are usually required for government tenders. MITI instituted a program in 2015 to give locally based small companies a 15 percent preferential price margin in GoB procurement, with mid-sized companies receiving a 10 percent margin, and large companies a five percent margin. Under this policy, MITI defines small companies as having less than five million pula in annual revenue reflected in their financial statements, medium companies with five to 20 million pula in revenue, and large companies with revenues exceeding 20 million pula. The directive applies to 27 categories of goods and services ranging from textiles, chemicals, and food, as well as a broad range of consultancy services. The government can also offer up to 50 million pula in funding through Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) to joint ventures between foreign and citizen owned companies.

For Companies Act registration purposes, enterprises are classified as: Micro Enterprises – fewer than six employees including the owner and an annual revenue below 60 thousand pula; Small Enterprises – fewer than 25 employees and an annual revenue between 60 thousand and 1.5 million pula; Medium Enterprises – fewer than 100 employees and annual revenue between 1.5 and 5 million pula; Large Enterprises – over 100 employees and an annual revenue of at least 5 million pula. This classification system permits foreigners to participate as minority shareholders in medium-sized enterprises in the 35 business sectors reserved for citizens.

Outward Investment

The GoB neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

Brazil

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Brazil was the world’s sixth-largest destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2019, with inflows of $72 billion, according to UNCTAD.  The GoB actively encourages FDI – particularly in the automobile, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and transportation infrastructure sectors – to introduce greater innovation into Brazil’s economy and to generate economic growth. GoB investment incentives include tax exemptions and low-cost financing with no distinction made between domestic and foreign investors.  Foreign investment is restricted in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, maritime, and insurance sectors.

The Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) plays a leading role in attracting FDI to Brazil by working to identify business opportunities, promoting strategic events, and lending support to foreign investors willing to allocate resources to Brazil.  Apex-Brasil is not a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors, but the agency can assist in all steps of the investor’s decision-making process, to include identifying and contacting potential industry segments, sector and market analyses, and general guidelines on legal and fiscal issues.  Their services are free of charge.  The website for Apex-Brasil is: http://www.apexbrasil.com.br/en

In 2019, the Ministry of Economy created the Ombudsman’s office to provide foreign investors with a single point of contact for concerns related to FDI.  The plan seeks to eventually streamline foreign investments in Brazil by providing investors, foreign and domestic, with a simpler process for the creation of new businesses and additional investments in current companies.  Currently, the Ombudsman’s office is not operating as a single window for services, but rather as an advisory resource for FDI.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

A 1995 constitutional amendment (EC 6/1995) eliminated distinctions between foreign and local capital, ending favorable treatment (e.g. tax incentives, preference for winning bids) for companies using only local capital.  However, constitutional law restricts foreign investment in healthcare (Law 8080/1990, altered by 13097/2015), mass media (Law 10610/2002), telecommunications (Law 12485/2011), aerospace (Law 7565/1986 a, Decree 6834/2009, updated by Law 12970/2014, Law 13133/2015, and Law 13319/2016), rural property (Law 5709/1971), maritime (Law 9432/1997, Decree 2256/1997), and insurance (Law 11371/2006).

Screening of FDI

Foreigners investing in Brazil must electronically register their investment with the Central Bank of Brazil (BCB) within 30 days of the inflow of resources to Brazil.  In cases of investments involving royalties and technology transfer, investors must register with Brazil’s patent office, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI).  Investors must also have a local representative in Brazil. Portfolio investors must have a Brazilian financial administrator and register with the Brazilian Securities Exchange Commission (CVM).

To enter Brazil’s insurance and reinsurance market, U.S. companies must establish a subsidiary, enter into a joint venture, acquire a local firm, or enter into a partnership with a local company.  The BCB reviews banking license applications on a case-by-case basis. Foreign interests own or control 20 of the top 50 banks in Brazil, but Santander is the only major wholly foreign-owned retail bank.

Since June 2019, foreign investors may own 100 percent of capital in Brazilian airline companies.

While 2015 and 2017 legislative and regulatory changes relaxed some restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, rules on preferential offers to local reinsurers remain unchanged.  Foreign reinsurance firms must have a representation office in Brazil to qualify as an admitted reinsurer.  Insurance and reinsurance companies must maintain an active registration with Brazil’s insurance regulator, the Superintendence of Private Insurance (SUSEP) and maintain a minimum solvency classification issued by a risk classification agency equal to Standard & Poor’s or Fitch ratings of at least BBB-.

Foreign ownership of cable TV companies is allowed, and telecom companies may offer television packages with their service.  Content quotas require every channel to air at least three and a half hours per week of Brazilian programming during primetime.  Additionally, one-third of all channels included in any TV package must be Brazilian.

The National Land Reform and Settlement Institute administers the purchase and lease of Brazilian agricultural land by foreigners.  Under the applicable rules, the area of agricultural land bought or leased by foreigners cannot account for more than 25 percent of the overall land area in a given municipal district.  Additionally, no more than 10 percent of agricultural land in any given municipal district may be owned or leased by foreign nationals from the same country.  The law also states that prior consent is needed for purchase of land in areas considered indispensable to national security and for land along the border.  The rules also make it necessary to obtain congressional approval before large plots of agricultural land can be purchased by foreign nationals, foreign companies, or Brazilian companies with majority foreign shareholding.  In December 2020, the Senate approved a bill (PL 2963/2019; source:  https://www25.senado.leg.br/web/atividade/materias/-/materia/136853) to ease restrictions on foreign land ownership; however, the Chamber of Deputies has yet to consider the bill. Brazil is not yet a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), but submitted its application for accession in May 2020.  In February 2021, Brazil formalized its initial offer to start negotiations.  The submission establishes a series of thresholds above which foreign sellers will be allowed to bid for procurements.  Such thresholds differ for different procuring entities and types of procurements.  The proposal also includes procurements by some states and municipalities (with restrictions) as well as state-owned enterprises, but it excludes certain sensitive categories, such as financial services, strategic health products, and specific information technologies.  Brazil’s submission still must be negotiated with GPA members.

By statute, a Brazilian state enterprise may subcontract services to a foreign firm only if domestic expertise is unavailable.  Additionally, U.S. and other foreign firms may only bid to provide technical services where there are no qualified Brazilian firms. U.S. companies need to enter into partnerships with local firms or have operations in Brazil in order to be eligible for “margins of preference” offered to domestic firms participating in Brazil’s public sector procurement to help these firms win government tenders.  Nevertheless, foreign companies are often successful in obtaining subcontracting opportunities with large Brazilian firms that win government contracts and, since October 2020, foreign companies are allowed to participate in bids without the need for an in-country corporate presence (although establishing such a presence is mandatory if the bid is successful).  A revised Government Procurement Protocol of the trade bloc Mercosul (Mercosur in Spanish), signed in 2017, would entitle member nations Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay to non-discriminatory treatment of government-procured goods, services, and public works originating from each other’s suppliers and providers.  However, none of the bloc’s members have yet ratified it, so it has not entered into force.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) December 2020 Economic Forecast Summary of Brazil summarized that, despite new COVID-19 infections and fatalities remaining high, the economy started to recover across a wide range of sectors by the end of 2020.  Since the publication, Brazil’s economy is faltering due to the continuing pandemic’s financial impact.  The strong fiscal and monetary policy response managed to prevent a sharper economic contraction, cushioning the impact on household incomes and poverty.  Nonetheless, fiscal vulnerabilities have been exacerbated by these necessary policy responses and public debt has risen.  Failure to continue structural reform progress could hold back investment and future growth.  As of March 2021, forecasts are for economic recovery in 2021 and high unemployment.  The OECD report recommended reallocating some expenditures and raising spending efficiency to improve social protections, and resuming the fiscal adjustments under way before the pandemic.  The report also recommended structural reforms to enhance domestic and external competition and improve the investment climate.

The IMF’s 2020 Country Report No. 20/311 on Brazil highlighted the severe impact of the pandemic in Brazil’s economic recovery but praised the government’s response, which averted a deeper economic downturn, stabilized financial markets, and cushioned income loss for the poorest.  The IMF assessed that the lingering effects of the crisis will restrain consumption while investment will be hampered by idle capacity and high uncertainty.  The IMF projected inflation to stay below target until 2023, given significant slack in the economy, but with the sharp increase in the primary fiscal deficit, gross public debt is expected to rise to 100 percent of GDP and remain high over the medium-term.  The IMF noted that Brazil’s record low interest rate (Selic) helped the government reduce borrowing costs, but the steepening of the local currency yield curve highlighted market concerns over fiscal risks.  The WTO’s 2017 Trade Policy Review of Brazil noted the country’s open stance towards foreign investment, but also pointed to the many sector-specific limitations (see above).  All three reports highlighted the uncertainty regarding reform plans as the most significant political risk to the economy. These reports are located at the following links:

Business Facilitation

A company must register with the National Revenue Service (Receita Federal) to obtain a business license and be placed on the National Registry of Legal Entities (CNPJ).  Brazil’s Export Promotion and Investment Agency (APEX) has a mandate to facilitate foreign investment.  The agency’s services are available to all investors, foreign and domestic.  Foreign companies interested in investing in Brazil have access to many benefits and tax incentives granted by the Brazilian government at the municipal, state, and federal levels.  Most incentives target specific sectors, amounts invested, and job generation.  Brazil’s business registration website can be found at: http://receita.economia.gov.br/orientacao/tributaria/cadastros/cadastro-nacional-de-pessoas-juridicas-cnpj .

Overall, Brazil dropped in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report from 2019 to 2020; however, it improved in the following areas: registering property; starting a business; and resolving insolvency.  According to Doing Business, some Brazilian states (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) made starting a business easier by allowing expedited business registration and by decreasing the cost of the digital certificate.  On March 2021, the GoB enacted a Provisional Measure (MP) to simplify the opening of companies, the protection of minority investors, the facilitation of foreign trade in goods and services, and the streamlining of low-risk construction projects.  The Ministry of Economy expects the MP, together with previous actions by the government, to raise Brazil by 18 to 20 positions in the ranking.  Adopted in September 2019, the Economic Freedom Law 13.874 established the Economic Freedom Declaration of Rights and provided for free market guarantees.  The law includes several provisions to simplify regulations and establishes norms for the protection of free enterprise and free exercise of economic activity.

Through the digital transformation initiative in Brazil, foreign companies can open branches via the internet.  Since 2019, it has been easier for foreign businesspeople to request authorization from the Brazilian federal government.  After filling out the registration, creating an account, and sending the necessary documentation, they can make the request on the Brazilian government’s Portal through a legal representative.  The electronic documents will then be analyzed by the DREI (Brazilian National Department of Business Registration and Integration) team.  DREI will inform the applicant of any missing documentation via the portal and e-mail and give a 60-day period to meet the requirements.  The legal representative of the foreign company, or another third party who holds a power of attorney, may request registration through this link: https://acesso.gov.br/acesso/#/primeiro-acesso?clientDetails=eyJjbGllbnRVcmkiOiJodHRwczpcL1wvYWNlc3NvLmdvdi5iciIsImNsaWVudE5hbWUiOiJQb3J0YWwgZ292LmJyIiwiY2xpZW50VmVyaWZpZWRVc2VyIjp0cnVlfQ%3D%3D     

Regulation of foreign companies opening businesses in Brazil is governed by article 1,134 of the Brazilian Civil Code  and article 1 of DREI Normative Instruction 77/2020 .  English language general guidelines to open a foreign company in Brazil are not yet available, but the Portuguese version is available at the following link: https://www.gov.br/economia/pt-br/assuntos/drei/empresas-estrangeiras .

For foreign companies that will be a partner or shareholder of a Brazilian national company, the governing regulation is DREI Normative Instruction 81/2020 DREI Normative Instruction 81/2020.  The contact information of the DREI is drei@economia.gov.br and +55 (61) 2020-2302.

References:

Outward Investment

Brazil does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad and Apex-Brasil supports Brazilian companies’ efforts to invest abroad under its “internationalization program”: http://www.apexbrasil.com.br/como-a-apex-brasil-pode-ajudar-na-internacionalizacao-de-sua-empresa .  Apex-Brasil frequently highlights the United States as an excellent destination for outbound investment.  Apex-Brasil and SelectUSA (the U.S. Government’s investment promotion office at the U.S. Department of Commerce) signed a memorandum of cooperation to promote bilateral investment in February 2014.

Brazil incentivizes outward investment.  Apex-Brasil organizes several initiatives aimed at promoting Brazilian investments abroad.  The Agency´s efforts comprised trade missions, business round tables, support for the participation of Brazilian companies in major international trade fairs, arranging technical visits of foreign buyers and opinion makers to learn about the Brazilian productive structure, and other select activities designed to strengthen the country’s branding abroad.

The main sectors of Brazilian investments abroad are financial services and assets (totaling 50.5 percent); holdings (11.6 percent); and oil and gas extraction (10.9 percent).  Including all sectors, $416.6 billion was invested abroad in 2019.  The regions with the largest share of Brazilian outward investments are the Caribbean (47 percent) and Europe (37.7 percent), specifically the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Regulation on investments abroad are contained in BCB Ordinance 3,689/2013  (foreign capital in Brazil and Brazilian capital abroad): https://www.bcb.gov.br/pre/normativos/busca/downloadNormativo.asp?arquivo=/Lists/Normativos/Attachments/48812/Circ_3689_v1_O.pdf

Sale of cross-border mutual funds are only allowed to certain categories of investors, not to the general public.  International financial services companies active in Brazil submitted to Brazilian regulators in late 2020 a proposal to allow opening these mutual funds to the general public, and hope this will be approved in mid 2021.

Brunei

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Brunei has an open economy favorable to foreign trade and FDI as the government continues its economic diversification efforts to limit its long reliance on oil and gas exports.

FDI is important to Brunei as it plays a key role in the country’s economic and technological development. Brunei encourages FDI in the domestic economy through various investment incentives offered by the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

Improving Brunei’s Ease of Doing Business status by upgrading the domestic business regulatory environment through a whole-of-nation approach has been a priority for the government. The World Bank Ease of Doing Business report indicated that Brunei ranked 66th overall out of 190 world economies in 2019. Brunei ranked first in the report’s “Getting Credit” category, tied with New Zealand, indicative of Brunei’s strong credit reporting mechanisms.

Brunei amended its laws to make it easier and quicker for entrepreneurs and investors to establish businesses. The Business License Act (Amendment) of 2016 exempts several business activities (eateries, boarding and lodging houses or other places of public resort; street vendors and stalls; motor vehicle dealers; petrol stations, including places for storing petrol and inflammable material; timber store and furniture factories; and retail shops and workshops) from needing to obtain a business license. The Miscellaneous License Act (Amendment) of 2015 reduced the wait times for new business registrants to start operations, with low-risk businesses like eateries and shops able to start operations immediately.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There is no restriction on foreign ownership of companies incorporated in Brunei. The Companies Act requires locally incorporated companies to have at least one of the two directors—or if more than two directors, at least two of them—to be ordinarily resident in Brunei, but exemptions may be obtained in some circumstances. The corporate income tax rate is the same whether the company is locally or foreign owned and managed.

All businesses in Brunei must be registered with the Registry of Companies and Business Names at the Ministry of Finance and Economy. Foreign investors can fully own incorporated companies, foreign company branches, or representative offices, but not sole proprietorships or partnerships.

More information on incorporation of companies can be found on the Ministry of Finance and Economy website .

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat prepared a Trade Policy Review of Brunei  in December 2014 and a revision in February 2015.

Business Facilitation

As part of Brunei’s effort to attract foreign investment, the government established the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) as facilitating agents under the Ministry of Finance and Economy. These organizations work together to smooth the process of obtaining permits, approvals, and licenses. Facilitating services are now consolidated into one government website .

BEDB is the government’s frontline agency that promotes and facilitates foreign investment into Brunei. BEDB is responsible for evaluating investment proposals, liaising with government agencies, and obtaining project approval from the government’s Foreign Direct Investment and Downstream Industry Committee.

Outward Investment

A major share of outward investment is made by the government through its sovereign wealth funds, which are managed by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) under the Ministry of Finance and Economy. No data is available on the total investment amount due to a strict policy of secrecy. It is believed that the majority of sovereign wealth funds are invested in foreign portfolio investments and real estate. Despite the limited availability of public information regarding the amount, the funds are generally viewed positively and managed well by BIA.

Bulgaria

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

There are no legal limits on foreign ownership or control of firms. With some exceptions, foreign entities are given the same treatment as national firms and their investments are not screened or otherwise restricted.

The Invest Bulgaria Agency (IBA), the government’s investment attraction body, provides information, administrative services, and incentive assessments to prospective foreign investors. Its website http://www.investbg.government.bg contains general information for foreign investors. IBA serves as a one-stop shop for foreign investors and certifies proposed investments for eligibility for administrative services.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits to foreign and domestic private entities establishing and owning businesses in Bulgaria.  The Offshore Company Act lists 28 activities (including government procurement, natural resource exploitation, national park management, banking, insurance) banned for business by companies registered in offshore jurisdictions with more than 10 percent foreign participation. The law, however, allows those companies to do business if the physical owners of the parent company are Bulgarian citizens and known to the public, if the parent company’s stock is publicly traded, or if the parent company is registered in a jurisdiction with which Bulgaria enjoys a bilateral tax treaty for the avoidance of double taxation (including the United States).

Bulgaria has no specific law or coordinated mechanism in place for screening individual foreign investments.  A potential foreign investment can be scrutinized on the grounds of its potential national security risk or through the Law on the Measures against Money Laundering. As each ministry is responsible for screening investments within its purview, interagency coordination is lacking, and there are no common standards. Since the full adoption of the EU investment screening regulation in October 2020, Bulgaria has fulfilled the preliminary requirements of the EU mechanism for cooperation in prescreening new FDI.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There have been no recent Investment Policy Reviews of Bulgaria by multilateral economic organizations.  In 2019, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published reviews of Bulgaria’s healthcare sector and state-owned enterprises.  As part of Bulgaria’s Action Plan for deeper cooperation, in January 2021 OECD published an Economic Assessment of Bulgaria in which it acknowledged the successful integration of Bulgarian manufacturing firms into global production chains and sound macroeconomic policies prior to the pandemic. At the same time the report highlighted as key policy challenges Bulgaria’s high income inequality, relative poverty, and an aging and rapidly shrinking population. In February 2021 OECD published a study of Bulgarian municipalities that acknowledged solid progress in local governance standards but also noted insufficient progress in bridging regional disparities.

Business Facilitation

Bulgaria typically supports small- and medium-sized business creation and development in conjunction with EU-funded innovation and competitiveness programs and with a special emphasis on export capacity.  The state-owned Bulgarian Development Bank has committed to supporting small- and medium-sized businesses in Bulgaria, including through the post-COVID-19 recovery period.  Typically, a new business is expected to register an account with the state social security agency and, in some cases, with the local municipality as well. Electronic company registration is available at: https://portal.registryagency.bg/commercial-register. Women receive equitable treatment to men, and the Bulgarian law does not discriminate against minorities doing business.

Bulgaria dropped two places to 61st (out of 190 surveyed economies worldwide) in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business (DB) report, scoring lowest in the Getting Electricity category, in 151st place, and in the Starting a New Business category, in 113th place.  The relatively large number of administrative procedures for a business to complete either of these actions, along with the associated delays, contributed to the low scores in both categories.  It took an average of 23 days to start a limited liability company in Bulgaria in 2020, compared to the OECD (high income) average of 9.2 days and peer average of 11.9 days.

Outward Investment

There is no government agency for outward investment promotion, and no restrictions exist for local businesses to invest abroad.

Burma

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Although the military regime has told investors and foreign chambers of commerce it welcomes foreign investment, its actions have undercut recent efforts to improve the enabling environment for investment. Many foreign investors have withdrawn from the market, evacuated foreign national employees, or suspended their operations in Burma.

The 2016 Myanmar Investment Law (MIL) and the 2018 Companies Law continue to govern treatment of foreign investment. The MIL includes a “negative list” of prohibited and restricted sectors for foreign investment. The Companies Law implemented in August 1, 2018 permits foreign investment of up to 35 percent in domestic companies— which also opened the stock exchange to limited foreign participation.

The Directorate for Investment and Company Administration (DICA), which is part of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) serves as Burma’s investment promotion agency. However, following the coup, DICA has limited operations because of staff participation in the civil disobedience movement. Previously, DICA encouraged and facilitated foreign investment by providing information, fostering networks between investors, and providing market advice to potential investors.

The government maintains a private sector advisory forum with the Union of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which principally includes domestic businesses. However, military authorities have summoned business leaders for command appearances rather than conduct voluntary consultations. The U.S. Trade Representative suspended the U.S.-Myanmar Trade and Investment Framework in March 2021. Foreign Chambers of Commerce have limited interactions with the military regime following the coup.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Generally, foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activity with some sectoral exceptions. Under Article 42 of the Myanmar Investment Law, the Burmese government restricts investment in certain sectors. Some sectors are only open to government or domestic investors. Other sectors require foreign investors to set up a joint-venture with a citizen of Burma or citizen-owned entity or obtain a recommendation from the relevant ministries.

The State-Owned Economic Enterprises Law, enacted in March 1989, stipulates that SOEs have the sole right to carry out a range of economic activities in certain sectors, including teak extraction, oil and gas, banking and insurance, and electricity generation. However, in practice many of these areas have been opened to private sector investment. For instance, the 2016 Rail Transportation Enterprise Law allows foreign and local businesses to make certain investments in railways, including in the form of public-private partnerships.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), “in the interest of the State,” can also make exceptions to the State-Owned Enterprises Law. The MIC has routinely granted exceptions, including through joint ventures or special licenses in the areas of insurance, mining, petroleum and natural gas extraction, telecommunications, radio and television broadcasting, and air transport services, although whether such exceptions will continue to be granted after the coup is unclear.

As one of their key functions, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and the MIC are responsible for screening and approving inbound foreign investment to ensure it does not pose a risk to national security, as well as to make a determination that such investment sufficiently furthers Burma’s growth and development.

Other Investment Policy Reviews.

In 2020, the OECD conducted an investment review for Myanmar, which can be found at http://www.oecd.org/investment/countryreviews.htm 

In February 2021, the World Trade Organization produced a trade policy review for Myanmar based on pre-coup information, which can be found at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tpr_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

Following the military coup, the military regime’s governance has caused a sharp reduction in commercial activities including in Yangon and Mandalay. Many routine services that businesses require like customs, ports, and banks were not fully operational as of April 2021. Many companies report difficulty accessing bank funds to pay employees and suppliers and there is limited foreign and local currency available. The security situation is unstable and some companies’ local staff have been killed by security forces and foreign-owned factories have been burned. The government previously provided limited business facilitation services through the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, but services are restricted at present.

The government instituted online company registration through “MyCo” ( https://www.myco.dica.gov.mm  ). Investors were able to submit forms, pay registration fees, and check availability of a company name through a searchable company registry on the “MyCo” website. However, military regime officials have publicly threatened to take down the company registration website so it may not continue to operate, and military-imposed restrictions on internet and mobile access limit businesses’ ability to access this website.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) is responsible for verification and approval of investment proposals above USD5 million. Companies can use the DICA website to retrieve information on requirements for MIC permit applications and submit a proposal to the MIC. If the proposal meets the criteria, it will be accepted within 15 days. If accepted, the MIC will review the proposal and reach a decision within 90 days. In 2016, state and regional investment committees were granted the right to approve any investment of less than USD5 million. The World Bank assessed that it takes on average seven days to start a business in Myanmar involving six procedures. Following the coup, it is likely to take substantially longer to register a business because of the suspension of many government services, bank closures, and internet access restrictions and suspensions. Post-coup, the MIC has approved several pending investment applications. According to DICA data, the number of new companies registered in February and March 2021 (the first two months following the coup) fell to just 15 percent of the average level in previous two years.

Burundi

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Burundi (GoB) is generally supportive of FDI and seeks investment as a means to promote economic growth. Uneven implementation of laws and regulations, however, limits the predictability of the environment for Burundian and foreign investors alike. The GoB has not implemented laws, regulations, or economic or industrial strategies that limit market access or discriminate against foreign investors. There is a minimum initial foreign investment of $50,000, which does not apply to domestic investors. An overview of the legal framework for foreign investment can be found at: http://www.eatradehub.org/burundi_investment_policy_assessment_2018_presentation 

Based on the Burundi Investment Code enacted in 2008, the government established the Burundi Investment Promotion Agency (API) in 2009. API is the government authority in charge of promoting investment, improving the business climate, and facilitating market entry for investors in Burundi. API offers a range of services to potential investors, including assistance in acquiring the licenses, certificates, approvals, authorizations, and permits required by law to set up and operate a business enterprise in Burundi. API has set up a “one-stop shop” to facilitate and simplify business registration in Burundi. For now, investors must be physically present in country to register with API. API provides investors with information on investment and export promotion, assists them with legal formalities, including obtaining the required documents, and intervenes when laws and regulations are not properly applied. API also designs reforms required for the improvement and the ease of doing business environment and ensures that the impact of investments on development is beneficial and sustainable.

The GoB conducts dialogue with national and foreign investors to promote investment. API is the initial and primary point of entry for investors, but government ministries meet regularly with private investors to discuss regulatory and legal issues.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic companies have the same rights to establish and own businesses in the country and engage in all forms of activities. However, there are restrictions on foreign investments in weaponry, ammunition, and any sort of military or para-military enterprises. There are no other restrictions nor are there any other sectors in which foreign investors are denied the same treatment as domestic firms. There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control.

Article 63 of the 2013 mining code stipulates that the GoB must own at least 10 percent of shares in any foreign company with an industrial mining license and state participation cannot be diluted in the event of an increase in the share capital.

Burundi does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

No investment policy review from a multilateral organization has taken place in the last three years. The most recent review was performed in 2010 by UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

In addition to fiscal advantages provided in the investment code, Burundi has implemented reforms, including reinforcing the capabilities of the one-stop shop at API, simplifying tax procedures for small and medium enterprises, launching an electronic single window for business transactions, and harmonizing commercial laws with those of the East African Community.

Business registration takes approximately four hours and costs 40,000 Burundian francs (around $21). For more details and information on registration procedures, time and costs, investors may visit API’s website at https://www.investburundi.bi/ .

There is no specific mechanism for ensuring equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities.

Outward Investment

The host government does not have mechanisms for promoting or incentivizing outward investment. The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Cabo Verde

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Cabo Verde seeks both domestic and foreign investment to drive economic recovery, diversification, and growth following the COVID-19 crisis.  The government’s Ambition 2030 strategy, completed in September 2020, emphasizes development of sustainable tourism, transformation of the country into a transportation and logistics platform, renewable energy, blue and digital economy, and export-oriented industries.  The government promotes a market-oriented economic model in which all investors, regardless of nationality, have the same rights and are subject to the same duties and obligations under the law.  Improvement of the business climate to attract investment remains an economic priority, as does reduction of the state’s role in the economy, though the COVID-19 pandemic has put plans to privatize state-owned enterprises on hold.    

In 2020, approved investment projects reached an all-time high of USD 1.5 billion, confirming investor confidence in Cabo Verde despite pandemic uncertainties.  Foreign investment continues to be concentrated in tourism and light manufacturing.  In 2020, 80 percent of the approved investment projects were in the tourism sector.  

Cabo Verdean law offers tax benefits for foreign citizens who decide to buy a second home in Cabo Verde and grants permanent residence to any foreigner whose investment exceeds 180 million escudos (USD 2 million).  The legal framework also establishes conditions for investment in the country by Cabo Verdean emigrants, including fiscal incentives.

Investment promotion agency Cabo Verde TradeInvest (CVTI) is a one-stop shop for all investors.  Through CVTI, the government maintains dialogue with investors using personalized and virtual meetings, round tables, conferences, and workshops.  CVTI offers investors a “One-Stop Shop for Investments” electronic platform and help in formalizing expressions of interest and monitoring the investment process.  It also provides investors and exporters information about trade agreements and benefits (including AGOA, ECOWAS), market information, details on trade fairs and events, and contacts with other state institutions and potential partners.  In addition, CVTI can assist with obtaining authorizations and licensing, tax and customs incentives, work permits for foreign workers, visas for company workers, registration of workers with social security, and introductions to service providers, such as banks, lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents.

For investments of less than USD 500,000, government entities ProEmpresa and the Casa do Cidadao (Commercial Registry Department) provide similar services.  

The International Business Center (Centro Internacional de Negocios – CIN) provides a set of tax and customs benefits for companies that do international business, with the aim of promoting, supporting, and strengthening the emergence of new industrial, commercial, and service provision activities in Cabo Verde.  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Investment Law applies to both foreign and domestic investors, and it enshrines the principle of freedom of investment regardless of the nationality.  However, sectoral legislation imposes restrictions on some activities such as fishing and maritime transport.  The Investment Law further protects against direct and indirect expropriation.  Private property is protected from unilateral requisition and nationalization, except for public interest reasons, in accordance with the Law and the non-discrimination principle, subject to prompt, full, and fair compensation.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

During 2018, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an Investment Policy Review (IPR) at the request of the Government of Cabo Verde.  The report contains strategic analysis on how Cabo Verde can utilize foreign direct investment (FDI) in the tourism sector to advance sustainable development objectives.  https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2248

Business Facilitation

Cabo Verde offers benefits to attract private-sector investment.  Although equality of treatment and non-discrimination are granted to all investors, certain investment projects, given their nature or size, may receive special treatment and support from the government.  

In an effort to reduce approval time for investment projects, the government has established a maximum period of 15 days for analysis and 30 days for approval of investment and export projects.  In addition, Cabo Verde has adopted measures to facilitate and stimulate business activity, including lowering the maximum personal income tax (IRPS) one percentage point to 24 percent, eliminating double taxation, and waiving tax installment payments for taxpayers who had negative results or began their business activity in the previous year.  Investments of at least 500 million escudos (USD 4.8 million) qualify for contractual benefits.  Those that create a minimum number of jobs or expand into new strategic sectors qualify for a 50 percent investment credit, which can be deducted over 15 years.

Laws commit the government to paying its bills within 45 days; the law further commits the government to paying interest on late payments.  These measures were adopted to ensure predictability in the payment of the state’s obligations to companies.  The 2021 budget prioritizes expenditures on measures to support families, save companies and jobs in the context of the pandemic, and includes benefits to attract private sector investments and improve the business environment.

Registering a company is straightforward.  The Commercial Registry Department (Casa do Cidadao) is a one-stop shop where a company can be created and registered in less than a day.  Information on business registration procedures is available at https://portondinosilhas.gov.cv/ and http://caboverde.eregulations.org/show-list.asp?l=pt&mid=1.  Step-by-step information on procedures, time, and cost involved in starting a company can be found at http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/cabo-verde/starting-a-business/.  The CVTI website also offers information on investing in Cabo Verde, including Cabo Verde’s Investment Law, the Code of Fiscal Benefits, and the Contractual Tax Benefits-Incentives:  https://cvtradeinvest.com/.

Outward Investment

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  There is no information or data available on outward investments.

Cambodia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment 

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Cambodia has a liberal foreign investment regime and actively courts FDI. The primary law governing investment is the 1994 Law on Investment. The government permits 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in most sectors. In a handful of sectors, such as cigarette manufacturing, movie production, rice milling, and gemstone mining and processing, foreign investment is subject to local equity participation or prior authorization from authorities.  While there is little or no official legal discrimination against foreign investors, some foreign businesses report disadvantages vis-a-vis Cambodian or other foreign rivals that engage in acts of corruption or tax evasion or take advantage of Cambodia’s weak regulatory environment.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) is the principal government agency responsible for providing incentives to stimulate investment. Investors are required to submit an investment proposal to either the CDC or the Provincial-Municipal Investment Sub-committee to obtain a Qualified Investment Project (QIP) status depending on capital level and location of the investment question.  QIPs are then eligible for specific investment incentives.

The CDC also serves as the secretariat to Cambodia’s Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF), a public-private consultation mechanism that facilitates dialogue within and among 10 government/private sector working groups. More information about investment and investment incentives in Cambodia may be found at: www.cambodiainvestment.gov.kh.

Cambodia has created special economic zones (SEZs) to further facilitate foreign investment. As of April 2021, there are 23 SEZs in Cambodia.  These zones provide companies with access to land, infrastructure, and services to facilitate the set-up and operation of businesses. Services provided include utilities, tax services, customs clearance, and other administrative services designed to support import-export processes. Cambodia offers incentives to projects within the SEZs such as tax holidays, zero rate VAT, and import duty exemptions for raw materials, machinery, and equipment. The primary authority responsible for Cambodia’s SEZs is the Cambodia Special Economic Zone Board (CSEZB). The largest of its SEZs is in Sihanoukville and hosts primarily Chinese companies.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are few limitations on foreign control and ownership of business enterprises in Cambodia. Foreign investors may own 100 percent of investment projects except in the sectors mentioned Section 1. According to Cambodia’s 2003 Amended Law on Investment and related sub-decrees, there are no limitations based on shareholder nationality or discrimination against foreign investors except in relation to investments in property or state-owned enterprises. For property, both the Law on Investment and the 2003 Amended Law state that the majority of interest in land must be held by one or more Cambodian citizens.  For state-owned enterprises, the Law on Public Enterprise provides that the Cambodian government must directly or indirectly hold more than 51 percent of the capital or the right to vote in state-owned enterprises.

Another limitation concerns the employment of foreigners in Cambodia. A QIP allows employers to obtain visas and work permits for foreign citizens as skilled workers, but the employer may be required to prove to the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training that the skillset is not available in Cambodia. The Cambodian Bar has periodically taken actions to restrict or impede the work of foreign lawyers or foreign law firms in the country.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD conducted an Investment Policy Review of Cambodia in 2018. The report may be found at this  link .

The World Trade Organization (WTO) last reviewed Cambodia’s trade policies in 2017; the first review was done in 2011.  The 2017 report can be found at this link .

Business Facilitation

All businesses are required to register with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and the General Department of Taxation (GDT).  Registration with MOC is possible through an online business registration portal ( link ) that allows all existing and new businesses to register.  Depending on the types of business activity, new businesses may also be required to register with other relevant ministries.  For example, travel agencies must also register with the Ministry of Tourism, and private universities must also register with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport.  The GDT also has an online portal for tax registration and other services, which can be located here .

The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report ranks Cambodia 144 of 190 countries globally for the ease of starting a business. The report notes that it takes nine separate procedures and three months or more to complete all business, tax, and employment registration processes.

Outward Investment

There are no restrictions on Cambodian citizens investing abroad. Some Cambodian companies have invested in neighboring countries – notably, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Cameroon

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Creating a conducive business environment to attract foreign direct investments is a corner stone of Cameroon’s development strategy. Governance and strategic management of the state constitutes one of the four pillars of the National Development Strategy 2030 (NDS 30), which was launched on November 16, 2020. The government of Cameroon acknowledges that the challenging nature of the domestic business climate remains a concern. To fight corruption, rebuild a weak legal system, and modernize an inefficient public service, the NDS 30 has adopted a holistic approach to governance, which includes political and institutional governance, administrative governance, economic and financial governance, regional governance, and social and cultural governance.

Cameroon has put in place an arsenal of institutions and laws to improve governance. The country has prevention programs and has reinforced the powers of the judiciary through the creation of the Special Crime Tribunal on corruption and economic crimes. This special tribunal, which began activities on December 14, 2012, is empowered to trial perpetrators of economic crimes amounting to at least $100,000. The court specifically targets custodians of public funds as well as officials who have the prerogatives to collect or spend money on behalf of the state. Since its creation, the tribunal has tried 225 cases and recovered $323 million. However, corruption and administrative mismanagement continue to hamper the business climate in Cameroon. Cameroon consistently ranks at the bottom of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2020, Cameroon ranked 167 of 190 on the Ease of Doing Business index and 149 of 180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Despite the active presence of state-owned companies in important sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government. There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property (IP)/technology transfer requirements. Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors have legitimate registered businesses and are able to meet criteria, such as employment creation and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) was created in 2010. To date, the CIPA has signed 172 investment agreements and generated the creation of over 60,000 jobs. CIPA’S mission, in collaboration with other state institutions and private bodies, is to contribute to the development and implementation of government policy in the field of investment promotion. The agency seeks also to foster an enabling environment for investments in Cameroon.

The investment incentives offered by CIPA cover existing and emerging economic sectors. The agency also serves as a one-stop-shop facilitator through the assistance it provides to foreign and domestic investors. It processes application files for approval in compliance with its investment charter and assists in the alignment of projects with the general tax code. It can support potential foreign investors for visas applications. The agency also follows up to monitor the implementation of commitments made by approved companies.

CIPA’s sector coverage

Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) Sector Coverage

Sources: National Institute of Statistics, IMF, Internal estimates 2019-2020

The government maintains dialogue with business associations such as the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) and Enterprise Cameroon through the Cameroon Business Forum, which is sponsored by the World Bank.  Over the past year, GICAM has been critical of the government handling of the negative impact of COVID-19 on business.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Apart from national defense and security areas, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign ownership and control. Despite an active government presence in most sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.

Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property/technology transfer requirements.  Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors meet the criteria, such as employment and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

On June 22, 2020, the Minister of Economy and Regional Planning (MINEPAT) announced an economic stimulus package to counter the negative economic and social impacts of the COVID –19 pandemic. With a total expected budget of $798 million, the package planned to allocate funds to five areas, which include strengthening the health system ($97.3 million), supporting economic and financial resilience ($625 million), and maintaining strategic suppliers of essential goods ($9.1 million). In addition to these financial measures, the government introduced a set of temporary tax rebates, incentives, moratoria, and deferred payments for private companies. Cameroon has also benefitted from regional measures introduced by the regional central bank, Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (BEAC). Throughout 2020, BEAC maintained low interest rates, increased liquidity provisions, and widened the range of private financial instruments accepted as collateral for monetary policy operations.

The pandemic emerged as Cameroon prepared to close a three-year Extended Credit Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which it signed in June 2017.  The program included structural reforms to accelerate and consolidate growth and control spending.  Under the terms of the agreement, the IMF has conducted five policy reviews outlined below.  Copies of the reviews can be found on the IMF website.

  • First Review (January 2018)
  • Second Review (July 2018)
  • Third Review (December 2018)
  • Fourth Review (July 24, 2019)
  • Fifth Review (February 14, 2020)

The evaluation and closure of the program has been disrupted by the eruption of COVID-19. But on January 22, 2021, IMF said the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic was set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). The IMF indicated that the CEMAC economic outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices. Before COVID-19, IMF expressed satisfaction with the progress of the implementation of reforms, while urging the country to implement stronger measures on budget transparency and improvement of the business climate.

Cameroon: Historical and Forecast Growth and Inflation 2015-2024

Sources: Cameroon Ministry of Finance and IMF

The IMF estimates that the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for Cameroon and other CEMAC members. The IMF has granted financial resources to individual countries in the region to fight the pandemic. This emergency financial support has contained the initial economic fallout. Uncertainties remain in the long-term impact, especially in the context of stagnating oil prices. The IMF outlook projects that CEMAC’s fiscal and external adjustments will be slower than previously envisaged, entailing large external financing needs (around $7.7 billion for 2021–23). The IMF concludes that the outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices.

Business Facilitation

Entrepreneurs obtain a unique tax identifying number when they open a company in Cameroon. This taxpayer’s identification number, known as the single identification number, is attributed to the business owners immediately when they start the registration procedure of their business. Any entity or sole proprietor starting a business in Cameroon is attributed this single identification number by the Directorate General of Taxation. The number is attributed on a permanent basis upon effective localization of the taxpayer and only after the taxpayer has filed an application to register the business with the competent tax authority within 15 working days following the commencement of activities.

According to the World Bank, it takes 14 procedures and 82 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and economic capital.  This process is lengthier and more complex than regional and global averages.  For foreign investors, a declaration of foreign investment to the Ministry of Finance is mandatory 30 days prior to the beginning operations. In addition, if the company wants to engage in international trade, registration in the importers’ file is required to obtain an automated customs systems number (Système Douanier Automatisé, or “sydonia”).  This number facilitates the entry and exit of goods produced by the company.  The authentication of the parent company’s documentation abroad is required only to establish a subsidiary. Foreign-owned resident companies that wish to maintain foreign currency bank accounts must obtain prior approval.  The Minister of Finance issues such authorization, which is subject to approval from the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) as per Section 24 of the exchange control regulations.  This approval takes on average 38 days to obtain.  There is a minimum paid-in capital requirement of CFA 1,000,000 (~USD 1,800) for establishing LLCs.

In Cameroon, business registration remains manual after the failure of a registration portal launched by the Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises that was supposed to automate the process. To register, entrepreneurs must go to one of the regional centers for the creation of enterprises, which can complete the registration procedure within one week.

Outward Investment

The Cameroonian government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Canada

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Canada actively encourages FDI and maintains a sound enabling environment (23 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report). Investors are attracted to Canada’s proximity to the United States, highly skilled workforce, strong legal protections, and abundant natural resources. Once established, foreign-owned investments are treated equally to domestic investments. As of 2019, the United States had a stock of USD 402 billion of foreign direct investment in Canada. U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 47 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the United States totaled USD 496 billion.

The USMCA modernizes the previous NAFTA investment protection rules and investor-state dispute settlement provisions. Parties to the USMCA agree to treat investors and investments of the other Parties in accordance with the highest international standards, and consistent with U.S. law and practice, while safeguarding each Party’s sovereignty and promoting domestic investment.

Invest in Canada is Canada’s investment attraction and promotion agency. It provides information and advice on doing business in Canada, strategic market intelligence on specific industries, site visits, and introductions to provincial, territorial, and municipal investment promotion agencies. Still, non-tariff barriers to trade across provinces and territories contribute to structural issues that have held back the productivity and competitiveness of Canada’s business sector.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investment in Canada is regulated under the provisions of the Investment Canada Act (ICA). U.S. FDI in Canada is also subject to the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the USMCA, and the NAFTA. The ICA mandates the review of significant foreign investments to ensure they provide an economic net benefit and do not harm national security.

Canada is not a party to the USMCA’s chapter on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Ongoing NAFTA arbitrations are not affected by the USMCA, and investors can file new NAFTA claims by July 1, 2023, provided the investment(s) were “established or acquired” when NAFTA was still in force and remained “in existence” on the date the USMCA entered into force. An ISDS mechanism between the United States and Canada will cease following a three-year window for NAFTA-protected legacy investments.

The Canadian government announced revised ICA foreign investment screening guidelines on March 24, 2021. The revised guidelines include additional national security considerations such as sensitive technology areas, critical minerals, and sensitive personal data. The new guidelines are aligned with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada’s April 2020 update on greater scrutiny for foreign investments by state-owned investors, as well as investments involving the supply of critical goods and services.

Foreign ownership limits apply to Canadian telecommunication, airline, banking, and cultural sectors. Telecommunication carriers, including internet service providers, that own and operate transmission facilities are subject to foreign investment restrictions if they hold a 10 percent or greater share of total Canadian communication annual market revenues as mandated by The Telecommunications Act. These investments require Canadian ownership of 80 percent of voting shares, Canadians holding 80 percent of director positions, and no indirect control by non-Canadians. If the company is a subsidiary, the parent corporation must be incorporated in Canada and Canadians must hold a minimum of 66.6 percent of the parent’s voting shares. Foreign ownership of Canadian airlines is limited to 49 percent with no individual non-Canadian able to control more than 25 percent by mandate of the 2018 Transportation Modernization Act. Foreign banks can establish operations in Canada but are generally prohibited from accepting deposits of less than USD 112,000. Foreign banks must receive Department of Finance and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) approval to enter the Canadian market. Investment in cultural industries also carries restrictions, including a provision under the ICA that foreign investment in book publishing and distribution must be compatible with Canada’s national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review of Canada in 2019. The report is available at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp489_e.htm  . The Organization of Economic Development completed an Economic Forecast Summary and released the results in March 2021. The report is available at: http://www.oecd.org/economy/canada-economic-snapshot/ 

Business Facilitation

Canada ranks 3 out of 190 countries on starting a business in the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. The Canadian government provides information necessary for starting a business at: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/business/start.html . Business registration requires federal or provincial government-based incorporation, the application of a federal business number and corporation income tax account from the Canada Revenue Agency, the registration as an extra-provincial or extra-territorial corporation in all other Canadian jurisdictions of business operations, and the application of relevant permits and licenses. In some cases, registration for these accounts is streamlined (a business can receive its business number, tax accounts, and provincial registrations as part of the incorporation process); however, this is not true for all provinces and territories.

Outward Investment

Canada prioritizes export promotion and inward investment. Outward investment has been identified as a tool to enhance future Canadian competitiveness and productivity. Canada does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad except when recipient countries or businesses are designated under the government’s sanctions regime.

Chad

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOC’s policies towards foreign direct investment (FDI) are generally positive. Chad’s laws and regulations encourage FDI, and there are few formal restrictions on foreign trade and investment. Under Chadian law, foreign and domestic entities may establish and own business enterprises.

The National Investment Charter of 2008 permits full foreign ownership of companies in Chad. The only limit on foreign control is on ownership of companies deemed related to national security. The National Investment Charter guarantees both foreign companies and individuals equal standing with Chadian companies and individuals in the privatization process. In principle, tenders for foreign investment in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and for government contracts are conducted through open international bid procedures. The National Investment Charter also offers incentives to certain foreign companies establishing significant operations in Chad, including up to five years of tax-exempt status.

Chad’s National Agency for Investment and Exports (ANIE, Agence Nationale des Investissements et des Exports), an agency of the Ministry of Industrial and Commercial Development & Private Sector Promotion, facilitates foreign investment. ANIE’s mandate is to contribute to the creation of a business environment that meets international standing, promote investment and exports, support the development of SMEs, and inform GOC decision makers about economic policy. ANIE acts as a one-stop shop for new investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. There are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access for U.S. or other foreign investors, and no de facto anti-foreign discriminatory practices.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

UNCTAD published a French-language Investment Policy Review on Chad in July 2019 ( https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/publications/1212/investment-policy-review-of-chad ).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a joint trade policy review for Chad, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Central African Republic in 2013 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp385_e.htm ), and a standalone trade policy review for Chad in 2007 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp275_e.htm ).

The OECD has not published any investment policy reviews of Chad.

Business Facilitation

Foreign businesses interested in investing in or establishing an office in Chad should contact ANIE, which offers a one-stop shop for filing the legal forms needed to start a business. The process officially takes 72 hours and is the most important legal requirement for investment. ANIE’s website ( www.anie-tchad.com ) provides additional information. Online business registration is not yet available via the Global Enterprise Registration web site ( www.GER.co ) or the Business Facilitation Program ( www.businessfacilitation.org ).

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Chad 182 out of 190 countries for ease of starting a business, which included factors beyond registration such as permitting and access to office space, energy, and capital.

Contracts are tailored to each investment and often include additional incentives and concessions, such as permissions to import labor or agreements to work with specific local suppliers. Some contracts are confidential. Occasionally, government ministries attempt to change the terms of contracts or apply new laws broadly, even to companies that have pre-existing agreements that exempt them. Chad’s judicial system is weak, and rulings, including those relating to contract disputes, are susceptible to government interference. There is limited capacity within the judiciary to address commercial issues, including contract disputes. Parties usually settle disputes directly or through arbitration provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture, Mining, and Crafts (CCIAMA) or through an outside entity, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris.

Outward Investment

The GOC does not offer any programs or incentives encouraging outward investment. The GOC does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Chile

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

For more than four decades, promoting inward FDI has been an essential part of the Chilean government’s national development strategy. The country’s market-oriented economic policy creates significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate. Laws and practices are not discriminatory against foreign investors, who receive treatment similar to Chilean nationals. Chile’s business climate is generally straightforward and transparent, and its policy framework has remained consistent despite developments such as civil unrest in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020. However, the permitting process for infrastructure, mining, and energy projects is contentious, especially regarding politically sensitive environmental impact assessments, water rights issues, and indigenous consultations.

InvestChile is the government agency in charge of facilitating the entry and retention of FDI into Chile. It provides services related to investment attraction (information about investment opportunities); pre-investment (sector-specific advisory services, including legal); landing (access to certificates, funds and networks); and after-care (including assistance for exporting and re-investment).

Regarding government-investor dialogue, in May 2018, the Ministry of Economy created the Sustainable Projects Management Office (GPS). This agency provides support to investment projects, both domestic and foreign, serving as a first point of contact with the government and coordinating with different agencies in charge of evaluating investment projects, which aims to help resolve issues that emerge during the permitting process.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have access to all productive activities, except for the domestic maritime freight sector, in which foreign ownership of companies is capped at 49 percent. Maritime transportation between Chilean ports is open since 2019 to foreign cruise vessels with more than 400 passengers. Some international reciprocity restrictions exist for fishing.

Most enterprises in Chile may be 100 percent owned by foreigners. Chile only restricts the right to private ownership or establishment in what it defines as certain “strategic” sectors, such as nuclear energy and mining. The Constitution establishes the “absolute, exclusive, inalienable and permanent domain” of the Chilean state over all mineral, hydrocarbon, and fossil fuel deposits within Chilean territory. However, Chilean law allows the government to grant concession rights and lease agreements to individuals and companies for exploration and exploitation activities, and to assign contracts to private investors, without discrimination against foreign investors.

Chile has not implemented an investment screening mechanism for national security purposes. FDI is subject to pro forma screening by InvestChile. Businesses in general do not consider these screening mechanisms as barriers to investment because approval procedures are expeditious and investments are usually approved. Some transactions require an anti-trust review by the office of the national economic prosecutor (Fiscalía Nacional Económica) and/or sector-specific regulators.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has not conducted a Trade Policy Review for Chile since June 2015 (available here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp415_e.htm). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has not conducted an Investment Policy Review for Chile since 1997 (available here: http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/investment-policy/34384328.pdf), and the country is not part of the countries covered to date by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Reviews.

Business Facilitation

The Chilean government took significant steps towards business facilitation during the past decade. Starting in 2018, the government introduced updated electronic and online systems for providing some tax information, complaints related to contract enforcement, and online registration of closed corporations (non-public corporations). In June 2019, the Ministry of Economy launched the Unified System for Permits (SUPER), a new online single-window platform that brings together 182 license and permit procedures, simplifying the process of obtaining permits for investment projects.

According to the World Bank, Chile has one of the shortest and smoothest processes among Latin American and Caribbean countries – 11 procedures and 29 days – to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC). Drafting statutes of a company and obtaining an authorization number can be done online at the platform https://www.registrodeempresasysociedades.cl/. Electronic signature and invoicing allow foreign investors to register a company, obtain a tax payer ID number and get legal receipts, invoices, credit and debit notes, and accountant registries. A company typically needs to register with Chile’s Internal Revenue Service, obtain a business license from a municipality, and register either with the Institute of Occupational Safety (public) or with one of three private nonprofit entities that provide work-related accident insurance, which is mandatory for employers. In addition to the steps required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing a subsidiary in Chile must authenticate the parent company’s documents abroad and register the incoming capital with the Central Bank. This procedure, established under Chapter XIV of the Foreign Exchange Regulations, requires a notice of conversion of foreign currency into Chilean pesos when the investment exceeds $10,000 (USD). The registration process at the Registry of Commerce of Santiago is available online.

Outward Investment

The Government of Chile does not have an active policy of promotion or incentives for outward investment, nor does it impose restrictions on it.

China

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Colombia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Colombian government actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI). The economic liberalization reforms of the early 1990s provided for national treatment of foreign investors, lifted controls on remittance of profits and capital, and allowed foreign investment in most sectors. Colombia imposes the same investment restrictions on foreign investors that it does on national investors. Generally, foreign investors may participate in the privatization of state-owned enterprises without restrictions. All FDI involving the establishment of a commercial presence in Colombia requires registration with the Superintendence of Corporations and the local chamber of commerce. All conditions being equal during tender processes, national offers are preferred over foreign offers. Assuming equal conditions among foreign bidders, those with major Colombian national workforce resources, significant national capital, and/or better conditions to facilitate technology transfers are preferred.

ProColombia is the Colombian government entity that promotes international tourism, foreign investment, and non-traditional exports. ProColombia assists foreign companies that wish to enter the Colombian market by addressing specific needs, such as identifying contacts in the public and private sectors, organizing visit agendas, and accompanying companies during visits to Colombia. All services are free of charge and confidential. Priority sectors include business process outsourcing, software and IT services, cosmetics, health services, automotive manufacturing, textiles, graphic communications, and electric energy. ProColombia’s “Invest in Colombia” web portal offers detailed information about opportunities in agribusiness, manufacturing, and services in Colombia (www.investincolombia.com.co/sectors ). The Duque administration – including senior leaders at the Presidency, ProColombia, and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade – continue to stress Colombia’s openness to foreign investors and aggressively market Colombia as an investment destination.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investment in the financial, hydrocarbon, and mining sectors is subject to special regimes, such as investment registration and concession agreements with the Colombian government, but is not restricted in the amount of foreign capital. The following sectors require that foreign investors have a legal local representative and/or commercial presence in Colombia: travel and tourism agency services; money order operators; customs brokerage; postal and courier services; merchandise warehousing; merchandise transportation under customs control; international cargo agents; public service companies, including sewage and water works, waste disposal, electricity, gas and fuel distribution, and public telephone services; insurance firms; legal services; and special air services, including aerial fire-fighting, sightseeing, and surveying.

According to the Colombian constitution and foreign investment regulations, foreign investment in Colombia receives the same treatment as an investment made by Colombian nationals. Foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, except in activities related to defense, national security, and toxic waste handling and disposal. There are no performance requirements explicitly applicable to the entry and establishment of foreign investment in Colombia.

Foreign investors face specific exceptions and restrictions in the following sectors:

Media: Only Colombian nationals or legally constituted entities may provide radio or subscription-based television services. For National Open Television and Nationwide Private Television Operators, only Colombian nationals or legal entities may be granted concessions to provide television services. Foreign investment in national television is limited to a maximum of 40 percent ownership of an operator.

Accounting, Auditing, and Data Processing: To practice in Colombia, providers of accounting services must register with the Central Accountants Board and have uninterrupted domicile in Colombia for at least three years prior to registry. A legal commercial presence is required to provide data processing and information services in Colombia.

Banking: Foreign investors may own 100 percent of financial institutions in Colombia, but are required to obtain approval from the Financial Superintendent before making a direct investment of ten percent or more in any one entity. Foreign banks must establish a local commercial presence and comply with the same capital and other requirements as local financial institutions. Every investment of foreign capital in portfolios must be through a Colombian administrator company, including brokerage firms, trust companies, and investment management companies.

Fishing: A foreign vessel may engage in fishing activities in Colombian territorial waters only through association with a Colombian company holding a valid fishing permit. If a ship’s flag corresponds to a country with which Colombia has a complementary bilateral agreement, this agreement shall determine whether the association requirement applies for the process required to obtain a fishing license. The costs of fishing permits are greater for foreign flag vessels.

Private Security and Surveillance Companies: Companies constituted with foreign capital prior to February 11, 1994 cannot increase the share of foreign capital. Those constituted after that date can only have Colombian nationals as shareholders.

Transportation: Foreign companies can only provide multimodal freight services within or from Colombian territory if they have a domiciled agent or representative legally responsible for its activities in Colombia. International cabotage companies can provide cabotage services (i.e. between two points within Colombia) “only when there is no national capacity to provide the service.” Colombia prohibits foreign ownership of commercial ships licensed in Colombia. The owners of a concession providing port services must be legally constituted in Colombia, and only Colombian ships may provide port services within Colombian maritime jurisdiction, unless there are no capable Colombian-flag vessels.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The WTO most recently reviewed Colombia’s trade policy in June 2018. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp472_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

New businesses must register with the chamber of commerce of the city in which the company will reside. Applicants also register using the Colombian tax authority’s (DIAN) portal at: www.dian.gov.co  to obtain a taxpayer ID (RUT). Business founders must visit DIAN offices to obtain an electronic signature for company legal representatives, and obtain – in-person or online – an authorization for company invoices from DIAN. In 2019, Colombia made starting a business a step easier by lifting a requirement of opening a local bank account to obtain invoice authorization. Companies must submit a unified electronic form to self-assess and pay social security and payroll contributions to the Governmental Learning Service (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje, or SENA), the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar, or ICBF), and the Family Compensation Fund (Caja de Compensación Familiar). After that, companies must register employees for public health coverage, affiliate the company to a public or private pension fund, affiliate the company and employees to an administrator of professional risks, and affiliate employees with a severance fund.

According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, recent reforms simplified starting a business, trading across borders, and resolving insolvency. According to the report, starting a company in Colombia requires seven procedures and takes an average of 10 days. Information on starting a company can be found at http://www.ccb.org.co/en/Creating-a-company/Company-start-up/Step-by-step-company-creation ; https://investincolombia.com.co/how-to-invest.html ; and http://www.dian.gov.co .

Outward Investment

Colombia does not incentivize outward investment nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Costa Rica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Costa Rica actively courts FDI, placing a high priority on attracting and retaining high-quality foreign investment. There are some limitations to both private and foreign participation in specific sectors, as detailed in the following section.

PROCOMER and CINDE lead Costa Rica’s investment promotion efforts. CINDE has had great success over the last several decades in attracting and retaining investment in specific areas, currently services, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, light manufacturing, and the food industry. In addition, the Tourism Institute (ICT) attends to potential investors in the tourism sector. CINDE, PROCOMER, and ICT are strong and effective guides and advocates for their client companies, prioritizing investment retention and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Costa Rica recognizes and encourages the right of foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in most forms of remunerative activity. The exceptions are in sectors that are reserved for the state (legal monopolies – see #7 below “State Owned Enterprises, first paragraph) or that require participation of at least a certain percentage of Costa Rican citizens or residents (electrical power generation, transport services, professional services, and aspects of broadcasting). Properties in the Maritime Zone (from 50 to 200 meters above the mean high-tide mark) may only be leased from the state and with residency requirements. In the areas of medical services, telecommunications, finance and insurance, state-owned entities dominate, but that does not preclude private sector competition. Costa Rica does not have an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment, beyond those applied under anti-money laundering procedures. U.S. investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by any control mechanism or sector restrictions; to the contrary, U.S. investors figure prominently among the various major categories of FDI.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD accession process for Costa Rica, which began in 2015, resulted in a wide swath of legal and technical changes across the economy that should help the economy function in a more just and competitive manner. Toward that goal, the OECD will continue to monitor Costa Rican progress in a number of areas and will publish periodic progress updates and sector analysis that may be useful to prospective investors. A comprehensive review of the Costa Rican economy was published by the OECD at the conclusion of the accession process, which offered valuable insights into challenges faced by the economy, “OECD Economic Surveys Costa Rica 2020: https://www.oecd.org/countries/costarica/oecd-economic-surveys-costa-rica-2020-2e0fea6c-en.htm  . In the same context, the OECD offers a review of international investment in Costa Rica: https://www.oecd.org/countries/costarica/OECD-Review-of-international-investment-in-Costa-Rica.pdf .

Additionally, in recent years the OECD has published a number of reports focused on specific aspects of economic growth and investment policy – several of these reports are referenced elsewhere in this report. For the index of OECD reports on Costa Rica, go to https://www.oecd.org/countries/costarica/3/ .

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducted its 2019 “Trade Policy Review” of Costa Rica in September of that year. Trade Policy Reviews are an exercise, mandated in the WTO agreements, in which member countries’ trade and related policies are examined and evaluated at regular intervals: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp492_e.htm  .

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) produced in 2019 the report Overview of Economic and Trade Aspects of Fisheries and Seafood Sectors in Costa Rica: https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2583  .

https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2583  .

Business Facilitation

Costa Rica’s single-window business registration website, crearempresa.go.cr  , brings together the various entities – municipalities and central government agencies – which must be consulted in the process of registering a business in Costa Rica. A new company in Costa Rica must typically register with the National Registry (company and capital registry), Internal Revenue Directorate of the Finance Ministry (taxpayer registration), National Insurance Institute (INS) (basic workers’ comp), Ministry of Health (sanitary permit), Social Security Administration (CCSS) (registry as employer), and the local Municipality (business permit). Legal fees are the biggest single business start-up cost, as all firms registered to individuals must hire a lawyer for a portion of the necessary paperwork. Crearempresa is rated 17th of 33 national business registration sites evaluated by “Global Enterprise Registration” ( www.GER.co ), which awards Costa Rica a relatively lackluster rating because Crearempresa has little payment facility and provides only some of the possible online certificates.

Traditionally, the Costa Rican government’s small business promotion efforts have tended to focus on participation by women and underserved communities.  The National Institute for Women (INAMU), National Training Institute (INA), the Ministry of Economy (MEIC), and PROCOMER through its supply chain initiative have all collaborated extensively to promote small and medium enterprise with an emphasis on women’s entrepreneurship. In 2020, INA launched a network of centers to support small and medium-sized enterprises based upon the U.S. Small Business Development Center (SBDC) model.

Within the World Bank’s “Doing Business” evaluation for 2020, http://www.doingbusiness.org , Costa Rica is ranked 144/190 for “starting a business”, with the process taking 10 days.

Outward Investment

The Costa Rican government does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Neither does the government discourage or restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Côte d’Ivoire

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government actively encourages Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and is committed to increasing it. Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the regional stock exchange Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM), which is based in Abidjan and covers the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). WAEMU members are part of the Regional Council for Savings and Investment, a regional securities regulatory body.

In most sectors, there are no laws that limit foreign investment. There are restrictions, however, on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies.

Land tenure is a complicated and sensitive issue. Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to multiple forms of traditional collective tenure and the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas. Companies that wish to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title. Surveying is tightly controlled by a small group of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land. Freehold land tenure in rural areas is difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment. Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead. There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land.

The Ivoirian government’s investment promotion agency, the Center for the Promotion of Investment in Côte d’Ivoire (CEPICI), promotes and attracts national and foreign investment. Its services are available to all investors, provided through a one-stop shop intended to facilitate business creation, operation, and expansion. CEPICI ensures that investors receive incentives outlined in the investment code and facilitates access to industrial land. More information is available at http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Côte d’Ivoire maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through various business networks and platforms, such as CEPICI, the Ivoirian Chamber of Commerce (CCI-CI), the association of large enterprises (CGECI), and the bankers’ association.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors generally have access to all forms of remunerative activity on terms equal to those enjoyed by Ivoirians. The government encourages foreign investment, including state-owned firms that the government is privatizing, although in most cases of privatization the state reserves an equity stake in the new company.

There are no general, economy-wide limits on foreign ownership or control, and few sector-specific restrictions. There are no laws specifically directing private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control in those firms, and no such practices have been reported.

Banks and insurance companies are subject to licensing requirements, but there are no restrictions designed to limit foreign ownership or to limit establishment of subsidiaries of foreign companies in this sector. Investments in health, law and accounting, and travel agencies are subject to prior approval and require appropriate licenses and association with an Ivoirian partner. The Ivoirian government has, on a case-by-case basis, mandated using local providers, hiring local employees, or arranging for eventual transfer to local control.

The government does not have an official policy to screen investments, and its overall economic and industrial strategy does not discriminate against foreign-owned firms. There are indications in some instances of preferential treatment for firms from countries with longstanding commercial ties to Côte d’Ivoire.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Côte d’Ivoire has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD. The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review in October 2017, which can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp462_e.htm .

UNCTAD published an Investment Policy Review for Côte d’Ivoire in February 2020, which can be found at https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-cote-divoire 

The Government of Côte d’Ivoire provides information about sector policies and business opportunities in publicly available reports. More information can be found at: https://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Business Facilitation

The CEPICI manages Côte d’Ivoire’s online information portal containing all documents dedicated to business creation and registration ( https://cotedivoire.eregulations.org/ ). All the necessary documentation for registration is available online, however actual registration must be done in person. Further information on business registration is also available on CEPICI’s website ( http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ ).

Businesses can register at the CEPICI’s One-Stop Shop (Guichet Unique) in Abidjan. The One-Stop Shop allows businesses to register with the commercial registrar (Registre du Commerce et du Crédit Immobilier), the tax authority (Direction Générale d’Impôts) and the social security institute (Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance Sociale). The One-Stop Shop also publishes the legal notice of incorporation on CEPICI’s website. All necessary documents for registration are also available on the website. Registration takes between one and three days. The business licensing process, controlled by sector-specific governing bodies, is separate from the registration process.

Women have equal access to the registration process. There have not been any reports of discrimination in that regard.

Outward Investment

Côte d’Ivoire does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

However, the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Croatia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Croatia is generally open to foreign investment and the Croatian government continues to make efforts, through financial incentives, to attract foreign investors.  All investors, both foreign and domestic, are guaranteed equal treatment by law, with a handful of exceptions described below.  However, bureaucratic and political barriers remain.  Investors agree that an unpredictable regulatory framework, lack of transparency, judicial inefficiencies, lengthy administrative procedures, lack of structural reforms, and unresolved property ownership issues weigh heavily upon the investment climate.

Croatia is partnered with the World Bank on the “Croatia Business Environment Reform” project which intends to help Croatia implement various business reforms. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development Directorate for Internationalization assists investors.  For more information, see:  http://investcroatia.gov.hr/ .  The Strategic Investment Act fast-tracks and streamlines bureaucratic processes for large projects valued at USD 10.7 million or more on the investor’s behalf.  Various business groups, including the American Chamber of Commerce, Foreign Investors’ Council, and the Croatian Employers’ Association, are in dialogue with the government about ways to make doing business easier and to keep investment retention as a priority.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Croatian law allows for all entities, both foreign and domestic, to establish and own businesses and to engage in all forms of remunerative activities.  Article 49 of the Constitution states all entrepreneurs have equal legal status.  However, the Croatian government restricts foreign ownership or control of services for a handful of strategic sectors:  inland waterways transport, maritime transport, rail transport, air to ground handling, freight-forwarding, publishing, ski instruction, and primary mandated healthcare.  Apart from these, the only regulatory requirements to market access involve occupational licensing requirements (architect, auditor, engineer, lawyer, veterinarian, etc.), about which detailed information can be found at  http://psc.hr/en/sectoral-requirements/ .  Over 90 percent of the banking sector is foreign owned.

Croatia does not have a foreign investment screening mechanism, but the government designated the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development Internationalization Directorate as the “National Contact Point” for reviewing direct investments and responding to requests for information from EU Member States or the European Commission, per European Union Directive 2019/452.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last published an investment climate review for Croatia in June 2019: https://www.oecd.org/publications/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-croatia-2019-2bf079ba-en.htm .

The latest available World Bank Group “Doing Business” Economic Profile of Croatia was published in 2020: https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/country/c/croatia/HRV.pdf .

The European Commission’s Country Report Croatia 2020 assesses the country’s economic situation and outlook: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1584545612721&uri=CELEX%3A52020SC0510 .

Business Facilitation

The Croatian government offers two e-government options for on-line business registration,  www.hitro.hr   and  start.gov.hr  , both of which provide 24-hour access.  Start.gov.hr provides complete business registration for a limited liability company (d.o.o.), simple limited company (j.d.o.o.) or company, without any need to physically enter a public administration office.  The procedure guarantees a short turnaround on requests and provides deadlines by which the company can expect to be registered.  The Start.gov.hr procedure eliminates fees for public notaries, proxies, seals, and stamps, and reduces court registration fees by 50 percent.  Hitro.hr also provides on-line services but maintains offices in 60 Croatian cities and towns for those who want to register their business in person.

In 2020, the Global Enterprise Registration website ( www.GER.co ) rated Croatia’s business registration process 4 out of 10, while the latest available 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business report ranks Croatia as 114 out of 190 countries in this category.  The government pledged to improve conditions for business registration and continues to identify areas for removing burdensome regulations and processes.   Croatia’s business facilitation mechanism provides for equitable treatment to all interested in registering a business, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) provides an outline of investment facilitation proposals at  https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/53/croatia .

Outward Investment

Croatian foreign direct investment totals approximately USD 24.6 million in the United States, according to Croatian National Bank figures.  The government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.  Croatia has no restrictions on domestic investors who wish to invest abroad.

Cyprus

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Cyprus has a favorable attitude towards FDI and welcomes U.S. investors.  There is no discrimination against U.S. investment; however, there are some ownership limitations and licensing restrictions set by law on non-EU investment in certain sectors, such as private land ownership, media, and construction (see Limits on Foreign Control, below).  The ROC promotes FDI through a dedicated agency, Invest Cyprus, which is tasked with attracting FDI in the key economic sectors of shipping, education, real estate, tourism and hospitality, energy, investment funds, filming, and innovation and startups.  Invest Cyprus is the first point of contact for investors, and provides detailed information on the legal, tax, and business regulatory framework.  The ROC and Invest Cyprus also promote an ongoing dialogue with investors through a series of promotion seminars each year.  The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) is a robust organization with country-specific bilateral chambers, including the American Chamber (AmCham Cyprus), that is dedicated to promoting FDI and serving the business interests of foreign companies and trade partners operating in Cyprus.

For more information:

Invest Cyprus
9 Makariou III Avenue
Severis Building, 4th Floor
1965 Nicosia, Cyprus
Tel: +357 22 441133
Fax: +357 22 441134
Email: info@investcyprus.org.cy
Website: https://www.investcyprus.org.cy

Cyprus Embassy Trade Center – New York
13 East 40th Street
New York, NY 10016
Phone: (212) 213-9100
Fax: (212) 213-9100
Website: https://www.cyprustradeny.org/

AREA ADMINISTERED BY TURKISH CYPRIOTS

Turkish Cypriots welcome FDI and are eager to attract investments, particularly those that will lead to the transfer of advanced technology and technical skills.  Priority is also given to investments in export-oriented industries.  There are no laws or practices that discriminate against FDI.  The “Turkish Cypriot Investment Development Agency (YAGA)” provides investment consultancy services, guidance on the legal framework, sector specific advice and information about investor incentives.

“Turkish Cypriot Development Agency” (“YAGA”)
Tel: +90 392 – 22 82317
Website: https://yaga.gov.ct.tr/en-us/

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

The ROC does not currently have a mandatory foreign investment screening mechanism that grants approval to FDI other than sector-specific licenses granted by relevant ministries.  Invest Cyprus does grant approvals for investment under the film production incentive scheme.  Invest Cyprus often refers projects for review to other agencies.

The following restrictions apply to investing in the ROC:

  • Non-EU entities (persons and companies) may purchase only two real estate properties for private use (two holiday homes or a holiday home and a shop or office). This restriction does not apply if the investment property is purchased through a domestic Cypriot company or a corporation elsewhere in the EU.  S. investment in such companies is welcome.
  • Non-EU entities cannot invest in the production, transfer, and provision of electrical energy. The Council of Ministers may refuse granting a license for investment in hydrocarbons prospecting, exploration, and exploitation to a third-country national or company if that third country does not allow similar investment by Cyprus or other EU member states.  ROC hydrocarbon exploration is currently led by two U.S. companies.
  • Individual non-EU investors may not own more than five percent of a local television or radio station, and total non-EU ownership of any single local TV or radio station is restricted to a maximum of 25 percent.
  • The right to register as a building contractor in Cyprus is reserved for citizens of EU member states. Non-EU entities are not allowed to own a majority stake in a local construction company.  Non-EU physical persons or legal entities may bid on specific construction projects but only after obtaining a special license by the Council of Ministers.
  • Non-EU entities cannot invest directly in private tertiary education institutions but may do so through ownership of Cypriot or EU companies.
  • The provision of healthcare services on the island is subject to certain restrictions, applying equally to all non-residents.
  • The Central Bank of Cyprus’s prior approval is necessary before any individual person or entity, whether Cypriot or foreign, can acquire more than 9.99 percent of a bank incorporated in Cyprus.

AREA ADMINISTERED BY TURKISH CYPRIOTS

According to the “Registrar of Companies Office,” all non-Turkish Cypriot ownership of construction companies is capped at 49 percent.  Currently, the travel agency sector is closed to foreign investment.  Registered foreign investors may buy property for investment purposes but are limited to one parcel or property.  Foreign natural persons also have the option of forming private liability companies, and foreign investors can form mutual partnerships with one or more foreign or domestic investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Nothing to report.

Business Facilitation

REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

The Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry (MECI) provides a “One Stop Shop” business facilitation service, as per contact details below.  The One-Stop-Shop offers assistance with the logistics of registering a business in Cyprus to all investors, regardless of origin and size.  Additionally, since September 2020, MECI offers a Fast Track Business Activation mechanism to provide efficient business registration services to eligible foreign investors who want to establish a physical presence on the island.  This program has already generated interest from abroad, attracting several firms in the technology, IT, and communications sectors.  Eligibility criteria and benefits are described here:

https://www.businessincyprus.gov.cy/fast-track-business-activation/

One-Stop-Shop & Point of Single Contact
Ministry of  Energy, Commerce, and Industry (MECI)
13-15 Andreas Araouzos
1421 Nicosia, Cyprus
Tel. +357 22 409318 or 321
Fax: +357 22 409432
Email 1: onestopshop@mcit.gov.cy
Email 2: psccyprus@mcit.gov.cy
Website: www.businessincyprus.gov.cy

MECI’s Department of the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver (DRCOR) provides the following services: Registration of domestic and overseas companies, partnerships, and business names; bankruptcies and liquidations; and trademarks, patents, and intellectual property matters.

Domestic and foreign investors may establish any of the following legal entities or businesses in the ROC:

  • Companies (private or public);
  • General or limited partnerships;
  • Business/trade name;
  • European Company (SE); and
  • Branches of overseas companies.

The registration process takes approximately two working days and involves completing an application for approval/change of name, followed by the steps outlined in the following link: http://www.businessincyprus.gov.cy/mcit/psc/psc.nsf/All/A2E29870C32D7F17C2257857002E18C9?OpenDocument.

At the end of 2019, there were a total of 223,282 companies registered in the ROC, 12,781 of which had been registered in 2019 (for more statistics on company registrations, please see: https://www.companies.gov.cy/en/knowledgebase/statistics).

In addition to registering a business, foreign investors, like domestic business owners, are required to obtain all permits that may be necessary under Cypriot law.  At a minimum, they must obtain residence and employment permits, register for social insurance, and register with the tax authorities for both income tax and Valued Added Tax (VAT).  In order to use any building or premises for business, including commerce, industry, or any other income-earning activity, one also needs to obtain a municipal license.  Additionally, town planning or building permits are required for building new offices or converting existing buildings.  There are many sector-specific procedures.  Information on all the above procedures is available online at: http://www.businessincyprus.gov.cy/mcit/psc/psc.nsf/eke08_en/eke08_en?OpenDocument.

The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report (http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings) ranked Cyprus 54th out of 190 countries for ease of doing business.  Among the ten sub-categories that make up this index, Cyprus performed best in the areas of protecting minority investors (21/190) and paying taxes (29/190), and worst in the areas of enforcing contracts (142/190) and dealing with construction permits (125/190).  Cyprus has recorded small gains in almost all subcategories since the 2019 report, with a substantial improvement in the area of paying taxes, achieving a small overall climb in its ranking since last year.  Using another metric, in the Global Competitiveness Index, issued by the World Economic Forum, Cyprus maintained its ranking of 44th out of 141 countries in the 2019 edition.  The two areas where Cyprus performed the worst in this report were in terms of its small market size and relatively low innovation capability.

The ROC follows the EU definition of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and foreign-owned MSMEs are free to take advantage of programs in Cyprus designed to help such companies, including the following:

Foreign investors can take advantage of the services and expertise of Invest Cyprus, an agency registered under the companies’ law and funded mainly by the state, dedicated to attracting investment.

Invest Cyprus
9A Makarios III Ave
Severis Bldg., 4th Flr.
1065 Nicosia
Tel. +357-22-441133
Fax: +357-22-441134
Email: info@investcyprus.org.cy
Website: http://www.investcyprus.org.cy/

Additionally, the Association of Large Investment Projects, under the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, can provide useful information on large ongoing investment projects:

Association of Large Investment Projects
38 Grivas Dhigenis Ave. & 3 Deligiorgis Str.,
P.O.Box 21455
1509 Nicosia
Tel: +357 22889890
Fax: +357 22667593
Email: bigprojects@ccci.org.cy

Lastly, the Cyprus Country Profiler website offers some useful background on Cyprus: https://www.cyprusprofile.com/

AREA ADMINISTERED BY TURKISH CYPRIOTS

Information available on the “Registrar of Companies’” website is available only in Turkish: http://www.rkmmd.gov.ct.tr/.  An online registration process for domestic or foreign companies does not exist and registration needs to be completed in person.

The “YAGA” website ( https://yaga.gov.ct.tr/en-us/ provides explanations and guides in English on how to register a company in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots.

As of August 2020, the “Registrar of Companies Office” statistics indicated there were 21,626 registered companies, of which 16,557 were Turkish Cypriot majority-owned limited liability companies; 433 foreign companies; and 493 offshore companies.

The area administered by Turkish Cypriots defines MSMEs as entities having fewer than 250 employees.  There are several grant programs financed through Turkish aid and EU aid targeting MSMEs.

The Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) publishes an annual Competitiveness Report on the Turkish Cypriot economy, based on the World Economic Forum’s methodology.  KTTO’s 2019-2020 report ranked Northern Cyprus 107 among 141 economies, dropping eighteen places from its ranking in 2019.

For more information and requirements on establishing a company, obtaining licenses, and doing business visit:

“Turkish Cypriot Development Agency” (“YAGA”)
Tel: +90 392 – 22 82317
Website: https://yaga.gov.ct.tr/en-us/

Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO)
https://www.ktto.net/en/
Tel: +90 392 – 228 37 60 / 228 36 45
Fax: +90 392 – 227 07 82

Outward Investment

REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

The ROC does not restrict outward investment, other than in compliance with international obligations such as specific UN Security Council Resolutions.  In terms of programs to encourage investment, businesses in Cyprus have access to several EU programs promoting entrepreneurship, such as the European Commission’s InvestEU Programme (2021-2027) aiming to support sustainable infrastructure, innovation and small businesses, or the Erasmus program for Young Entrepreneurs, in addition to the European Investment Bank’s guarantee facilities for SMEs for projects under USD 4.8 million (EUR 4 million)[1].

AREA ADMINISTERED BY TURKISH CYPRIOTS

Turkish Cypriot “officials” do not incentivize or promote outward investment.  The Turkish Cypriot authorities do not restrict domestic investors.


[1] Converted at EUR 1 = USD 1.20 per the exchange rate March 5, 2021.

Czech Republic

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Czech government actively seeks to attract foreign investment via policies that make the country a competitive destination for companies to locate, operate, and expand.  The Czech investment incentives legislation (amended Act No. 72/2000 Coll., effective as of September 6, 2019) creates incentive payments for high value-added investments that focus on R&D and create jobs for university graduates.  The law eliminates incentives for investments targeting low-skilled labor and establishes more favorable rules for technological investments in sectors such as aerospace, information and communication technology, life sciences, nanotechnology, and advanced segments of the automotive industry.  In addition, due to COVID-19, the government approved November 30, 2020 an amendment to this statute, which enables producers of personal protective equipment, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to more easily obtain investment incentives.

CzechInvest, the government investment promotion agency that operates under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), negotiates on behalf of the Czech government with foreign investors.  In addition, CzechInvest provides assistance during implementation of investment projects, consulting services for foreign investors entering the Czech market, support for suppliers, and assistance for the development of innovative start-up firms.  There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors.

The Czech Republic is a recipient of substantial FDI.  Total foreign investment in the Czech Republic (equity capital + reinvested earnings + other capital) equaled USD171.3 billion at the end of 2019, compared to USD164 billion in 2018.

As a medium-sized, open, export-driven economy, the Czech market is strongly dependent on foreign demand, especially from EU partners.  In 2020, 83.5 percent of Czech exports went to fellow EU member states, with 32.6 percent to the Czech Republic’s largest trading partner, Germany, according to the Czech Statistical Office.  Since emerging from recession in 2013, the economy had enjoyed some of the highest GDP growth rates of the European Union until the COVID-19 outbreak. While GDP growth reached 2.4 percent in 2019, there was a 5.6 percent GDP decline in 2020.  The Ministry of Finance is forecasting 3.1 percent growth for 2021.

The Czech Republic has no plans to adopt the euro as it believes having its own currency and independent monetary policy is helpful to manage an economic crisis like the current one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The slow pace of legislative and judicial reforms has posed obstacles to investment, competitiveness, and company restructuring.  The Czech government has harmonized its laws with EU legislation and the acquis communautaire.  This effort involved positive reforms of the judicial system, civil administration, financial markets regulation, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and in many other areas important to investors.

While there have been many success stories involving American and other foreign investors, a handful have experienced problems, for example in the media industry.   Both foreign and domestic businesses voice concerns about corruption.

Long-term economic challenges include dealing with an aging population and diversifying the economy away from  manufacturing toward a more high-tech, services-based, knowledge economy.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign individuals or entities can operate a business under the same conditions as Czechs.  Foreign entities need to register their permanent branches with the Czech Commercial Register.  Some professionals, such as architects, physicians, lawyers, auditors, and tax advisors, must register for membership in the appropriate professional chamber.  In general, licensing and membership requirements apply equally to foreign and domestic professionals.

In response to the European Commission’s September 2017 investment screening directive, the Czech government drafted foreign investment screening legislation.  The law will come into effect on May 1, 2021 and gives the government the ability to review greenfield investments and acquisitions by non-EU foreign investors.  The law allows MOIT to screen FDI in virtually any sector of the Czech economy but specifies four high-risk sectors for which investment screening is mandatory: critical infrastructure, ICT systems used for critical infrastructure, military equipment, and sensitive dual use items.  Outside these critical sectors, non-EU investors are under no obligation to report acquisitions or greenfield investments, but MOIT can retroactively review investments at any point within five years according to security concerns that may arise.  Screening of acquisitions is triggered when a non-EU buyer attempts to make a purchase that would give it at least 10% of the voting rights of a Czech company.  However, screening is possible at an even lower threshold in cases where the foreign investor has additional means of exerting potentially malign control over a Czech company, such as through appointment of staff to key positions.  Furthermore, the law gives regulators considerable leeway to designate an investor as “non-EU” if the investor is “indirectly controlled” by non-EU business or individuals.

As of early 2012, U.S. and other non-EU nationals could purchase real estate, including agricultural land, in the Czech Republic without restrictions.  However, following the implementation of the investment screening law as of May 1, 2021, land purchases by non-EU investors may be screened if located near critical infrastructure, such as military installations.  Enterprises are permitted to engage in any legal activity with the previously noted limitations in sensitive sectors.  The right of foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises is guaranteed by law.  Laws on auditing, accounting, and bankruptcy are in force, including the use of international accounting standards (IAS).

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD last conducted an economic survey of the government in 2020.

Business Facilitation

Individuals must complete a number of bureaucratic requirements to set up a business or operate as a freelancer or contractor.  MOIT provides an electronic guide on obtaining a business license, presenting step-by-step assistance, including links to related legislation and statistical data, and specifying authorities with whom to work (such as business registration, tax administration, social security, and municipal authorities), available at: https://www.mpo.cz/en/business/licensed-trades/guide-to-licensed-trades/.  MOIT also has established regional information points to provide consulting services related to doing business in the Czech Republic and EU.  A list of contact points is available at:  https://www.businessinfo.cz/en/starting-a-business/starting-up-points-of-single-contact-psc/addresses-points-of-single-contact-psc/.

The average time required to start a business is 25 days according to the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ Index.  The Czech Republic’s Business Register is publicly accessible and provides details on business entities including legal addresses and major executives.  An application for an entry into the Business Register can be submitted in a hard copy, via a direct entry by a public notary, or electronically, subject to meeting online registration criteria requirements.  The Business Register is publicly available at:  https://or.justice.cz/ias/ui/rejstrik.  The Czech Republic’s Trade Register is an online information system that collects and provides information on entities facilitating small trade and craft-oriented business activities, as specifically determined by related legislation.  It is available online at:  http://www.rzp.cz/eng/index.html.

Outward Investment

The Czech government does not incentivize outward investment.  The volume of outward investment is lower than incoming FDI.  According to the latest data from the Czech National Bank, Czech outward investments amounted to USD 45.1 billion in 2019, compared to inward investments of USD 171.3 billion.  However, according to the Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation (EGAP), Czech companies increasingly invest abroad to get closer to their customers, save on transport costs, and shorten delivery times. As part of EU sanctions, there is a total ban on EU investment in North Korea as of 2017.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the Presidency in January 2019 and his welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly from the United States, have raised hopes that the DRC government (GDRC) can impose and follow through on favorable FDI policies.  Favorable FDI laws exist, but the judicial system is slow to protect investors’ rights and is susceptible to political pressure and corruption.  Investors hope Tshisekedi can create a more favorable enabling environment by business climate reform, better rule of law, and tackling corruption. The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population and generally open trading system provide significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors.

The major regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Code Act (No. 004/2002 of 21 February 2002). Current regulations reserve the practice of small retail commerce in DRC to nationals and ban foreign majority-ownership of agricultural concerns.  The ordinance of August 8, 1990, clearly stipulates that “small business can only be carried out by Congolese.”  Foreign investors should limit themselves to import trade as well as wholesale and semi-wholesale trade. Investors have expressed concern that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempts to kick-start the agrarian sector.

The National Investment Promotion Agency (ANAPI) is the official investment agency, which provides investment facilitation services for initial investments over USD 200,000.  It is mandated to promote the positive image of the DRC and specific investment opportunities; advocate for the improvement of the business climate in the country and provide administrative support to new foreign investors who decide to establish or expand their economic activities on the national territory.  More information is available at https://www.investindrc.cd/.

The GDRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors to hear their concerns. There are several public and private sector forums which speak to the government on the investment climate in specific sectors.  In 2019 President Tshisekedi created the business climate cell (CCA) to monitor the improvement of the economic environment and the business climate in the DRC, and to interface with the business community.  The CCA in June 2020 presented a roadmap for reform.  The public-private Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) mining group represents countries with significant mining investments in the DRC. The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC), which is a privileged partner of the government and the workers’ unions, has a dialogue on business interests with the government.  The FEC has relayed information to the government about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the private sector.  The FEC is also tracking post-Covid-19 investment sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GDRC provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The DRC law reserves small commerce exclusively for Congolese nationals and does not allow foreign investors to own more than 49 percent of an agribusiness.  Many investors note that in practice the GDRC requires foreign investors to hire local agents and participate in a joint venture with the government or local partners.

The GDRC promulgated a mining code in 2018 which increased royalty rates from two to ten percent, raised tax rates on “strategic” metals, and imposed a surcharge on “super profits” of mining companies.  The government unilaterally removed a stability clause contained in the previous mining code protecting investors from any new fees or taxes for ten years.  Removal of the stability clause may deter future investment in the mining sector.  The Tshisekedi government has indicated that it is willing to reopen discussions on the new mining code.

The GDRC does not maintain an organization to screen inbound investment.  The Presidency and the ministries serve this purpose de facto.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The DRC has not undergone a World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Review in the last three years.  Cities with high custom clearance traffic use Sydonia https://asycuda.org/wp-content/uploads/Etude-de-Cas-SYDONIA-Contr%C3%B4le-de-la-Valeur-RDC.pdf, which is an advanced software system for custom administrations in compliance with ASYCUDA WORLD. (ASYCUDA is a large technical assistance software program recommended by UNCTAD for custom clearance management.)

Business Facilitation

The GDRC operates a “one-stop-shop” for Business Creation (GUCE) that brings together all the government entities involved in the registration of a company in the DRC.  The goal is to permit the quick and simple registration of companies through one office in one location.  In October 2020, President Tshisekedi instructed the government to restructure GUCE in order to ease its work with the various state organizations involved in its operation.  More information is available at https://guichetunique.cd/.

At the one-stop-shop, companies fill in a “formulaire unique” in order to register with the: Commercial Registry (GUCE); tax administration (Direction Générale des Impots); Ministry of Labor; and National Institute for Social Security (Institut National de Sécurité Sociale (“INSS”)).  The Labor Inspection Department and the National Office of Employment (l’Office National de l’Emploi (“ONEM”)) are also to be notified of the establishment of the company.  Companies may also need to obtain an operating permit, as required from some municipal councils.  The registration process now officially takes three days, but in practice it can take much longer.  Some businesses have reported that the GUCE has considerably shortened and simplified the overall process of business registration.

Outward Investment

The GDRC does not prohibit outward investment, nor does it particularly promote or incentivize it.

There are no current government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there are no currently blacklisted countries with which domestic investors are precluded from doing business.

Denmark

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

As a small country with an open economy, Denmark is highly dependent on foreign trade and investment. Exports comprise the most significant component (55 percent) of GDP. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranks Denmark as the world’s second-most attractive business location after Singapore and the leading nation in the Nordic region. The EIU characterizes Denmark’s business environment as among the most attractive globally, reflecting an excellent infrastructure, a friendly policy towards private enterprise and competition, low bureaucracy, and a well-developed digital sector. Principal concerns include low productivity growth, a high personal tax burden, and limited competition in the retail sector. Overall, however, operating conditions for companies are broadly favorable. Denmark ranks highly in multiple categories, including its political and institutional environment, macroeconomic stability, foreign investment policy, private enterprise policy, financing, and infrastructure.

As of January 2021, the EIU rated Denmark an “AA” country on its Country Risk Service, with a stable outlook. Sovereign risk is rated “A,” and political risk “AAA.” Denmark ranked tenth out of 140 on the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report, fourth on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business ranking, and seventh on the EIU 2020 Democracy Index. Denmark has an AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Group. “Invest in Denmark,” an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and part of the Danish Trade Council, provides detailed information to potential investors. Invest in Denmark has prioritized six sectors in its strategy to attract foreign investment: Tech, Cleantech, Life Science, Food, Maritime, and Design & Innovation. The website for the agency is www.investindk.com .

Corporate tax records of all companies, associations, and foundations that pay taxes in Denmark were made public beginning in December 2012 and are updated annually. The corporate tax rate is 22 percent.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

As an EU member state, Denmark is bound by EU rules on the free movement of goods, capital, persons, and certain services. Denmark welcomes foreign investment and does not distinguish between EU and other investors. There are no additional permits required by foreign investors, nor any reported bias against foreign companies from municipal or national authorities.

Denmark’s central and regional governments actively encourage foreign investment on a national-treatment basis, with relatively few foreign control limits. The Danish government has presented legislation to establish a foreign investment screening mechanism, which is expected to come into force on July 1, 2021.

A foreign or domestic private entity may freely establish, own, and dispose of a business enterprise in Denmark. The capital requirement for establishing a corporation (Aktieselskab A/S) or Limited Partnership (Partnerselskab P/S) is DKK 400,000 (approx. USD 61,000) and for establishing a private limited liability company (Anpartsselskab ApS) DKK 40,000 (approx. USD 6,100).

As of April 15, 2019, it is no longer possible to set up an “Entrepreneurial Company” (IVS). This company type, which required a starting capital of only DKK 1 (USD 0.15), was structured to allow entrepreneurs a cheap and straightforward way to incorporate with limited liability. Due to repeated instances of fraud and unintended use of the IVS, this vehicle was abolished within Denmark but is still available in Greenland. In 2019, the capital requirements to set up a Private Limited Company were lowered, which brought Denmark more in line with other Scandinavian countries. No restrictions apply regarding the residency of directors and managers.

Since October 2004, any private entity may establish a European public limited company (SE company) in Denmark. The legal framework of an SE company is subject to Danish corporate law, but it is possible to change the nationality of the company without liquidation and re-founding. An SE company must be registered at the Danish Business Authority if its official address is in Denmark. The minimum capital requirement is EUR 120,000 (approx. USD 137,000).

Danish professional certification and/or local Danish experience are required to provide professional services in Denmark. In some instances, Denmark may accept equivalent professional certification from other EU or Nordic countries on a reciprocal basis. EU-wide residency requirements apply to the provision of legal and accountancy services.

Ownership restrictions apply to the following sectors:

  • Oil and Gas: Requires 20 percent Danish government participation on a “non-carried interest” basis.
  • Defense: The Minister of Justice must approve foreign investment in defense companies doing business in Denmark if such investment exceeds 40 percent of the equity or more than 20 percent of the voting rights, or if the investment gives the foreign interest a controlling share. This approval is generally granted unless there are security or other foreign policy considerations weighing against approval.
  • Maritime Services: There are foreign (non-EU resident) ownership requirements on Danish-flagged vessels other than those owned by an enterprise incorporated in Denmark. Ships owned by Danish citizens, Danish partnerships, or Danish limited liability companies are eligible for registration in the Danish International Ships Register (DIS). Vessels owned by EU or European Economic Area (EEA) entities with a genuine, demonstrable link to Denmark are also eligible for registration. Foreign companies with a significant Danish interest can register a ship in the DIS.
  • Civil Aviation: For an airline to be established in Denmark, it must have majority ownership and be effectively controlled by an EU state or a national of an EU state, unless otherwise provided for through an international agreement to which the EU is a signatory.
  • Financial Services: Non-resident financial institutions may engage in securities trading on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange only through subsidiaries incorporated in Denmark.
  • Real Estate: Ownership of holiday homes, also known as summer houses, is restricted to Danish citizens. Such homes are generally located along the Danish coastline and may not be used as full-year residences. On a case-by-case basis, the Ministry of Justice may waive the citizenship requirement for those with close familial, linguistic, cultural, or other close connections to Denmark or the specific property. In general, EU and EEA citizens may purchase full-year residential property or real estate that supports self-employment without obtaining prior authorization from the Ministry of Justice. Companies domiciled in an EU or an EEA Member State that have set up or will set up subsidiaries or agencies or will provide services in Denmark may, in general, also purchase real property in Denmark without prior authorization. Non-EU/EEA citizens must obtain authorization from the Ministry of Justice to purchase real estate in Denmark, which is generally granted to those with permanent residence in Denmark or who have lived in Demark for a consecutive period of five years.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The most recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) review of Denmark occurred in March 2013 and is available here:  unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/webdiaeia2013d2_en.pdf . There is no specific mention of Denmark in the latest WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union, revised in December 2019.

The EU Commission’s European Semester documents for Denmark are available here:  ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/european-semester/european-semester-your-country/denmark_en  while a 2017 Foreign Investment Regulation review by DLA Piper can be found here:  www.dlapiper.com/~/media/files/insights/publications/2017/11/denmark.pdf

Denmark ranked first out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index. It received a ranking of four out of 190 for “Ease of Doing Business” in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, placing it first in Europe. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report for 2019, Denmark was ranked 10 out of 141 countries.

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Global Innovation Index ranked Denmark 6 out of 131 in 2020.

Business Facilitation

The Danish Business Authority (DBA) is responsible for business registrations in Denmark. As a part of the Danish Business Authority, “Business in Denmark,” provides information on relevant Danish rules and online registrations to foreign companies in English. The Danish business registration website, www.virk.dk , is the principal digital tool for licensing and registering companies in Denmark and offers a business registration process that is clear and complete.

Registration of sole proprietorships and partnerships is free of charge. For other types of businesses, online registration costs DKK 670 (approx. USD 103). Registration by email or post costs DKK 2150 (approx. USD 329).

The process for establishing a new business is distinct from that of registration. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “Invest in Denmark” program provides a step-by-step guide to establishing a business at www.investindk.com/-/media/invest-in-denmark/publications/business-conditions/investindk-fact-sheet-step-by-step-web.ashx , along with other relevant resources at . The services are free of charge and available to all investors, regardless of country of origin.www.investindk.com/Downloads. The services are free of charge and available to all investors, regardless of country of origin.

Processing time for establishing a new business varies depending on the chosen business entity. Establishing a Danish Limited Liability Company (ApS), for example, generally takes four to six weeks for a standard application. Establishing a sole proprietorship (Enkeltmandsvirksomhed) is more straightforward, with processing generally taking about one week.

Those providing temporary services in Denmark must provide their company details to the Registry of Foreign Service Providers (RUT). The website ( www.virk.dk ) provides English guidance on registering a service with RUT. A digital employee’s signature, referred to as a NemID, is required for those wishing to register a foreign company in Denmark. A CPR number (a 10-digit personal identification number) and valid ID are needed to obtain a NemID. Danish citizenship is not a requirement.

Denmark defines small enterprises as those with fewer than 50 employees. Annual revenue or the yearly balance sheet total must be lower than DKK 89 million (approx. USD 13.6 million) or DKK 44 million (approx. USD 6.7 million), respectively. Medium-sized enterprises cannot have more than 250 employees. Limits on annual revenue or the yearly balance sheet total are DKK 313 million (approx. USD 47.9 million) or DKK 156 million (approx. USD 23.9 million).

Outward Investment

Danish companies are not restricted from investing abroad, and Danish outward investment has exceeded inward investments for more than a decade.

Djibouti

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Djibouti’s laws encourage FDI, with state-run media providing favorable coverage of projects funded by foreign entities. The government sees FDI as a driving force behind Djibouti’s economic growth. Faced with a high unemployment rate of over 47%, FDI is expected to generate jobs.

There are no laws, practices, or mechanisms that discriminate against foreign investors. Navigating the bureaucracy, however, can be complicated. Certain sectors, most notably public utilities, are state-owned and are not open to investors. The state-owned enterprise (SOE) Djibouti Electricity (EDD) had a monopoly on electricity production for decades, however in July 2015, the Djiboutian government approved a bill liberalizing the production of electricity. The energy sector is now open to competition through Power Purchase Agreements, however EDD retains all rights to the transmission and distribution of electricity. The liberalization of production has resulted in the private development of wind, solar, and waste to energy resources.

Djibouti’s National Investment Promotion Agency (NIPA), created in 2001 under the Ministry of Finance, promotes private-sector investment, facilitates investment operations, and works to modernize the country’s regulatory framework. NIPA assists foreign and domestic investors by disseminating information and streamlining administrative procedures. In March 2017, NIPA’s one-stop-shop was officially inaugurated. The NIPA is the main coordinator of the one-stop-shop which houses several agencies. NIPA has identified several priority sectors for investment, including infrastructure and renewable energy.

A new Minister of Investment position was created in 2016 to further attract and reach out to potential investors. The Minister reports directly to the presidency.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have equal rights in establishing and owning business enterprises and engaging in all forms of remunerative activity. Furthermore, foreign investors are not required by law to have a local partner except in the insurance industry, and there, only if the company is registered as a local company and not a branch of an existing foreign company. There is no established screening process for FDI; it is encouraged and given favorable tax status. Specific terms are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Many companies therefore have a unique status created by agreement with varying preferences and advantages. Some foreign companies choose to have a local partner to help them better navigate the local bureaucracy and cultural sensitivities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD, WTO, and the UNCTAD have not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) for Djibouti in the last three years. Post is not aware of any other multilateral organization having an IPR for Djibouti in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

The government of Djibouti has facilitated the registration of business by reducing the capital needed for investment, simplifying the formalities needed to register with the Intellectual Property office, and simplifying certain tax procedures. The most important result is the finalization of a one-stop shop, called Guichet Unique, managed by NIPA. The Guichet Unique ( http://www.guichet-unique.dj ) brings together all the agencies with which a company must register.

Typically, a company registers with the following Djiboutian offices: Office of Intellectual Property, Tax office, and the Social Security office. Online registration is not possible; the normal registration process takes 14 days, according to the World Bank. In Djibouti, new businesses must have every document notarized to begin operations.

Outward Investment

The government neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

Dominica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Dominica strongly encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on local citizens.

Through the Invest Dominica Authority (IDA), the government instituted a number of investment incentives for businesses considering locating in Dominica.  Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, exemption from value added tax on some capital investments, and withholding tax exemptions on dividends, interest payments, and some external payments and income.  The IDA additionally provides support to approved citizenship by investment (CBI) projects.

In late December 2020, the IDA announced plans to launch a new Investment Promotion Strategy in 2021.  The new strategy will focus on four broad areas: agriculture and agri-business, renewable energy, tourism and knowledge services such as business processing operations.  Other sectors include film, music, and video production, manufacturing, bulk water export and bottled water operations, medical and nursing schools, and English language training services.  The government continuously reviews these sectors and has signaled that it is also willing to consider additional sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in Dominica.  Foreign investment in Dominica is not subject to any restrictions, and foreign investors are entitled to receive the same treatment as nationals of Dominica.  Foreign investors are entitled to hold up to 100 percent of their investment.  The only restriction is the requirement to obtain an Alien Landholders License for foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes.  Local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors in order to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECS, of which Dominica is a member, has not conducted a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review since 2014.

Business Facilitation

The IDA is Dominica’s main business facilitation unit.  It facilitates foreign direct investment into priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment in Dominica.  The IDA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors.  It offers an online tool useful for navigating laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors.  Its website is http://investdominica.com.

All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the IDA to ensure the project is consistent with the national interest and provides economic benefits to the country.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) maintains an e-filing portal for most of its services, including company registration on its website.  However, this only allows for the preliminary processing of applications prior to the investor physically making a payment at the Supreme Court office.  Investors are advised to seek the advice of a local attorney prior to starting the process.  Further information is available at http://www.cipo.gov.dm.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2020 ranks Dominica 71st out of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business.  It takes five procedures and about 12 days to complete the process.  The general practice is to retain an attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents.  A business must register with CIPO, the Tax Authority, and the Social Services Institute.

Outward Investment

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad.  Local companies in Dominica are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME), which enhance the competitiveness of the local and regional private sectors across traditional and emerging high-potential markets.

Dominican Republic

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Dominican Republic presents both opportunities and challenges for foreign investment. The government strongly promotes inward FDI and has prioritized creating a sound enabling environment for foreign investors. While the government has established formal programs to attract FDI, a lack of clear rules and uneven enforcement of existing rules can lead to difficulties.

The Dominican Republic provides tax incentives for investment in tourism, renewable energy, film production, Haiti-Dominican Republic border development, and the industrial sector. The country is also a signatory of CAFTA-DR, which mandates non-discriminatory treatment, free transferability of funds, protection against expropriation, and procedures for the resolution of investment disputes. However, some foreign investors indicate that the uneven enforcement of regulations and laws, or political interference in legal processes, creates difficulties for investment.

There are two main government agencies responsible for attracting foreign investment, the Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD) and the National Council of Free Trade Zones for Export (CNZFE). CEI-RD promotes foreign investment and aids prospective foreign investors with business registration, matching services, and identification of investment opportunities. It publishes an annual “Investment Guide of the Dominican Republic,” highlighting many of the tools, incentives, and opportunities available for prospective investors. The CEI-RD also oversees “ProDominicana,” a branding and marketing program for the country launched in 2017 that promotes the DR as an investment destination and exporter. CNZFE aids foreign companies looking to establish operations in the country’s 75 free trade zones for export outside Dominican territory.

There are a variety of business associations that promote dialogue between the government and private sector, including the Association of Foreign Investor Businesses (ASIEX).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign Investment Law No. 16-95 states that unlimited foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, with a few exceptions for hazardous materials or materials linked to national security. Private entities, both foreign and domestic, have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all legal remunerative activity. Foreign companies are not restricted in their access to foreign exchange, there are no requirements that foreign equity be reduced over time or that technology be transferred according to defined terms, and the government imposes no conditions on foreign investors concerning location, local ownership, local content, or export requirements. See Section 3 Legal Regime for more information.

The Dominican Republic does not maintain a formalized investment screening and approval mechanism for inbound foreign investment. Details on the established mechanisms for registering a business or investment are elaborated in the Business Facilitations section below.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Dominican Republic has not been reviewed recently by multilateral organizations regarding investment policy. The most recent reviews occurred in 2015. This included a trade policy review by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a follow-up review by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) regarding its 2009 investment policy recommendations.

2009 UNCTAD – https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationArchive.aspx?publicationid=6343 

2015 WTO – https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s319_e.pdf

2015 UNCTAD – https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2016d2_en.pdf

Business Facilitation

Foreign investment does not require any prior approval in the Dominican Republic, but once made it must be registered with the CEI-RD. Investments in free zones must be registered with the CNZFE, which will notify the CEI-RD.  Foreign investment registration is compulsory, but failure to do so is not subject to any sanction.  In the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, the Dominican Republic’s overall ranking for ease of doing business fell from 102 in 2019 to 115 in 2020, reflecting stagnant performance in several of the indicator categories.

Law No. 16-95 Foreign Investment, Law No. 98-03 on the Creation of the CEI-RD, and Regulation 214-04 govern foreign investment in the Dominican Republic and require an interested foreign investor to file an application form at the offices of CEI-RD within 180 calendar days from the date on which the foreign investment took place. The required documents include the application for registration, containing information on the invested capital and the area of the investment; proof of entry into the country of the foreign capital or physical or tangible goods; and documents of commercial incorporation or the authorization of operation of a branch office through the setting up of legal domicile in the country.  The reinvestment of profits (in the same or a different firm) must be registered within 90 days. Once the documents have been approved, the CEI-RD issues a certificate of registration within 15 business days subject to the payment of a fee which varies depending on the amount of the investment.

Lack of registration does not affect the validity of the foreign investment; but the fact that it is needed to fulfil various types of procedures, makes registration necessary in practice. For example, the registration certificate has to be presented to repatriate profits or investment in the event of sale or liquidation and to purchase foreign exchange from the authorized agencies for transfers abroad, as well as to process the residency of the investor.  In April 2021, CEI-RD launched an online Registry of Foreign Direct Investment, which aims to streamline and make the registration processes more transparent to investors. For more information on becoming an investor or exporter, visit the CEI-RD ProDominicana website at https://prodominicana.gob.do .

The Dominican Republic has a single-window registration website for registering a limited liability company (SRL by its Spanish acronym) that offers a one-stop shop for registration needs ( https://www.formalizate.gob.do/ ). Foreign companies may use the registration website. However, this electronic method of registration is not widely used in practice and consultation with a local lawyer is recommended for company registrations. According to the “Doing Business” report, starting a SRL in the Dominican Republic is a seven-step process that requires 16.5 days. However, some businesses advise the full incorporation process can take two to three times longer than the advertised process.

In order to set up a business in a free trade zone, a formal request must be made to the CNZFE, the entity responsible for issuing the operating licenses needed to be a free zone company or operator. CNZFE assesses the application and determines its feasibility. For more information on the procedure to apply for an operating license, visit the website of the CNZFE at http://www.cnzfe.gov.do .

Outward Investment

There are no legal or government restrictions on Dominican investment abroad, although the government does little to promote it. Outbound foreign investment is significantly lower than inbound investment. The largest recipient of Dominican outward investment is the United States.

Ecuador

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Ecuador is open to FDI in most sectors. The 2008 Constitution established that the state reserves the right to manage strategic sectors through state-owned or -controlled companies. The sectors identified are energy, telecommunications, non-renewable natural resources, transportation, hydrocarbon refining, water, biodiversity, and genetic patrimony (i.e. flora, fauna and ancestral knowledge). Although in recent years Ecuador took steps to attract FDI, its overall investment climate remains challenging as economic, commercial, and investment policies are subject to frequent change. From January to September 2020 (latest information available), FDI flows to Ecuador amounted to USD 897 million, 45 percent more than 2019 levels (USD 619 million) but still 36 percent lower than 2018 levels (USD 1.4 billion). FDI continues to be lower compared to other countries in the region.

There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, but the legal complexity resulting from the inconsistent application and interpretation of existing laws and regulations increases the risks and costs of doing business in Ecuador. Under the prior Correa administration, disputes involving U.S. companies were politicized, especially in sensitive areas such as the energy sector. This resulted in several high-profile international investment dispute cases, with companies awarded damages in international arbitral rulings against Ecuador in the last few years. In addition, several cases are pending final arbitral rulings.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities are allowed to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity, with limitations in strategic sectors as enumerated in the Constitution. There are no investment screening mechanisms for inbound investment, and the Ecuadorian government actively seeks international investors. One hundred percent foreign equity ownership is allowed.

For license and franchise transactions, no limits exist on royalties that may be remitted, although financial outflows are subject to a five percent capital exit tax. All license and franchise agreements must be registered with the National Service for Intellectual Property Rights (SENADI). In addition to registering with the Superintendence of Companies, Securities, and Insurance, foreign investors must register investments with Ecuador’s Central Bank for statistical purposes.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Ecuador conducted a trade policy review with the World Trade Organization in March 2019; information can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp483_e.htm.

In the past three years, Ecuador has not conducted an investment policy review with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

In 2018, Ecuador folded ProEcuador (https://www.proecuador.gob.ec/), the entity that is responsible for promoting economic development through exports, imports, and investment in Ecuador, into the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries (MPCIEP). ProEcuador is now a Vice Ministry within MPCIEP and has 27 offices in 23 countries, including three in the United States. Ecuador is ranked 129th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report for 2020, with particularly low rankings for Starting a Business (177), Resolving Insolvency (160), and Paying Taxes (147).

A newly created company will at a minimum be required to register with the Superintendence of Companies, Securities, and Insurance (http://www.supercias.gob.ec/), the municipal government, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Institute. The registry with the Superintendence of Companies is a completely online process as of April 2019. The incorporation of companies in Ecuador grew almost eight percent in 2020 (10,800 new companies), propelled by the introduction of the simplified joint-stock company (SAS). The SAS came into effect in May 2020 following the enactment of the Organic Law on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Outward Investment

Ecuador does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. ProEcuador (see above) is responsible for promotion of outward investment from Ecuador. Foreign investments are subject to a currency exit tax of five percent.

In February 2017, voters passed a government-backed referendum prohibiting elected officials and public servants from having financial dealings in tax havens and other suspect jurisdictions. The list includes several U.S. states and territories that do not have state income taxes. The prohibition entered into force in September 2017.

The United States and Ecuador signed the Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency in December 2020 under the Ecuador-U.S. Trade and Investment Council Agreement (TIC). The agreement updates the TIC with new annexes in four areas: Trade Facilitation and Customs Administration, Good Regulatory Practices, Anti-Corruption, and SMEs. The Protocol awaits legislative ratification (as of April 2021).

Egypt

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Egypt’s completion of the three-year, $12-billion IMF Extended Fund Facility between 2016 and 2019, and its associated reform package, helped stabilize Egypt’s macroeconomy, introduced important subsidy and social spending reforms, and helped restore investor confidence in the Egyptian economy.  The flotation of the Egyptian Pound (EGP) in November 2016 and the restart of Egypt’s interbank foreign exchange (FX) market as part of this program was the first major step in restoring investor confidence that immediately led to increased portfolio investment and should lead to increased FDI over the long term.  Other important reforms have included a new investment law and an industrial licensing law in 2017, a new bankruptcy law in 2018, a new customs law in 2020, and other reforms aimed at reducing regulatory overhang and improving the ease of doing business. Egypt’s government has announced plans to improve its business climate further through investment promotion, facilitation, more efficient business services, and the implementation of investor-friendly policies.

With few exceptions, Egypt does not legally discriminate between Egyptian nationals and foreigners in the formation and operation of private companies. The 1997 Investment Incentives Law was designed to encourage domestic and foreign investment in targeted economic sectors and to promote decentralization of industry away from the Nile Valley. The law allows 100 percent foreign ownership of investment projects and guarantees the right to remit income earned in Egypt and to repatriate capital.

The Tenders Law (Law 89 of 1998) requires the government to consider both price and best value in awarding contracts and to issue an explanation for refusal of a bid. However, the law contains preferences for Egyptian domestic contractors, who are accorded priority if their bids do not exceed the lowest foreign bid by more than 15 percent.

The Capital Markets Law (Law 95 of 1992) and its amendments, including the most recent in February 2018, and relevant regulations govern Egypt’s capital markets.  Foreign investors are able to buy shares on the Egyptian Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.

The General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI, http://gafi.gov.eg) is the principal government body that regulates and facilitates foreign investment in Egypt, and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

The Investor Service Center (ISC) is an administrative unit within GAFI that provides “one-stop-shop” services, easing the way for global investors looking for opportunities presented by Egypt’s domestic economy and the nation’s competitive advantages as an export hub for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This is in addition to promoting Egypt’s investment opportunities in various sectors.

The ISC provides a start-to-end service to the investor, including assistance related to company incorporation, establishment of company branches, approval of minutes of Board of Directors and General Assemblies, increases of capital, changes of activity, liquidation procedures, and other corporate-related matters. The Center also aims to issue licenses, approvals, and permits required for investment activities within 60 days from the date of request. Other services GAFI provides include:

Advice and support to help in the evaluation of Egypt as a potential investment location;

Identification of suitable locations and site selection options within Egypt;

Assistance in identifying suitable Egyptian partners; and

Aftercare and dispute settlement services. ​

The ISC plans to establish branches in each of Egypt’s Governorates by the end of 2021.  Egypt maintains ongoing communication with investors through formal business roundtables, investment promotion events (conferences and seminars), and one-on-one investment meetings.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Egyptian Companies Law does not set any limitation on the number of foreigners, neither as shareholders nor as managers/board members, except for Limited Liability Companies where the only restriction is that one of the managers must be an Egyptian national. In addition, companies are required to obtain a commercial and tax license, and pass a security clearance process.  Companies are able to operate while undergoing the often lengthy security screening process.  However, if the firm is rejected, it must cease operations and may undergo a lengthy appeals process.  Businesses have cited instances where Egyptian clients were hesitant to conclude long-term business contracts with foreign businesses that have yet to receive a security clearance. They have also expressed concern about seemingly arbitrary refusals, a lack of explanation when a security clearance is not issued, and the lengthy appeals process. Although the Government of Egypt has made progress streamlining the business registration process at GAFI, inconsistent treatment by banks and other government officials has in some cases led to registration delays.

Sector-specific limitations to investment include restrictions on foreign shareholding of companies owning lands in the Sinai Peninsula. Likewise, the Import-Export Law requires companies wishing to register in the Import Registry to be 51 percent owned and managed by Egyptians. Nevertheless, the new Investment Law does allow wholly foreign companies investing in Egypt to import goods and materials. In January 2021 the Egyptian government removed the 20-percent foreign ownership cap for international and private schools in Egypt.

The ownership of land by foreigners is complicated, in that it is governed by three laws: Law 15 of 1963, Law 143 of 1981, and Law 230 of 1996.  Land/Real Estate Law 15 of 1963 explicitly prohibits foreign individual or corporation ownership of agricultural land (defined as traditional agricultural land in the Nile Valley, Delta and Oases). Law 15/1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land.  Law 143/1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is approximately equal to one acre) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships, and corporations regardless of nationality. Partnerships are permitted to own 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own 50,000 feddans.

Under Law 230/1986, non-Egyptians are allowed to own real estate (vacant or built) only under the following conditions:

  • Ownership is limited to two real estate properties in Egypt that serve as accommodation for the owner and his family (spouses and minors) in addition to the right to own real estate needed for activities licensed by the Egyptian Government.
  • The area of each real estate property does not exceed 4,000 m².
  • The real estate is not considered a historical site.

Exemption from the first and second conditions is subject to the approval of the Prime Minister. Ownership in tourist areas and new communities is subject to conditions established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Non-Egyptians owning vacant real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public. Non-Egyptians cannot sell their real estate for five years after registration of ownership, unless the Prime Minister consents to an exemption.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December 2020, the World Bank published a Country Private Sector Diagnostic report for Egypt, which analyzed key structural economic reforms that the Egyptian government should adopt in order to encourage private-sector-led economic growth. The report also included recommendations for the agribusiness, manufacturing, information technology, education, and healthcare sectors. https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/publications_ext_content/ifc_external_publication_site/publications_listing_page/cpsd-egypt

https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/publications_ext_content/ifc_external_publication_site/publications_listing_page/cpsd-egypt

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) signed a declaration with Egypt on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises on July 11, 2007, at which time Egypt became the first Arab and African country to sign the OECD Declaration, marking a new stage in Egypt’s drive to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI).  On July 8, 2020, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review for Egypt that highlighted the government’s progress implementing a proactive reform agenda to improve the business climate, attract more foreign and domestic investment, and reap the benefits of openness to FDI and participation in global value chains. https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm  

https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm  

In January 2018 the World Trade Organization (WTO) published a comprehensive review of the Egyptian Government’s trade policies, including details of the Investment Law’s (Law 72 of 2017) main provisions. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

The United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) published an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy Review for Egypt in 2017, in which it highlighted the potential for investments in the ICT sector to help drive economic growth and recommended specific reforms aimed at strengthening Egypt’s performance in key ICT policy areas.   https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf 

https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf   

Business Facilitation

GAFI’s ISC ( https://gafi.gov.eg/English/Howcanwehelp/OneStopShop/Pages/default.aspx ) was launched in February 2018 and provides start-to-end service to the investor, as described above.  The Investment Law (Law 72 of 2017) also introduces “Ratification Offices” to facilitate obtaining necessary approvals, permits, and licenses within 10 days of issuing a Ratification Certificate.

Investors may fulfill the technical requirements of obtaining the required licenses through these Ratification Offices, directly through the concerned authority, or through its representatives at the Investment Window at GAFI.  The Investor Service Center is required to issue licenses within 60 days from submission. Companies can also register online.  GAFI has also launched e-establishment, e-signature, and e-payment services to facilitate establishing companies.

Outward Investment

Egypt promotes and incentivizes outward investment. According to the Egyptian government’s FDI Markets database for the period from January 2003 to January 2021, outward investment featured the following:

  • Egyptian companies implemented 278 Egyptian FDI projects. The estimated total value of the projects, which employed about 49,000 workers, was $24.26 billion.
  • The following countries respectively received the largest amount of Egyptian outward investment in terms of total project value: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kenya, Jordan, Ethiopia, Germany, Libya, Morocco, and Nigeria.
  • The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria accounted for about 28 percent of the total amount.
  • Elsewedy Electric was the largest Egyptian company investing abroad, implementing 21 projects with a total investment estimated to be $2.1 billion.

Egypt does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

El Salvador

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

The GOES recognizes the benefits of attracting FDI. El Salvador does not have laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors. The GOES does not screen or prohibit FDI. However, FDI levels still lag behind regional neighbors, except for Nicaragua. The Central Bank reported net FDI inflows of $232.95 million at the end of September 2020.

The Exports and Investment Promotion Agency of El Salvador (PROESA) supports investment in seven main sectors: textiles and apparel; business services; tourism; aeronautics; agro-industry; light manufacturing; and energy. PROESA provides information for potential investors about applicable laws, regulations, procedures, and available incentives for doing business in El Salvador. Websites: https://investelsalvador.com/  and http://www.proesa.gob.sv/investment/sector-opportunities .

The National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), El Salvador’s umbrella business chamber, serves as the primary private sector representative in dialogues with GOES ministries. http://www.anep.org.sv/ .

In 2019, the Bukele administration created the Secretariat of Commerce and Investment, a position within the President’s Office responsible for the formulation of trade and investment policies, as well as coordinating the Economic Cabinet. In addition, the Bukele administration created the Presidential Commission for Strategic Projects to lead the GOES major projects.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign citizens and private companies can freely establish businesses in El Salvador.

No single natural or legal person – whether national or foreign – can own more than 245 hectares (605 acres) of land. The Salvadoran Constitution stipulates there is no restriction on foreign ownership of rural land in El Salvador, unless Salvadoran nationals face restrictions in the corresponding country. Rural land to be used for industrial purposes is not subject to the reciprocity requirement.

The 1999 Investments Law grants equal treatment to foreign and domestic investors. With the exception of limitations imposed on micro businesses, which are defined as having 10 or fewer employees and yearly sales of $121,319.40 or less, foreign investors may freely establish any type of domestic business. Investors who begin operations with 10 or fewer employees must present plans to increase employment to the Ministry of Economy’s National Investment Office.

The Investment Law provides that extractive resources are the exclusive property of the state. The GOES may grant private concessions for resource extraction, though concessions are infrequently granted.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

El Salvador has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. The latest trade policy review performed by the WTO was published in 2016 (document: WT/TPR/S/344/Rev.1). https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=(@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*)%20and%20((%20@Title=%20el%20salvador%20)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20el%20salvador))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true# 

https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=(@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*)%20and%20((%20@Title=%20el%20salvador%20)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20el%20salvador))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true# 

The latest investment policy review performed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was in 2010. http://unctad.org/en/Docs/diaepcb200920_en.pdf

Business Facilitation

El Salvador has various laws that promote and protect investments, as well as providing benefits to local and foreign investors. These include: the Investments Law, the International Services Law; the Free Trade Zones Law; the Tourism Law, the Renewable Energy Incentives Law; the Law on Public Private Partnerships; the Special Law for Streamlining Procedures for the Promotion of Construction Projects; and the Legal Stability Law for Investments.

Business Registration

Per the World Bank, registering a new business in El Salvador requires nine steps taking an average of 16.5 days. According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, El Salvador ranks 148 in the “Starting a Business” indicator. El Salvador launched an online business registration portal in 2017 designed as a one-stop shop for registering new companies. The online portal allows new businesses the ability to formalize registration within three days and conduct administrative operations online. The portal ( https://miempresa.gob.sv/ ) is available to all, though services are available only in Spanish.

The GOES’ Business Services Office (Oficina de Atención Empresarial) caters to entrepreneurs and investors. The office has two divisions: “Growing Your Business” (Crecemos Tu Empresa) and the National Investment Office (Dirección Nacional de Inversiones, DNI). “Growing Your Businesses” provides business advice, especially for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises. The DNI administers investment incentives and facilitates business registration.

Contact information:

Business Services Office
Telephone: (503) 2590-5107
Address: Boulevard Del Hipódromo, Colonia San Benito, Century Tower, 7th Floor , San Salvador. Schedule: Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Crecemos Tu Empresa
E-mail: crecemostuempresa@minec.gob.sv
Website: http://www.minec.gob.sv/ 

The National Investment Office:

Stephanie Argueta de Rengifo , National Director of Investments, sargueta@minec.gob.sv;
Sandra Llirina Sagastume de Sandoval, Deputy Director of Special Investments , llirina.sagastume@minec.gob.sv Christel Schulz, Business Climate Deputy, cdearce@minec.gob.sv 
Laura Rosales de Valiente, Deputy Director of Investment Facilitation, lrosales@minec.gob.sv
Telephone: (503) 2590-5116/ (503) 2590-5264.

The Productive Development Fund (FONDEPRO) provides grants to small enterprises to strengthen competitiveness. Website: http://www.fondepro.gob.sv/ 

The National Commission for Micro and Small Businesses (CONAMYPE) supports micro and small businesses by providing training, technical assistance, financing, venture capital, and loan guarantee programs. CONAMYPE also provides assistance on market access and export promotion, marketing, business registration, and the promotion of business ventures led by women and youth. Website: https://www.conamype.gob.sv/ 

The Micro and Small Businesses Promotion Law defines a microenterprise as a natural or legal person with annual gross sales up to 482 minimum monthly wages, equivalent to $146,609.94 and up to ten workers. A small business is defined as a natural or legal person with annual gross sales between 482 minimum monthly wages ($146,609.94) and 4,817 minimum monthly wages ($1,465,186.89) and up to 50 employees. To facilitate credit to small businesses, Salvadoran law allows for inventories, receivables, intellectual property rights, consumables, or any good with economic value to be used as collateral for loans.

El Salvador provides equitable treatment for women and under-represented minorities. The GOES does not provide targeted assistance to under-represented minorities. CONAMYPE provides specialized counseling to female entrepreneurs and women-owned small businesses.

Outward Investment

While the government encourages Salvadoran investors to invest in El Salvador, it neither promotes nor restricts investment abroad.

Equatorial Guinea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is still actively soliciting foreign investments. The government considered 2019 to be the “Year of Energy,” with new licensing rounds for hydrocarbons fields and various events to encourage investment. This was supposed to continue into the 2020 “Year of Investment,” focusing on hydrocarbons, mining exploration, and petrochemicals, which was disrupted by the pandemic. In 2017, the Government started the donor facilitation initiative with the World Bank, as part of a strategy towards membership in the World Trade Organization. The government also passed a law to establish a “Single Window” for investors and simplify the process to register a business, which launched in Malabo in January 2019 but was generally moribund pending identification of priority investment areas from the April 2019 third national economic conference, the final report for which has yet to be published. The government continued to partner with the World Bank on reviewing improvements to the process. A second office was expected to open in Bata in 2020 but was put on hold due to COVID-19

Statutorily, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Planning approves investment permits. A new state entity, Holdings Equatorial Guinea 2020, was created to help guide diversification efforts. This entity was expected to serve as a hub for foreign investors. For now, however, investors still work with the relevant government ministries to negotiate contracts. The government, including at the highest levels, has regular meetings and conferences with business leaders and investors, though we are unaware of any formal business roundtable. For example, in November 2018, the World Bank and the Singapore Cooperation Programs led a conference in Equatorial Guinea on improving the business climate.

The country’s Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, has been leading a campaign to increase investment. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on oil prices and African economies, the Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons granted oil and gas companies a two-year extension on their exploration programs. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons will also encourage flexibility on the work programs of producing companies to ensure growth and stability in the market. The measure reflects broader efforts to drive global investment into Equatorial Guinea in line with its 2020 Year of Investment campaign. The extensions may particularly aid U.S. companies, which represent the majority of investment in Equatorial Guinea’s energy sector and are currently in the early stages of exploration and seismic interpretation of several new areas in existing offshore blocks. The Year of Investment, which was to include several in-country conferences and a global investment roadshow, was adapted to COVID-19 restrictions by using webinars and video conferencing to connect with investors. In February 2021, a consortium led by Noble Energy/Chevron, Marathon Oil, and EGLNG achieved the first gas flow from the successful execution of the Alen Gas Monetization project, a $475-million investment representing the first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s Gas Mega Hub plan. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons is currently promoting several capital-intensive projects – including the construction of modular oil refineries, a gold refinery, liquefied petroleum gas strategic tanks, a urea plant, and the expansion of a compressed natural gas project – which are open for investment. In December 2020, the Ministry announced a forecast of $1.1 billion in foreign direct investment in oil and gas activities in 2021.

The government also took several steps to support small and medium enterprises suffering during the pandemic, such as delaying and lowering tax payments, temporarily reducing the cost of electricity, and providing some small grants for micro-enterprises.

The Equatoguinean authorities have been willing to receive and protect all Foreign Direct Investment, including through changes in the country’s legal framework in recent years.

Currently there is no law or practice that discriminates against investors based on their origin, sex, age, race, political creed, or religion. The Law on the Investment Regime of the country establishes in Article 12 that the State commits itself to fair and equitable treatment for all investors. Decree No. 72/2018, dated April 18, 2018, and amended Article 2 of Decree No. 127/2004, dated September 14, 2004, eliminates the requirement of having an Equatoguinean partner to invest in the country’s non-oil sector.

Law 7/1992 and Law 54/1994 provide for the creation of an Investment Promotion Center, which must advise the government on investment policies, promote investments and support investors with information and in the resolution of conflicts. These Laws also provide for the creation of a National Investment Commission. Neither the Center nor the Commission is currently operational. Given the need for these types of organizations, in 2015, through Decree No. 134/2015, the Government mandated the Ministry of Commerce and Business Promotion to create and start up an agency to promote, integrate and coordinate the national policy of attraction of investors. In April 2021, this task was still in process and expected to start operating in 2023.

In November 2018, the Government organized a high-level seminar on the business climate in Equatorial Guinea with participation of the public and private sectors and development partners. For three days, they reflected on the position of Equatorial Guinea in each of the parameters of the Ease of Doing Business Ranking and the International Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum. As a result of the recommendations of this seminar, the government issued Decree 109/2019, creating a committee in charge of improving the national business environment, bringing together representatives of the government, private sector, and civil society to debate and propose reforms. The World Bank has subsequently partnered with the government to create and implement a plan to improve the business climate.

Even though the country does not currently have an investment promotion agency, the Ministry of Commerce has prioritized the implementation of a national agency for investment promotion within its Enhanced Integrated Framework program with World Trade Organization. The ministry has plans to establish a Foreign Trade Single Window to complement the existing one for domestic businesses.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The government is generally supportive of foreign direct investment. The Foreign Investment Law (Decree 72/2018 of April 2018) modified the provisions of Decree 127/2004 stipulating that shareholder capital firms and companies operating in the petroleum sector must have Equatoguinean shareholders. The government requires that Equatoguinean partners hold at least 35 percent of share capital of foreign companies or companies created by foreigners in the hydrocarbons sector only. Equatoguinean partners must also account for one third of the representatives on the Board of Directors. Apart from the hydrocarbons sector, investments must not be part of public-private partnerships with a government entity. The Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons generally approves any major deal in the hydrocarbons sector. Decisions regarding larger investment deals may rise to the presidential level. U.S. investors may reach out to the Equatoguinean Embassy in the United States for guidance regarding connection to the appropriate ministry for outreach efforts.

The Hydrocarbons Law and the National Content Regulation establish various requirements for international oil and gas companies that wish to operate in Equatorial Guinea. These include a minority partner stake for either the state oil company (GE Petrol) or the state gas company (Sonagas). In addition, there are national content requirements, many established in 2014 by the then-Ministry of Mines, Industry, and Energy, which apply to both producers and service companies, including that 70% of staff must be Equatoguinean, 50-100% of services (depending on category) must be procured from national company partners, and a percentage of the company’s revenue must be allocated to corporate social responsibility projects approved by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (the Ministry was divided into two in 2017, including a separate Ministry of Industry and Energy). Ministerial Order 1/2020 (April 2020) established that companies can employ foreign laborers in the oil and gas sector for a maximum period of three years, though companies may apply for extensions in exceptional cases, with compliance overseen by the Ministry’s Director General of National Content. Minister of Mines Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima was quoted as saying, “With the release of this new order, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons intends to enhance the capacity of local service companies while guaranteeing the creation of local jobs for our trained and educated youth.” While Equatorial Guinea sought foreign direct investment in several of its capital-intensive energy and petrochemicals projects through its 2020 Year of Investment campaign, the country simultaneously prioritized the procurement of local goods and services and the stimulation of local jobs. The legislation follows the completion of capacity building and training programs, particularly at the gas and oil industry-supported National Technological Institute for Hydrocarbons in Mongomo. Given the generally low quality of education in the country, international companies complain about the difficulty of recruiting qualified locals.

Equatorial Guinea belongs to the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Laws in Africa (OHADA) and falls under the OHADA Uniform Act on the law of commercial companies and economic interest groups of January 30, 2014.

Law 4/2009 on the Land Ownership Regime in Equatorial Guinea establishes that foreigners cannot own land but rather purchase a lease with a maximum duration of 99 years.

The foreign investor is required to justify the origin of the funds used for the creation of a company in Equatorial Guinea.

In 2019, the government began its second attempt to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), submitting an incomplete application and meeting with civil society and other interested organizations. By 2020, the government established two EITI commission offices in Malabo and Bata — the largest cities — and published gas and oil contracts on its EITI website.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea has not conducted an investment policy review through any institutions, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Trade Organization, or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. In October 2019, the World Bank presented its Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) that analyzed various sectors of the Equatoguinean economy and prospects for increased economic development and trade.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020, starting a business in Equatorial Guinea requires 16 procedures and usually takes 33 days, the same as in 2019. Equatorial Guinea was ranked 183 of 190 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 for ease of “starting a business.” In 2017, the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea passed Decree No. 67/2017, published in September 2017, to establish a “Single Window” or “single window” to simplify the process to register a business and speed the process to seven business days. The “single window” was launched in January 2019, after the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea equipped facilities for processing applications, and trained staff. There is a webpage with information, https://www.ventanillaempresarialge.com/en/welcome/ , but businesses cannot yet register online. Generally, business must register with various agencies at the national level and some local offices. The Single Window does not eliminate steps, but it does consolidate visits to five offices into one. The below chart illustrates the steps that an entrepreneur can complete at the Single Window:

BEFORE NOW
Public Notary Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Trade register Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Finance, the Economy, and Planning Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce – General Direction of Commerce Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce – Department of Business Promotion Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Labor Ministry of Labor
Social Security Administration (INSESO) Social Security Administration (INSESO)
Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Commerce
City Hall City Hall
Sectoral ministries according to the activity of the company Sectoral ministries according to the activity of the company

The country does not have a business facilitation mechanism for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy. There are laws that make it illegal to discriminate against women. There is an ongoing effort from the government to include people with disabilities in public administration, including with internship programs and contracts.

By Presidential Decree No 45/2020 from April 24, 2020, the government reduced the paid-in minimum capital requirement for Limited Liability Companies to operate in the country from 1,000,000 XAF to 100,000 XAF. In 2019, the Government established a committee to monitor the country’s performance on the main indicators of ease of doing business, as well as to propose reforms to improve the national business climate. The committee — comprised of several CEOs, the private sector, business organizations and civil society — developed a roadmap with actions to be implemented to facilitate the establishment of companies in the country. While not possible to register online, the government is exploring the option for a business to register by phone.

In February 2020, registration of trade certificates and businesses were included in the Single Window. Currently, would-be investors can access government websites for information on setting up businesses in the country. This includes websites for:

  • Single Window [I https://www.ventanillaempresarialge.com/en/welcome/]
  • Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Planning [https://minhacienda-gob.com /]

Currently, work is being done to include records from the Single Window in the Ministry of Labor and in the National Institute of Social Security. A Ministerial Order is under discussion to include data of the Ministry of Labor in the Single Window.

The National Institute for Business Promotion and Development launched an entrepreneurship training program with financing available. The program teaches entrepreneurs – with a focus on microbusinesses — how to develop business plans around their ideas, with the best project selected for investment. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is one of the donors, with an emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurship.

Outward Investment

Although Equatoguinean citizens may legally invest outside the country, the government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea does not promote foreign investment. The government and media do not praise or showcase Equatoguineans with business interests abroad. While there are no known restrictions on foreign investment, some individuals and companies have faced delays when transferring money overseas or converting local currency into foreign exchange, exacerbated by new CEMAC rules on foreign currency reserves enacted in 2019.

With technical assistance from UNDP, Equatorial Guinea is currently implementing the WTO Enhanced Integrated Framework program. This multilateral partnership is dedicated to assisting least developed countries (LDCs) use trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development, and poverty reduction. EG’s Action Plan through the Ministry of Commerce prioritizes promoting national products in the subregional and international markets. To encourage agricultural production, the Ministry plans to establish a national food certification institute within the Chamber of Commerce, pending funding from the government. The project was delayed by the pandemic.

After pausing all timber exports and firing the Minister of Agriculture, Timber, Livestock, and the Environment in the fall of 2020, the government lifted the export ban in October via Decree 93/2020. This authorized export of round wood, an industry dominated by Chinese companies. The previous decree had authorized only exports of transformed wood, with the goal of promoting the wood transformation industry in the local economy.

Eritrea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Eritrean government professes a desire for more and more diversified FDI.  However, governmental control of the economy and the lack of robust business and investment legal code makes private investment difficult and financially risky.

The official 1994 Investment Proclamation No. 59/1994 states that all sectors (excluding domestic retail, domestic wholesale, import, and commission agency companies without a bilateral agreement of reciprocity) are open to any investors.  In practice, this law has been suspended and the ruling Popular Front for Democracy and Justice determines those sectors in which – and defines the terms under which – private investment is accepted.

The Investment Center, established in 1998, operates directly under the Office of the President; it does not publish any information related to its activities. In the past, the Center conducted public outreach to encourage members of the Eritrean diaspora to invest in Eritrea.  The Center has not conducted a large public event since 2012; senior Center officials have stated that the time for investments is not appropriate because investment developments must follow political developments.

There is no business ombudsman in Eritrea or other mechanisms to prioritize retention or maintain dialogue with existing investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

In practice, there is no fundamental “right” for either foreign or domestic private entities to establish or run business enterprises free from government interference.  All sectors of the economy are tightly controlled by the GSE, most large enterprises are either entirely or partially owned by the government or the PFDJ, and the government can order a business to close without explanation or legal recourse.

There are both statutory and de facto limits on foreign ownership and control of enterprises.  All foreign-owned mines must give a 10% stake to the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO), and ENAMCO has the option to buy another 30% equity in the project.  Regulations in other fields are not well established.

With some exceptions, such as mining, investment is de facto prohibited in most sectors of the economy.  The government has encouraged investment in the mining sector, and mining-specific regulations were adopted in 2011.  There are few other large foreign investments in the country.  The few foreign enterprises operating in Eritrea do so under non-public agreements negotiated directly between the companies or countries and a small group of officials from the GSE and the ruling political party.

There is no transparent GSE screening mechanism for approving inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The GSE has undergone no recent third-party investment policy review.

Business Facilitation

The government has made no known efforts to facilitate business in Eritrea.  The government does not have a business registration website.  Businesses are required to register with six government offices (the Business License Office, the Ministry of Information, the Inland Revenue Department, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, and the local municipality), and the registration process usually takes 84 days, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business report.

Outward Investment

Given the low level of capital accumulation in the economy, Eritrea is not a likely provider of foreign capital.  As part of its efforts to direct capital towards development, the GSE’s laws strictly control capital flows, currency exchange, and restricts domestic investors from making large investments abroad.  For example, monthly bank withdrawals are limited to 5,000 Nakfa, and dollars are generally unavailable for withdrawal.

Estonia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Estonia is currently open for FDI and foreign investors are treated on an equal footing with local investors, though the government is developing a screening mechanism to adhere to the EU Foreign Investment Screening Regulation (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2019/452/oj) that entered into force on April 10, 2019. This new regulation is applicable from October 11, 2020 and creates an information-sharing mechanism between Member States and allows Member States and the European Commission to comment on foreign investments foreseen in other Member States.

The Estonian Investment Agency (EIA), a part of Enterprise Estonia, is a government agency promoting foreign investments in Estonia and assisting international companies in finding business opportunities in Estonia. EIA offers comprehensive, one-stop investment consultancy services, free of charge. The agency’s goal is to increase awareness of business opportunities in Estonia and promote the image of Estonia as an attractive country for investments. More info: http://www.investinestonia.com/en/estonian-investment-agency/about-the-agency

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Estonia’s government has not set limitations on foreign ownership. Licenses are required for foreign investors to enter the following sectors: mining, energy, gas and water supply, railroad and transport, waterways, ports, dams and other water-related structures and telecommunications and communication networks. The Estonian Financial Supervision Authority issues licenses for foreign interests seeking to invest in or establish a bank. Additionally, the Estonian Competition Authority reviews transactions for anti-competition concerns. Government review and licensing have proven to be routine and non-discriminatory.

As a member of the EU, the Government of Estonia (GOE) maintains liberal policies in order to attract investment and export-oriented companies. Creating favorable conditions for FDI and openness to foreign trade has been the foundation of Estonia’s economic strategy. Existing requirements are not intended to restrict foreign ownership but rather to regulate it and establish clear ownership responsibilities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Since becoming a member of the EU, Estonia is included in WTO Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) of the EU/EC. The fourteenth review of the trade policies and practices of the European Union took place in February 2020. Full report available here: WTO | Trade policy review -European Union (formerly EC) 2020.

Business Facilitation

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report ranks Estonia in 18th place out of 190 countries on the ease of Starting a Business. Economic freedom, ease of doing business, per capita investments, low national debt, euro zone membership, and low corruption scores – all these factors play a role in fostering a good climate for business facilitation.

In Estonia there are two ways to register your business:

  • Electronic registration via the e-Commercial Register’s Company registration portal (rik.ee) (takes between 5 minutes and 1 business day).
  • Through a notary (takes 2-3 business days)

More info on registering the business entity and link to the Register: https://www.eesti.ee/en/doing-business/establishing-a-company/comparison-of-each-form-of-business/

On July 1, 2014, an amended Taxation Act establishing the employment register entered into force, requiring all natural and legal employers to register the persons employed by them with the Estonian Tax and Customs Board.  The company must register itself as a value-added taxpayer if the taxable turnover of the company, excluding imports of goods, exceeds EUR 40,000 as calculated from the beginning of the calendar year.

There are certain areas of activity (like construction, electrical works, fire safety, financial services, security services, etc.) in which business operation requires an additional registration in the Register of Economic Activities (MTR), but this can be done after registration of the company in the Commercial Register: https://mtr.mkm.ee/

Outward Investment

Estonia does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad nor does it promote outward investment. Estonia companies have invested abroad about USD 10 billion, mostly into EU countries. The main sectors for outward investments are services, manufacturing, real estate and financial.

Eswatini

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini (GKoE) regards foreign direct investment (FDI) as one of the five pillars of its Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth (SDIG) Program, and a means to drive the country’s economic growth, obtain access to foreign markets for its exports, and improve international competitiveness. While the government has strongly encouraged foreign investment over the past 15 years, it only recently adopted a formal strategy for achieving measurable progress. Eswatini does not have a unified policy on investment. Instead, individual ministries have their own investment facilitation policies, which include policies on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), agriculture, energy, transportation, mining, education, and telecommunications. The Finance Minister in his annual state of budget address stated that the government aspires to have a one stop shop for business startups to streamline government processes to less than two weeks.

The Swati constitution states, generally, that non-citizens and/or companies with a majority of non-citizen shareholders may not own land unless they were vested in their ownership rights before the constitution entered into force in 2006. On the other hand, the constitution’s general prohibition “may not be used to undermine or frustrate an existing or new legitimate business undertaking of which land is a significant factor or base.” Furthermore, non-citizens and non-citizen majority-owned companies may hold long-term (up to 99 years) leases on Title and Swati Nation Land. Besides land ownership laws, there are no laws that discriminate against foreign investors. In 2019, the government listed some of its title deed land to make it available for long-term leasing for commercial purposes.

In practice, most successful foreign investors work with local partners to navigate Eswatini’s complex bureaucracy. Most of the country’s land is Swati Nation Land held by the king and cannot be purchased by foreign investors. Foreign investors that require significant land for their enterprise must engage the Land Management Board to negotiate long-term leases.

The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) is the state-owned enterprise (SOE) charged with designing and implementing strategies for attracting desired foreign investors.

Eswatini’s Investment Policy and policies that support the business environment are online at https://investeswatini.org.sz/legal-and-regulatory-framework/ . EIPA services include: – Attract and promote local and foreign direct investments

  • Attract and promote local and foreign direct investments
  • Identify and disseminate trade and investment opportunities
  • Provide investor facilitation and aftercare services
  • Promote internal and external trade
  • Undertake research and policy analysis
  • Facilitate company registration and business licenses/permits
  • Facilitate work permits and visas for investors
  • Provide a one stop shop information and support facility for businesses
  • Export product development
  • Facilitation of participation in external trade fairs
  • BuyerSeller Missions

The GKoE continues its attempts to improve the ease of doing business in the country through the Investor Roadmap Unit (IRU). The IRU engages with businesses and government to review and report on the progress and implementation of the investor roadmap reforms.

EIPA has an aftercare division for purposes of investment retention, which is a direct avenue for investors to communicate concerns they may have. Most investors who stay beyond the initial period during which the GKoE offers investment incentives have opted to remain long-term.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Both foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish businesses and acquire and dispose of interest in business enterprises. Foreign investors own several of Eswatini’s largest private businesses, either fully or with minority participation by Swati institutions.

There are no general limits on foreign ownership and control of companies, which can be 100 percent foreign owned and controlled. The only exceptions on foreign ownership and control are in the mining sector and in relation to land ownership. The Mines and Minerals Act of 2011 requires that the King (in trust for the Swati Nation) be granted a 25-percent equity stake in all mining ventures, with another 25 percent equity stake granted to the GKoE. There are also sector-specific trade exclusions that prohibit foreign control, which include business dealings in firearms, radioactive material, explosives, hazardous waste, and the printing of currency.

Foreign investments are screened only through standard background and credit checks. Under the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, investors must submit certain documents including proof of residence and source of income for deposits. EIPA also conducts general screening of FDI monies through credit bureau checks and Interpol. This screening is not a barrier to investing in Eswatini. There are no discriminatory mechanisms applied against U.S. foreign direct investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There have been no Investment policy reviews for Eswatini in the last 3 years. Through its membership in the Southern African Customs Union, its ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and its participation in the work of the WTO, Eswatini continues to pursue the importance of trade to development In 2015, the WTO performed a Trade Policy Review of the Southern African Customs Union, which includes Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, South Africa, and Lesotho. In 2016, the Trade facilitation agreement was ratified; Eswatini’s portion of that review is available online: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/archive_e/country_arc_e.htm?country1=SWZ 

Business Facilitation

Eswatini does not have a single overarching business facilitation policy. Policies that address business facilitation are spread across the spectrum of relevant ministries. The Investor Road Map Unit (IRMU) is the public entity responsible for the review and monitoring of business environment reforms. EIPA facilitates foreign and domestic investment opportunities and has a fairly modern, up-to-date website: https://investeswatini.org.sz  / . Certain GKoE application forms are available online at the EIPA website. Recent developments in the business facilitation space include the online registration of companies via the link www.online.gov.sz . As of 2020, the final steps (payment of statutory fees and registration fee) are now available online. According to the Doing Business Report, the process of registering a company in Eswatini takes approximately 10 days. In practice, the process can take much longer for foreign investors.

The main organization representing the private sector is Business Eswatini ( www.business-eswatini.co.sz ), which represents more than 80 percent of large businesses in Eswatini, works on a wide range of issues of interest to the private sector, and seeks to build partnerships with the government to promote commercial development. Through Business Eswatini, the private sector is represented in a number of national working committees, including the National Trade Negotiations Team (NTNT).

Outward Investment

Ethiopia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Ethiopia needs significant inflows of FDI to meet its ambitious growth goals. Over the past year, in an effort to attract more foreign investment, the government has passed a new investment law, acceded to the New York Convention on Arbitration, amended its six-decade old commercial code, and digitized commercial registration and business licensing processes. The government has also begun implementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) proclamation, in an attempt to allow for private investment in the power generation and road construction sectors.

The Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) has the mandate to promote and facilitate foreign investments in Ethiopia. To accomplish this task, the EIC is charged with 1) promoting the country’s investment opportunities to attract and retain investment; 2) issuing investment permits, business licenses, and construction permits; 3) issuing commercial registration certificates and renewals; 4) negotiating and signing bilateral investment agreements; 5) issuing work permits; and 6) registering technology transfer agreements. In addition, the EIC has the mandate to advise the government on policies to improve the investment climate and hold regular and structured public-private dialogues with investors and their associations. At the local level, regional investment agencies facilitate regional investment. On the 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index Ethiopia ranks 159 out of 190 countries, which is the exact same ranking it held in both 2018 and 2019. To improve the investment climate, attract more FDI, and tackle unemployment challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office formed a committee to systematically examine each indicator on the Doing Business Index and identify factors that inhibit the private sector.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) works on voicing the concerns of U.S. businesses in Ethiopia. AmCham provides a mechanism for coordination among American companies and facilitates regular meetings with government officials to discuss issues that hinder operations in Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce also organizes a monthly business forum that enables the business community to discuss issues related to the investment climate with government officials.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish, acquire, own, and dispose of most forms of business enterprises. The new Investment Proclamation and associated regulations outline the areas of investment reserved for government and local investors. There is no private ownership of land in Ethiopia. All land is technically owned by the state but can be leased for up to 99 years. Small-scale rural landholders have indefinite use rights, but cannot lease out holdings for extended periods, except in the Amhara Region. The 2011 Urban Land Lease Proclamation allows the government to determine the value of land in transfers of leasehold rights, in an attempt to curb speculation by investors.

A foreign investor intending to buy an existing private enterprise or shares in an existing enterprise needs to obtain prior approval from the EIC. While foreign investors have complained about inconsistent interpretation of the regulations governing investment registration (particularly relating to accounting for in-kind investments), they generally do not face undue screening of FDI, unfavorable tax treatment, denial of licenses, discriminatory import or export policies, or inequitable tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Over the past three years, the government has not undertaken any third-party investment policy review by a multilateral or non-governmental organization. The government has worked closely with some international stakeholders, such as the International Finance Corporation, in its attempt to modernize and streamline its investment regulations.

Business Facilitation

The EIC has attempted to establish itself as a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors by acting as a centralized location where investors can obtain the visas, permits, and paperwork they need, thereby reducing the time and cost of investing and acquiring business licenses. The EIC has worked with international consultants to modernize its operations, and as part of its work plan has adopted a customer manager system to build lasting relationships and provide post-investment assistance to investors. Despite progress, the EIC readily admits that many bureaucratic barriers to investment remain. In particular, U.S. investors report that the EIC, as a federal organization, has little influence at regional and local levels. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, on average, it takes 32 days to start a business in Ethiopia.

Currently, more than 95 percent of Ethiopia’s trade passes through the Port of Djibouti, with residual trade passing through the Somaliland Port of Berbera or Port Sudan. Ethiopia concluded an agreement in March of 2018 with the Somaliland Ports Authority and DP World to acquire a 19 percent stake in the joint venture developing the Port of Berbera. The agreement will help Ethiopia secure an additional logistical gateway for its increasing import and export trade. Following the July 2018 rapprochement with Eritrea, the Ethiopian government has the opportunity of accessing an alternative port at either Massawa or Assab. At present, however, land borders with Eritrea remain closed, and little progress is being made to operationalize alternative logistics corridors in Eritrea.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to improve business facilitation services by making the licensing and registration of businesses easier and faster. In February of 2021, the Ministry of Trade and Industry launched an eTrade platform ( etrade.gov.et ) for business registration licensing to enable individuals to register their companies and acquire business licenses online. The amended commercial registration and licensing law eliminates the requirement to publicize business registrations in local newspapers, allows business registration without a physical address, and reduces some other paperwork burdens associated with business registration. U.S. companies can obtain detailed information for the registration of their business in Ethiopia from an online investment guide to Ethiopia: ( https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia ) and the EIC’s website: ( http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/index.php/investment-process/starting-a-business.html ). Though the government is taking positive steps to socially empower women (approximately half of cabinet members are women), there is no special treatment provided to women who wish to engage in business.

The full Doing Business Report is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia 

Outward Investment

There is no officially recorded outward investment by domestic investors from Ethiopia as citizens/local investors are not allowed to hold foreign accounts.

Fiji

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Due to COVID-19 health crisis, the government’s COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework creates significant hurdles for foreign investors who intend to travel to Fiji.  One measure within the framework calls for an additional assessment by the government’s COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce of all new investment ventures.  The Fiji government continues to review its investment policies to improve efficiency of doing business in Fiji.  Investment Fiji is responsible for the promotion of foreign investment in the interest of national development (its previous powers as a regulator were removed in 2020).  In addition to registering and assisting with the implementation of foreign investment projects, Investment Fiji hosts information seminars for visiting foreign business delegations and participates at investment missions overseas.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Foreign Investment Act (FIA) and the 2009 Foreign Investment Regulation regulate foreign investment in Fiji.  All businesses with a foreign investment component in their ownership are required to register and obtain a Foreign Investment Registration Certificate (FIRC) from Investment Fiji.

Some investment activities are reserved for Fiji nationals or are subject to restrictions.  There is no minimum investment requirement.  There are 17 reserved activities exclusively for Fiji citizens, mainly in the services sector, and eight restricted activities.  Full listings of reserved and restricted areas can be found at:  http://www.investmentfiji.org.fj/pages.cfm/for-investors/doing-business-in-fiji/foreign-investment-act-foreign-investment-regulations.html.  Restricted activities in forestry, tobacco production, tourism (cultural heritage), real estate development, construction, earthmoving, and inter-island shipping or passenger service require minimum investments ranging from USD 250,000 – 2.5 million (FJD 500,00 – 5 million).  Investment in the fisheries sector also requires a 30 percent local equity in the project.  Investment Fiji helps vet foreign investment proposals to ensure that the projects are in the interest of national development and to support implementation of projects.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Fiji has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews in the past three years.  In 2016, Fiji completed its second WTO trade policy review (https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp430_e.htm) and ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2017.  In 2015, UNCTAD undertook a voluntary peer review of Fiji’s competition law and policy, available at http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditcclp2015d5_en.pdf.

Business Facilitation

The Fiji government’s bizFiji website (www.business-fiji.com) is an information portal for new and existing businesses, as well as foreign investors.  The portal provides information on the business registration process, how to obtain construction permits, and included application forms and links to all the required agencies, including the Registrar of Companies, Fiji Revenue and Customs Services (FRCS), Fiji National Provident Fund, National Occupational Health and Safety Services, and the Fiji National University.  The government’s reforms to improve the ease and reduce the cost of doing business include eliminating the business license requirement for low-risk businesses, reducing processing times for business licenses to 48 hours, and removing several requirements for existing businesses.  Since the launch of bizFiji in 2019, the government has worked to develop a single online clearance system to improve registration processes, but inefficiencies remain.

For foreign investors, the bizFiji website is also linked to the Investment Fiji website.  The registration form and procedures, and regulations for foreign investment is available at the Investment Fiji issue of the Foreign Investment Registration Certificate (FIRC).  Applications for a FIRC and payment of the requisite application fee of USD 1,336 (FJD 2,725) needs to be submitted to Investment Fiji.  Investors need to meet the requirements listed under the Foreign Investment Act (FIA) and the 2009 Foreign Investment Regulation as well as ensure that the investment activity does not fall under the reserved and restricted activities lists.  The registration process for investment applications takes at least five working days and sometimes longer if the paperwork is incomplete.

Investors are also required to obtain the necessary permits and licenses from other relevant authorities and should be prepared for delays.  There are no special services or preferences to facilitate investment and business operations by micro, small and medium sized enterprises, or by women.

Contact: Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Level 2 and 3, Civic Tower, Victoria Parade, Suva; Telephone: (679) 330 5411; Website:  www.mcttt.gov.fj

Outward Investment

The Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) tightened exchange controls and any outward investment by individuals, companies, and non-bank financial institutions, including the Fiji National Provident Fund, require clearance from the RBF.

Finland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Finnish government is open to foreign direct investment. There are no general regulatory limitations relating to acquisitions. A mixture of domestic and EU competition rules govern mergers and acquisitions. Finland does not preclude foreign investment, but some tax policies may make it unattractive to investors. Finnish tax authorities treat the movement of ownership of shares from a Finnish company to a foreign company as a taxable event, though Finland complies with EU directives that require it to allow such transactions based in other EU member states without taxing them.

Finland does not grant foreign-owned firms preferential treatment like tax holidays or other subsidies not available to all firms. Instead, Finland relies on policies that seek to offer both domestic and international firms better operating conditions, an educated labor force, and well-functioning infrastructure. Companies benefit from preferential trade arrangements through Finland’s membership in the EU and the World Trade Organization (WTO), in addition to the protection offered by Finland’s bilateral investment treaties with sixty-seven countries. The corporate income tax rate is 20 percent.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on establishing a framework for the national security screening of high-risk foreign investments into the Union entered into force on April 10, 2019. At the moment, 17 Member States, including Finland, have national screening systems in place.

The law governing foreign investments is the Act on the Monitoring of Foreign Corporate Acquisitions in Finland (172/2012). The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM) monitors and confirms foreign corporate acquisitions. TEM decides whether an acquisition conflicts with “vital national interests” including securing national defense, as well as safeguarding public order and security. If TEM finds that a key national interest is jeopardized, it must refer the matter to the Council of State, which may refuse to approve the acquisition.

To meet the EU FDI screening regulation amendments to national legislation (the Act on the Screening of Foreign Corporate Acquisitions in Finland) entered into force in October 2020. National law continues to be premised on a positive attitude towards foreign investments, but authorities can exercise control over the ownership of companies considered essential in terms of the security of supply and national security and, if necessary, restrict foreign ownership in such companies. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment will act as the national contact point for cooperation and exchange of information between EU Member States and the European Union, and matters relating to the implementation of the EU Regulation establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments. The Act also includes new provisions on the setting of conditions that attach to decisions of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment regarding the approval of corporate acquisitions, inadmissibility of matters, circumvention of the Act, and the disclosure of secret information to public authorities. In addition, it will be necessary to apply for an advance approval by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment when making corporate acquisitions in the security sector in the future.

In the non-military sector, Finnish companies considered critical for securing vital functions of society are subject to screening.

For defense acquisitions, monitoring applies to all foreign owners, who must apply for prior approval. “Defense” includes all entities that supply or have supplied goods or services to the Finnish Ministry of Defense, the Finnish Defense Forces, the Finnish Border Guard, as well as entities dealing in dual-use goods. The substantive elements in evaluating the application are identical to those applied to other corporate acquisitions.

In regards to defense industry, monitoring covers all foreign owners. In other sectors, screening only applies to foreign owners residing or domiciled outside the EU or EFTA. There are no formal requirements for the layout of the application and notification submitted to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. However, the Ministry has drawn up instructions for preparing the application/notification. The application and notification must also be accompanied by a form containing the information required by the EU Regulation. Starting January 1, 2021, TEM charges a fee of EUR 5,000 for the processing of each application for confirming a foreign corporate acquisition. For more see: https://tem.fi/en/acquisition 

On February 26, 2019, the Finnish Parliament approved a law (HE 253/2018) that requires non-EU/ETA foreign individuals or entities to receive Defense Ministry permission before they purchase real estate in Finland. Even companies registered in Finland, but whose decision-making bodies are at least of one-tenth non-EU/ETA origin will have to seek a permit. The law, which took effect in early 2020, states that non-EU/ETA property purchasers can still buy residential housing and condominiums without restrictions. More info can be found here: https://www.defmin.fi/en/licences_and_services/authorisation_to_non-eu_and_non-eea_buyers_to_buy_real_estate#be2e4cd8 

Private ownership is common practice in Finland, and in most fields of business participation by foreign companies or individuals is unrestricted. When the government privatizes state-owned enterprises, both private and foreign participation is allowed except in enterprises operating in sectors related to national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Finland has been a member of the WTO and the EU since 1995. The WTO conducted its Trade Policy Review of the European Union (including Finland) in May 2017: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp457_e.htm .

Finland, in the past three years, has not undergone an investment policy review by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Business Facilitation

All businesses in Finland must be publicly registered at the Finnish Trade Register. Businesses must also notify the Register of any changes to registration information and most must submit their financial statements (annual accounts) to the register. The website is: https://www.prh.fi/en/kaupparekisteri.html . The Business Information System BIS (“YTJ” in Finnish, https://www.prh.fi/en/kaupparekisteri/rekisterointipalvelut/ytj.html ) is an online service enabling investors to start a business or organization, report changes, close down a business, or conduct searches.

Permits, licenses, and notifications required depend on whether the foreign entrepreneur originates from a Nordic country, the European Union, or elsewhere. The type of company also affects the permits required, which can include the registration of the right to residency, residence permits for an employee or self-employed person, and registration in the Finnish Population Information System. A foreigner may need a permit from the Finnish Patent and Registration Office to serve as a partner in a partnership or administrative body of a company. For more information: https://www.suomi.fi/company/responsibilities-and-obligations/permits-and-obligations . Improvements made in 2016 to the residence permit system for foreign specialists, defined as those with a specific field of expertise, a university degree, and who earn at least EUR 3,000 gross per month, should help attract experts to Finland. An online permit application ( https://enterfinland.fi/eServices ) available since November 2016 has made it easier for family members to acquire a residence permit. In December 2020, the Finnish Immigration Service reported that the average processing time for foreign specialist residency permits was two weeks. The practice of some trades in Finland requires only notification or registration with the authorities. Other trades, however, require a separate license; companies should confirm requirements with Finnish authorities. Entrepreneurs must take out pension insurance for their employees, and certain fields obligate additional insurance. All businesses have a statutory obligation to maintain financial accounts, and, with the exception of small companies, businesses must appoint an external auditor.

Finland ranks 20th according to the World Bank Group’s 2020 Doing Business Index; it ranked 31st on “Starting a Business” ( http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/finland ). According to a 2016 study (FDI Attractiveness Scoreboard) by the European Commission, Finland is the most attractive EU country for FDI in terms of the political, regulatory and legal environment.

Finland, together with Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands scored the highest ratings in EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index 2020 DESI, naming these countries the global leaders in digitalization. DESI summarizes relevant indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU Member States in digital competitiveness.

Gender inequality is low in Finland, which ranks third in the 2020 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index. Finland has the lowest gender pay gap in the OECD, thanks to decades of gender friendly policies. The employment gap between disadvantaged groups and prime-age men is among the ten lowest in the OECD, albeit higher than in all the other Nordics.

Outward Investment

Business Finland, part of the Team Finland network, helps Finnish SMEs go international, encourages foreign direct investment in Finland, and promotes tourism. Business Finland has a staff of around 600 persons and nearly 40 offices abroad. It operates16 regional offices in Finland and focuses on agricultural technology, clean technology, connectivity, e-commerce, education, ICT and digitalization, mining, and mobility as a service. While many of Business Finland’s programs are export-oriented, they also seek to offer business and network opportunities. More info here: https://www.businessfinland.fi/en/do-business-with-finland/home /. In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Culture launched the Team Finland Knowledge network to enhance international education and research cooperation and the export of Finnish educational expertise.

The government does not generally restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. The only exceptions are linked to matters of national security and national defense. The Defense Ministry is responsible for approving exports of arms for military use, while the National Police Board grants permission for the export of civilian weapons and the Foreign Ministry oversees exports of dual-use products. Export control seeks to promote responsible export of Finnish technology and to prevent the use of Finnish technology for the development of WMDs, for undesirable military ends, for uses against the interests of Finland, or for purposes that violate human rights.

France and Monaco

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

France welcomes foreign investment. In the current economic climate, the French government sees foreign investment as a means to create additional jobs and stimulate growth. Investment regulations are simple, and a range of financial incentives are available to foreign investors. According to surveys of U.S. investors, U.S. companies find France’s skilled and productive labor force, good infrastructure, technology, and central location in Europe attractive. France’s membership in the European Union (EU) and the Eurozone facilitates the efficient movement of people, services, capital, and goods. However, notwithstanding French efforts at economic and tax reform, market liberalization, and attracting foreign investment, perceived disincentives to investing in France include the relatively high tax environment. Labor market fluidity is improving due to labor market reforms but is still rigid compared to some OECD economies.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

France is among the least restrictive countries for foreign investment. With a few exceptions in certain specified sectors, there are no statutory limits on foreign ownership of companies. Foreign entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

France maintains a national security review mechanism to screen high-risk investments. French law stipulates that control by acquisition of a domiciled company or subsidiary operating in certain sectors deemed crucial to France’s national interests relating to public order, public security and national defense are subject to prior notification, review, and approval by the Economy and Finance Minister. Other sectors requiring approval include energy infrastructure; transportation networks; public water supplies; electronic communication networks; public health protection; and installations vital to national security. In 2018, four additional categories – semiconductors, data storage, artificial intelligence and robotics – were added to the list requiring a national security review. For all listed sectors, France can block foreign takeovers of French companies according to the provisions of the 2014 Montebourg Decree.

On December 31, 2019 the government issued a decree to lower the threshold for vetting of foreign investment from outside Europe from 33 to 25 percent and then lowered it again to 10 percent on July 22, 2020, a temporary provision to prevent predatory investment during the COVID-19 crisis. This lower threshold is set to expire at the end of 2021. The decree also enhanced government-imposed conditions and penalties in cases of non-compliance and introduced a mechanism to coordinate the national security review of foreign direct investments with the European Union (EU Regulation 2019/452). The new rules entered into force on April 1, 2020. The list of strategic sectors was also expanded to include the following activities listed in the EU Regulation 2019/452: agricultural products, when such products contribute to national food supply security; the editing, printing, or distribution of press publications related to politics or general matters; and R&D activities relating to quantum technologies and energy storage technologies. Separately, France expanded the scope of sensitive sectors on April 30, 2020 to include biotechnology companies.

Procedurally, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Recovery has 30 business days following the receipt of a request for authorization to either: 1) declare that the investor is not required to obtain such authorization; 2) grant its authorization without conditions; or 3) declare that an additional review is required to determine whether a conditional authorization is sufficient to protect national interests. If an additional review is required, the Minister has an additional 45 business days to either clear the transaction (possibly subject to conditions) or prohibit it. The Minister is further allowed to deny clearance based on the investor’s ties with a foreign government or public authority. The absence of a decision within the applicable timeframe is a de facto rejection of the authorization.

The government has also expanded the breadth of information required in the approval request. For example, a foreign investor must now disclose any financial relationship with or significant financial support from a State or public entity; a list of French and foreign competitors of the investor and of the target; or a signed statement that the investor has not, over the past five years, been subject to any sanctions for non-compliance with French FDI regulations.

In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction—the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

France has not recently been the subject of international organizations’ investment policy reviews. The OECD Economic Survey for France (April 2019) can be found here:  http://www.oecd.org/economy/france-economic-forecast-summary.htm .

Business Facilitation

Business France is a government agency established with the purpose of promoting new foreign investment, expansion, technology partnerships, and financial investment. Business France provides services to help investors understand regulatory, tax, and employment policies as well as state and local investment incentives and government support programs. Business France also helps companies find project financing and equity capital. Business France recently unveiled a website in English to help prospective businesses that are considering investments in the French market ( https://www.businessfrance.fr/en/invest-in-France ).

In addition, France’s public investment bank, Bpifrance, assists foreign businesses to find local investors when setting up a subsidiary in France. It also supports foreign startups in France through the government’s French Tech Ticket program, which provides them with funding, a resident’s permit, and incubation facilities. Both business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and minorities.

President Macron made innovation one of his priorities with a €10 billion ($11.8 billion) fund that is being financed through privatizations of State-owned enterprises. France’s priority sectors for investment include:  aeronautics, agro-foods, digital, nuclear, rail, auto, chemicals and materials, forestry, eco-industries, shipbuilding, health, luxury, and extractive industries. In the near-term, the French government intends to focus on driverless vehicles, batteries, the high-speed train of the future, nano-electronics, renewable energy, and health industries.

Business France and Bpifrance are particularly interested in attracting foreign investment in the tech sector. The French government has developed the “French Tech” initiative to promote France as a location for start-ups and high-growth digital companies. In addition to 17 French cities, French Tech offices have been established in 100 cities around the world, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Moscow, and Berlin. French Tech has special programs to provide support to startups at various stages of their development. The latest effort has been the creation of the French Tech 120 Program, which provides financial and administrative support to some 123 most promising tech companies. In 2019, €5 billion ($5.9 billion) in venture funding was raised by French startups, an increase of nearly threefold since 2015. In September 2019, President Emmanuel Macron convinced major asset managers such as AXA and Natixis to invest €5 billion ($5.9 billion) into French tech companies over the next three years. He also announced the creation of a listing of France’s top 40 startups “Next 40” with the highest potential to grow into unicorns.

On June 5, 2020, the French government introduced a new €1.2 billion ($1.4 billion) plan to support French startups, especially in the health, quantum, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity sectors. The plan includes the creation of a €500 million ($590 million) investment fund to help startups overcome the COVID-19 crisis and continue to innovate. It also comprises a “French Tech Sovereignty Fund” with an initial commitment of €150 million ($177 million) launched on December 11, 2020 by Bpifrance, France’s public investment bank.

The website Guichet Enterprises ( https://www.guichet-entreprises.fr/fr/ ) is designed to be a one-stop website for registering a business. The site, managed by the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), is available in both French and English although some fact sheets on regulated industries are only available in French.

Outward Investment

French firms invest more in the United States than in any other country and support approximately 780,000 American jobs. Total French investment in the United States reached $310.7 billion in 2019. France was our tenth largest trading partner with approximately $99.7 billion in bilateral trade in 2020. The business promotion agency Business France also assists French firms with outward investment, which it does not restrict.

Gabon

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Gabon’s 1998 investment code conforms to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) investment regulations and provides the same rights to foreign companies operating in Gabon as to domestic firms.

Gabon’s domestic and foreign investors are protected from expropriation or nationalization without appropriate compensation, as determined by an independent third party. Certain sectors, such as mining, forestry, petroleum, agriculture, and tourism, have specific investment codes, which encourage investment through customs and tax incentives.

Gabon established the Investment Promotion Agency (ANPI-Gabon) with the assistance of the World Bank in 2014. Its mission is to promote investment and exports, support SMEs, manage public-private partnerships (PPPs), and help companies establish themselves. It is designed to act as the gateway for investment into the country and to reduce administrative procedures, costs, and waiting periods.

Gabonese authorities have made efforts to prioritize investment. In 2017, the High Council for Investment was established to promote investment and boost the economy. This body provides a platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors, and its main objectives are to improve the economy and create jobs.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors are largely treated in the same manner as their Gabonese counterparts regarding the purchase of real estate, negotiation of licenses, and entering into commercial agreements. There is no general requirement for local participation in investments (see local labor requirements below). Many businesses find it useful to have a local partner who can help navigate the subjective aspects of the business environment.

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. However, Gabon Oil Company, a state-owned enterprise (SOE) created in 2011, has an automatic right to purchase up to a 15 percent share in any hydrocarbon contract at market price. The standard practice is for the Gabonese President to review foreign investment contracts after ministerial-level negotiations are completed. In certain cases, the President has appeared to intervene to keep negotiations stalled at the ministerial level, even when the deal was on track to a mutually satisfactory solution.

The President takes an active interest in meeting with investors. The lack of a standardized procedure for new entrants to negotiate deals with the government can lead to confusion and time-consuming negotiations. Moreover, the centralization of decision-making by a few senior officials who are exceedingly busy can delay the process. As a result, new entrants often find the process of finalizing deals time-consuming and difficult to navigate.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Gabon has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. In June 2013, Gabon conducted an investment policy review with the WTO. The government has not conducted any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) since 2017.

Business Facilitation

The government encourages investments in those economic sectors that contribute the greatest share to gross national product (GNP), including oil and gas, mining, and wood harvesting and transformation through customs and tax incentives. For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported machinery and equipment specific to their industries. The Tourism Investment Code, enacted in 2000, provides tax incentives to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation. The SEZ at Nkok offers tax incentives to industrial investors; the government has mused on the possibility of increasing the number of SEZs in a move to attract further investment.

ANPI-Gabon covers more than 20 public and private agencies, including the Chamber of Commerce, National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and National Health Insurance and Social Security (CNAMGS). It aims to attract domestic and international investors through improved methods of approving and licensing new companies and to support public-private dialogue. It has a single window registration process that allows domestic and foreign investors to register their businesses in 48 hours. There are, however, no special mechanisms for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in Gabon.

ANPI-Gabon’s website address is: https://www.investingabon.ga/

Outward Investment

One of ANPI-Gabon’s primary goals is to promote outward investments and exports. The Gabonese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Gambia

1. Openness to and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoTG has made increasing foreign direct investment a priority. It also aims to create a business environment that allows the private sector to be the engine of growth, transformation, and job creation. FDI is welcomed in almost every sector of the Gambian economy. There is no restriction on ownership of businesses by foreign investors in most sectors and local companies are not prioritized over local companies. While restrictions are limited, foreign investors and companies often complain about the excessive and inconsistently applied bureaucratic procedures and the decision-making process – and often lack of transparency – for public tenders and contracts.

The Gambia Investment & Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) is the national agency responsible for the promotion and facilitation of private sector investments in The Gambia. Through the GIEPA, eight areas are identified as “priority sectors” which qualify for a Special Investment Certificate (SIC) that provides several incentives, including duty waivers and tax holidays. The Investment Section at Office of The President plans to start handling foreign direct investment matters.

To maintain dialogue with investors, The Gambia Competitiveness Improvement Forum was created as part of the 2015 GIEPA Act, which hosts sector-based forums to maintain dialogue with investors. GIEPA normally hosts forums at which investors comment on the government’s policies and action.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to own business enterprises and engage in in all forms of remunerative activities in The Gambia. There are no limits on foreign ownership or control of businesses except in the operations of defense industries, which are closed to all private sector participation, irrespective of nationality. Apart from defense related activities, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements were legally applied to foreign ownership and control.

Foreign investors are not denied national treatment (i.e. the same treatment as domestic firms) or MFN treatment (i.e. the same treatment as the most favored foreign investor) in any sector. There is no mandatory screening of foreign direct investment, but such screening may be conducted if there is suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing. Investors subjected to such a screening may be asked for business registration documents and bank statements. As part of the country’s privatization program, foreign investors are treated equal to local investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in January 2018. The Gambia has maintained its generally open trade and investment regime since the last TPR in 2010. The main trade policy reform has been the adoption of the five-band ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) from 1 January 2017. An executive summary of the findings can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp465_e.htm . The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an Investment Policy Review in 2017. The review shows The Gambia has adopted an open regime for investment and a range of modern business regulation tools. However, supply-side constraints, vulnerability to exogenous shocks and remaining regulatory and institutional bottlenecks have negatively affected the development of the private sector and the country’s performance in attracting FDI. The report can be downloaded at: https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-gambia .

Business Facilitation

The Ministry of Justice, which offers a range of administrative services to foreign investors, is the point of entry for company registration. The government has drastically reduced the average number of days it takes to start a business in recent years, from 25 to two.

According to the 2020 Doing Business report, it takes six procedures and, an average of one to two days to start a business in the country. These procedures include registering a unique company name, notarizing company status, obtaining a tax identification number (TIN), registering employees with the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, registering with the Commercial Registry, and obtaining an operational license. While this can be done by anyone in theory, a local attorney who is familiar with the system can facilitate the process. In 2010, a Single Window Business Registration Desk was established at the Ministry of Justice. This initiative has reduced the number of days it takes to register a business in the country to one day.

Outward Investment

Foreign investment in The Gambia is facilitated by the GIEPA and the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The two organizations’ mandate includes export promotion and support for small and micro enterprise (SME) development. Domestic investors have no limitations when it comes to investing abroad. Post has been working with the American Chamber of Commerce to expand its role in facilitating trade between The Gambia and the United States.

Georgia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Georgia is open to foreign investment. Legislation establishes favorable conditions for foreign investment, but not preferential treatment for foreign investors. The Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity protects foreign investors from subsequent legislation that alters the condition of their investments for a period of ten years. Investment promotion authority is vested in the Investment Division of Enterprise Georgia, a legal entity of public law under the Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development. The Investment Division’s primary role is to attract, promote, and develop foreign direct investment in Georgia. For this purpose, it acts as the moderator between foreign investors and the Georgian government, ensures access to updated information, provides a means of communication with government bodies, and serves as a “one-stop-shop” to support investors throughout the investment process. ( http://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/about ). Enterprise Georgia also operated the website for foreign investors: www.investingeorgia.org .

To enhance relations with investors, in 2015 Georgia’s then-Prime Minister created an Investors Council, an independent advisory body aimed at promoting dialogue among the private business community, international organizations, donors, and the Georgian government for the development of a favorable, non-discriminatory, transparent, and fair business and investment climate in Georgia ( http://ics.ge ). The Business Ombudsman, who is a member of the Investors Council, is another tool for protecting investors’ rights in Georgia ( http://businessombudsman.ge ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Georgia does not have an established interagency process to screen foreign investment, but relevant ministries or agencies may have the right to review investments for national security concerns in certain circumstances, as outlined below. Foreign investors have participated in most major privatizations of state-owned property. Transparency of privatization has been an issue at times. No law or regulation authorizes private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Cross-shareholder or stable-shareholder arrangements are not used by private firms in Georgia. Georgian legislation does not protect private firms from takeovers. There are no regulations authorizing private firms to restrict foreign partners’ investment activity or limit foreign partners’ ability to gain control over domestic enterprises.

There are no specific licensing requirements for foreign investment other than those that apply to all companies. The government requires licenses for activities that affect public health, national security, and the financial sector: weapons and explosives production, narcotics, poisonous and pharmaceutical substances, exploration and exploitation of renewable or non-renewable substances, exploitation of natural resource deposits, establishment of casinos and gambling houses and the organization of games and lotteries, banking, insurance, securities trading, wireless communication services, and the establishment of radio and television channels. The law requires the state to retain a controlling interest in air traffic control, shipping traffic control, railroad control systems, defense and weapons industries, and nuclear energy. For investment projects requiring licenses or permits, the relevant government ministries and agencies have the right to review the project for national security concerns.  By law, the government has 30 days to make a decision on licenses, and if the licensing authority does not state a reasonable ground for rejection within that period, the government must approve the license or permit for issuance. Per Georgian law, it is illegal to undertake any type of economic activity in Abkhazia or South Ossetia if such activities require permits, licenses, or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. Laws also ban mineral exploration, money transfers, and international transit via Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Only the state may issue currency, banknotes, and certificates for goods made from precious metals, import narcotics for medical purposes, and produce control systems for the energy sector.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an Investment Policy Review in December 2020 ( http://www.oecd.org/investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-georgia-0d33d7b7-en.htm ). The most recent WTO Investment Policy Review on Georgia was done in 2016, and by UNCTAD in 2014.

Business Facilitation

Registering a business in Georgia is relatively quick and streamlined, and Georgia ranks second in registering property among countries assessed in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. Registration takes one day to complete through Georgia’s single window registration process. The National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR) ( www.napr.gov.ge  – webpage is in Georgian only), located in Public Service Halls (PSH) under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, carries out company registration. The web page of the PSH ( http://www.psh.gov.ge/main/page/2/85 ) outlines procedures and requirements for business registration in English. For registration purposes, the law does not require a document verifying the amount or existence of charter capital. A company is not required to complete a separate tax registration as the initial registration includes both the revenue service and national business registration. The following information is required to register a business in Georgia: bio data for the founder and principal officers, articles of incorporation, and the company’s area of business activity. Other required documents depend on the type of entity to be established.

To register a business, the potential owner must first pay the registration fee, register the company with the Entrepreneurial Register, and obtain an identification number and certificate of state and tax registration. Registration fees are: GEL100 (around USD30) for a regular registration, GEL200 (USD60) for an expedited registration, plus GEL1 (bank processing fees). Second, the owner must open a bank account (free).

Georgia’s business facilitation mechanism provides for equitable treatment of women and men. There are a variety of state-run and donor-supported projects that aim to promote women entrepreneurs through specific training or other programs, including access to financing and business training.

Outward Investment

The Georgian government does not have any specific policy on promoting or restricting domestic investors from investing abroad and Georgia’s outward investment is insignificant.

Germany

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The German government and industry actively encourage foreign investment. U.S. investment continues to account for a significant share of Germany’s FDI. The 1956 U.S.-Federal Republic of Germany Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation affords U.S. investors national treatment and provides for the free movement of capital between the United States and Germany. As an OECD member, Germany adheres to the OECD National Treatment Instrument and the OECD Codes of Liberalization of Capital Movements and of Invisible Operations.  The Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance provide the legal basis for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to review acquisitions of domestic companies by foreign buyers, to assess whether these transactions pose a risk to the public order or national security (for example, when the investment pertains to critical infrastructure).  For many decades, Germany has experienced significant inbound investment, which is widely recognized as a considerable contributor to Germany’s growth and prosperity. The investment-related challenges facing foreign companies are broadly the same as face domestic firms, e.g relatively high tax rates, stringent environmental regulations, and labor laws that complicate hiring and dismissals. Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, provides extensive information for investors: https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Under German law, a foreign-owned company registered in the Federal Republic of Germany as a GmbH (limited liability company) or an AG (joint stock company) is treated the same as a German-owned company. There are no special nationality requirements for directors or shareholders.

Companies which seek to open a branch office in Germany without establishing a new legal entity, (e.g., for the provision of employee placement services, such as providing temporary office support, domestic help, or executive search services), must register and have at least one representative located in Germany.

Germany maintains an elaborate mechanism to screen foreign investments based on national security grounds. The legislative basis for the mechanism (the Foreign Trade and Payments Act and Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance) has been amended several times in recent years in an effort to tighten parameters of the screening as technological threats evolve, particularly to address growing interest by foreign investors in both Mittelstand (mid-sized) and blue chip German companies. Amendments to implement the 2019 EU Screening Regulation are already in force or have been drafted as of March 2021. One major change in the amendments allows for authorities to make “prospective impairment” of public order and security the new trigger for an investment review, in place of the former standard (which requires a de facto threat).

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Bank Group’s “Doing Business 2020” Index provides additional information on Germany’s investment climate. The American Chamber of Commerce in Germany also publishes results of an annual survey of U.S. investors in Germany (“AmCham Germany Transatlantic Business Barometer”, https://www.amcham.de/publications).

Business Facilitation

Before engaging in commercial activities, companies and business operators must register in public directories, the two most significant of which are the commercial register (Handelsregister) and the trade office register (Gewerberegister).

Applications for registration at the commercial register, which is available under  www.handelsregister.de , are electronically filed in publicly certified form through a notary.  The commercial register provides information about all relevant relationships between merchants and commercial companies, including names of partners and managing directors, capital stock, liability limitations, and insolvency proceedings.  Registration costs vary depending on the size of the company. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020, the median duration to register a business in Germany is 8 days.

Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, can assist in the registration processes ( https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest/investment-guide/establishing-a-company/business-registration-65532 ) and advises investors, including micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), on how to obtain incentives.

In the EU, MSMEs are defined as follows:

  • Micro-enterprises:  less than 10 employees and less than €2 million annual turnover or less than €2 million in balance sheet total.
  • Small enterprises:  less than 50 employees and less than €10 million annual turnover or less than €10 million in balance sheet total.
  • Medium-sized enterprises:  less than 250 employees and less than €50 million annual turnover or less than €43 million in balance sheet total.

U.S.-based traders, who seek to sell in Germany, e.g., via commercial platforms, are required to register with one specific tax authority in Bonn, which can lead to significant delays due to capacity issues.

Outward Investment

Germany’s federal government provides guarantees for investments by Germany-based companies in developing and emerging economies and countries in transition in order to insure them against political risks. In order to receive guarantees, the investment must have adequate legal protection in the host country. The Federal Government does not insure against commercial risks. In 2020, the government issued investment guarantees amounting to €900 million for investment projects in 13 countries, with the majority of those in China and India.

Ghana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Ghana has made increasing FDI a priority and acknowledges the importance of having an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. Officials are implementing some regulatory and other reforms to improve the ease of doing business and make investing in Ghana more attractive.

The 2013 Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) Act requires the GIPC to register, monitor, and keep records of all business enterprises in Ghana. Sector-specific laws further regulate investments in minerals and mining, oil and gas, industries within Free Zones, banking, non-bank financial institutions, insurance, fishing, securities, telecommunications, energy, and real estate. Some sector-specific laws, such as in the oil and gas sector and the power sector, include local content requirements that could discourage international investment. Foreign investors are required to satisfy the provisions of the GIPC Act as well as the provisions of sector-specific laws. GIPC leadership has pledged to collaborate more closely with the private sector to address investor concerns, but there have been no significant changes to the laws. More information on investing in Ghana can be obtained from GIPC’s website, www.gipcghana.com .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Most of Ghana’s major sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation.

U.S. investors in Ghana are treated the same as other foreign investors. All foreign investment projects must register with the GIPC. Foreign investments are subject to the following minimum capital requirements: USD 200,000 for joint ventures with a Ghanaian partner, who should have at least 10 percent of the equity; USD 500,000 for enterprises wholly owned by a non-Ghanaian; and USD 1 million for trading companies (firms that buy or sell imported goods or services) wholly owned by non-Ghanaian entities. The minimum capital requirement may be met in cash or capital goods relevant to the investment. Trading companies are also required to employ at least 20 skilled Ghanaian nationals.

Ghana’s investment code excludes foreign investors from participating in eight economic sectors: petty trading; the operation of taxi and car rental services with fleets of fewer than 25 vehicles; lotteries (excluding soccer pools); the operation of beauty salons and barber shops; printing of recharge scratch cards for subscribers to telecommunications services; production of exercise books and stationery; retail of finished pharmaceutical products; and the production, supply, and retail of drinking water in sealed pouches. Sectors where foreign investors are allowed limited market access include: telecommunications, banking, fishing, mining, petroleum, and real estate.

Real Estate

The 1992 Constitution recognized existing private and traditional titles to land. Given this mix of private and traditional land titles, land rights to any specific area of land can be opaque. Freehold acquisition of land is not permitted. There is an exception, however, for transfer of freehold title between family members for land held under the traditional system. Foreigners are allowed to enter into long-term leases of up to 50 years and the lease may be bought, sold, or renewed for consecutive terms. Ghanaian nationals are allowed to enter into 99-year leases. The Ghanaian government has been working since 2017 on developing a digital property address and land registration system to reduce land disputes and improve efficiency. (See “Protection of Property Rights p. 14)

Oil and Gas

The oil and gas sector is subject to a variety of state ownership and local content requirements. The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 2016 (Act 919) mandates local participation. All entities seeking petroleum exploration licenses in Ghana must create a consortium in which the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) holds a minimum 15 percent carried interest, and a local equity partner holds a minimum interest of five percent. The Petroleum Commission issues all licenses. Exploration licenses must also be approved by Parliament. Further, local content regulations specify in-country sourcing requirements with respect to the full range of goods, services, hiring, and training associated with petroleum operations. The regulations also require local equity participation for all suppliers and contractors. The Minister of Energy must approve all contracts, sub-contracts, and purchase orders above USD 100,000. Non-compliance with these regulations may result in a criminal penalty, including imprisonment for up to five years.

The Petroleum Commission applies registration fees and annual renewal fees on foreign oil and gas service providers, which, depending on a company’s annual revenues, range from USD 70,000 to USD 150,000, compared to fees of between USD 5,000 and USD 30,000 for local companies.

Mining

Per the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), foreign investors are restricted from obtaining a small-scale mining license for mining operations less than or equal to an area of 25 acres (10 hectares). In 2019, the criminal penalty for non-compliance with these regulations was increased to a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and maximum of 25 years, from a maximum of five years, to discourage illegal small-scale mining. The Act mandates local participation, whereby the government acquires 10 percent equity in ventures at no cost in all mineral rights. In order to qualify for any mineral license, a non-Ghanaian company must be registered in Ghana, either as a branch office or a subsidiary that is incorporated under the Ghana Companies Act or Incorporated Private Partnership Act. Non-Ghanaians may apply for industrial mineral rights only if the proposed investment is USD 10 million or above.

The Minerals and Mining Act provides for a stability agreement, which protects the holder of a mining lease for a period of 15 years from future changes in law that may impose a financial burden on the license holder. When an investment exceeds USD 500 million, lease holders can negotiate a development agreement that contains elements of a stability agreement and more favorable fiscal terms. The Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act (Act 900) of 2015 requires the mining lease-holder to, “…pay royalty to the Republic at the rate and in the manner that may be prescribed.” The previous Act 703 capped the royalty rate at six percent. The Minerals Commission implements the law. In December 2020, Ghana passed the Minerals and Mining (Local Content and Local Participation) Regulations, 2020 (L.I. 2431) to expand the specific provisions under the mining regulations that require mining entities to procure goods and services from local sources. The Minerals Commission publishes a Local Procurement List, which identifies items that must be sourced from Ghanaian-owned companies, whose directors must all be Ghanaians.

Power Sector

In December 2017, Ghana introduced regulations requiring local content and local participation in the power sector. The Energy Commission (Local Content and Local Participation) (Electricity Supply Industry) Regulations, 2017 (L.I. 2354) specify minimum initial levels of local participation/ownership and 10-year targets:

Electricity Supply Activity Initial Level of Local Participation Target Level in 10 Years
Wholesale Power Supply 15 51
Renewable Energy Sector 15 51
Electricity Distribution 30 51
Electricity Transmission 15 49
Electricity Sales Service 80 100
Electricity Brokerage Service 80 100

The regulations also specify minimum and target levels of local content in engineering and procurement, construction, post-construction, services, management, operations, and staff. All persons engaged in or planning to engage in the supply of electricity are required to register with the ‘Electricity Supply Local Content and Local Participation Committee’ and satisfy the minimum local content and participation requirements within five years. Failure to comply with the requirements could result in a fine or imprisonment.

Insurance

The National Insurance Commission (NIC) imposes nationality requirements with respect to the board and senior management of locally incorporated insurance and reinsurance companies. At least two board members must be Ghanaians, and either the Chairman of the board or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) must be Ghanaian. In situations where the CEO is not Ghanaian, the NIC requires that the Chief Financial Officer be Ghanaian. Minimum initial capital investment in the insurance sector is 50 million Ghana cedis (approximately USD 9 million).

Telecommunications

Per the Electronic Communications Act of 2008, the National Communications Authority (NCA) regulates and manages the nation’s telecommunications and broadcast sectors. For 800 MHz spectrum licenses for mobile telecommunications services, Ghana restricts foreign participation to a joint venture or consortium that includes a minimum of 25 percent Ghanaian ownership. Applicants have two years to meet the requirement, and can list the 25 percent on the Ghana Stock Exchange. The first option to purchase stock is given to Ghanaians, but there are no restrictions on secondary trading.

Banking and Electronic Payment Service Providers

The Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), establishes requirements for the licensing and authorization of electronic payment services. Act 987 ( https://www.bog.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Payment-Systems-and-Services-Act-2019-Act-987-.pdf ) imposes limitations on foreign investment and establishes residency requirements for company senior officials or members of the board of directors. Specifically, Act 987 mandates electronic payment services companies to have at least 30 percent Ghanaian ownership (either from a Ghanaian corporate or individual shareholder) and requires at least two of its three board directors, including its chief executive officer, be resident in Ghana.

There are no significant limits on foreign investment or differences in the treatment of foreign and national investors in other sectors of the economy.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Ghana has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD recently. UNCTAD last conducted an IPR in 2003.

The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in May 2014. The TPR concluded that the 2013 amendment to the investment law raised the minimum capital that foreigners must invest to levels above those specified in Ghana’s 1994 GATS horizontal commitments, and excluded new activities from foreign competition. However, it was determined that overall this would have minimal impact on dissuading future foreign investment due to the size of the companies traditionally seeking to do business within the country. An executive summary of the findings can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp398_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

Although registering a business is a relatively easy procedure and can be done online through the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) at https://egovonline.gegov.gov.gh/RGDPortalWeb/portal/RGDHome/eghana.portal  (this would be controlled by the new Office of the Registrar of Companies in 2021), businesses have noted that the process involved in establishing a business is lengthy and complex, and requires compliance with regulations and procedures of at least four other government agencies, including GIPC, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ghana Immigration Service, and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 , it takes eight procedures and 13 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) to engage in international trade in Ghana. In 2019, Ghana passed a new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), which among other things created a new independent office called the Office of the Registrar of Companies, responsible for the registration and regulation of all businesses. The new office is expected to be in place in 2021, and would separate the registration process for companies from the Registrar General’s Department; the latter would continue to serve as the government’s registrar for non-business transactions such as marriages. The new law also simplifies some registration processes by scrapping the issuance of a certificate to commence business and the requirement for a company to state business objectives, which limited the activities in which a company could engage. The law also expands the role of the company secretary, which now requires educational qualifications with some background in company law practice and administration or having been trained under a company secretary for at least three years. Foreign investors must obtain a certificate of capital importation, which can take 14 days. The local authorized bank must confirm the import of capital with the Bank of Ghana, which confirms the transaction to GIPC for investment registration purposes.

Per the GIPC Act, all foreign companies are required to register with GIPC after incorporation with the RGD. Registration can be completed online at http://www.gipcghana.com/ . While the registration process is designed to be completed within five business days, but there are often bureaucratic delays.

The Ghanaian business environment is unique, and guidance can be extremely helpful. In some cases, a foreign investment may enjoy certain tax benefits under the law or additional incentives if the project is deemed critical to the country’s development. Most companies or individuals considering investing in Ghana or trading with Ghanaian counterparts find it useful to consult with a local attorney or business facilitation company. The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/). Specific information about setting up a business is available at the GIPC website: http://www.gipcghana.com/invest-in-ghana/doing-business-in-ghana.html .

Ghana Investment Promotion Centre
Post: P. O. Box M193, Accra-Ghana
Note: Omit the (0) after the country code when dialing from abroad.
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 665 125, +233 (0) 302 665 126, +233 (0) 302 665 127, +233 (0) 302 665 128, +233 (0) 302 665 129, +233 (0) 244 318 254/ +233 (0) 244 318 252
Email: info@gipc.gov.gh
Website: www.gipcghana.com 

Note that mining or oil/gas sector companies are required to obtain licensing/approval from the following relevant bodies:

Petroleum Commission Head Office
Plot No. 4A, George Bush Highway, Accra, Ghana
P.O. Box CT 228 Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 953 392 | +233 (0) 302 953 393
Website: http://www.petrocom.gov.gh/ 

Minerals Commission
Minerals House, No. 12 Switchback Road, Cantonments, Accra
P. O. Box M 248
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 772 783 /+233 (0) 302 772 786 /+233 (0) 302 773 053
Website: http://www.mincom.gov.gh/ 

Outward Investment

Ghana has no specific outward investment policy. It has entered into bilateral treaties, however, with a number of countries to promote and protect foreign investment on a reciprocal basis. Some Ghanaian companies have established operations in other West African countries.

Greece

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment  

The Greek government continues to take steps to increase foreign investment, implementing economic reforms and taking steps to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  Greece completed its EU bailout program in 2018, allowing it to borrow once again at market rates, reflected in a rising economic sentiment since 2017.  Heavy bureaucracy and a slow judicial system continue to create challenges for both foreign and domestic investors.    

There are no laws or practices known to Post that discriminate against foreign investors.  The country has investment promotion agencies to facilitate foreign investments, with “Enterprise Greece” as the official agency of the Greek state.  Under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Enterprise Greece is responsible for promoting investment in Greece and exports from Greece, and with making Greece more attractive as an international business partner.  Enterprise Greece provides the full spectrum of services related to international business relationships and domestic business development for the international market, including an Investor Ombudsman program for investment projects exceeding EUR 2 million.  The Ombudsman is available to assist with specific bureaucratic obstacles, delays, disputes, or other difficulties that impede an investment project.  

The General Secretariat for Strategic and Private Investments streamlines the licensing procedure for strategic investments, aiming to make the process easier and more attractive to investors. 

Greece has adopted the following EU definitions regarding micro, small, and medium size enterprises:  

  • Micro Enterprises:  Fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below EUR 2 million. 
  • Small Enterprises:  Fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below EUR 10 million. 
  • Medium-Sized Enterprises:  Fewer than 250 employees and annual turnover below EUR 50 million or balance sheet below  EUR 43 million. 

Numerous structural reforms, undertaken as part of the country’s 2015-2018 international bailout program as well as a part of the current New Democracy administration’s efforts to lower taxes and reduce bureaucracy, aim to welcome and facilitate foreign investment, and the government has publicly messaged its dedication to attracting foreign investment.   The 2019 investment law simplified licensing procedures in order to facilitate investment.  In December 2020, parliament passed a new law allowing non-residents who relocate their jobs to Greece to benefit from half their salary being free of income tax for up to seven years.  The scheme is open to any type of job, any income level and complements other tax incentive schemes put in place, including a non-dom program for wealthy investors and a low flat tax rate for pensioners.  The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is another example of the government’s commitment in this area.  In November 2015, the Greek government and TAP investors agreed on measures and began construction on the largest investment project since the start of the financial crisis.  The pipeline began operations in December 2020 and in March 2021, TAP announced that a total of 1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Azerbaijan entered Europe via the Greek interconnection point of Kipoi.  Law 4710/2020 gave a strong push for electro-mobility, with several incentives and subsidies to those interested in acquiring an electric vehicle. The law has paved the way for greater U.S. investment.  For example, Tesla has installed the first pop-up stand along with three electric vehicle (EV) charges at a major Greek shopping mall, while Blink expanded its EV network in Greece.  Additionally, there are directives that have eased the bureaucracy regarding renewable energy source (RES) projects, including establishing a deadline for the issuance of Environmental Terms Approvals (ETAs) of 120 days and limiting the environmental licensing stages to three stages instead of the previous six or seven stages required for companies to abide by.

In the past decade, the country underwent one of the most significant fiscal consolidations in modern history, with broad and deep cuts to public expenditures and significant increases in labor and social security tax rates, which have offset improved labor market competitiveness achieved through significant wage devaluation.  While there has been notable progress, corruption and burdensome bureaucracy continue to create barriers to market entry for new firms, permitting incumbents to maintain oligopolies in different sectors, and creating scope for arbitrary decisions and rent seeking by public servants.  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment  

As a member of the EU and the European Monetary Union (the “Eurozone”), Greece is required to meet EU and eurozone investment regulations.  Foreign and domestic private entities have the legal right to establish and own businesses in Greece; however, the country places restrictions on foreign equity ownership higher than those imposed on average in the other 17 high-income OECD economies, such as equity restrictions on airport operations and limits on foreign ownership in electricity and media.  The government has undertaken EU-mandated reforms in its energy sector, opening much of it to foreign equity ownership.  Restrictions exist on land purchases in border regions and on certain islands because of national security considerations.  Foreign investors can buy or sell shares on the Athens Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.  Greece does not maintain an investment screening mechanism.  

Other Investment Policy Reviews 

The government has not undergone an investment policy review by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or worked with any other international institution to produce a public report on the general investment climate in the past three years.  However, in July 2020, the OECD published a periodic economic survey describing the state of the economy and addressing foreign direct investment concerns, especially regarding needed reforms in the public sector and judicial system.   In particular, the OECD report lauds the Ministry of Digital Governance’s progress in instituting digital and public administration reforms, and recommends continued effort in this area. 

Business Facilitation  

In 2020, Greece eased processes for starting a business by reducing the time to register a company and removing the requirement to obtain a tax clearance.  Accessing industrial land in Greece is relatively quick, with only three weeks required to lease land from the government.  Private land can be leased in 15 days.  Arbitrating commercial disputes, however, can take almost a year.  Establishing a limited liability company takes approximately four days with three procedures involved, including registering the business, making a company seal, and registering with the Unified Social Security Institution.  Greece’s Ease of Doing Business score in 2020 is 96, for a rank of 11 for starting a business and rank of 79 overall.  Greece is not one of the 37 countries listed on www.businessfacilitation.org 

Greece’s business registration entity GEMI (General Commercial Register) has the basic responsibility for digitizing and automating the registration and monitoring procedures of commercial enterprises.  More information about GEMI can be found at http://www.businessportal.gr/home/index_en The online business registration process is relatively clear, and although foreign companies can use it, the registration steps are currently available only in Greek.  In general, a company must register with the business chamber, tax registry, social security, and local municipality.  Business creation without a notary can be done for specific cases (small/personal businesses, etc.).  For the establishment of larger companies, a notary is mandatory. 

Outward Investment 

The Greek government does not have any known outward investment incentive programs.  Capital controls were eliminated in September 2019.

Enterprise Greece supports the international expansion of Greek companies.  While no incentives are offered, Enterprise Greece has been supportive of Greek companies attending the U.S. Government’s Annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, which promotes inbound investment to the United States, and similar industry trade events internationally. 

Grenada

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Grenada employs a liberal approach to foreign direct investment (FDI) and actively promotes foreign investment into the country.

The government of Grenada identified five priority sectors for investment:

  • Tourism and hospitality services
  • Education and health services
  • Information and communication technology
  • Agribusiness
  • Energy development

The Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC) is the country’s investment promotion agency. It was established in 1985 to stimulate, facilitate, and encourage the creation and development of industry.

The GIDC is a “one-stop shop” offering:

  • Investment and trade information
  • Investment incentives
  • Investment facilitation and aftercare
  • Entrepreneurial/business skills training
  • Small business support services
  • Industrial facilities
  • Policy advice

To promote FDI, the GIDC adopts a targeted approach to promote investment opportunities, provides investor facilitation and entrepreneurial development services, and advocates for a supportive environment for investors to develop and grow businesses, trade, and industries.

Investment retention is a priority in Grenada and is maintained through ongoing dialogue with investors facilitated by the GIDC.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no economic and industrial strategies that discriminate against foreign investors. Non-Grenadian investors may be required to obtain an Alien Landholding License and pay a property transfer tax, which levies a 10 percent fee on the purchase of shares in a Grenadian registered company or real estate. In addition, the sale of such shares or real estate to non-nationals will attract a property transfer tax of 15 percent payable by the seller if the seller is a non-Grenadian. Foreign investors employed in Grenada are required to obtain a work permit, renewable annually. U.S. investors must pay a fee of USD $1,111 or XCD $3,000 for work permits. The renewal fee varies based on the investor’s country of citizenship.

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control, except for enterprises deemed prejudicial to national security, the environment, public health, or national culture, or which contravene the laws of Grenada. Grenada has accepted but not yet implemented regional anti-competition obligations. U.S investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms in Grenada relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Grenada passed its most recent Investment Promotion Act in 2014. The legislation promotes, encourages, and protects investment in Grenada by providing investors with a stable framework of fundamental and enforceable rights. It seeks to guarantee and ensure security and fairness in strict accordance with the rule of law and best international standards and practices. The 2014 Act is also in compliance with WTO regulations, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Agreement between the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the EU.

The incentives regime enacted in 2016 grants incentives to ensure that all new tax exemptions are codified, restricts discretionary exemptions, and requires that the beneficiaries of exemptions file appropriate tax returns and comply with tax requirements. It also sets streamlined, simple, and non-discretionary system/process for the granting of incentives. The Customs and Inland Revenue Departments (CIRD) administer exemptions through a clearly defined rule-based system in contrast with past incentive schemes that required each case to be approved at the cabinet level.

Under this regime, the CIRD grants incentives to projects within the priority sectors for investment. They are tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and agribusiness, information technology services, telecommunication providers and business process outsourcing operations, education and training, health and wellness, creative industries, energy, and research and development. Other sectors also include student accommodation, heavy equipment operators, investment projects above particular investment thresholds, and projects within specific geographical locations.

The incentive regime seeks to provide investment incentives on a performance basis (i.e., the more one invests, the more incentives one can receive). Therefore, based on the level of investment, CIRD grants different levels of incentives in a transparent, predictable, and non-discriminatory manner.

In the past three years, the government was not subject to third-party investment policy reviews through multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the WTO, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Business Facilitation

An investor must register a business name and identify whether it is a partnership or limited liability company. A registered business can be wholly owned or a joint venture. The official website of the GIDC includes an investor’s guide that details the procedures for starting and operating a business in Grenada. The guide has a business procedure flow chart and gives step-by-step instructions for various tasks from registering a business and owning properties to obtaining permits and licenses. Detailed information on business registration and timelines can be found at: http://grenadaidc.com/investor-centre/investors-guide/starting-up-a-business/#.WKxXdfnQe70 

The GIDC provides business facilitation mechanisms and ensures the equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy.

Outward Investment

The government of Grenada does not promote or incentivize outward investment. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, to which Grenada is a party, includes a chapter on service agreements under the European Partnership Agreement (EPA). Under certain circumstances, provisions in these agreements may offer incentives to the potential investor. Grenada does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Guatemala

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Guatemalan government continues to promote investment opportunities and work on reforms to enhance competitiveness and the business environment. As part of the government’s efforts to promote economic recovery during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Economy (MINECO) began implementing an economic recovery plan, which focuses on recovering lost jobs and generating new jobs, attracting new strategic investment, and promoting consumption of Guatemalan goods and services locally and globally. Private consultants contributed to the government’s September 2020 economic recovery plan, which focuses on increasing exports and attracting foreign direct investment.

Guatemala’s investment promotion office operates within MINECO´s National Competitiveness Program (PRONACOM). PRONACOM supports potential foreign investors by offering information, assessment, coordination of country visits, contact referrals, and support with procedures and permits necessary to operate in the country. Services are offered to all investors without discrimination. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Guatemala 96 out of 190 countries, one position lower than its rank in 2019. The two areas where the country had the highest rankings were electricity and access to credit. The areas of the lowest ranking were protecting minority investors, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.

International investors tend to engage with the Guatemalan government via chambers of commerce and industry associations, or directly with specific government ministries. PRONACOM began to prioritize investment retention in 2020.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Guatemalan Constitution recognizes the right to hold private property and to engage in business activity. Foreign private entities can establish, acquire, and dispose freely of virtually any type of business interest, with the exception of some professional services as noted below. The Foreign Investment Law specifically notes that foreign investors enjoy the same rights of use, benefits, and ownership of property as Guatemalan citizens. Guatemalan law prohibits foreigners, however, from owning land immediately adjacent to rivers, oceans, and international borders.

Guatemalan law does not prohibit the formation of joint ventures or the purchase of local companies by foreign investors. The absence of a developed, liquid, and efficient capital market, in which shares of publicly owned firms are traded, makes equity acquisitions in the open market difficult. Most foreign firms operate through locally incorporated subsidiaries.

The law does not restrict foreign investment in the telecommunications, electrical power generation, airline, or ground-transportation sectors. The Foreign Investment Law removed limitations to foreign ownership in domestic airlines and ground-transport companies in January 2004. The Guatemalan government does not have any screening mechanisms for inbound foreign investment.

Some professional services may only be supplied by professionals with locally recognized academic credentials. Public notaries must be Guatemalan nationals. Foreign enterprises may provide licensed, professional services in Guatemala through a contract or other relationship with a Guatemalan company. In July 2010, the Guatemalan congress approved an insurance law that allows foreign insurance companies to open branches in Guatemala, a requirement under CAFTA-DR. This law requires foreign insurance companies to fully capitalize in Guatemala.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Guatemala has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. The Guatemalan government had its last WTO trade policy review (TPR) in November 2016. In 2011, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an investment policy review on Guatemala. The WTO TPR highlighted Guatemala’s efforts to increase trade liberalization and economic reform efforts by eliminating export subsidies for free trade zones, export-focused manufacturing and assembly operations (maquilas) regimes, as well as amendments to the government procurement law to improve transparency and efficiency. The WTO TPR noted that Guatemala continues to lack a general competition law and a corresponding competition authority. The UNCTAD IPR recommended strengthening the public sector’s institutional capacity and highlighted that adopting a competition law and policy should be a priority in Guatemala’s development agenda. The government agreed to approve a competition law by November 2016 as part of its commitments under the Association Agreement with the European Union, but the draft law has not been approved as of March 2021. Other important recommendations from the UNCTAD IPR were to further explore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the establishment of courts for commercial and land disputes, though the government had not made substantive progress on these recommendations as of March 2021.

Business Facilitation

The Guatemalan government has a business registration website (https://minegocio.gt/), which facilitates on-line registration procedures for new businesses. Foreign companies that are incorporated locally are able to use the online business registration window, but the system is not yet available to other foreign companies. As a result of the entry into force of the commercial code amendments in January 2018, the time to register a new business online for a locally incorporated company went down from an average of 18.5 days in 2016 to an average of six days in 2019. The legal cost to register a business also fell by approximately 75 percent. The new procedures allow locally incorporated businesses to receive their business registration certificates online. Every company must register with the business registry, the tax administration authority, the social security institute, and the labor ministry.

Outward Investment

Guatemala does not incentivize nor restrict outward investment.

Guinea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Guinea has increasingly adopted a strong, positive attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI). Facing budget shortfalls and low commodity prices, the GoG hopes FDI will help diversify its economy, spur GDP growth, and provide reliable employment. To that end, the government has reduced land transfer fees, and improved procedures for import and construction permits. Guinea does not discriminate against foreign investors, with the exception of a prohibition on foreign ownership of media. One area of concern is that mining companies have negotiated different taxation rates despite mining code requirements. According to the 2020 World Investment Report, FDI in Guinea fell from USD 577 million in 2017 to USD 45 million in 2019. In late 2015, the U.S. Embassy facilitated the establishment of an informal international investors group to liaise with the government. The group has not been very active since. There is the Chambre des Mines (Chamber of Mines), a government-sanctioned advisory organization that includes Guinea’s major mining firms. Guinea’s Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment (APIP) provides support in the following areas:

  1. Create and register businesses
  2. Facilitate access to incentives offered under the investment code
  3. Provide information and resources to potential investors
  4. Publish targeted sector studies and statistics
  5. Provide training and technical assistance
  6. Facilitate solutions for investors in Guinea’s interior

On March 13, a presidential decree changed the responsibilities of APIP into a public agency under the technical supervision of the Ministry of Investments and Public Private Partnerships, and under the financial supervision of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

More information about APIP can be found at: http://apip.gov.gn/ 

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Investors can register under one of four categories of business in Guinea. More information on the four types of business registration is available at http://invest.gov.gn/page/create-your-company. There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control, and 100 percent ownership by foreign firms is legal in most sectors. Foreign-ownership of print media, radio, and television stations is not permitted. The 2013 Mining Code gives the government the right to a 15 percent interest in any major mining operation in Guinea (the government decides when an operation has become large enough to qualify). Mining and media notwithstanding, there are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access for foreign investment. Despite this lack of official discrimination, many enterprises have discovered the licensing process to be laden with bureaucratic delays that are usually dealt with by paying consultant fees to help expedite matters. The U.S. Embassy may be able to advocate on behalf of American companies when it is aware of excessive delays.

According to the Investment Code, the National Investment Commission has a role in reviewing requests for approval of foreign investment and for monitoring companies’ efforts to comply with investment obligations. The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development hosts the secretariat for this commission, which grants investment approvals. The government gives approved companies, especially industrial firms, the use of the land necessary for their plant, with the duration and conditions of use set out in the terms of the approval. The land and associated buildings belong to the State, but can also be rented by or transferred to another firm with government approval.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There has been no investment policy review conducted by the UN Conference on Trade and Development or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development within the past several years. The World Trade Organization (WTO) last conducted a review of Guinea in 2018. The 2018 report can be viewed here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp470_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

APIP is the Guinean agency that promotes investment, helps register businesses, assists with the expansion of local companies, and works to improve the local business climate. APIP maintains an online guide for potential investors in Guinea (http://invest.gov.gn). Business registration can be completed in person at APIP’s office in Conakry or through their online platform: https://synergui.apipguinee.com/fr/utilisateurs/register/. The only internationally-accredited business facilitation organization that assesses Guinea is GER.co, which gives Guinea’s business creation/investment website a 4/10 rating. It takes roughly seventy-two hours to register a business. APIP’s services are available to both Guinean and foreign investors. The “One Stop Shop” at APIP’s Conakry office can provide small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with requisite registration numbers, including tax administration numbers and social security numbers. Notaries are required for the creation of any other type of enterprise.

An SME in Guinea is defined as a business with less than 50 employees and revenue less than 500 million Guinean francs (GNF) (around USD 50,000). SMEs are taxed at a yearly fixed rate of GNF 15 million (USD 1,500). Administrative modalities are simplified and funneled through the “One Stop Shop”. In December 2019, the Prime Minister inaugurated the “Maison des PME” (“The SME House”) a public-private partnership between the Societe Generale bank and APIP to help local SMEs expand and develop.

Outward Investment

Guinea does not formally promote outward investment and the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Guyana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoG recognizes foreign direct investment (FDI) as critical for growing and diversifying the Guyanese economy. Guyanese law does not discriminate against foreign investors. Shortly after being sworn in, President Ali committed to institute an electronic single window application process to expedite business registration, permitting, and improve the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. The GoG has prioritized investments in the following sectors: agriculture, agro-processing, light manufacturing, renewable energy, tourism and information and communications technology (ICT). The Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST) is the GoG’s primary vehicle for promoting FDI opportunities and assisting foreign corporations with their business registrations and applying for tax concessions. Companies and investors are encouraged to do their due diligence and have robust business plans completed before approaching GOINVEST.

The GoG expects to table local content legislation before Parliament in the second quarter of 2021, which will set baseline requirements for foreign firms to hire Guyanese and establish taxation standards to foster greater local participation in the oil and gas sector. The aim of this legislation is to promote long term investments in Guyana, build local capacity, and avoid the resource curse.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Guyana’s constitution protects the rights of foreigners to own property in Guyana. Foreign and domestic firms possess the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of commerce. Private entities are governed by the 1991 Companies Act (amended in 1995) under which they have the right to establish business enterprises and are free to acquire or dispose of interest in accordance with the law. Some key sectors like aviation, forestry, banking, mining, and tourism are heavily regulated and require licensing. The process to obtain licenses can be time consuming and may in some instances require ministerial approval.

The GoG prohibits foreign ownership of small-and-medium-scale mining (ASM) concessions. Foreign investors interested in participating in the industry at those levels may establish joint ventures with Guyanese nationals, under which the two parties agree to jointly develop a mining property. However, this type of relationship can carry a high level of risk because arrangements are governed only by private contracts and the sector’s regulatory agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), offers little recourse for ASM disputes. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages investors to thoroughly conduct their due diligence when exploring business opportunities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Guyana’s macro-economic fundamentals have remained stable over the past decade. The Ali administration is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to balance sustainable development goals with booming oil production. Developmental policies include incentives for priority areas, including education, health, renewable energy, agriculture, and agro-processing.

Government policy focuses on attracting inward FDI. The GoG applies national treatment to all economic activities, except for certain mining operations, although some foreign-owned companies conduct large-scale mining operations in the country. During its first months in office, the Ali administration took actions to improve the business environment such as repealing of taxes on corporate taxes on health, education, and construction materials. Incentives for FDI includes income tax holidays, and tariff and value-added tax (VAT) exemptions.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published its most recent trade policy review of Guyana in 2015: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp420_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

All companies operating in Guyana must register with the Registrar of Companies. Registration fees are lower for companies incorporated in Guyana than those incorporated abroad.  Locally incorporated companies are subjected to a flat fee of approximately $300 and a company incorporated abroad is subject to a fee of approximately $400. Depending on the type of business, registration may take three weeks or more. Newly registered businesses are encouraged to visit the Guyana Revenue Authority and apply for a tax identification number (TIN). If a company employs Guyanese workers, the company must demonstrate compliance with the National Insurance Scheme (social security). Businesses in the sectors requiring specific licenses, such as mining, telecommunications, forestry, and banking must obtain operation licenses from the relevant authorities before commencing operations. Guyana has six municipal authorities which also assess municipal taxes: Anna Regina, Corriverton, Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam, and Rosehall.

GO-INVEST advises the GoG on the formulation and implementation of national investment policies and provides facilitation services to foreign investors, particularly in completing administrative formalities, such as commercial registration and applications for land purchases or leases.  Under the Status of Aliens Act, foreign and domestic investors have the same rights to purchase and lease land. However, the process to access licensing can be complex and many foreign companies have opted to partner with local companies which may assist with acquiring a license. The Investment Act specifies that there should be no discrimination between foreign and domestic private investors, or among foreign investors from different countries. The authorities maintain that foreign investors have equal access to opportunities arising from privatization of state-owned companies.

Resources

Guyana Deeds and Commercial Registry: https://dcra.gov.gy/ 
GO-INVEST: https://goinvest.gov.gy/ 
Guyana Revenue Authority: https://www.gra.gov.gy/ 

Outward Investment

While the GoG is focused on attracting inward investment into Guyana, there are no restrictions for domestic investors to invest abroad. GO-INVEST supports Guyanese investors and exporters looking to operate overseas.  In 2019, the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRF) was passed which created Guyana’s sovereign wealth fund. The Act provides the Minister of Finance with responsibility for the overall management of the fund.  The NRF is currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and, as of February 2021, has a balance of $246.5 million from its nascent oil revenues and royalty payments. The Ali administration plans to amend the existing Natural Resource Fund Act and has committed to leave all funds on deposit until a new regulatory framework is adopted. The GoG has not stated an official investment policy for the sovereign wealth fund as of March 2021.

Haiti

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Haiti’s legislation encourages foreign direct investment. Import and export policies are non-discriminatory and are not based on nationality. Haitian and foreign investors have the same rights, privileges and protections under the 1987 investment code. The Haitian government has made some progress in recent years to improve the legal framework, create and strengthen core public institutions, and enhance economic governance. The Haitian Central Bank continues to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to implement measures aimed at creating a stable macroeconomic environment. The IMF concluded its most recent Article IV economic consultation with Haiti in January 2020 (www.imf.org/en/countries/hti). In April 2020, the IMF loaned Haiti $112 million through its rapid credit facility mechanism to provide liquidity to Haiti for expenditures to address COVID-19.

While not discriminatory towards international investment specifically, the Haitian government’s economic policies fall short of providing a sound enabling environment for foreign direct investment. The Haitian Central Bank announced in August 2020 the intention to use up to $150 million of its international reserves to intervene in the foreign exchange market, resulting in a rapid appreciation of the country’s local currency, the Haitian gourde (HTG), relative to the U.S. dollar (USD). The gourde appreciated from about 121 HTG/USD to 62 HTG/USD over two months and began steadily depreciating in November 2020 to its rate of 80 HTG/USD as of April 2021. The gourde’s sudden and unexpected change in value has resulted in sustained increased costs for export-oriented businesses, including international investors.

Despite passing anti-money laundering and anti-corruption laws to ensure that Haiti’s legislation corresponds with international standards, the government has not strictly followed the legal framework of these laws, and has failed to incentivize investment in Haiti. In early 2017, the Parliament enacted legislation making electronic signatures and electronic transactions legally binding. Other pieces of legislation that may improve Haiti’s investment climate remain pending, including incorporation procedures, a new mining code, and an insurance code. Haiti’s Finance Ministry is implementing measures to improve revenue collection and control spending. The Ministry signed an agreement with Haiti’s Central Bank in November 2019 to strengthen fiscal discipline and limit government monetary financing. Despite these measures, the rate of monetary financing over fiscal year (FY) 2021 appears to be outpacing the annual budgeted amount of $462 million (3.6 percent of FY2021 IMF-projected GDP), standing at $377 million (3.0 percent of GDP) as of March 4, 2021, less than six months into the fiscal year. The Center for the Facilitation of Investments (CFI), which operates under Haitian Ministry of Commerce oversight, was established to promote domestic and international investment opportunities in Haiti. In concept, the CFI could streamline the investment process by: working with other government agencies to simplify procedures related to trade and investment; providing updated economic and commercial information to local and foreign investors; making proposals on investor incentives; and promoting investment in priority sectors. The CFI aims to offer tailored services to large international investors, but has been unable to operate at full capacity during the pandemic. In practice, the CFI has made limited progress to incentivize job creation and boost national production in agriculture, apparel assembly, and tourism. As an example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti’s Tourism Association reported a 60 percent loss of jobs in the sector in 2019.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Haitian government does not impose discriminatory requirements on foreign investors. Haitian laws related to residency status and employment are reciprocal. Foreigners who are legal residents in Haiti and wish to engage in trade have, within the framework of laws and regulations, the same rights granted to Haitian citizens. However, Article 5 of the Decree on the Profession of Merchants reserves the function of manufacturer’s agent for Haitian nationals.

Foreign firms are also encouraged to participate in government-financed development projects. Performance requirements are not imposed on foreign firms as a condition for establishing or expanding an investment, unless indicated in a signed contract.

Foreign investors are permitted to own 100 percent of a company or subsidiary. As a Haitian entity, such companies enjoy all rights and privileges provided under the law. Additionally, foreign investors are permitted to operate businesses without equity-to-debt ratio requirements. Accounting law allows foreigners to capitalize using tangible and intangible assets in lieu of cash investments.

Foreign investors are free to enter into joint ventures with Haitian citizens. The distribution of shares is a private matter between the two parties. However, the government regulates the sale and purchase of company shares. Investment in certain sectors, such as health and agriculture, requires special Haitian government authorization. Investment in “sensitive” sectors such as electricity, water, telecommunications, and mining require a Haitian government concession as well as authorization from the appropriate governmental agency. In general, natural resources are the property of the state, and the exploitation of mineral and energy resources requires concessions and permitting from the Ministry of Public Works’ Bureau of Mining and Energy. Mining, prospecting, and operating permits may only be granted to companies established and resident in Haiti, and the establishment of new industrial mines cannot take place until an elected parliament passes an updated mining law, along the lines of a draft law initially presented in 2017.

Entrepreneurs are free to dispose of their properties and assets, and to organize production and marketing activities in accordance with local laws.

Investors in Haiti can create the following types of businesses: sole proprietorship, limited or general partnership, joint-stock company, public company (corporation), subsidiary of a foreign company, and co-operative society. The most common business structures in Haiti are corporations. A draft law (Société de Droits law), which would facilitate the creation of other types of businesses in Haiti, such as LLCs, remains pending parliamentary approval when parliament is restored.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Haiti’s last investment policy review from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development occurred in 2012. In general, Haiti’s political instability, weak institutions, and inconsistent economic policies impede the country’s ability to attract and direct foreign direct investment.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 2015 Trade Policy Review stated that Haiti’s Investment Code and Law on Free Trade Zones is fully compliant with the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures. The full report can be viewed at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp427_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

While the Haitian government has made efforts to facilitate the launching and operating of businesses, the average time to start a business in Haiti is 189 days, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report. At present, it takes between 90 and 120 days to complete registration with the Commercial Registry at the Ministry of Commerce and obtain the authorization of operations (Droit de fonctionnement). The Center for Facilitation of Investments (CFI), a public-private organization, also offers a service providing pre-registered and fully authorized companies in manufacturing, agribusiness, and real estate the opportunity to reduce their registration time. Once the Inter-Ministerial Investment Commission validates these established companies, the shares are transferred to the new owners.

Both foreign and domestic businesses can register at Haiti’s CFI: http://cfihaiti.com . All businesses must register with the Ministry of Commerce, the Haitian tax office, the state-owned Banque Nationale de Crédit, the social security office, and the retirement insurance office.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s internet registry allows investors to search for and verify the existence of a business in Haiti. The registry will eventually provide online registration of companies through an electronic one-stop shop. In October 2020, CFI launched Spotlight, an initiative with the aim of promoting visibility of companies already established in Haiti and registered in the CFI database.

Outward Investment

Neither the law nor the Haitian government restricts domestic investors from investing abroad. Still, Haiti’s outward investment is limited to a few enterprises with small investments. These investors are generally businesspersons with dual citizenship and others of Haitian origin who presently reside in the country in which their firms operate. The majority of these firms are service providers and not investment firms. There is no current program or incentive in place to encourage Haitian entrepreneurs to invest abroad.

Honduras

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOH is open to foreign investment, and low labor costs, proximity to the U.S. market, and the large Caribbean port of Puerto Cortes can make Honduras attractive to investors.

The legal framework for investment includes the Honduran constitution, the investment chapter of CAFTA-DR (which takes precedence over most domestic law), and the 2011 Law for the Promotion and Protection of Investments. The Honduran constitution requires all foreign investment to complement, but not substitute for, national investment. Honduras’ legal obligations guarantee national treatment and most favored nation treatment for U.S. investments in most sectors of the Honduran economy and include enhanced benefits in the areas of insurance and arbitration for domestic and foreign investors. CAFTA-DR has equal status with the constitution in most sectors of the Honduran economy.

Critics complain that lack of clarity and overlapping responsibilities among the multiple entities charged with attracting increased foreign direct investment undermine the government’s ability to effectively promote Honduras as a profitable destination for foreign capital. The National Investment Council, the Ministry of Investment Promotion, and the Ministry of Economic Development all have equities in attracting foreign investment and an ambitious job creation mandate.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Honduras’ Investment Law does not limit foreign ownership of businesses, except for those specifically reserved for Honduran investors, including small firms with capital less than $6,300 and the domestic air transportation industry. For all investments, at least 90 percent of companies’ labor forces must be Honduran, and companies must pay at least 85 percent of their payrolls to Hondurans. Majority ownership by Honduran citizens is required for companies in the commercial fishing sector, forestry, local transportation, radio, television, or benefiting from the Agrarian Reform Law. There is no screening or approval process specific to foreign direct investments in Honduras. Foreign investors are subject to the same requirements for environmental and other regulatory approvals as domestic investors.

According to the law, investors can establish, acquire, and dispose of enterprises at market prices under freely negotiated conditions without government intervention, but some foreign business operators report difficulty closing businesses. Private enterprises fairly compete with public enterprises on market access, credit, and other business operations. Foreign investors have the right to own property, subject to certain restrictions established by the Honduran constitution and several laws relating to property rights. Investors may acquire, profit, use, and dispose of property ownership with the exception of land within 40 kilometers of international borders and shorelines. Honduran law does permit, however, foreign individuals to purchase properties close to shorelines in designated “tourism zones.”

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2016, the World Trade Organization conducted a Trade Policy review of Honduras: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp436_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

The Honduran government has worked to simplify administrative procedures for establishing a company in recent years, including by offering many processes online. GOH officials are pressing for, and have made good progress in, the digitalization of business, import, permitting and licensing, and taxation processes to increase efficiency and transparency, but procedural red tape to obtain government approval for investment activities remains common, especially at the local level. Honduras’ business registration information portal ( https://honduras.eregulations.org/ ) provides clear step-by-step information on registering a business, including fees, agencies, and required documents.

Honduras ratified the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in July 2016, agreeing to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. The TFA also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. According to the WTO/TFA database, Honduras’ current rate of implementation of TFA Category A notification commitments stands at 59.2 percent.

During the past year the GOH moved 38 of its ministries and agencies into the newly finished Centro Civico government complex, where it hopes to achieve efficiencies in business facilitation and other processes. In addition to moving information storage to digital formats across the government, the GOH plans to streamline public services though use of single windows for multiple services at the new center.

Outward Investment

Honduras does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

Hong Kong

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Hong Kong is the world’s second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2020, with a significant amount bound for mainland China.  The HKG’s InvestHK encourages inward investment, offering free advice and services to support companies from the planning stage through to the launch and expansion of their business.  U.S. and other foreign firms can participate in government financed and subsidized research and development programs on a national treatment basis.  Hong Kong does not discriminate against foreign investors by prohibiting, limiting, or conditioning foreign investment in a sector of the economy.

Capital gains are not taxed, nor are there withholding taxes on dividends and royalties.  Profits can be freely converted and remitted.  Foreign-owned and Hong Kong-owned company profits are taxed at the same rate – 16.5 percent.  The tax rate on the first USD 255,000 profit for all companies is currently 8.25 percent.  No preferential or discriminatory export and import policies affect foreign investors.  Domestic industries receive no direct subsidies.  Foreign investments face no disincentives, such as quotas, bonds, deposits, or other similar regulations.

According to HKG statistics, 3,983 overseas companies had regional operations registered in Hong Kong in 2020.  The United States has the largest number with 690.  Hong Kong is working to attract more start-ups as it works to develop its technology sector, and about 26 percent of start-ups in Hong Kong come from overseas.

Hong Kong’s Business Facilitation Advisory Committee is a platform for the HKG to consult the private sector on regulatory proposals and implementation of new or proposed regulations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors can invest in any business and own up to 100 percent of equity.  Like domestic private entities, foreign investors have the right to engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The HKG owns virtually all land in Hong Kong, which the HKG administers by granting long-term leases without transferring title.  Foreign residents claim that a 15 percent Buyer’s Stamp Duty on all non-permanent-resident and corporate buyers discriminates against them.

The main exceptions to the HKG’s open foreign investment policy are:

Broadcasting – Voting control of free-to-air television stations by non-residents is limited to 49 percent.  There are also residency requirements for the directors of broadcasting companies.

Legal Services – Foreign lawyers at foreign law firms may only practice the law of their jurisdiction.  Foreign law firms may become “local” firms after satisfying certain residency and other requirements.  Localized firms may thereafter hire local attorneys but must do so on a 1:1 basis with foreign lawyers.  Foreign law firms can also form associations with local law firms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Hong Kong last conducted the Trade Policy Review in 2018 through the World Trade Organization (WTO).  https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/g380_e.pdf

Business Facilitation

The Efficiency Office under the Innovation and Technology Bureau is responsible for business facilitation initiatives aimed at improving the business regulatory environment of Hong Kong.

The e-Registry (https://www.eregistry.gov.hk/icris-ext/apps/por01a/index) is a convenient and integrated online platform provided by the Companies Registry and the Inland Revenue Department for applying for company incorporation and business registration.  Applicants, for incorporation of local companies or for registration of non-Hong Kong companies, must first register for a free user account, presenting an original identification document or a certified true copy of the identification document.  The Companies Registry normally issues the Business Registration Certificate and the Certificate of Incorporation on the same day for applications for company incorporation.  For applications for registration of a non-Hong Kong company, it issues the Business Registration Certificate and the Certificate of Registration two weeks after submission.

Outward Investment

As a free market economy, Hong Kong does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  Mainland China and British Virgin Islands were the top two destinations for Hong Kong’s outward investments in 2019 (based on most recent data available).

Hungary

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Hungary maintains an open economy and its high-quality infrastructure and central location in Europe attract foreign investment. The GOH actively promotes Hungary to attract FDI, in manufacturing and export-oriented sectors. According to some reports, however, government policies have resulted in some foreign investors selling their stakes to the government or state-owned enterprises in other sectors, including banking and energy.  In 2019, net annual FDI amounted to $5.2 billion, and total gross FDI totaled $97.8 billion.

As a bloc, the EU accounts for approximately 89 percent of all FDI in Hungary in terms of direct investors, and 62 percent in terms of ultimate controlling parent investor.  In terms of ultimate investor – i.e., country of origin – the United States was the second largest investor after Germany in 2019. In terms of direct investor location, Germany was the largest investor, followed by the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, and then the United States. The majority of U.S. investment falls within the automotive, software development, and life sciences sectors.  Approximately 450 U.S. companies maintain a presence in Hungary. According to Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA) data, U.S. foreign direct investment produced more jobs in Hungary in 2020 than investment from any other country.

Total, cumulative FDI from Asian sources has approximately doubled since 2010, accounting for over five percent of total FDI stock in 2019. South Korea made several major new investments in the manufacturing sector in 2019. According to HIPA, South Korea, Japan, China, India, and other Asian countries accounted for about 40 percent of the value of new foreign investment projects in Hungary in 2020.

The GOH has implemented a number of tax changes to increase Hungary’s regional competitiveness and attract investment, including a reduction of the personal income tax rate to 15 percent in 2016, the corporate income tax rate to 9 percent in 2017, and the gradual reduction of the employer-paid welfare contribution from 27 percent in 2016 to 15.5 percent in 2020.  As of 2016, the GOH streamlined the National Tax and Customs authority (NAV) procedure to offer fast-track VAT refunds to customers categorized as “low-risk.”

Many foreign companies have expressed displeasure with the unpredictability of Hungary’s tax regime, its retroactive nature, slow response times, and the volume of legal and tax changes.  According to the European Commission (EC), a series of progressively-tiered taxes implemented in 2014 disproportionately penalized foreign businesses in the telecommunications, tobacco, retail, media, and advertisement industries, while simultaneously favoring Hungarian companies.  Following EC infringement procedures, the GOH phased out most discriminatory tax rates by 2015 and replaced them with flat taxes. Another 2014 law required retail companies with over $53 million in annual sales to close if they report two consecutive years of losses.  Retail businesses claimed the GOH specifically set the threshold to target large foreign retail chains.  The EC likewise determined that the law was discriminatory and launched an infringement procedure in 2016, leading the GOH to repeal the law in November 2018.

In 2017, the GOH passed a regulation that gives the government preemptive rights to purchase real estate in World Heritage areas.  The rule has been used to block the purchase of real estate by foreign investors in the most desirable areas of Budapest. In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the GOH issued a decree that levied sector-specific taxes on the banking and retail sectors to fund crisis economic support. This progressive tax on retail grocery outlets is structured such that it applies mainly to large foreign retail firms.

In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the GOH issued a decree that levied sector-specific taxes on the banking and retail sectors to fund crisis economic support. This progressive tax on retail grocery outlets is structured such that it applies mainly to large foreign retail firms.

The GOH publicly declared its intention to reduce foreign ownership in the banking sector in 2012. Accordingly, various GOH initiatives have reduced foreign ownership from about 70 percent in 2008 to 40.5 percent by the end of 2020. These initiatives included a 2010 bank tax; a 2012 financial transaction tax levied on all cash withdrawals; and regulations enacted between 2012-2015 that obligated banks to retroactively compensate borrowers for interest rate increases on foreign currency-denominated mortgage loans, even though these increases were spelled out in the original contracts with customers and had been permitted by Hungarian law.

While the pharmaceutical industry is competitive and profitable in Hungary, multinational enterprises complain of numerous financial and procedural obstacles, including high taxes on pharmaceutical products and operations, prescription directives that limit a doctor’s choice of drugs, and obscure tender procedures that negatively affect the competitiveness of certain drugs.  Pharmaceutical firms have also taken issue with GOH policies to weigh the cost of pharmaceutical procurement as heavily as efficacy when issuing tenders for public procurement.

The Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA), under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, encourages and supports inbound FDI.  HIPA offers company and sector-specific consultancy, recommends locations for investment, acts as a mediator between large international companies and Hungarian firms to facilitate supplier relationships, organizes supplier training, and maintains active contact with trade associations.  Its services are available to all investors. For more information, see:  https://hipa.hu/main .

Foreign investors generally report a productive dialogue with the government, both individually and through business organizations.  The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) enjoys an ongoing high-level dialogue with the GOH and the government has adopted many AmCham policy recommendations in recent years.  In 2017, the government established a Competitiveness Council, now chaired by the Minister of Finance, which includes representatives from multinationals, chambers of commerce, and other stakeholders, to increase Hungary’s competitiveness.  Many U.S. and foreign investors have signed MOUs with the GOH to facilitate one-on-one discussions and resolutions to any pending issues. The GOH has regularly consulted foreign businesses and business associations as it has developed economic support measures during the pandemic. For more information, see:  https://kormany.hu/kulgazdasagi-es-kulugyminiszterium/strategiai-partnersegi-megallapodasok  and  https://www.amcham.hu/ .

The U.S.-Hungary Business Council (USHBC) – a private, non-profit organization established in 2016 – aims to facilitate and maintain dialogue between American corporate executives and top government leaders on the U.S.-Hungary commercial relationship.  The majority of significant U.S. investors in Hungary have joined USHBC, which hosts roundtables, policy conferences, briefings, and other major events featuring senior U.S. and Hungarian officials, academics, and business leaders. For more information, see:  https://www.us-hungarybusinesscouncil.com/ .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign ownership is permitted with the exception of some “strategic” sectors including farmland and defense-related industries, which require special government permits.  As part of its economic measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the GOH passed a decree which requires foreign investors to seek approval for foreign investments in Hungary.

Foreign law firms and auditing companies must sign a cooperation agreement with a Hungarian company to provide services on Hungarian legal or auditing issues. According to the Land Law, only private Hungarian citizens or EU citizens resident in Hungary with a minimum of three years of experience working in agriculture or holding a degree in an agricultural discipline can purchase farmland.  Eligible individuals are limited to purchasing 300 hectares (741 acres). All others may only lease farmland. Non-EU citizens and legal entities are not allowed to purchase agricultural land. All farmland purchases must be approved by a local land committee and Hungarian authorities, and local farmers and young farmers must be offered a right of first refusal before a new non-local farmer is allowed to purchase the land.  For legal entities and those who do not fulfill the above requirements , the law allows the lease of farmland up to 1200 hectares for a maximum of 20 years. The GOH has invalidated any pre-existing leasing contract provisions that guaranteed the lessee the first option to purchase, provoking criticism from Austrian farmers. Austria has reported the change to the European Commission, which initiated an infringement procedure against Hungary in 2014.  In March 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that the termination of land use contracts violated EU rules, opening the way for EU citizens who lost their land use rights to sue the GOH for damages. In 2015, the EC launched another – still ongoing – infringement procedure against Hungary concerning its restrictions on acquisitions of farmland.

The GOH passed a national security law on investment screening in 2018 that requires foreign investors seeking to acquire more than a 25-percent stake in a Hungarian company in certain sensitive sectors (defense, intelligence services, certain financial services, electric energy, gas, water utility, and electronic information systems for governments) to seek approval from the Interior Ministry.  The Ministry has up to 60 days to issue an opinion and can only deny the investment if it determines that the investment is designed to conceal an activity other than normal economic activity. In 2020, as part of the measures to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GOH passed an additional regulation requiring foreign investors to seek approval from the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MIT) for greenfield or expansion of existing investments.

On April 6, Hungary’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) blocked an Austria’s Vienna Insurance Group from buying Dutch insurer Aegon’s Hungarian subsidiary, scuttling a four-country acquisition. The GOH granted the specific power to block this type of sale to the MOI in November 2020 under emergency COVID-related legislation, just one day before the parties agreed to the sale, after months of open negotiations.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Hungary has not had any third-party investment policy reviews in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

In 2006, Hungary joined the EU initiative to create a European network of “point of single contact” through which existing businesses and potential investors can access all information on the business and legal environment, as well as connect to Hungary’s investment promotion agency.  In recent years, the government has strengthened investor relations, signed strategic agreements with key investors, and established a National Competitiveness Council to formulate measures to increase Hungary’s economic competitiveness.

The registration of business enterprises is compulsory in Hungary.  Firms must contract an attorney and register online with the Court of Registration.  Registry courts must process applications to register limited liability and joint-enterprise companies within 15 workdays, but the process usually does not take more than three workdays.  If the Court fails to act within the given timeframe, the new company is automatically registered. If the company chooses to use a template corporate charter, registration can be completed in a one-day fast track procedure.  Registry courts provide company information to the Tax Authority (NAV), eliminating the need for separate registration. The Court maintains a computerized registry and electronic filing system and provides public access to company information.  The minimum capital requirement for a limited-liability company is HUF 3,000,000 ($10,800); for private limited companies HUF 5,000,000 ($17,900), and for public limited companies HUF 20,000,000 ($71,400). Foreign individuals or companies can establish businesses in Hungary without restrictions.

Further information on business registration and the business registry can be obtained at the GOH’s information website for businesses:  http://eugo.gov.hu/starting-business-hungary  or at the Ministry of Justice’s Company Information Service:  https://ceginformaciosszolgalat.kormany.hu/elektronikus-cegeljaras , and the Tax Authority https://en.nav.gov.hu/taxation/registration/specific_rules.html .

Hungarian business facilitation mechanisms provide equitable treatment for women. They offer no special preference or assistance for them in establishing a company.

Outward Investment

The stock of total Hungarian investment abroad amounted to $36.8 billion in 2019.  Outward investment is mainly in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, services, finance and insurance, and science and technology.  There is no restriction in place for domestic investors to invest abroad. The GOH announced in early 2019 that it would like to increase Hungarian investment abroad and it is considering incentives to promote such investment.

Iceland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Iceland maintains an open investment climate.  The Act on Incentives for Initial Investments, which came into force in 2015, is intended to “promote initial investment in commercial operations, the competitiveness of Iceland and regional development by specifying what incentives are permitted in respect of initial investments in Iceland, and how they should be used.”  The Act does not apply to investments in airports, energy production, financial institutions, insurance operations, or securities.  For more information, see the English translation of the Act: (https://www.stjornarradid.is/leit/$LisasticSearch/Search/?SearchQuery=Act+on+incentives+for+initial+investments+in+Iceland).

As part of its investment promotion strategy, the Icelandic government operates a public-private agency called “Invest in Iceland” that facilitates foreign investment by providing information to potential investors and promotes investment incentives.  There is a debate, however, within Iceland over balancing energy-intensive FDI with the environmental impact associated with certain projects.  That said, energy-intensive industries, long dominated by aluminum smelting, have expanded to include silicon production plants and data centers.  For further resources see: (http://www.invest.is/doing-business/incentives-and-support).

Tourism has been a growing force behind Iceland’s economy in the past decade, with opportunities for investors in high-end tourism, including luxury resorts and hotels.  The number of tourists in Iceland grew by more than 400 percent between 2010 and 2018, reaching more than 2.3 million in 2018.  However, tourism in Iceland contracted in 2019 with visitors falling just below 2 million, which can be largely attributed to the bankruptcy of Icelandic budget airline WOW Air.  The COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic effects on tourism, as well as on Iceland’s overall economy, which contracted by 6.6 percent in 2020, according to Statistics Iceland.  The sector is facing numerous bankruptcies due to COVID-19 closures and travel bans.  The government has implemented measures to bolster the tourism economy and has committed to building out tourism-related infrastructure.

Isavia, a public company that handles the operation and development of Keflavik International Airport, is embarking on a $1-2 billion capital works project to expand the airport.  Projects include extension of buildings, baggage screening and baggage handling systems, self-check in stations, waiting areas and retail/dining areas, check-in areas, bag-drop off areas, security areas, airbridges/gates for remote stands, re-modelling of existing terminal, de-icing platforms, new runway, new taxiway, and a new ATC tower.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most tenders have been postponed.

The startup and innovation communities in Iceland are flourishing, with IT and biotech startups seeking investors.  Foreign investment in the fisheries sector is restricted, as well as in the energy sector (hydropower and geothermal exploitation rights other than for personal use and energy processing and transportation are limited to Icelandic citizens and legal persons, and individuals and legal persons who reside in the European Economic Area).  The wind energy sector is growing in Iceland, and the legal framework is still being developed for that sector.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The 1991 Act on “foreign investments for commercial purposes” limits foreign ownership of fishing rights and fish processing companies (only Icelandic citizens or companies that are controlled by Icelandic citizens and have less than 25 percent foreign shareholders can own or control fishing companies); of hydropower and geothermal exploitation rights other than for personal use and energy processing and transportation (only Icelandic citizens and legal persons, and individuals and legal persons who reside in the European Economic Area (EEA) can hold those rights); and of aviation operators (Icelandic ownership of aviation companies needs to be at least 51 percent, and this does not apply to individuals and legal persons that have EEA citizenship).  The law further stipulates that foreign states, sub-national governments, or other foreign authorities are prohibited from investing in Iceland for commercial purposes, although the Minister of Tourism, Industries, and Innovation may grant exemptions.  The responsibility to inform the relevant ministry of both new investments and investments in companies that the party in question has already invested in lies with the investor, or with the Icelandic company that the foreign individual or entity invested in (this does not apply to EEA citizens or residents).

However, the 1991 Act does not stipulate how foreign investment is screened or monitored by relevant authorities, only that the Minister of Tourism, Industries, and Innovation handles permits and monitors the execution of this legislation.  The Minister can block foreign investment if he/she considers it a “threat to national security or goes against public policy, public safety or public health or if there are serious economic, societal or environmental complications in specific industries or in specific areas, that is likely to persist…”  The law further states that the “Minister has the authority to stop foreign investment in systematically important companies if such investment entails systematic risk.”  If an investment has already taken place, the Minister of Tourism, Industries, and Innovation has the authority to compel the foreign person or entity in question to sell.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Iceland has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and a member of GATT since 1968.  The WTO conducted its fifth Trade Policy Review of Iceland in 2017 (https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=((%20@Title=%20iceland)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20iceland))%20and%20(%20(%20@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*%20)%20or%20(%20@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/g/*%20))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true#).

The review notes that “with a small population and limited natural resources, apart from energy and fish, trade remains important but the range of exports is limited to tourism, fish and fish products, and aluminum and products thereof.  Therefore, the country remains vulnerable to shocks, including the appreciation of the ISK, overheating of the economy, and Brexit.  Furthermore, despite uncertainties relating to Brexit, as growth picks up in the EU, Iceland’s main trading partner, opportunities for trade in goods and services should continue to improve.”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UN Cooperation for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have not conducted Investment Policy Reviews for Iceland.

Business Facilitation

Businesses are registered with Iceland Revenue and Customs (Skatturinn) (http://www.rsk.is/english/).  Applications for the registration of businesses can be filled in online, however some forms are in Icelandic only and it is therefore necessary for foreign businesses to contract a local representative to complete the paperwork.  The website of the Business Registry in Iceland is (http://www.rsk.is/fyrirtaekjaskra) (Icelandic only).  More information on establishing a business in Iceland can be found here (https://www.government.is/topics/business-and-industry/establishing-a-business-in-iceland/).

Services offered by Invest in Iceland, a public-private agency that promotes and facilitates foreign investment in Iceland (http://www.invest.is), are free of charge to all potential foreign investors.  Invest in Iceland can provide information on investment opportunities in Iceland; collect data on the business environment, arrange site visits and plan contacts with local authorities; arrange meetings with local business partner and professional consultants; influence legislation and lobby on behalf of foreign investors (https://www.invest.is/at-your-service/what-we-do).  Invest in Iceland offers detailed information on how to establish a company on its website (http://www.invest.is/doing-business/establishing-a-company). Its sister agencies, Business Iceland (formerly Promote Iceland) (https://www.businessiceland.is/) and Film in Iceland (http://www.filminiceland.com), aim to enhance Iceland’s reputation as a tourist destination and as a destination for filming movies and television productions.

According to the World Bank, Iceland’s GDP was $24.2 billion in 2019 (https://data.worldbank.org/country/iceland).  Iceland is currently ranked number 64 out of 190 economies on the World Bank’s starting a business list, and number 26 on the ease of doing business list (https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploretopics/starting-a-business#close).

Outward Investment

The Icelandic Government along with other stakeholders promote exports of Icelandic goods and services through the public-private agency Islandsstofa, also known as Business Iceland (https://www.businessiceland.is/).  Business Iceland assists Icelandic businesses in the main industry sectors export products and services, including fisheries (seafood and technology), agricultural produce (including organic lamb meat), high-tech products and solutions (software, prosthetics, etc.), and services (tourism).  Business Iceland has been increasingly active in the United States and Canada in recent years.  A trade commissioner represents the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York, facilitating exports to the United States and promoting business relations between the two countries.  Business Iceland also promotes exports to the U.K., Northern and Southern Europe, and more recently to Asia (China and Japan).

Iceland imposed capital controls following the economic collapse in late 2008, which largely prevented Icelandic investors and pensions funds from investing outside of Iceland.  The government lifted capital controls on March 14, 2017.

India

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies toward Foreign Direct Investment

Changes in India’s foreign investment rules are notified in two different ways: (1) Press Notes issued by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) for most sectors, and (2) legislative action for insurance, pension funds, and state-owned enterprises in the coal sector. FDI proposals in sensitive sectors, however, require the additional approval of the Home Ministry.

DPIIT, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is India’s chief investment regulator and policy maker. It compiles all policies related to India’s FDI regime into a single document to make it easier for investors to understand, and this consolidated policy is updated every year. The updated policy can be accessed at: http://dipp.nic.in/foreign-directinvestment/foreigndirectinvestment-policy.  DPIIT, through the Foreign Investment Implementation Authority (FIIA), plays an active role in resolving foreign investors’ project implementation problems and disseminates information about the Indian investment climate to promote investments. The Department establishes bilateral economic cooperation agreements in the region and encourages and facilitates foreign technology collaborations with Indian companies and DPIIT oftentimes consults with lead ministries and stakeholders. There however have been multiple incidents where relevant stakeholders reported being left out of consultations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

In most sectors, foreign and domestic private entities can establish and own businesses and engage in remunerative activities. Several sectors of the economy continue to retain equity limits for foreign capital as well as management and control restrictions, which deter investment. For example, the 2015 Insurance Act raised FDI caps from 26 percent to 49 percent, but also mandated that insurance companies retain “Indian management and control.” In the parliament’s 2021 budget session, the Indian government approved increasing the FDI caps in the insurance sector to 74 percent from 49 percent. However, the legislation retained the “Indian management and control” rider. In the August 2020 session of parliament, the government approved reforms that opened the agriculture sector to FDI, as well as allowed direct sales of products and contract farming, though implementation of these changes was temporarily suspended in the wake of widespread protests. In 2016, India allowed up to 100 percent FDI in domestic airlines; however, the issue of substantial ownership and effective control (SOEC) rules that mandate majority control by Indian nationals have not yet been clarified. A list of investment caps is accessible at: http://dipp.nic.in/foreign-directinvestment/foreign-directinvestment-policy .

Screening of FDI

All FDI must be reviewed under either an “Automatic Route” or “Government Route” process. The Automatic Route simply requires a foreign investor to notify the Reserve Bank of India of the investment and applies in most sectors. In contrast, investments requiring review under the Government Route must obtain the approval of the ministry with jurisdiction over the appropriate sector along with the concurrence of DPIIT. The government route includes sectors deemed as strategic including defense, telecommunications, media, pharmaceuticals, and insurance. In August 2019, the government announced a new package of liberalization measures and brought a number of sectors including coal mining and contract manufacturing under the automatic route.

FDI inflows were mostly directed towards the largest metropolitan areas – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai – and the state of Gujarat. The services sector garnered the largest percentage of FDI. Further FDI statistics are available at: http://dipp.nic.in/publications/fdistatistics. 

Other Investment Policy Reviews

OECD’s Indian Economic Snapshot: http://www.oecd.org/economy/india-economic-snapshot/ 

WTO Trade Policy Review: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp503_e.htm 

2015-2020 Government of India Foreign Trade Policy: http://dgft.gov.in/ForeignTradePolicy 

Business Facilitation

DPIIT is responsible for formulation and implementation of promotional and developmental measures for growth of the industrial sector, keeping in view national priorities and socio- economic objectives. While individual lead ministries look after the production, distribution, development and planning aspects of specific industries allocated to them, DPIIT is responsible for overall industrial policy. It is also responsible for facilitating and increasing the FDI flows to the country.

Invest India  is the official investment promotion and facilitation agency of the Government of India, which is managed in partnership with DPIIT, state governments, and business chambers. Invest India specialists work with investors through their investment lifecycle to provide support with market entry strategies, industry analysis, partner search, and policy advocacy as required. Businesses can register online through the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website: http://www.mca.gov.in/ . After the registration, all new investments require industrial approvals and clearances from relevant authorities, including regulatory bodies and local governments. To fast-track the approval process, especially in the case of major projects, Prime Minister Modi started the Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI initiative) – a digital, multi-modal platform to speed the government’s approval process. As of January 2020, a total of 275 project proposals worth around $173 billion across ten states were cleared through PRAGATI. Prime Minister Modi personally monitors the process to ensure compliance in meeting PRAGATI project deadlines. The government also launched an Inter-Ministerial Committee in late 2014, led by the DPIIT, to help track investment proposals that require inter-ministerial approvals. Business and government sources report this committee meets informally and on an ad hoc basis as they receive reports of stalled projects from business chambers and affected companies.

Outward Investment

The Ministry of Commerce’s India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) claimed in March 2020 that outbound investment from India had undergone a considerable change in recent years in terms of magnitude, geographical spread, and sectorial composition. Indian firms invest in foreign markets primarily through mergers and acquisition (M&A). According to a Care Ratings study, corporate India invested around $12.25 billion in overseas markets between April and December 2020. The investment was mostly into wholly owned subsidiaries of companies. In terms of country distribution, the dominant destinations were the Unites States ($2.36 billion), Singapore ($2.07 billion), Netherlands ($1.50 billion), British Virgin Islands ($1.37 billion), and Mauritius ($1.30 million).

Indonesia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Indonesia is an attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) due to its young population, strong domestic demand, stable political situation, abundant natural resources, and well-regarded macroeconomic policy.  Indonesian government officials often state that they welcome increased FDI, aiming to create jobs, spur economic growth, and court foreign investors, notably focusing on infrastructure development and export-oriented manufacturing.  During the first term of President Jokowi’s administration, the government launched sixteen economic policy packages providing tax incentives in certain sectors, cutting red tape, reducing logistics costs, and creating a single submission system for business licensing applications.  Foreign investors, however, have complained about vague and conflicting regulations, bureaucratic inefficiencies, ambiguous legislation in regards to tax enforcement, poor existing infrastructure, rigid labor laws, sanctity of contract issues, and corruption.  To further improve the investment climate, the government drafted and parliament approved the Omnibus Law on Job Creation (Law No. 1/2020) in October 2020 to amend dozens of prevailing laws deemed to hamper investment.  It introduced a risk-based approach for business licensing, simplified environmental requirements and building certificates, tax reforms to ease doing business, more flexible labor regulations, and the establishment of the priority investment list.  It also streamlined the business licensing process at the regional level

The Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board, or BKPM, serves as an investment promotion agency, a regulatory body, and the agency in charge of approving planned investments in Indonesia.  As such, it is the first point of contact for foreign investors, particularly in manufacturing, industrial, and non-financial services sectors.  BKPM’s OSS system streamlines almost all business licensing and permitting processes, based on the issuance of Government Regulation No. 24/2018 on Electronic Integrated Business Licensing Services.  While the OSS system is operational, overlapping authority for permit issuance across ministries and government institutions, both at the national and subnational level, remains challenging.  The Omnibus Law on Job Creation requires local governments to integrate their license systems into the OSS.  The law allows the central government to take over local governments’ authority if local governments are not performing.  The government has provided investment incentives particularly for “pioneer” sectors (please see the section on Industrial Policies).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

As part of the implementation of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, the Indonesian government enacted Presidential Regulation No. 10/2021 to introduce a significant liberalization of foreign investment in Indonesia, repealing the 2016 Negative List of Investment (DNI).  In contrast to the previous regulation, the new investment list sets a default principle that all business sectors are open for investment unless stipulated otherwise.  It details the seven sectors that are closed to investment, explains that public services and defense are reserved for the central government, and outlines four categories of sectors that are open to investment: priority investment sectors that are eligible for incentives; sectors that are reserved for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and cooperatives or open to foreign investors who cooperate with them; sectors that are open with certain requirements (i.e., with caps on foreign ownership or special permit requirements); and sectors that are fully open for foreign investment.  Although hundreds of sectors that were previously closed or subject to foreign ownership caps are in theory open to 100 percent foreign investment, in practice technical and sectoral regulations may stipulate different or conflicting requirements that still need to be resolved.

In total, 245 business fields listed in the new Investment Priorities List, or DPI, are eligible for fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, notably pioneer industries, export-oriented manufacturing, capital intensive industries, national infrastructure projects, digital economy, labor-intensive industries, as well as research and development activities.  Restrictions on foreign ownership in telecommunications and information technology (e.g., internet providers, fixed telecommunication providers, mobile network providers), construction services, oil and gas support services, electricity, distribution, plantations, and transportation were removed.  Healthcare services including hospitals/clinics, wholesale of pharmaceutical raw materials, and finished drug manufacturing are fully open for foreign investment, which was previously capped in certain percentages.  The regulation also reduced the number of business fields that are subject to certain requirements to only 46 sectors.  Domestic sea transportation and postal services are open up to 49 percent of foreign ownership, while press, including magazines and newspapers, and broadcasting sectors are open up to 49 percent and 20 percent, respectively, but only for business expansion or capital increases.  Small plantations, industry related to special cultural heritage, and low technology industries or industries with capital less than IDR10 billion (USD 700,000) are reserved for MSMEs and cooperatives.  Foreign investors in partnership with MSMEs and cooperatives can invest in certain designated areas.  The new investment list shortened the number of restricted sectors from 20 to 7 categories including cannabis, gambling, fishing of endangered species, coral extraction, alcohol, industries using ozone-depleting materials, and chemical weapons.  In addition, while education investment is still subject to the Education Law, Government Regulation No. 40/2021 permits education and health investment as business activities in special economic zones.

In 2016, Bank Indonesia (BI) issued Regulation No. 18/2016 on the implementation of payment transaction processing.  The regulation governs all companies providing the following services: principal, issuer, acquirer, clearing, final settlement operator, and operator of funds transfer.  The BI regulation capped foreign ownership of payments companies at 20 percent, though it contained a grandfathering provision.  BI’s Regulation No. 19/2017 on the National Payment Gateway (NPG) subsequently imposed a 20 percent foreign equity cap on all companies engaging in domestic debit switching transactions.  Firms wishing to continue executing domestic debit transactions are obligated to sign partnership agreements with one of Indonesia’s four NPG switching companies.  In December 2020, BI issued umbrella Regulation No. 22/23/2020 on the Payment System, which implements BI’s 2025 Payment System Blueprint and introduces a risk-based categorization and licensing system.  The regulation will enter into force on July 1, 2021.  It allows 85 percent foreign ownership of non-bank payment services providers, although at least 51 percent of shares with voting rights must be owned by Indonesians.  The 20 percent foreign equity cap remains in place for payment system infrastructure operators who handle clearing and settlement services, and a grandfathering provision remains in effect for existing licensed payment companies.

Foreigners may purchase equity in state-owned firms through initial public offerings and the secondary market.  Capital investments in publicly listed companies through the stock exchange are generally not subject to the limitation of foreign ownership as stipulated in Presidential Regulation No. 10/2021.

Indonesia’s vast natural resources have attracted significant foreign investment and continue to offer significant prospects.  However, some companies report that a variety of government regulations have made doing business in the resources sector increasingly difficult, and Indonesia now ranks 64th of 76 jurisdictions in the Fraser Institute’s 2019 Mining Policy Perception Index.  In 2012, Indonesia banned the export of raw minerals, dramatically increased the divestment requirements for foreign mining companies, and required major mining companies to renegotiate their contracts of work with the government.  The full export ban did not come into effect until January 2017, when the government also issued new regulations allowing exports of copper concentrate and other specified minerals, while imposing onerous requirements.  Of note for foreign investors, provisions of the regulations require that in order to export mineral ores, companies with contracts of work must convert to mining business licenses – and thus be subject to prevailing regulations – and must commit to build smelters within the next five years.  Also, foreign-owned mining companies must gradually divest 51 percent of shares to Indonesian interests over ten years, with the price of divested shares determined based on a “fair market value” determination that does not take into account existing reserves.  In January 2020, the government banned the export of nickel ore for all mining companies, foreign and domestic, in the hopes of encouraging construction of domestic nickel smelters.  In March 2021, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources issued a Ministerial Decision to allow mining business licenses holders who have not reached smelter development targets to continue exporting raw mineral ores under certain conditions.  The 2020 Mining Law returned the authority to issue mining licenses to the central government.  Local governments retain only authority to issue small scale mining permits

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The latest World Trade Organization (WTO) Investment Policy Review of Indonesia was conducted in December 2020 and can be found on the WTO website: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp501_e.htm

The last OECD Investment Policy Review of Indonesia, conducted in 2020, can be found on the OECD website:

https://www.oecd.org/investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-indonesia-2020-b56512da-en.htm

The 2019 UNCTAD Report on ASEAN Investment can be found here: https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2568

Business Facilitation

In order to conduct business in Indonesia, foreign investors must be incorporated as a foreign-owned limited liability company (PMA) through the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.  Once incorporated, a PMA must fulfill business licensing requirements through the OSS system.  In February 2021, the Indonesian government issued Government Regulation No. 5/2021 introducing a risk-based approach and streamlined business licensing process for almost all sectors.  The regulation classifies business activities into categories of low, medium, and high risk which will further determine business licensing requirements for each investment.  Low-risk business activities only require a business identity number (NIB) to start commercial and production activities.  An NIB will also serve as import identification number, customs access identifier, halal guarantee statement (for low risk), and environmental management and monitoring capability statement letter (for low risk).  Medium-risk sectors must obtain an NIB and a standard certification.  Under the regulation, a standard certificate for medium-low risk is a self-declared statement of the fulfillment of certain business standards, while a standard certificate for medium-high risk must be verified by the relevant government agency.  High-risk sectors must apply for a full business license, including an environmental impact assessment (AMDAL).  A business license remains valid as long as the business operates in compliance with Indonesian laws and regulations.  A grandfather clause applies for existing businesses that have obtained a business license.

Foreign investors are generally prohibited from investing in MSMEs in Indonesia, although the Presidential Regulation No. 10/2021 opened some opportunities for partnerships in farming, two- and three-wheeled vehicles, automotive spare parts, medical devices, ship repair, health laboratories, and jewelry/precious metals.

According to Presidential Instruction 7/2019, BKPM is responsible for issuing “investment licenses” (the term used to encompass both NIB and other business licenses) that have been delegated from all relevant ministries and government institutions to foreign entities through the OSS system, an online portal which allows foreign investors to apply for and track the status of licenses and other services online.  BKPM has also been tasked to review policies deemed unfavorable for investors.  While the OSS’s goal is to help streamline investment approvals, investments in the mining, oil and gas, and financial sectors still require licenses from related ministries and authorities.  Certain tax and land permits, among others, typically must be obtained from local government authorities.  Though Indonesian companies are only required to obtain one approval at the local level, businesses report that foreign companies often must seek additional approvals in order to establish a business.  Government Regulation No. 6/2021 requires local governments to integrate their business licenses system into the OSS system and standardizes services through a service-level agreement between the central and local governments.

Outward Investment

Indonesia’s outward investment is limited, as domestic investors tend to focus on the large domestic market.  BKPM has responsibility for promoting and facilitating outward investment, to include providing information about investment opportunities in other countries.  BKPM also uses its investment and trade promotion centers abroad to match Indonesian companies with potential investment opportunities.  The government neither restricts nor provides incentives for outward private sector investment.  The Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) encourages Indonesian SOEs through the SOE Go Global Program to increase their investment abroad, aiming to improve Indonesia’s supply chain and establish demand for Indonesian exports in strategic markets.  Indonesian SOEs reportedly accounted for around USD17.5 billion in outward investment in 2019.

Iraq

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

The GOI has publicly and repeatedly stated its desire to attract foreign investment as part of national plans to strengthen local industries and promote the “Made in Iraq” brand.  The GOI has yet to follow through on commitments made at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in February 2018 to reform processes and regulations that hinder investment.  Iraq has claimed that countries have not followed through on their financial pledges either.

Iraq operates under its National Investment Law (Investment Law), amended in December 2015.  The Investment Law outlines improved investment terms for foreign investors, the purchase of land in Iraq for certain projects, and an investment license process.  The purchase of land for commercial or residential development remains extremely difficult.  Since 2015, Iraq has been a party to the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nations of Other States (ICSID).

Foreign investors continue to encounter bureaucratic challenges, corruption, and a weak banking sector, which make it difficult to successfully conclude investment deals.  State-owned banks in Iraq serve predominantly to settle the payroll of the country’s public sector.  Privately-owned banks, until recently, served almost entirely as currency exchange businesses, with the exception of a handful of mostly regionally owned commercial banks.  Some privately-owned banks have commercial lending programs, but Iraq’s lack of a credit monitoring system, insufficient legal guarantees for lenders, and limited connections to international banks hinder commercial lending.  The financial sector in the IKR is still recovering from years of financial instability, and the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) levied sanctions against the IKR’s financial institutions immediately following the Kurdistan independence referendum in September 2017.

Recently, the GOI has been exploring multi-year financing options to pay for large-scale development projects rather than relying on its previous practice of funding investments entirely from current annual budget outlays.

According to Iraqi law, a foreign investor is entitled to make investments in Iraq on terms no less favorable than those applicable to an Iraqi investor, and the amount of foreign participation is not limited.  However, Iraq’s Investment Law limits foreign direct and indirect ownership of most natural resources, particularly the extraction and processing of natural resources.  It does allow foreign ownership of land to be used for residential projects and co-ownership of land to be used for industrial projects when an Iraqi partner is participating.

Despite this legal equity between foreign and domestic investment, the GOI reserves the right to screen FDI.  The screening process is vague, although it does not appear to have been used to block foreign investment.  Still, bureaucratic barriers to FDI, such as a requirement to place a significant portion of the capital investment in an Iraqi bank prior to receiving a license, remain significant.

The IKR operates under a 2006 investment law and its supporting regulations.  Under the law, foreign investors are entitled to incentives, including full property ownership, and capital repatriation and tax holidays for 10 years.  The KRG is generally open to public-private partnerships and long-term financing, as demonstrated by the KRG’s oil and gas sector contracts that increase production.  In 2020, the KRG Ministry of Planning (MOP) published a framework for creating public-private partnerships in the region but has not drafted legislation to codify it.  Legislation to amend the investment law to broaden its reach to potential investors remains pending in the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament (IKP).

The GOI established the National Investment Commission (NIC) in 2007, along with its provincial counterparts Provincial Investment Commissions (PICs), as provided under Investment Law 13 (2006).  This cabinet-level organization provides policy recommendations to the Prime Minister and support to current and potential investors in Iraq.  The NIC’s “One Stop Shop” is intended to guide investors through the investment process, though investors have reported challenges using NIC services.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Iraqi law stipulates that 50% of a project’s workers must be Iraqi nationals in order to obtain an investment license (National Investment Regulation No. 2, 2009).  Investors must prioritize Iraqi citizens before hiring non-Iraqi workers.  The GOI pressures foreign companies to hire more local employees and has encouraged foreign companies to partner with local industries and purchase Iraqi-made products.  The KRG permits full foreign ownership under its 2006 investment law.

The GOI generally favors State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and state-controlled banks in competitions for government tenders and investment.  This preference discriminates against both local and foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the GOI did not conduct any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

Foreign investors interested in establishing an office in Iraq or bidding on a public tender are required to register as a foreign business with the Ministry of Trade’s (MOT) Companies Registration Department.  The procedure costs and time to obtain a business license can be found at https://baghdad.eregulations.org/procedure/108?l=en. Many international companies use a local agent to assist in this process due to its complexity.  The GOI is working with UNCTAD to streamline the business registration process and make it available online, as per procedures of obtain investment licenses from NIC according to the amount of capital can be found at:

https://baghdad.eregulations.org/procedure/60?l=en and https://baghdad.eregulations.org/procedure/51/step/230?l=en&reg=0.

The KRG offers business registration for companies seeking business only in the IKR; however, companies that seek business in both the IKR and greater Iraq must register with both the GOI MOT and the KRG MOT.

Iraqi laws give the NIC and PICs authority to provide information, sign contracts, and facilitate registration for new foreign and domestic investors.  The NIC offers investor facilitation services on transactions including work permit applications, visa approval letters, customs procedures, and business registration.  Investors can request these services through the NIC website: http://investpromo.gov.iq/.  The NIC does not exclude businesses from taking advantage of its services based on the number of employees or the size of the investment project.  The NIC can also connect investors with the appropriate provincial investment council.

These official investment commissions do struggle to operate amid unclear lines of authority, budget constraints, and the absence of regulations and standard operating procedures. Importantly, the investment commissions lack the authority to resolve investors’ bureaucratic obstacles with other Iraqi ministries.

The Kurdistan Board of Investment (KBOI) manages an investment licensing process in the IKR that can take from three to six months and may involve more than one KRG ministry or entity, depending on the sector of investment.  Due to oversaturated commercial and residential real estate markets, the KBOI has moved away from approving licenses in these sectors but may still grant them on a case-by-case basis.  The KBOI has prioritized industrial and agricultural projects.  Businesses reported some difficulties establishing local connections, obtaining qualified staff, and meeting import regulations.  Some businesses have reported that the KRG has not provided all of the promised support infrastructure such as water, electricity, or wastewater services, as required under the investment law framework.  Additional information is available at the KBOI’s website:  http://www.kurdistaninvestment.org/.

Outward Investment

Iraq does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Ireland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Irish government actively promotes FDI, a strategy that has fueled economic growth since the mid-1990s. The principal goal of Ireland’s investment promotion has been employment creation, especially in technology-intensive and high-skill industries. More recently, the government has focused on Ireland’s international competitiveness by encouraging foreign-owned companies to enhance research and development (R&D) activities and to deliver higher-value goods and services.

U.S. companies in particular are attracted to Ireland as an exporting sales and support platform to the EU market of almost 500 million consumers and other global markets. Ireland is a successful FDI destination for many reasons, including a low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent for all domestic and foreign firms; a well-educated, English-speaking workforce; the availability of a multilingual labor force; cooperative labor relations; political stability; and pro-business government policies and regulators. Ireland also benefits from a transparent judicial system; good transportation links; proximity to the United States and Europe, and the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a so-called “clustering” effect).

The stock of American FDI in Ireland stood at USD 355 billion in 2019, more than the U.S. total for China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries) combined. There are approximately 900 U.S. subsidiaries currently in Ireland employing roughly 180,000 people and supporting work for another 128,000. This figure represents a significant proportion of the 2.31 million people employed in Ireland. U.S. firms operate primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices, computer hardware and software, internet and digital media; electronics, and financial services.

U.S. investment has been particularly important to the growth and modernization of Irish industry over the past thirty years, providing new technology, export capabilities, management and manufacturing best practices, and employment opportunities. Ireland has more recently become an important R&D center for U.S. firms in Europe, and a magnet for U.S. internet and digital media investment. Industry leaders like Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Electronic Arts and cybersecurity firms like Tenable, Forcepoint, AT&T Cybersecurity, McAfee use Ireland as the hub or important part of their respective European, and sometimes Middle Eastern, African, and/or Indian operations.

Factors that challenge Ireland’s ability to attract investment include relatively high labor and operating costs (such as for energy); sporadic skilled-labor shortages; the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic; and sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and broadband quality). Ireland also suffers from housing and high-quality office space shortages; and absolute price levels that are among the highest in Europe. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland has called for greater attention to a “skills gap” in the supply of Irish graduates to the high technology sector. It also has asserted that relatively high personal income tax rates can make attracting talent from abroad difficult.

In 2013, Ireland became the first country in the Eurozone to exit a financial bailout program from the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (EU/ECB/IMF, or so-called Troika). Compliance with the terms of the Troika program came at a substantial economic cost with gross domestic product (GDP) stagnation and austerity measures, while dealing with high unemployment (which hit 15 percent). Strong economic progress followed through government-backed initiatives to attract investment and stimulate job creation and employment. This helped economic recovery and Ireland’s economy was the one of the fastest growing economies in the Eurozone area annually to 2019. As a result, unemployment levels fell dramatically and by the end of 2019 reached 4.7 percent. In addition, the Irish government has successfully returned to international sovereign debt markets and successful treasury bonds sales, at low interest rates, exemplify renewed international confidence in Ireland’s economic progress. Despite the prolonged difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland’s economic performance continued to be the best in the Eurozone in 2020 with an estimated three percent growth, achieved on the back of strong exports from the food, pharmaceutical and med-tech sectors.

Brexit and its Implications for Ireland

The UK’s exit from the EU (Brexit) on January 1, 2021, leaves Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the bloc. The UK is now a non-EU member that shares a land border with Ireland. . The December 2020 agreement dictates the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU and will likely have an affect on Ireland’s economic performance. The agreement allows for tariff-free Ireland – Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) trade but comes with increased customs procedures. Existing Ireland – Northern Ireland trade continues unimpeded. While some disruption has been noticed in the supply chain of retail and agricultural sectors (due to their traditional use of the UK “land-bridge” to move products to and from the EU), Irish companies have generally been able to find alternate routes (i.e., using ferries from Ireland directly to continental Europe, though this has raised costs in some sectors.

With Brexit, Ireland has lost a close EU ally on policy matters, particularly free trade and business friendly open markets. Ireland continues to be heavily dependent on the UK as an export market and source especially for food products, and the full effect of Brexit may yet hit sectors such as food and agri-business with disruptions to supply chains and increased red-tape. Irish trade with its EU colleagues has already seen a dramatic switch to direct shipping rather than using Great Britain as a land-bridge for trucking products. A number of UK-based firms (including U.S. firms) have moved headquarters or opened subsidiary offices in Ireland to facilitate ease of business with other EU countries. The Irish Department of Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) have estimated Brexit will cut Ireland’s economic growth modestly in the near term but such models are complicated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Industrial Promotion

Six government departments and organizations have responsibility to promote investment into Ireland by foreign companies:

  • The Industrial Development Authority of Ireland (IDA Ireland) has overall responsibility for promoting and facilitating FDI in all areas of the country. IDA Ireland is also responsible for attracting foreign financial and insurance firms to Dublin’s International Financial Services Center (IFSC). IDA Ireland maintains seven U.S. offices (in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Mountain View, CA; Irvine, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Austin, TX), as well as offices throughout Europe and Asia.
  • Enterprise Ireland (EI) promotes joint ventures and strategic alliances between indigenous and foreign companies. The agency assists entrepreneurs establish in Ireland and also assists foreign firms that wish to establish food and drink manufacturing operations in Ireland. EI has six existing offices in the United States (Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA and has offices in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • Shannon Group (formerly the Shannon Free Airport Development Company) promotes FDI in the Shannon Free Zone (SFZ) and owns properties in the Shannon region as potential green-field investment sites. Since 2006, the responsibility for investment by Irish firms in the Shannon region has passed to Enterprise Ireland while IDA Ireland remains responsible for FDI in the region.
  • Udaras na Gaeltachta (Udaras) has responsibility for economic development in those areas of Ireland where the predominant language is Irish, and works with IDA Ireland to promote overseas investment in these regions.
  • Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has responsibility for economic messaging and supporting the country’s trade promotion agenda as well as diaspora engagement to attract investment.
  • Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) supports the creation of jobs by promoting the development of a competitive business environment where enterprises can operate with high standards and grow in sustainable markets.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Irish law allows foreign corporations (registered under the Companies Act 2014 or previous legislation and known locally as a public limited company, or plc for short) to conduct business in Ireland. Any company incorporated abroad that establishes a branch in Ireland must file certain papers with the Companies Registration Office (CRO). A foreign corporation with a branch in Ireland has the same standing in Irish law for purposes of contracts, etc., as a domestic company incorporated in Ireland. Private businesses are not competitively disadvantaged to public enterprises with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.

No barriers exist to participation by foreign entities in the purchase of state-owned Irish companies. Residents of Ireland may, however, be given priority in share allocations over all other investors. There are no recent example of this, but Irish residents received priority in share allocations in the 1998-sale of the state-owned telecommunications company Eircom. The government privatized the national airline Aer Lingus through a stock market flotation in 2005, but chose to retain about a one-quarter stake. At that time, U.S. investors purchased shares in the sale. The International Airlines Group (IAG) purchased the government’s remaining stake in the airline in 2015, and subsequently took an overall controlling interest which it continues to hold.

Citizens of countries other than Ireland and EU member states can acquire land for private residential or industrial purposes. In the past, all non-EU nationals needed written consent from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine before acquiring an interest in land zoned for agricultural use but these limitations no longer exist. There are many equine stud farms and racing facilities owned by foreign nationals. No restrictions exist on the acquisition of urban land.

Ireland does not yet have formal investment screening legislation in place but is in the process of drafting the legislation which is expected to be enacted in 2021. (The bill was delayed due to the government’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.) As a member of the EU, Ireland is required to implement any common EU investment screening regulations or directives such as the EU Framework.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 provide current information on Ireland’s investment policies.

Business Facilitation

All firms must register with the Companies Registration Office (CRO online at www.cro.ie). The CRO, as well as registering companies, can also register a business/trading name, a non-Ireland based foreign company (external company), or a limited partnership. Any firm or company registered under the Companies Act 2014 becomes a body corporate as and from the date mentioned in its certificate of incorporation. The CRO website permits online data submission. Firms must submit a signed paper copy of this online application to the CRO, unless the applicant company has already registered with www.revenue.ie (the website of Ireland’s tax collecting authority, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners).

The Ireland pages in the following links gives the most up-to-date information:

https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploretopics/starting-a-business#close  and https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/102/ireland 

Outward Investment

Enterprise Ireland assists Irish firms in developing partnerships with foreign firms mainly to develop and grow indigenous firms.

Israel

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Israel is open to foreign investment and the government actively encourages and supports the inflow of foreign capital.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s ‘Invest in Israel’ office serves as the government’s investment promotion agency facilitating foreign investment. ‘Invest in Israel’ offers a wide range of services including guidance on Israeli laws, regulation, taxes, incentives, and costs, and facilitation of business connections with peer companies and industry leaders for new investors. ‘Invest in Israel’ also organizes familiarization tours for potential investors and employs a team of advisors for each region of the world.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Israeli legal system protects the rights of both foreign and domestic entities to establish and own business enterprises, as well as the right to engage in remunerative activity. Private enterprises are free to establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises. As part of ongoing privatization efforts, the Israeli government encourages foreign investment in privatizing government-owned entities.

Israel’s policies aim to equalize competition between private and public enterprises, although the existence of monopolies and oligopolies in several sectors, including communications infrastructure, food manufacturing and marketing, and some manufacturing segments, stifles competition. In the case of designated monopolies, defined as entities that supply more than 50 percent of the market, the government controls prices.

Israel established a centralized investment screening (approval) mechanism for certain inbound foreign investments in October 2019. Investments in regulated industries (e.g., banking and insurance) require approval by the relevant regulator. Investments in certain sectors may require a government license. Other regulations may apply, usually on a national treatment basis.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducted its fifth and latest trade policy review of Israel in July 2018. In the past three years, the Israeli government has not conducted any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The OECD concluded an Economic Survey of Israel in 2020.

The 2020 OECD Economic Survey of Israel can be found at https://www.gov.il/BlobFolder/news/press_23092020_b/he/PressReleases_files_press_23092020_b_file.pdf 

Business Facilitation

The Israeli government is fairly open and receptive to companies wishing to register businesses in Israel. Israel ranked 28th in the “Starting a Business” category of the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, rising seventeen places from its 2019 ranking. Israel continues to institute reforms to make it easier to do business in Israel, but some challenges remain.

The business registration process in Israel is relatively clear and straightforward. Four procedures are required to register a standard private limited company and take 12 days to complete, on average, according to the Israeli Ministry of Finance. The foreign investor must obtain company registration documents through a recognized attorney with the Israeli Ministry of Justice and obtain a tax identification number for company taxation and for value added taxes (VAT) from the Israeli Ministry of Finance. The cost to register a company averages around USD 1,000 depending on attorney and legal fees.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s “Invest in Israel” website provides useful information for companies interested in starting a business or investing in Israel. The website is http://www.investinisrael.gov.il/Pages/default.aspx .

Italy

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Italy welcomes foreign direct investment (FDI).  As a European Union (EU) member state, Italy is bound by the EU’s treaties and laws.  Under EU treaties with the United States, as well as OECD commitments, Italy is generally obliged to provide national treatment to U.S. investors established in Italy or in another EU member state.

EU and Italian antitrust laws provide Italian authorities with the right to review mergers and acquisitions for market dominance.  In addition, the Italian government may block mergers and acquisitions involving foreign firms under its investment screening authority (known as “Golden Power”) if the proposed transactions raise national security concerns.  Enacted in 2012 and further implemented through decrees or follow-on legislation in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020, the Golden Power law allows the Government of Italy (GOI) to block foreign acquisition of companies operating in strategic sectors: defense/national security, energy, transportation, telecommunications, critical infrastructure, sensitive technology, and nuclear and space technology.  In March 2019, the GOI expanded the Golden Power authority to cover the purchase of goods and services related to the planning, realization, maintenance, and management of broadband communications networks using 5G technology.  Under the April 6, 2020 Liquidity Decree the Prime Minister’s Office issued, the government strengthened Italy’s investment screening authority to cover all sectors outlined in the EU’s March 2019 foreign direct investment screening directive.  The decree also extends (at least until June 30, 2021) Golden Power review to certain transactions by EU-based investors and gives the government new authorities to investigate non-notified transactions.

The Italian Trade Agency (ITA) is responsible for foreign investment attraction as well as promoting foreign trade and Italian exports.  According to the latest figures available from the ITA, foreign investors own significant shares of 12,768 Italian companies.  As of 2019, these companies had overall sales of €573.6 billion and employed 1,211,872 workers.  ITA operates under the coordination of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  As of April 2021, ITA operates through a network of 79 offices in 65 countries.  ITA promotes foreign investment in Italy through Invest in Italy program: http://www.investinitaly.com/en/.  The Foreign Direct Investment Unit is the dedicated unit of ITA for facilitating the establishment and development of foreign companies in Italy.

While not directly responsible for investment attraction, SACE, Italy’s export credit agency, has additional responsibility for guaranteeing certain domestic investments.  Foreign investors – particularly in energy and infrastructure projects – may see SACE’s project guarantees and insurance as further incentive to invest in Italy.

Additionally, Invitalia is the national agency for inward investment and economic development operating under the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.  The agency focuses on strategic sectors for development and employment.  Invitalia finances projects both large and small, targeting entrepreneurs with concrete development plans, especially in innovative and high-value-added sectors.  For more information, see https://www.invitalia.it/eng.  The Ministry of Economic Development (https://www.mise.gov.it/index.php/en/) within its Directorate for Incentives to Businesses also has an office with some responsibilities relating to attraction of foreign investment.

Italy’s main business association (Confindustria) also helps companies in Italy:  https://www.confindustria.it/en.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Under EU treaties and OECD obligations, Italy is generally obliged to provide national treatment to U.S. investors established in Italy or in another EU member state.  EU and Italian antitrust laws provide national authorities with the right to review mergers and acquisitions over a certain financial threshold.  The Italian government may block mergers and acquisitions involving foreign firms to protect the national strategic interest or in retaliation if the government of the country where the foreign firm is from applies discriminatory measures against Italian firms.  Foreign investors in the defense and aircraft manufacturing sectors are more likely to encounter resistance from the many ministries involved in reviewing foreign acquisitions than are foreign investors in other sectors.

Italy maintains a formal national security screening process for inbound foreign investment in the sectors of defense/national security, transportation, energy, telecommunications, critical infrastructure, sensitive technology, and nuclear and space technology through its “Golden Power” legislation.  Italy expanded its Golden Power authority in March 2019 to include the purchase of goods and services related to the planning, realization, maintenance, and management of broadband communications networks using 5G technology.  On April 6, 2020 the GOI passed a Liquidity Decree in which the Prime Minister’s office made three main changes to its Golden Power authority to prevent the hostile takeover of Italian firms as they weather the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis.  First, under the decree Golden Power authority now encompasses the financial sector (including insurance and credit) and all the sectors listed under the EU’s March 19, 2019 regulations establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investment.  The Italian government previously had adopted only some of the sectors in the EU regulations when it passed its National Cybersecurity Perimeter legislation in November 2019.  The EU regulations cover:  (1) critical infrastructure, physical or virtual, including energy, transport, water, health, communications, media, data processing or storage, aerospace, defense, electoral or financial infrastructure, and sensitive facilities, as well as land and real estate; (2) critical technologies and dual use items, including artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, cybersecurity, aerospace, defense, energy storage, quantum and nuclear technologies, and nanotechnologies and biotechnologies; (3) supply of critical inputs, including food security, energy, and raw materials; (4) access to sensitive information; and (5) freedom of the media.

Second, until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, EU-based investors must notify Italy’s investment screening authority if they seek to acquire, purchase significant shares in, or change the core activities of an Italian company in one of the covered sectors.  Previously EU-based investors had to notify the government only of transactions deemed strategic to national interests, such as in the defense sector.  Third, the government now has the power to investigate non-notified transactions and require that both public and private entities cooperate with the investigation.  In addition to being able to fine companies for non-notified transactions, the government can impose risk mitigation measures for non-notified transactions.  An interagency group led by the Prime Minister’s office reviews acquisition applications and makes recommendations for Council of Ministers’ decisions.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD published its Economic Survey for Italy in April 2019.  See https://www.oecd.org/economy/surveys/Italy-2019-OECD-economic-survey-overview.pdf.

Business Facilitation

Italy has a business registration website, available in Italian and English, administered through the Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce:  http://www.registroimprese.it.  The online business registration process is clear and complete, and available to foreign companies.  Before registering a company online, applicants must obtain a certified e-mail address and digital signature, a process that may take up to five days.  A notary is required to certify the documentation.  The precise steps required for the registration process depend on the type of business being registered.  The minimum capital requirement also varies by type of business. Generally, companies must obtain a value-added tax account number (partita IVA) from the Italian Revenue Agency; register with the social security agency (Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale INPS); verify adequate capital and insurance coverage with the Italian workers’ compensation agency (Istituto Nazionale per L’Assicurazione contro gli Infortuni sul Lavoro – INAIL); and notify the regional office of the Ministry of Labor.  According to the World Bank Doing Business Index 2020, Italy’s ranking decreased from 67 to 98 out of 190 countries in terms of the ease of starting a business:  it takes seven procedures and 11 days to start a business in Italy.  Additional licenses may be required, depending on the type of business to be conducted.

Invitalia and the Italian Trade Agency’s Foreign Direct Investment Unit assist those wanting to set up a new business in Italy.  Many Italian localities also have one-stop shops to serve as a single point of contact for, and provide advice to, potential investors on applying for necessary licenses and authorizations at both the local and national level.  These services are available to all investors.

Outward Investment

Italy neither promotes, restricts, nor incentivizes outward investment, nor restricts domestic investors from investing abroad.

Jamaica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) is open to foreign investment in all sectors of the economy. The GOJ made significant structural changes to its economy, under International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidance during the six year period to 2019, resulting in an improved investment environment. Since 2013, Jamaica’s Parliament passed numerous pieces of legislation to improve the business environment and support economic growth through a simplified tax system and broadened tax base. The establishment of credit bureaus and a Collateral Registry under the Secured Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) legislation are improving access to credit. Jamaica made starting a business easier by consolidating forms and made electricity less expensive by reducing the cost of external connection works. The GOJ implemented an electronic platform for the payment of taxes and has established a 90-day window for development approvals.

The GOJ’s public procurement regime was amended, with effect from April 2019, to include provisions for domestic margins of preference, affording preferential treatment to Jamaican suppliers in public contracts in some circumstances, and setting aside a portion of the government’s procurement budget for local micro, small, and medium enterprises. Notwithstanding, U.S. businesses are encouraged to participate in GOJ open procurements, many of which are published in media and via the government’s electronic procurement website: https://www.gojep.gov.jm/ .

Jamaica’s commitment to regulatory reform is an intentional effort to become a more attractive destination for foreign investment. According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, Jamaica ranked 71 out of 190 economies, above average compared to Latin American and Caribbean countries. The country improved or held firm on all metrics assessed in the 2020 report, moving most significantly in the area registering property. The GoJ replaced the Ad Valorem Stamp Duty rate payable on the registration of collateral, such as property used to secure loan instruments, with a flat rate duty. Additionally, the transfer tax, payable on the change of ownership from one person to another, was also reduced during the year from five to two percent. Jamaica is ranked 80 out of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Index. Some report that bureaucracy remains a major impediment, with the country continuing to underperform in the areas of trading across borders, paying taxes, and enforcing contracts.

Jamaica’s trade and investment promotion agency, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), is the GOJ agency responsible for promoting business opportunities to local and foreign investors. While JAMPRO does not institute general criteria for FDI, the institution targets specific sectors for investment and promotes Jamaican exports (see  http://www.jamaicatradeandinvest.org/ ).

JAMPRO and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation assist micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) primarily through business facilitation and capacity building. MSMEs tend to consist of less than 10 employees. Such fee-based services would be made available to foreign-owned MSMEs (see  https://www.jbdc.net/ ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

All private entities, foreign and domestic, are entitled to establish and own business enterprises, as well as to engage in all forms of remunerative activity subject to, inter alia, labor, registration, and environmental requirements. Jamaica does not impose limits on foreign ownership or control and local laws do not distinguish between local and foreign investors. There are no sector-specific restrictions that impede market access. A 2017 amendment to the Companies Act requires companies to disclose beneficial owners to the Companies Office of Jamaica (ORC).  The law mandates that the company retains records of legal and beneficial owners for seven years. The GOJ has proposed new legislation on the incorporation and operation of International Business Companies (IBC), which is designed to attract and facilitate a wide variety of international business activities to include: (1) holding companies providing asset protection for intellectual property rights, real property, and the shares of other companies; (2) serving as vehicles for licensing and franchising; (3) conducting international trade, and investment activities; (4) acting as special purpose vehicles in international financial transactions; and, (5) serving as the international headquarters for global companies.

The U.S. government is not aware of any discrimination against foreign investors at the time of initial investment or after the investment is made. However, under the Companies Act, investors are required to either establish a local company or register a branch office of a foreign-owned enterprise. Branches of companies incorporated abroad must register with the Registrar of Companies if they intend to operate in Jamaica. There are no laws or regulations requiring firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Incentives are available to local and foreign investors alike, including various levels of tax relief.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Jamaica concluded a third-party trade policy review through the WTO in September 2017. The WTO Secretariat’s recommendations are listed here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp459_e.htm 

Jamaica has not undertaken any investment policy reviews within the last three years in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The GOJ’s previous WTO review took place in 2011 and an OECD review took place in 2004.

Business Facilitation

Businesses can register using the “Super Form,” a single Business Registration Form for New Companies and Business Names. The ORC acts as a “one-stop-shop,” effectively reducing the registration time to between one and three days. Foreign companies can register using these forms, with or without the assistance of an attorney or notary. The “Super Form” can be accessed under Forms at the ORC’s website ( https://www.orcjamaica.com ).

Outward Investment

While the GOJ does not actively promote an outward investment program, it does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Japan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Direct inward investment into Japan by foreign investors has been open and free since amendment of the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (FEFTA) in 1998. In general, the only requirement for foreign investors making investments in Japan is to submit an ex post facto report to the relevant ministries. The Act was amended in 2019, updating Japan’s foreign investment review regime.  The legislation became effective in May 2020 and lowered the ownership threshold for pre-approval notification to the government for foreign investors from ten percent to one percent in industries that could pose risks to Japanese national security. There are waivers for certain categories of investors.

The Japanese Government explicitly promotes inward FDI and has established formal programs to attract it. In 2013, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced its intention to double Japan’s inward FDI stock to JPY 35 trillion (USD 318 billion) by 2020 and reiterated that commitment in its revised Japan Revitalization Strategy issued in August 2016. At the end of 2019, Japan’s inward FDI stock was JPY 33.9 trillion (USD 310 billion), a 10.4 percent increase over the previous year. The Suga Administration’s interest in attracting FDI is one component of the government’s strategy to reform and revitalize the Japanese economy, which continues to face the long-term challenges of low growth, an aging population, and a shrinking workforce.

The government’s “FDI Promotion Council,” composed of government ministers and private sector advisors, releases recommendations on improving Japan’s FDI environment. In a May 2018 report ( http://www.invest-japan.go.jp/documents/pdf/support_program_en.pdf ), the council decided to launch the Support Program for Regional Foreign Direct Investment in Japan, recommending that local governments formulate a plan to attract foreign companies to their regions.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) are the lead agencies responsible for assisting foreign firms wishing to invest in Japan. METI and JETRO have together created a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors, providing a single Tokyo location—with language assistance—where those seeking to establish a company in Japan can process the necessary paperwork (details are available at http://www.jetro.go.jp/en/invest/ibsc/ ). Prefectural and city governments also have active programs to attract foreign investors, but they lack many of the financial tools U.S. states and municipalities use to attract investment.

Foreign investors seeking a presence in the Japanese market or seeking to acquire a Japanese firm through corporate takeovers may face additional challenges, many of which relate more to prevailing business practices rather than to government regulations, although this varies by sector. These challenges include an insular and consensual business culture that has traditionally resisted unsolicited mergers and acquisitions (M&A), especially when initiated by non-Japanese entities; a lack of multiple independent directors on many company boards (even though board composition is changing); exclusive supplier networks and alliances between business groups that can restrict competition from foreign firms and domestic newcomers; cultural and linguistic challenges; and labor practices that tend to inhibit labor mobility. Business leaders have communicated to the Embassy that regulatory and governmental barriers are more likely to exist in mature, heavily regulated sectors than in new industries.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private enterprises have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. Japan has gradually eliminated most formal restrictions governing FDI. One remaining restriction limits foreign ownership in Japan’s former land-line monopoly telephone operator, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), to 33 percent. Japan’s Radio Law and separate Broadcasting Law also limit foreign investment in broadcasters to 20 percent, or 33 percent for broadcasters categorized as providers of broadcast infrastructure. Foreign ownership of Japanese companies invested in terrestrial broadcasters will be counted against these limits. These limits do not apply to communication satellite facility owners, program suppliers or cable television operators.

The Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act, as amended, governs investment in sectors deemed to have national security or economic stability implications. If a foreign investor wants to acquire over one percent of the shares of a listed company in the sectors set out below, it must provide prior notification and obtain approval from the Ministry of Finance and the ministry that regulates the specific industry. Designated sectors include weapons manufacturers, nuclear power, agriculture, aerospace, forestry, petroleum, electric/gas/water utilities, telecommunications, and leather manufacturing. There are waivers for certain categories of investors.

U.S. investors, relative to other foreign investors, are not disadvantaged or singled out by any ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducted its most recent review of Japan’s trade policies in November 2020 (available at directdoc.aspx (wto.org) ).

The OECD released its biennial Japan economic survey results on April 15, 2019 (available at http://www.oecd.org/japan/economic-survey-japan.htm ).

Business Facilitation

The Japan External Trade Organization is Japan’s investment promotion and facilitation agency. JETRO operates six Invest Japan Business Support Centers (IBSCs) across Japan that provide consultation services on Japanese incorporation types, business registration, human resources, office establishment, and visa/residency issues. Through its website ( https://www.jetro.go.jp/en/invest/setting_up/ ), the organization provides English-language information on Japanese business registration, visas, taxes, recruiting, labor regulations, and trademark/design systems and procedures in Japan. While registration of corporate names and addresses can be completed online, most business registration procedures must be completed in person. In addition, corporate seals and articles of incorporation of newly established companies must be verified by a notary, although there are indications of change underway. When he took office in September 2020, Prime Minister Suga called for reforms to eliminate use of seals and paper-based process along with establishment of a new Digital Agency as part of his policy agenda of digitizing the provision of government services.

According to the 2020 World Bank “Doing Business” Report, it takes eleven days to establish a local limited liability company in Japan. JETRO reports that establishing a branch office of a foreign company requires one month, while setting up a subsidiary company takes two months. While requirements vary according to the type of incorporation, a typical business must register with the Legal Affairs Bureau (Ministry of Justice), the Labor Standards Inspection Office (Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare), the Japan Pension Service, the district Public Employment Security Office, and the district tax bureau. JETRO operates a one-stop business support center in Tokyo so that foreign companies can complete all necessary legal and administrative procedures in one location. In 2017, JETRO launched an online business registration system that allows businesses to register company documents but not immigration documentation.

No laws exist to explicitly prevent discrimination against women and minorities regarding registering and establishing a business. Neither special assistance nor mechanisms exist to aid women or underrepresented minorities.

Outward Investment

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) provides a variety of support for outward Japanese foreign direct investment. Most such support comes in the form of “overseas investment loans,” which can be provided to Japanese companies (investors), overseas Japanese affiliates (including joint ventures), and foreign governments in support of projects with Japanese content, typically infrastructure projects. JBIC often supports outward FDI projects to develop or secure overseas resources that are of strategic importance to Japan, for example, construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to facilitate sales to Japan and third countries in Asia. More information is available at https://www.jbic.go.jp/en/index.html .

Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) supports outward investment by providing exporters and investors insurance that protects them against risks and uncertainty in foreign countries that is not covered by private-sector insurers. Together, JBIC and NEXI act as Japan’s export credit agency.

Japan also employs specialized agencies and public-private partnerships to target outward investment in specific sectors.  For example, the Fund Corporation for the Overseas Development of Japan’s Information and Communications Technology and Postal Services (JICT) supports overseas investment in global telecommunications, broadcasting, and postal businesses.

Similarly, the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development (JOIN) is a government-funded corporation to invest and participate in transport and urban development projects that involve Japanese companies.  The fund specializes in overseas infrastructure investment projects such as high-speed rail, airports, and smart city projects with Japanese companies, banks, governments, and other institutions (e.g., JICA, JBIC, NEXI).

Finally, the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) is a Japanese government entity administered by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under METI.  JOGMEC provides equity capital and liability guarantees to Japanese companies for oil and natural gas exploration and production projects.

Japan places no restrictions on outbound investment.

Jordan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Jordan is largely open to foreign investment, and the government is committed to supporting foreign investment. Foreign and local investors are treated equally under the law. The Jordan Investment Commission (JIC) is the body responsible for implementing the 2014 Investment Law and promoting new and existing investment in Jordan, through a range of measures to incentivize and facilitate investment procedures.

The Investment Law established an Investment Council, comprised of the Prime Minister, ministers with economic portfolios, and representatives from the private sector, to oversee the management and development of national investment policy and propose legislative and economic reforms to facilitate investment.

The Investment Law also identifies JIC as the focal point for investors, capable of expediting the provision of government services and providing investment incentives such as tax and customs exemptions. The President of the Commission and the administrative team supervise and approve investment-related matters within the guidelines set by the Investment Council and approved by the government.

JIC oversees an investment-dedicated “Investment Window” to provide information and technical assistance to investors, with a mandate to simplify registration and licensing procedures for investment projects that benefit from the Investment Law. In 2018, the Commission launched a “Follow-Up and After Care” section with an aim to remove obstacles facing investors and find appropriate solutions as part of the investment process.

In 2018, the government issued the “Code of Governance Practices of Policies and Legislative Instruments in Government Departments for the Year 2018.” It aims to increase legislative predictability and stability to ensure the confidence of citizens and the business sector. The government developed guidelines for a regulatory impact assessment, to be adopted and implemented across all government entities by 2021.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Investment and property laws allow domestic and foreign entities to establish businesses that engage in remunerative activities.  Foreign companies may open regional and branch offices; branch offices may carry out full business activities and regional offices may serve as liaisons between head offices and Jordanian or regional clients.  The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply’s Companies Control Department implements the government’s policy on the establishment of regional and branch offices.

Foreign nationals and firms are permitted to own or lease property in Jordan for investment purposes and are allowed one residence for personal use, provided that their home country permits reciprocal property ownership rights for Jordanians.  Depending on the size and location of the property, the Land and Survey Department, the Ministry of Finance, and/or the Cabinet may need to approve foreign ownership of land and property, which must then be developed within five years of the date of approval.

In April 2019, the government amended its bylaw governing foreign ownership, expanding ownership percentage in some economic activities, while maintaining the following restrictions:

  • Foreigners are prohibited from wholly or partially owning investigation and security services, stone quarrying operations for construction purposes, customs clearance services, and bakeries of all kinds; and are prohibited from trading in weapons and fireworks.  The Cabinet, however, may approve foreign ownership of projects in these sectors upon the recommendation of the Investment Council.  To qualify for the exemption, projects must be categorized as being highly valuable to the national economy.
  • Foreigners are prohibited from wholly or partially owning investigation and security services, stone quarrying operations for construction purposes, customs clearance services, and bakeries of all kinds; and are prohibited from trading in weapons and fireworks.  The Cabinet, however, may approve foreign ownership of projects in these sectors upon the recommendation of the Investment Council.  To qualify for the exemption, projects must be categorized as being highly valuable to the national economy.
  • Investors are limited to 50 percent ownership in certain businesses and services, including retail and wholesale trading, engineering consultancy services, exchange houses apart from banks and financial services companies, maritime, air, and land transportation services, and related services.
  • Investors are limited to 50 percent ownership in certain businesses and services, including retail and wholesale trading, engineering consultancy services, exchange houses apart from banks and financial services companies, maritime, air, and land transportation services, and related services. • Foreign firms may not import goods without appointing an agent registered in Jordan; the agent may be a branch office or a wholly owned subsidiary of the foreign firm.  The agent’s connection to the foreign company must be direct, without a sub-agent or intermediary.  The Commercial Agents and Intermediaries Law No. 28/2001 governs contractual agreements between foreign firms and commercial agents.  Private foreign entities, whether licensed under sole foreign ownership or as a joint venture, compete on an equal basis with local companies.
  • Foreign firms may not import goods without appointing an agent registered in Jordan; the agent may be a branch office or a wholly owned subsidiary of the foreign firm.  The agent’s connection to the foreign company must be direct, without a sub-agent or intermediary.  The Commercial Agents and Intermediaries Law No. 28/2001 governs contractual agreements between foreign firms and commercial agents.  Private foreign entities, whether licensed under sole foreign ownership or as a joint venture, compete on an equal basis with local companies.

The bylaw authorizes the Council of Ministers, upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister, to grant a higher percentage ownership to non-Jordanian investors in any investment based on a certain criteria.

Under the U.S.-Jordan Bilateral Investment Treaty, U.S. investors are granted several exceptions and are accorded the same treatment as Jordanian nationals, allowing U.S. investors to maintain 100 percent ownership in some restricted businesses. The most up-to-date listing of limitations on investments is available in the FTA Annex 3.1 and may be found at http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/jordan-fta/final-text.

For national security purposes, foreign investors must undergo security screening through the Ministry of Interior, which can be finalized through the Commission’s “Investment Window” located at the Investment Commission or online https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/home-new/.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Jordan has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 2000. The WTO conducted Jordan’s second  Trade Policy Review  in November 2015.

In 2012, the United States and Jordan agreed to Statements of Principles for International Investment and for Information and Communication Technology Services, and a Trade and Investment Partnership Bilateral Action Plan, each of which is designed to increase transparency, openness, and governmental and private sector cooperation. The two parties also began discussions on a Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation Agreement.  All current treaties and agreements in force between the United States and Jordan may be found here:  https://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/tif/.

As a follow-up to OECD’s Investment Policy Review of Jordan and Jordan’s adherence to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in 2013, the MENA-OECD competitiveness program issued a report in 2018 entitled “Enhancing the legal framework for sustainable investment: Lessons from Jordan”( http://www.oecd.org/mena/competitiveness/Enhancing-the-Legal-Framework-for-Sustainable-Investment-Lessons-from-Jorden.pdf ).

Business Facilitation

Businesses in Jordan need to register with the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply’s Companies Control Department, or the Chambers of Commerce or Industry depending on the type of business they conduct. Registration is required to open a bank account, obtain a tax identification number, and obtain a VAT number. New businesses also need to obtain a vocational license from the municipality, receive a health inspection, and register with the SSC.  In November 2017, the government issued a decision to cancel all non-security related pre-approvals for registering a business and only require final approvals before starting operations.

JIC’s “Investment Window” at the Jordan Investment Commission ( www.jic.gov.jo ) serves as a comprehensive investment center for investors.  The window provides services to local and foreign investors, particularly those in the agricultural, medical, tourism, industrial, ICT-Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), and energy sectors.

In 2017, the Commission further streamlined procedures to register and license investment projects in development zones: it introduced a Fast-Track Investment Window, which reduced the number of committee approvals from 23 to 13, and reduced registration procedures from 15 to 5.  These changes reduced the typical time required to register in development zones from five days to one day.  Additionally, the time period to grant exemptions under the investment law has been reduced from two weeks to one, and the time period to grant exemptions under the decisions of the Prime Minister from seven days to one.

Jordan has also adopted a single security approval to replace the 11 approvals previously required for new investors.  The new approval covers registering and licensing the company, obtaining driving licenses for investors, possessing immovable property for the establishment of investment projects in the industrial and developing zones, in addition to granting residence permits to non-Jordanian investors and their family members. The commission has published a number of online guides, including the investor guide ( https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/investor-guide/ ).

In 2018, the Companies Control Department has developed and launched a portal for online registration:  http://www.ccd.gov.jo/ . Foreign investors can access it to register new companies. However, e-signatures have not been implemented, so investors must sign documents using notary services in their countries.

In November 2019, under the Jordan Investment Commission (JIC), the government introduced several new services including the issuance and renewal investor IDs, issuance and renewal of IDs for investors’ family members, registration of institutions in development zones, first-time registration of individual institutions, changing the method of use, registration and renewal of subscriptions to the Amman Chamber of Commerce (ACC), amendments to subscriptions to the ACC, and issuance of environmental permits. The introduction of these electronic services reduced the time needed to grant or renew the investor identification card (required to facilitate various transactions) to one day. ( https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/ ).

In December 2020, the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) digitized thirteen of its licensing-related services, including vocational licensing and renewal.

In accordance with the Investor Grievances Bylaw No. 163 of 2019, the JIC established a unit to follow up on and address investor complaints, with the aim to resolve legal disputes outside of government the formal court proceedings and reduce related cost.

Jordan launched a National Single Window (NSW) for customs clearance. In 2020, all export and import custom declarations became electronic. This was supported by new regulations enforcing the use of electronic clearances.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship statistics said that total electronic transactions in 2020 reached 14 million, including services provided by institutions such as GAM, JIC, Tax Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Jordan Customs. As of March 2021, the total number of available e-services is 404.

The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report attributed Jordan’s rise to 75th globally to reforms regarding the legal rights of borrowers and lenders, the introduction of a unified legal framework for secured transactions, launching a notice-based collateral registry, improvements to the insolvency law, and implementation of an electronic filing and payment for labor taxes and other mandatory contributions.  The number of payments that businesses need to file every year was also cut from twenty-three to nine. However, Jordan ranked 120 in starting a business, with 7.5 procedures and 12.5 days to complete the process.

Outward Investment

Jordan does not have a mechanism to specifically incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict it.

Kazakhstan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward FDI

Kazakhstan has attracted significant foreign investment since independence. As of January 1, 2021, the total stock of foreign direct investment (by the directional principle) in Kazakhstan totaled USD 166.4 billion, primarily in the oil and gas sector. International financial institutions consider Kazakhstan to be a relatively attractive destination for their operations, and international firms have established regional headquarters in Kazakhstan.

In 2017, Kazakhstan adhered to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, meaning it committed to certain investment standards, including the promotion of responsible business conduct..

In its Strategic Plan of Development to 2025, the government stated that bringing up the living standards of Kazakhstan’s citizens to the level of OECD countries is one of its strategic goals.

In addition to earlier approved program documents, the President adopted a National Development Plan to 2025 in February 2021. The Plan outlines objectives and parameters of a New Economic Course announced by President Tokayev in September 2020. The Course included seven priorities: a fair distribution of benefits and responsibilities, the leading role of private entrepreneurship, fair competition, productivity growth and the development of a more technologically advanced economy, human capital development, development of a green economy, and state accountability to the society. A favorable investment climate is a part of this course. To implement his program, the President established the Supreme Council for Reforms and the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms. The President chairs the Supreme Council for Reforms, while Sir Suma Chakrabarti, a former President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will serve as Deputy Chairman.

In January 2021, the Prime Minister announced the government’s commitment to increase the share of annual FDI in GDP from 13.2 percent of GDP in 2018 to 19 percent of GDP in 2022.

The government of Kazakhstan has incrementally improved the business climate for foreign investors. Corruption, lack of rule of law and excessive bureaucracy, however, do remain serious obstacles to foreign investment.

Over the last few years, the government has undertaken a number of structural changes aimed at improving how the government attracts foreign investment. In April 2019, the Prime Minister created the Coordination Council for Attracting Foreign Investment. The Prime Minister acts as the Chair and Investment Ombudsman. In December 2018, the Investment Committee was transferred to the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which took charge of attracting and facilitating the activities of foreign investors. In January 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs received an additional title of Deputy Prime Minister due to the expanded portfolio of the Ministry. The Investment Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes responsibility for investment climate policy issues and works with potential and current investors, while the Ministry of National Economy and the Ministry of Trade and Integration interact on investment climate matters with international organizations like the OECD, WTO, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Each regional municipality designates a representative to work with investors. Specially designated front offices in Kazakhstan’s overseas embassies promote Kazakhstan as a destination for foreign investment. In addition, the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC, ) operates as a regional investment hub regarding tax, legal, and other benefits. In 2019, the government founded Kazakhstan’s Direct Investment Fund which became resident at the AIFC and aims to attract private investments for diversifying Kazakhstan’s economy. The state company KazakhInvest, located in this hub, offers investors a single window for government services.

In 2020-2021, the government attempted to improve the regulatory and institutional environment for investors. However, these changes have sometimes been associated with an over-structured system of preferences and an enhanced government role. For example, in January 2021 the Foreign Minister suggested for consideration establishment of an additional group, the Investment Command Staff (ICS) that would make decisions on granting special conditions and extending preferences for investors signing investment agreements. This Investment Command Staff is expected to consider project proposals after their verification by KazakhInvest and the Astana International Financial Center. The government maintains its dialogue with foreign investors through the Foreign Investors’ Council chaired by the President, as well as through the Council for Improving the Investment Climate chaired by the Prime Minister.

The COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented low oil prices caused the government to amend the country’s mid-term economic development plans. In March 2020, the government approved a stimulus package of $13.7 billion, mostly oriented at maintaining the income of the population, supporting local businesses, and implementing an import-substitution policy.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

By law, foreign and domestic private firms may establish and own certain business enterprises. While no sectors of the economy are completely closed to foreign investors, restrictions on foreign ownership exist, including a 20 percent ceiling on foreign ownership of media outlets, a 49 percent limit on domestic and international air transportation services, and a 49 percent limit on telecommunication services. Article 16 in the December 2017 Code on Subsoil and Subsoil Use (the Code) mandates that share of the national company KazAtomProm be no less than 50% in new uranium producing joint ventures.

As a result of its WTO accession, Kazakhstan formally removed the limits on foreign ownership for telecommunication companies, except for the country’s main telecommunications operator, KazakhTeleCom. Still, to acquire more than 49 percent of shares in a telecommunication company, foreign investors must obtain a government waiver. No constraints limit the participation of foreign capital in the banking and insurance sectors. Starting in December 2020, the restriction on opening branches of foreign banks and insurance companies was lifted in compliance with the country’s OECD commitments. However, the law limits the participation of offshore companies in banks and insurance companies and prohibits foreign ownership of pension funds and agricultural land. In addition, foreign citizens and companies are restricted from participating in private security businesses.

Foreign investors have complained about the irregular application of laws and regulations and interpret such behavior as efforts to extract bribes. The enforcement process, widely viewed as opaque and arbitrary, is not publicly transparent. Some investors report harassment by the tax authorities via unannounced audits, inspections, and other methods. The authorities have used criminal charges in civil litigation as pressure tactics.

Foreign Investment in the Energy & Mining Industries

Despite substantial investment in Kazakhstan’s energy sector, companies remain concerned about the risk of the government legislating or otherwise advocating for preferences for domestic companies and creating mechanisms for government intervention in foreign companies’ operations, particularly in procurement decisions.  In 2020, developments ranged from a major reduction to a full annulment of work permits for some categories of foreign workforce (see Performance and Data Localization Requirements.)   During a March 2021 virtual meeting with international oil companies, Kazakhstan’s President urged the government to ensure legal protection and stability of investments and investment preferences. He also tasked the recently established Front Office for Investors to address investor challenges and bring them to the attention of the Prime Minister’s Council.  Moreover, Kazakhstan supported the request of oil companies to remove a discriminatory approach to fines imposed on them for gas flaring.  Under the current legislation, oil companies pay gas flaring fines several times higher than those paid by other non-oil companies.

In April 2008, Kazakhstan introduced a customs duty on crude oil and gas condensate exports, this revenue goes to the government’s budget and does not reach the National Fund.  The National Fund is financed by direct taxes paid by petroleum industry companies, other fees paid by the oil industry, revenues from privatization of mining and manufacturing assets, and from disposal of agricultural land.  The customs duty on crude oil and gas condensate exports is an indirect tax that goes to the government’s budget.  Companies that pay taxes on mineral and crude oil exports are exempt from that export duty.  The government adopted a 2016 resolution that pegged the export customs duty to global oil prices – if the global oil price drops below $25 per barrel, the duty zeros.

The Code defines “strategic deposits and areas” and restricts the government’s preemptive right to acquire exploration and production contracts to these areas, which helps to reduce significantly the approvals required for non-strategic objects.  The government approves and publishes the list of strategic deposits on its website.  The latest approved list is dated June 28, 2018: https://www.primeminister.kz/ru/decisions/28062018-389.

The Code entitles the government to terminate a contract unilaterally “if actions of a subsoil user with a strategic deposit result in changes to Kazakhstan’s economic interests in a manner that threatens national security.”  The Article does not define “economic interests.”  The Code, if properly implemented, appears to streamline procedures to obtain exploration licenses and to convert exploration licenses into production licenses.  The Code, however, appears to retain burdensome government oversight over mining companies’ operations.

Kazakhstan is committed under the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce GHG emissions 15 percent from the level of base year 1990 down to 328.3 million metric tons (mmt) by 2030.  In the meantime, Kazakhstan increased emissions 27.8 percent to 401.9 mmt in the five years from 2013 to 2018. The energy sector accounted for 82.4 percent of GHG emissions, agriculture for 9 percent, and others for 5.6 percent.  The successor of the Energy Ministry for environmental issues, Ministry of Ecology, Geology, and Natural Resources, started drafting the 2050 National Low Carbon Development Strategy in October 2019. The Concept is scheduled for submission to the government in June 2021.

In November 2020, the government adopted a National Plan for Allocation of Quotas for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions for 2021. The emissions cap (a total number of emissions allowed) is set for 159.9 million. The power sector received the highest number of allowances, or 91.4 million, for 90 power plants.  The cap for the oil and gas sector is 22.2 million for 61 installations, while 24 mining installations get 7.3 million allowances, and 21 metallurgical facilities have 29.6 million.  The combined caps for the chemical and processing sectors are 9.3 million. In February 2018, the Ministry of Energy announced the creation of an online GHG emissions reporting and monitoring system.  The system is not operational, and it is likely to be launched after the Environmental Code comes into effect in July 2021.  Some companies have expressed concern that Kazakhstan’s trading system will suffer from insufficient liquidity, particularly as power consumption and oil and commodity production levels increase.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD Investment Committee presented its second Investment Policy Review of Kazakhstan in June 2017, available at: https://www.oecd.org/countries/kazakhstan/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-kazakhstan-2017-9789264269606-en.htm.

The OECD Investment Committee presented its second Investment Policy Review of Kazakhstan in June 2017, available at: https://www.oecd.org/countries/kazakhstan/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-kazakhstan-2017-9789264269606-en.htm.

The OECD review recommended Kazakhstan undertake corporate governance reforms at state-owned enterprises (SOEs), implement a more efficient tax system, further liberalize its trade policy, and introduce responsible business conduct principles and standards. The OECD Investment Committee is monitoring the country’s privatization program, that aims to decrease the SOE share in the economy to 15 percent of GDP by 2020.

In 2019, the OECD and the government launched a two-year project on improving the legal environment for business in Kazakhstan.

Business Facilitation

The 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Index ranked Kazakhstan 25 out of 190 countries in the “Ease of Doing Business” category, and 22 out of 190 in the “Starting a Business” category. The report noted Kazakhstan made starting a business easier by registering companies for value added tax at the time of incorporation. The report noted Kazakhstan’s progress in the categories of dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, and resolving insolvency. Online registration of any business is possible through the website https://egov.kz/cms/en.

In addition to a standard package of documents required for local businesses, non-residents must have Kazakhstan’s visa for a business immigrant and submit electronic copies of their IDs, as well as any certification of their companies from their country of origin. Documents should be translated and notarized. Foreign investors also have access to a “single window” service, which simplifies many business procedures. Investors may learn more about these services here: https://invest.gov.kz/invest-guide/business-starting/registration/.

According to the ‘Doing Business’ Index, it takes 4 procedures and 5 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) in Kazakhstan. This is faster than the average for Eastern Europe and Central Asia and OECD high-income countries. A foreign-owned company registered in Kazakhstan is considered a domestic company for Kazakhstan currency regulation purposes. Under the law on Currency Regulation and Currency Control, residents may open bank accounts in foreign currency in Kazakhstani banks without any restrictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered new measures for easing the doing business process. In 2021, the government introduced a special three-percent retail tax for 114 types of small and medium-sized businesses. Companies can switch to the new regime voluntarily. The government also introduced an investment tax credit allowing entrepreneurs to receive tax deferrals for up to three years. As a part of his new economic policy, President Tokayev stated that prosecution or tax audits against entrepreneurs should be possible only after a respective tax court ruling.

In 2020, the government approved new measures aimed to facilitate the business operations of investors and to help Kazakhstan attract up to $30 billion in additional FDI by 2025. For example, the government introduced a new notional an investment agreement (see details in Section 4) and removed a solicitation of local regional authorities for obtaining a visa for a business-immigrant.

In order to facilitate the work of foreign investors, the government has recommended to use the law of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) as applicable law for investment contracts with Kazakhstan and has planned some steps, including a harmonization of tax preferences of the AIFC, the International IT park Astana Hub, Astana Expo 2017 company and Nazarbayev University. Plans on the further liberalization of a visa and migration regime, and the development of international air communication with international financial centers were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utilizing the advantages of the Astana International Financial Center may bring positive results in attracting foreign investments. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement in business facilitation in the rest of Kazakhstan’s territory. For example, foreign investors often complain about problems finalizing contracts, delays, and burdensome practices in licensing. The problems associated with the decriminalization of tax errors still await full resolution, despite an order to this effect issued by the General Prosecutor’s Office in January 2020. The controversial taxation of dividends of non-residents that came into force in January 2021, has additionally raised concerns of foreign investors.

Outward Investment

The government neither incentivizes nor restricts outward investment.

Kenya

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Kenya has enjoyed a steadily improving environment for FDI. Foreign investors seeking to establish a presence in Kenya generally receive the same treatment as local investors, and multinational companies make up a large percentage of Kenya’s industrial sector. The government’s export promotion programs do not distinguish between goods produced by local or foreign-owned firms. The primary regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Promotion Act (2004). Other important documents that provide the legal framework for FDI include the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, the Companies Ordinance, the Private Public Partnership Act (2013), the Foreign Investment Protection Act (1990), and the Companies Act (2015). GOK membership in the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) provides an opportunity to insure FDI against non-commercial risk. In November 2019, the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the country’s official investment promotion agency, launched the Kenya Investment Policy (KIP) and the County Investment Handbook (CIH) ( http://www.invest.go.ke/publications/ ) which aim to increase foreign direct investment in the country. The KIP intends to guide laws being drafted to promote and facilitate investments in Kenya.

Investment Promotion Agency

KenInvest’s ( http://www.invest.go.ke/ ) mandate is to promote and facilitate investment by helping investors understand and navigate local Kenya’s bureaucracy and regulations. KenInvest helps investors obtain necessary licenses and developed eRegulations, an online database, to provide businesses with user-friendly access to Kenya’s investment-related regulations and procedures ( https://eregulations.invest.go.ke/?l=en ).

KenInvest prioritizes investment retention and maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors. All proposed legislation must pass through a period of public consultation, which includes an opportunity for investors to offer feedback. Private sector representatives can serve as board members on Kenya’s state-owned enterprises. Since 2013, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the country’s primary alliance of private sector business associations, has had bi-annual round table meetings with President Kenyatta and his cabinet. President Kenyatta also chairs a cabinet-level committee focused on improving the business environment. The American Chamber of Commerce has also increasingly engaged the GOK on issues regarding Kenya’s business environment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The government provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. To encourage foreign investment, in 2015, the GOK repealed regulations that imposed a 75 percent foreign ownership limit for firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, allowing such firms to be 100 percent foreign owned. However, also in 2015, the government established regulations requiring Kenyan ownership of at least 15 percent of the share capital of derivative exchanges, through which derivatives, such as options and futures, can be traded.

Kenya’s National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy guidelines, published in August 2020, increased the requirement for Kenyan ownership in foreign ICT companies from 20 to 30 percent, and broadened its applicability within the telecommunications, postal, courier, and broadcasting industries. Affected companies have 3 years to comply with the new requirement. The Mining Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the mining sector. The Mining Act reserves mineral acquisition rights to Kenyan companies and requires 60 percent Kenyan ownership of mineral dealerships and artisanal mining companies. The Private Security Regulations Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the private security sector by requiring at least 25 percent Kenyan ownership of private security firms. The National Construction Authority Act (2011) and the 2014 National Construction Authority regulations impose local content restrictions on “foreign contractors,” defined as companies incorporated outside Kenya or with more than 50 percent ownership by non-Kenyan citizens. The act requires foreign contractors enter into subcontracts or joint ventures assuring that at least 30 percent of the contract work is done by local firms and locally unavailable skills transferred to a local person. The Kenya Insurance Act (2010) limits foreign capital investment in insurance companies to two-thirds, with no single person holding more than a 25 percent ownership share.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2019, the World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for the East Africa Community (EAC), of which Kenya is a member ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp484_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

In 2011, the GOK established KenTrade to address trading partners’ concerns regarding the complexity of trade regulations and procedures. KenTrade’s mandate is to facilitate cross-border trade and to implement the National Electronic Single Window System. In 2017, KenTrade launched InfoTrade Kenya (infotrade.gov.ke), which provides a host of investment products and services to prospective investors. The site documents the process of exporting and importing by product, by steps, by paperwork, and by individuals, including contact information for officials responsible for relevant permits or approvals.

In February 2019, Kenya implemented a new Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) that includes automated valuation benchmarking, release of green-channel cargo, importer validation and declaration, and linkage with iTax. The iCMS enables customs officers to efficiently manage revenue and security related risks for imports, exports and goods on transit and transshipment.

The Movable Property Security Rights Bill (2017) enhanced the ability of individuals to secure financing through movable assets, including using intellectual property rights as collateral. The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) Act (2017) seeks to provide a legal framework to facilitate and support the development of an efficient and competitive financial services sector in Kenya. The act created the Nairobi International Financial Centre Authority to establish and maintain an efficient financial services sector to attract and retain FID. The Kenya Trade Remedies Act (2017) provides the legal and institutional framework for Kenya’s application of trade remedies consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) law, which requires a domestic institution to receive complaints and undertake investigations in line with WTO Agreements. To date, however, Kenya has implemented only 7.5 percent of its commitments under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in 2015. In 2020, Kenya launched the Kenya Trade Remedies Agency to investigate and enforce anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and trade safeguards, to protect domestic industries from unfair trade practices.

The Companies (Amendment) Act (2017) clarified ambiguities in the original act and ensures compliance with global trends and best practices. The act amended provisions on the extent of directors’ liabilities and disclosures and strengthens investor protections. The amendment eliminated the requirements for small enterprises to hire secretaries, have lawyers register their firms, and to hold annual general meetings, reducing regulatory compliance and operational costs.

The Business Registration Services (BRS) Act (2015) established the Business Registration Service, a state corporation, to ensure effective administration of laws related to the incorporation, registration, operation, and management, of companies, partnerships, and firms. The BRS also devolves certain business registration services to county governments, such as registration of business names and promoting local business ideas/legal entities- reducing registration costs. The Companies Act (2015) covers the registration and management of both public and private corporations.

In 2014, the GOK established a Business Environment Delivery Unit to address investors’ concerns. The unit focuses on reducing the bureaucratic steps required to establish and do business. Its website ( http://www.businesslicense.or.ke/ ) offers online business registration and provides detailed information regarding business licenses and permits, including requirements, fees, application forms, and contact details for the respective regulatory agencies. In 2013, the GOK initiated the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities program, requiring all public procurement entities to set aside a minimum of 30 percent of their annual procurement spending facilitate the participation of youth, women, and persons with disabilities ( https://agpo.go.ke/ ).

Kenya’s iGuide, an investment guide to Kenya ( http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/kenya/about# , developed by UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce, provides investors with up-to-date information on business costs, licensing requirements, opportunities, and conditions in developing countries. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.

Outward Investment

The GOK does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Despite this, Kenya is evolving into an outward investor in tourism, manufacturing, retail, finance, education, and media. Kenya’s outward investment has primarily been in the EAC, due to the preferential access afforded to member countries, and in a select few central African countries. The EAC allows free movement of capital among its six member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Kosovo

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Kosovo welcomes FDI. Kosovo’s laws do not discriminate against foreign investors. The current government (as the government before) – including the Prime Minister’s Office; Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade; and the Ministry of Finance, Labor and Transfers – recognizes the importance of FDI to the expansion of the private sector.

The mission of the Kosovo Investment Enterprise and Support Agency (KIESA) is to promote and support foreign investments. The agency is tasked with offering a menu of services, including assistance and advice on starting a business in Kosovo, assistance with applying for a site in a special economic zone or as a business incubator, facilitation of meetings with different state institutions, and participation in business-to-business meetings and conferences. In practice, however, many foreign and local companies have complained that KIESA has extremely weak capacity to provide the services under its mandate and must be strengthened.

Foreign chambers of commerce – including the American, German, and European – regularly participate in dialogue platforms with the government.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The laws and regulations on establishing and owning business enterprises and engaging in all forms of remunerative activity apply equally to foreign and domestic private entities. Kosovo legislation does not interfere with the establishment, acquisition, expansion, or sale of interests in enterprises by private entities. Under Kosovo law, foreign firms operating in Kosovo are granted the same privileges as local businesses. Kosovo does not have an investment screening mechanism, though the U.S. government is actively working with Kosovo on the best practices for developing and implementing such a mechanism.

We have no reports of restrictions from U.S. investors. There are no licensing restrictions particular to foreign investors and no requirement for domestic partners for joint ventures.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Kosovo is not a member of OECD, WTO, or UNCTAD; there are no investment policy reviews from these organizations. In February 2017, the Pristina think tank, Group for Legal and Political Studies, published the report, “ How ‘friendly’ is Kosovo for Foreign Direct Investments: A Policy Review of Gaps from a Regional Market Perspective .”

Business Facilitation

The government has taken steps to remove barriers to facilitate businesses’ operations and improve related government services. With USAID’s assistance, the Government of Kosovo continued a series of business climate reforms which has contributed to Kosovo’s improved ranking in the World Bank Doing Business Index over the years. Kosovo currently ranks 57 out of 190 economies surveyed and was recognized as one of the top 20 most improved economies in the world. This was largely due to Kosovo’s high scores in the categories of “ease of registering a business” and “transferring property.” Per the amended Law on Support to Small and Medium Enterprises, KIESA supports both domestic and foreign-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), without any specific eligibility criteria. Such services include voucher programs for training and advisory services, investment facilitation, assistance to women and young business owners, and the provision of business space with complete infrastructure at industrial parks, at minimal cost.

The Kosovo Business Registration Agency (KBRA), part of the Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, registers all new businesses, business closures, and business modifications. The KBRA website is available in English and can be accessed at arbk.rks-gov.net . As of March 2021, some steps in the registration process can be completed online. Successful registrants will receive a business-registration certificate, a fiscal number, and a VAT number. New businesses must register employees for tax and pension programs with the Tax Administration under the Ministry of Finance, Labor and Transfers. Business registration generally takes one day for an individual business and up to three days for joint ventures. A notary is not required when opening a new business unless the business registration also involves a transfer of real property.

Outward Investment

Kosovo does not promote, incentivize, or restrict outward investment. There are no restrictions on investments abroad.

Kuwait

Kyrgyzstan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Kyrgyz Republic is actively seeking foreign direct investment, and the government publicly recognizes that foreign direct investment is an important component to economic development. While the government has implemented laws to attract foreign investment, inconsistent application, onerous bureaucracy as well as inability to protect investors’ assets in the field continue to deter foreign investors. In particular, government activities, including demands for renegotiation of operating contracts, invasive and time-consuming audits, levies of large retroactive fines, and disputes over licenses, pose significant impediments to attracting foreign investment. Pandemic uncertainty coupled with political tumult has had an outsized negative impact in the country and net FDI inflows in 2020 collapsed by over 50 percent relative to 2019.  This includes a notable reduction in FDI inflows from all main investment partners, Canada, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Since 1993, the United States has had a Bilateral Investment Treaty with the Kyrgyz Republic that encourages and offers reciprocal protection of investment. The newly restructured Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (IPPA) of the Kyrgyz Republic (as of February 2021), under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, serves as a vehicle for maintaining an ongoing dialogue with foreign investors and advocates for investing in the Kyrgyz Republic. The agency participates in the development and implementation of measures to attract and stimulate investment activity. Its mandate is to coordinate with state bodies, local municipalities, business entities, and non-state actors to promote investment and support investors in the Kyrgyz Republic, including private investment and public-private partnerships, as well as assist local exporters to promote Kyrgyz goods to external markets, and develop Free Economic Zones (FEZ). The IPPA has investor support programs to help guide investors through the registration process and conducts outreach aimed at helping create an environment conducive to foreign investment. The IPPA often coordinates with international donor organizations on hosting round- tables discussions, exchanges, and capacity building workshops in the field of economic development.

The Institute of the Business Ombudsman was created in January 2019 as an independent non-state body, funded by external donor sources, to protect the rights, freedoms, and legitimate interests of business entities, both local and foreign. In August 2019, the Supervisory Board of the Institute of the Business Ombudsman appointed former UK Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, Robin Ord-Smith, as Business Ombudsman. The Institute of Business Ombudsman has concluded memorandums of cooperation with leading international business associations, including the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kyrgyz Republic (Amcham), International Business Council (IBC), and the Chamber of Commerce of Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic (CCI). In 2020, the Business Ombudsman recommended that business reform, protection and support of local entrepreneurs and protecting private property rights are key conditions for attracting direct investment.

The government has established several committees and councils to coordinate cooperation between the business associations and government bodies. Since 2017, the Business and Entrepreneurship Development Council under the Speaker of the Parliament regularly convenes MPs, business community representatives from various sectors of the economy to discuss measures to improve the investment, promotion of entrepreneurship, and legislation to facilitate doing business in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Committee on Development of Industry and Entrepreneurship under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic serves as a platform for entrepreneurs to turn to in case if their grievances are not addressed by the government. The presidential decree to establish the Committee under the National Council on Sustainable Development of the Kyrgyz Republic was signed on December 24, 2019 with the amendment to designate to the Vice-Prime-Minister for economic development, the Business Ombudsman and heads of business associations. The committee includes platforms to raise investment climate and other business concerns to the offices of the President, Parliament, and Prime Minister. The Kyrgyz government also interacts with the business community via a number of local associations that serve as a voice for entrepreneurs and corporations, including Amcham, IBC, and the National Alliance of Business Associations of the Kyrgyz Republic (http://caa.kg/ru/ru-naba/). The Ministry of Economy and Finance, Parliamentary Business and Entrepreneurship Development Council, and other government bodies often seek the opinion of these associations during the formulation of policy.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

While there are still no official limits on foreign control, a large investor in a politically sensitive industry may find that the government imposes investor-specific requirements such as a high percentage of local workforce employment or a minimum number of local seats on a board of directors. Foreigners have the right to establish and own businesses, and there have been no allegations of market access restrictions from U.S. investors since 2016.

By law, the Kyrgyz Republic guarantees equal treatment to investors and places no limit on foreign ownership or control. In the last two years, there were no known cases of sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign ownership and control. In April 2017, amendments to the “Law on Mass Media” to limit foreign ownership of television (excluding radio and print media) broadcasters to 35 percent, was signed by the President and entered into force in June 2017.

Post is unaware of any formal investment screening processes in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2016, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, released a report on the Kyrgyz investment climate in January 2016. The report is available at: https://documents.worldbank.org/en/publication/documents-reports/documentdetail/259411467997285741/investment-climate-in-kyrgyz-republic-views-of-foreign-investors-results-of-the-survey-of-foreign-investors-operating-and-non-operating here.

The Investment Policy Review (IPR) of The Kyrgyz Republic for 2016 by UNCTAD is available at https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=1436.

Business Facilitation

Starting a business in the Kyrgyz Republic has become easier following the elimination of the minimum capital requirement for business registration, abolition of certain registration fees, and decreases in registration times. The Kyrgyz Republic does not have a business registration website. Registration of legal entities, branches, or representative offices in the Kyrgyz Republic is based on “registration by notification” and the “one stop-shop” practice. State registration of a legal entity is completed within three business days from the date of filing the necessary documents for a specified fee. The Kyrgyz Republic ranked in the top quintile of the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report (42nd out of 190 countries surveyed) in “Starting a Business.” In 2018-2019, 115 economies implemented 294 business regulatory reforms across the 10 areas measured by Doing Business ( https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/reforms/top-reformers-2020).

Outward Investment

Post is not aware of host government efforts to promote outward investment from the Kyrgyz Republic, nor of any instances in which the government sought to restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Laos

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Lao government officially welcomes both domestic and foreign investment as it seeks to keep growth rates high and graduate from Least Developed Country status by 2026.  The pace of foreign investment has increased over the last several years.  According to Lao government statistics, mining and hydropower account for 95.7 percent of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and agriculture accounted for only 2 percent of FDI in 2019.  China, Thailand, France, Vietnam, and Japan are the largest sources of foreign investment, with China accounting for a significant share of all FDI in Laos.  The government’s Investment Promotion Department encourages investment through its website www.investlaos.gov.la, and the government also attempts to improve the business environment by facilitating a constructive dialogue annually with the private sector and foreign business chambers through the Lao Business Forum, which is managed by the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry LNCCI).

The 2009 Law on Investment Promotion was amended in November 2016, with 32 new articles introduced and 59 existing articles revised.  Notably, the new law, an English version of which can be found at www.investlaos.gov.la, clarifies investment incentives, transfers responsibility for SEZs from the Prime Minister’s office to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), and removes strict registered capital requirements for opening a business, deferring instead to the relevant ministry.  Foreigners may invest in any sector or business except in cases where the government deems the investment to be detrimental to national security, health, or national traditions, or that have a negative impact on the natural environment.  Specifically, Article 12 (value-added tax and duty incentives) was improved in 2019 as the government wants to provide a mechanism to facilitate investment towards activities that enable production and export.  Nevertheless, even in cases where full foreign ownership is permitted, many foreign companies seek a local partner.  Companies involved in large FDI projects, especially in mining and hydropower, often either find it advantageous or are required to give the government partial ownership.

Foreign investors are typically required to go through several procedural steps prior to commencing operations.  Many foreign business owners and potential investors claim the process is overly complex and regulations are erratically applied, particularly to foreigner investors.  Investors also express confusion about the roles of different ministries, as multiple ministries become involved in the approval process.  In the case of general investment licenses (as opposed to concessionary licenses, which are issued by MPI, foreign investors are required to obtain multiple permits, including an annual business registration from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC), a tax registration from the Ministry of Finance, a business logo registration from the Ministry of Public Security, permits from each line ministry related to the investment (i.e., MOIC for manufacturing, and Ministry of Energy and Mines for power sector development), appropriate permits from local authorities, and an import-export license, if applicable.  Obtaining the necessary permits can be challenging and time consuming, especially in areas outside the capital.

There are several possible vehicles for foreign investment.  Foreign partners in a joint venture must contribute at least 30 percent of the company’s registered capital.  Wholly foreign-owned companies may be entirely new or a branch of an existing foreign enterprise.  Equity in medium and large-sized SOEs can be obtained through a joint venture with the Lao government.

Reliable statistics are difficult to obtain, yet with the slowdown of the world economy, there is no question that foreign investment has begun to fluctuate in comparison to previous years.  According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), FDI inflows to Laos decreased 58 percent from USD 1.3 billion in 2018 to USD 557 million in 2019. Laos received around USD 1.07 billion in FDI from China in 2019.  Total FDI in Laos has increased from USD 5.7 billion in 2016 to USD 10 billion in 2019.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

As discussed above, despite the fact that foreigners may invest in most sectors or businesses (subject to previously noted exceptions), many foreign companies seek a local partner in order to navigate byzantine official and unofficial processes.  Companies involved in large FDI projects, especially in mining and hydropower, often either find it advantageous or are required to give the government partial ownership.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD released its most recent investment policy review of Laos on July 11, 2017.  More details can be found at http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/investment-policy/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-lao-pdr-2017-9789264276055-en.htm

Business Facilitation

Laos does not have a central business registration website yet, but the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC) has improved its online enterprise registration site, http://www.erm.gov.la, to accelerate the registration process.  As discussed above, the average time to attain an Enterprise Registration Certificate for general business activities decreased from 174 to 17 days. Nonetheless, the timeline and process for controlled and concession activities (see  https://www.laotradeportal.gov.la/kcfinder/upload/files/Legal_1571216364.pdf for a list) could vary considerably, as it requires the engagement of different government agencies to issue an operating license.  As a result, many investors and even locals often hire consultancies or law firms to shepherd the labor-intensive registration process.

The Lao government has attempted to streamline business registration through the use of a one-stop shop model.  Registration for general business activities can be done at the Department of Enterprise Registration and Management offices, MOIC (see http://www.erm.gov.la for more details), while the service for activities requiring a government concession is through the MPI.  For investment in SEZs, one-stop registration is run through the MPI or in special one-stop service offices within the SEZs themselves (under the authority of the MPI).

To promote and facilitate domestic and foreign investment, the Prime Minister issued Order 02 and Order 03 in 2018 and 2019 respectively to reform the ease of doing business and improve services on investment and operational licenses. This includes the improvement of the One Stop Service system and conducting business implementation associated with transparency in a uniform and timely manner.  The government also encourages the participation of both domestic and foreign investors to develop infrastructure and public services delivery projects by issuing a public-private partnership (PPP) decree in 2020 aiming to boost economic growth.

So far, business owners give the one-stop shop concept mixed reviews.  Many acknowledge that it is an improvement, but describe it as an incomplete reform with several additional steps that must still be taken outside of the single stop. Businesses also complain that there are often different registration requirements at the central and provincial levels.

Outward Investment

The Lao government does not actively promote, incentivize, or restrict outward investment.

Latvia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Latvian government actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI) and works with investors to improve the country’s business climate. Latvia has a dedicated investment promotion agency – Latvian Investment and Development Agency – to provide a full scope of investment services to prospective investors: https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en  The Latvian government meets annually with the Foreign Investors Council in Latvia (FICIL), which represents large foreign companies and chambers of commerce, to improve the business environment and encourage foreign investment. The Prime Minister chairs the Coordination Council for Large and Strategically Important Investment Projects. In January 2021, FICIL published its Sentiment Index 2020 – a survey of current foreign investors’ assessments about the investment climate in Latvia. It is available at: https://www.ficil.lv/sentiment-index/  .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Latvian legislation, on the basis of national security concerns, requires governmental approval prior to transfers of significant ownership interests in the energy, telecommunications, and media sectors. The government is considering expanding this list of sectors. Detailed information is available here: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/118/latvia 

With these limited exceptions, physical and legal persons who are citizens of Latvia or of other EU countries may freely purchase real property. In general, physical and legal persons who are citizens of non-EU countries (third-country nationals) may also freely purchase developed real property. However, third-country nationals may not directly purchase certain types of agricultural, forest, and undeveloped land. Such persons may acquire ownership interest in such land through a company registered in the Register of Enterprises of the Republic of Latvia, provided that more than 50 percent of the company is owned by: (a) Latvian citizens and/or Latvian governmental entities; and/or (b) physical or legal persons from countries with which Latvia signed and ratified an international agreement on the promotion and protection of investments on or before December 31, 1996; or for agreements concluded after this date, so long as such agreements provide for reciprocal rights to land acquisition. The United States and Latvia have such an agreement (a bilateral investment treaty in force since 1996). In addition, foreign investors can lease land without restriction for up to 99 years. The Law on Land Privatization in Rural Areas allows EU citizens to purchase Latvia’s agricultural land and forests. Other restrictions apply (to both Latvian citizens and foreigners) regarding the acquisition of land in Latvia’s border areas, Baltic Sea and Gulf of Riga dune areas, and other protected areas.

In May 2017, the President of Latvia promulgated the amendments to the Law on Land Privatization in Rural Areas to simplify and clarify the process for local farmers to purchase land. The law, however, also prohibits foreigners who are not permanently residing in Latvia from purchasing agricultural land and required that any person wishing to purchase agricultural land must speak Latvian and be able to present plans for the future use of the land for agricultural purposes in Latvian.

The Latvian constitution guarantees the right to private ownership. Both domestic and foreign private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of commercial activity, except those expressly prohibited by law.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an Economic Survey of Latvia in December 2020 ( http://www.oecd.org/economy/latvia-economic-snapshot/ ). Although there have been no trade policy reviews specifically involving Latvia, the WTO completed its latest review of the European Union in February 2020. ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp495_e.htm ). Additionally, in October 2017, the World Bank published a review of Latvia’s tax system ( http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/587291508511990249/Latvia-tax-review ). Previously, the World Bank carried out a similar review of Latvia’s port infrastructure in 2013 ( http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/11/27/world-bank-reviews-competitiveness-of-latvian-ports ).

Business Facilitation

In 2020, Latvia ranked 19 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report. A new business can be registered in Latvia in one day. The Latvian Investment and Development Agency has prepared a guide on starting a business in Latvia: https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/business-guide/operating-environment 

The official website of the Latvian Commercial Register provides detailed information in English on business registration process in Latvia: https://www.ur.gov.lv/en/ . The World Bank’s Doing Business project has a detailed review of the business registration process in Latvia, which is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/latvia/#starting-a-business .

Latvia has implemented special legislation to encourage startup ventures through favorable tax treatment. For more information please see here: http://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/start-up-ecosystem  and here: https://labsoflatvia.com/en/resources .

Using the European Commission definitions of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), Latvia has established a special tax regime for microenterprises. Under the microenterprise tax, qualifying businesses (those employing up to five employees and with less than 25,000 euros in revenue) pay a single tax that covers social security contributions, personal income tax, and business risk tax for employees, and includes corporate income tax if the micro business taxpayer is a limited liability company. This special tax regime is available to foreign nationals. Changes introduced in 2021, including an increased microenterprise tax rate, now make the tax regime less attractive for most small companies. For additional details on the microenterprise tax, see: https://www.vid.gov.lv/en/node/57223 

Outward Investment

The Latvian government does not incentivize outward investment nor restrict Latvians from investing overseas.

Lebanon

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Lebanon is open to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) is the national authority responsible for promoting local and foreign investment in Lebanon covering eight priority sectors: industry, media, technology, telecommunications, tourism, agriculture, and agroindustry.  IDAL has the authority to award licenses and permits for new investment in specific sectors.  It also grants special incentives and tax exemptions for projects implemented by local and foreign investors based on an investment’s geographic location, sector, and number of jobs created (Investment Law No. 360).  IDAL publishes its investment incentives online by sector at http://investinlebanon.gov.lb/en/sectors_in_focus .

IDAL seeks to facilitate international and local partnerships through joint ventures, equity participation, acquisition, and other mechanisms.  Moreover, it provides business intelligence, market studies, and legal and administrative advice to potential investors.  In February 2018, IDAL established the Business Support Unit (BSU), which provides free legal, accounting, and financial advice to startups across sectors.  IDAL is mandated by law to attract, facilitate, and retain investment in Lebanon. IDAL has proposed draft decrees to facilitate investment, but these remain pending in the Prime Minister’s office. In 2020, IDAL set up a business matchmaking platform to connect Lebanese companies seeking capital with a network of local and foreign investors to help them grow and expand. IDAL is involved in providing after-care services to local and foreign investors alike.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign private entities may establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises and may engage in all types of remunerative activities.  Lebanese law allows the establishment of joint-stock corporations, limited liability, and offshore and holding companies.

According to UNCTAD’s latest investment policy review of Lebanon, the country allows only Lebanese nationals to obtain licenses to manufacture and trade products related to defense and weapons (Legislative Decree 137 of 12 June 1959, Weapons and Ammunition Law).  Only Lebanese nationals can own political newspapers and broadcast media (Press Law of 14 September 1962, Broadcast Law 382 of 4 November 1994). A series of regulatory requirements also effectively restrict FDI in other instances: Two sectors, fixed-line telephony and energy transmission, are closed to domestic and foreign investors as they are currently operated by state-owned enterprises, which have a de facto monopoly.  Only Lebanese nationals are permitted to practice law.

Legislative Decree No. 35 (August 5, 1967), under the Lebanese Commercial Code, permits foreigners to own and manage 100 percent of limited liability companies (LLC or Société à Responsabilité Limitée – SARL), except if the company engages in certain commercial activities such as exclusive commercial representation.  In these cases, Lebanese citizens must hold a majority of capital, and the manager must be Lebanese (Legislative Decree No. 34 dated August 5, 1967).  An amendment introduced in 2019 allowed the formation of LLCs by only one person.

Legislative Decree No. 304 of the Commercial Code (December 24, 1942) governs joint-stock corporations (JCS or Société Anonyme Libanaise – SAL), and was amended by Law No. 126 on March 29, 2019.  Limitations related to foreign participation stipulate that: 1) one-third of the board of directors should be Lebanese (Article 144 amended); 2) board members can be either shareholders or non-shareholders (Article 147 amended); 3) one-third of capital shares should be held by Lebanese for companies that provide public utility services (Article 78); and 4) capital shares and management in cases of exclusive commercial representation are limited (Legislative Decree No. 34 dated August 5, 1967).  Banking, insurance, and cargo, which can only operate as JSCs, are required to have a Lebanese majority on the board, which makes them, in practice, restricted for FDI.

Holding and offshore companies are structured as joint-stock corporations and governed by Legislative Decree No. 45 (on holdings) and Legislative Decree No. 46 (on offshore companies), both dated June 24, 1983.  The law on offshore companies was amended by Law No. 85, dated October 18, 2018, whereby all board members may be non-Lebanese (Article 2, para 4) and the company may be formed by one person (Article 1 in the amendment of the Commercial Code).  A foreign non-resident chairman/general manager of a holding or an offshore company is exempt from the obligation of holding work and residency permits.  Law No. 772, dated November 2006, exempts holding companies from the obligation to have two Lebanese persons or legal entities on their board of directors. All offshore companies must register with the Beirut Commercial Registry.  The law does not permit offshore banking, trust, and insurance companies to operate in Lebanon.

There are size and quota limits that effectively curb foreign ownership of real estate as well. Law No. 296, dated April 3, 2001, amended the 1969 Law No. 11614 that governs acquisition of property by foreigners.  The 2001 law eased legal limits on foreign ownership of property to encourage investment in Lebanon, especially in industry and tourism, abolished discrimination for property ownership between Arab and non-Arab nationals and set real estate registration fees at approximately six percent for both Lebanese and foreign investors.  The law permits foreigners to acquire up to 3,000 square meters (around 32,000 square feet) of real estate without a permit but requires Cabinet approval for acquisitions exceeding this threshold.  The cumulative real estate acquisition by foreigners may not exceed three percent of total land in any district.  Cumulative real estate acquisition by foreigners in the Beirut region may not exceed ten percent of the total land area.  The law prohibits individuals not holding an internationally recognized nationality from acquiring property in Lebanon.  In practice, this restriction attempts to prevent Palestinian refugees who are long-term residents in Lebanon from owning property.

The Lebanese government does not review FDI transactions for national security considerations.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Leb