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Germany

Executive Summary

As Europe’s largest economy, Germany is a major destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and has accumulated a vast stock of FDI over time.  Germany is consistently ranked by business consultancies and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as one of the most attractive investment destinations based on its reliable infrastructure, highly skilled workforce, positive social climate, stable legal environment, and world-class research and development.

The United States is the leading source of non-European foreign investment in Germany.  Foreign investment in Germany was broadly stable during the period 2013-2016 (the most recent data available) and mainly originated from other European countries, the United States, and Japan.  FDI from emerging economies (particularly China) grew substantially over 2013-2016, albeit from a low level.

German legal, regulatory, and accounting systems can be complex and burdensome, but are generally transparent and consistent with developed-market norms.  Businesses enjoy considerable freedom within a well-regulated environment. Foreign and domestic investors are treated equally when it comes to investment incentives or the establishment and protection of real and intellectual property.  Foreign investors can fully rely on the legal system, which is efficient and sophisticated. At the same time, this system requires investors to closely track their legal obligations. New investors should ensure they have the necessary legal expertise, either in-house or outside counsel, to meet all requirements.

Germany has effective capital markets and relies heavily on its modern banking system.  Majority state-owned enterprises are generally limited to public utilities such as municipal water, energy, and national rail transportation.  The primary objectives of government policy are to create jobs and foster economic growth. Labor unions are powerful and play a generally constructive role in collective bargaining agreements, as well as on companies’ work councils.

German authorities continue efforts to fight money laundering and corruption.  The government supports responsible business conduct and German SMEs are increasingly aware of the need for due diligence.

The German government amended domestic investment screening provisions, effective June 2017, clarifying the scope for review and giving the government more time to conduct reviews, in reaction to an increasing number of acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors, particularly from China.  The amended provisions provide a clearer definition of sectors in which foreign investment can pose a “threat to public order and security,” including operators of critical infrastructure, developers of software to run critical infrastructure, telecommunications operators or companies involved in telecom surveillance, cloud computing network operators and service providers, and telematics companies.  All non-EU entities are now required to notify Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in writing of any acquisition of or significant investment in a German company active in these sectors. The new rules also extend the time to assess a cross-sector foreign investment from two to four months, and for investments in sensitive sectors, from one to three months, and introduce the possibility of retroactively initiating assessments for a period of five years after the conclusion of an acquisition.  Indirect acquisitions such as those through a Germany- or EU-based affiliate company are now also explicitly subject to the new rules. In 2018, the government further lowered the threshold for the screening of investments, allowing authorities to screen acquisitions by foreign entities of at least 10 percent of voting rights of German companies that operate critical infrastructure (down from 25 percent), as well as companies providing services related to critical infrastructure.  The amendment also added media companies to the list of sensitive businesses to which the lower threshold applies. German authorities strongly supported the European Union’s new framework to coordinate national security screening of foreign investments, which entered into force in April 2019.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 11 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 24 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 9 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 136 billion USD https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 43,490 USD http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Germany has an open and welcoming attitude towards 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 German government and industry actively encourage foreign investment. U.S. investment continues to account for a significant share of Germany’s FDI. The investment-related challenges foreign companies face are generally the same as for domestic firms, for example, high marginal income tax rates and labor laws that complicate hiring and dismissals.

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.

However, Germany does prohibit the foreign provision of employee placement services, such as providing temporary office support, domestic help, or executive search services.

While Germany’s Foreign Economic Law permits national security screening of inbound direct investment in individual transactions, in practice no investments have been blocked to date.  Growing Chinese investment activities and acquisitions of German businesses in recent years – including of Mittelstand (mid-sized) industrial market leaders – led German authorities to amend domestic investment screening provisions in 2017, clarifying their scope and giving authorities more time to conduct reviews.  The government further lowered the threshold for the screening of acquisitions in critical infrastructure and sensitive sectors in 2018, to 10 percent of voting rights of a German company. The amendment also added media companies to the list of sensitive sectors to which the lower threshold applies, to prevent foreign actors from engaging in disinformation.  In a prominent case in 2016, the German government withdrew its approval and announced a re-examination of the acquisition of German semi-conductor producer Aixtron by China’s Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund based on national security concerns.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Bank Group’s “Doing Business 2019” and Economist Intelligence Unit both provide additional information on Germany investment climate.  The American Chamber of Commerce in Germany publishes results of an annual survey of U.S. investors in Germany on business and investment sentiment (“AmCham Germany Transatlantic Business Barometer”).

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 publically 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.

Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, can assist in the registration processes (https://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Navigation/EN/Invest/Investment-guide/Establishing-a-company/business-registration.html  ) and advise 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.

Outward Investment

The Federal Government provides guarantees for investments by German-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.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Germany does not have a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with the United States. However, a Friendship, Commerce and Navigation (FCN) treaty dating from 1956 contains many BIT-relevant provisions including national treatment, most-favored nation, free capital flows, and full protection and security.

Germany has bilateral investment treaties in force with 126 countries and territories.  Treaties with former sovereign entities (including Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Sudan, and Yugoslavia) continue to apply in an additional seven cases.  These are indicated with an asterisk (*) and have not been taken into account in regard to the total number of treaties. Treaties are in force with the following states, territories, or former sovereign entities.  For a full list of treaties containing investment provisions that are currently in force, see the UNCTAD Navigator at http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/78#iiaInnerMenu  .

Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Barbados; Belarus; Benin; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Brunei; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Central African Republic; Chad; Chile; China (People’s Republic); Congo (Republic); Congo (Democratic Republic); Costa Rica; Croatia; Cuba; Czechoslovakia; Czech Republic*; Dominica; Egypt; El Salvador; Estonia; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Gabon; Georgia; Ghana; Greece; Guatemala; Guinea; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Hong Kong; Hungary; Iran; Ivory Coast; Jamaica; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Republic of Korea; Kosovo*; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Laos; Latvia; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Libya; Lithuania; Madagascar; Malaysia; Mali; Malta; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro*; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Nepal; Nicaragua; Niger; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territories; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russia*; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia*; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Slovak Republic*; Slovenia; Somalia; South Sudan*; Soviet Union; Sri Lanka; St. Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Sudan; Syria; Tajikistan; Tanzania; Thailand; Togo; Trinidad & Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uruguay; Uzbekistan; Venezuela; Vietnam; Yemen; Yugoslavia; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.

A BIT with Bolivia was terminated in May 2014, a BIT with South Africa was terminated in October 2014, BITs with India and Indonesia were terminated in June 2017, and a BIT with Ecuador was terminated in May 2018.  The current BIT with Poland will be terminated in October 2019.

Germany has ratified treaties with the following countries and territories that have not yet entered into force:

Country Signed Temporarily Applicable
Brazil 09/21/1995 No
Congo (Republic) 11/22/2010 *
Iraq 12/04/2010 No
Israel 06/24/1976 Yes
Pakistan 12/01/2009 *
Timor-Leste 08/10/2005 No
Panama* 01/25/2011 *
(*) Previous treaties apply

Bilateral Taxation Treaties:

Taxation of U.S. firms within Germany is governed by the “Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with Respect to Taxes on Income.” This treaty has been in effect since 1989 and was extended in 1991 to the territory of the former German Democratic Republic. With respect to income taxes, both countries agreed to grant credit for their respective federal income taxes on taxes paid on profits by enterprises located in each other’s territory.  A Protocol of 2006 updates the existing tax treaty and includes several changes, including a zero-rate provision for subsidiary-parent dividends, a more restrictive limitation on benefits provision, and a mandatory binding arbitration provision. In 2013, Germany and the United States signed an agreement on legal and administrative cooperation and information exchange with regard to the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. (Full document at https://www.bundesfinanzministerium.de/Content/DE/Standardartikel/Themen/Steuern/Internationales_
Steuerrecht/Staatenbezogene_Informationen/Laender_A_Z/Verein_Staaten/2013-10-15-USA-Abkommen-FATCA.html
 
).

As of January 2019, Germany had bilateral tax treaties with a total of 96 countries, including with the United States, and, regarding inheritance taxes, with 6 countries.  It has special bilateral treaties with respect to income and assets by shipping and aerospace companies with 10 countries and has treaties relating to the exchange of information and administrative assistance with 27 countries.  Germany has initiated and/or is renegotiating new income and wealth tax treaties with 64 countries, special bilateral treaties with respect to income and assets by shipping and aerospace companies with 2 countries, and information exchange and administrative assistance treaties with 7 countries.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Germany has transparent and effective laws and policies to promote competition, including antitrust laws.  The legal, regulatory and accounting systems are complex but transparent and consistent with international norms.

Formally, the public consultation by the federal government is regulated by the Joint Rules of Procedure, which specify that ministries must consult early and extensively with a range of stakeholders on all new legislative proposals.  In practice, laws and regulations in Germany are routinely published in draft, and public comments are solicited. According to the Joint Procedural Rules, ministries should consult the concerned industries’ associations (rather than single companies), consumer organizations, environmental, and other NGOs.  The consultation period generally takes two to eight weeks.

The German Institute for Standardization (DIN) is open to foreign members.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the European Union, Germany must observe and implement directives and regulations adopted by the EU.  EU regulations are binding and enter into force as immediately applicable law. Directives, on the other hand, constitute a type of framework law that is to be implemented by the Member States in their respective legislative processes, which is regularly observed in Germany.

EU Member States must implement directives within a specified period of time.  Should a deadline not be met, the Member State may suffer the initiation of an infringement procedure, which could result in high fines.  Germany has a set of rules that prescribe how to break down any payment of fines devolving on the Federal Government and the federal states (Länder).  Both bear part of the costs depending on their responsibility within legislation and the respective part they played in non-compliance.

The federal states have a say over European affairs through the Bundesrat (upper chamber of parliament).  The Federal Government is required to instruct the Bundesrat at an early stage on all EU plans that are relevant for the federal states.

The federal government notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) through the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

German law is both predictable and reliable.  Companies can effectively enforce property and contractual rights.  Germany’s well-established enforcement laws and official enforcement services ensure that investors can assert their rights.  German courts are fully available to foreign investors in an investment dispute.

The judicial system is independent, and the federal government does not interfere in the court system.  The legislature sets the systemic and structural parameters, while lawyers and civil law notaries use the law to shape and organize specific situations.  Judges are highly competent. International studies and empirical data have attested that Germany offers an efficient court system committed to due process and the rule of law.

In Germany, most important legal issues and matters are governed by comprehensive legislation in the form of statutes, codes and regulations.  Primary legislation in the area of business law includes:

  • the Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, abbreviated as BGB), which contains general rules on the formation, performance and enforcement of contracts and on the basic types of contractual agreements for legal transactions between private entities;
  • the Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch, abbreviated as HGB), which contains special rules concerning transactions among businesses and commercial partnerships;
  • the Private Limited Companies Act (GmbH-Gesetz) and the Public Limited Companies Act (Aktiengesetz), covering the two most common corporate structures in Germany – the ‘GmbH’ and the ‘Aktiengesellschaft’; and
  • the Act on Unfair Competition (Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb, abbreviated as UWG), which prohibits misleading advertising and unfair business practices.

Germany has specialized courts for administrative law, labor law, social law, and finance and tax law.  In 2019, the first German district court for civil matters (in Frankfurt) introduced the possibility to hear international trade disputes in English.  Other federal states are currently discussing plans to introduce these specialized chambers as well. The Federal Patent Court hears cases on patents, trademarks, and utility rights which are related to decisions by the German Patent and Trademarks Office.  Both the German Patent Office (Deutsches Patentamt) and the European Patent Office are headquartered in Munich.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy may review acquisitions of domestic companies by foreign buyers in cases where investors seek to acquire at least 25 percent of the voting rights to assess whether these transactions pose a risk to the public order or national security of the Federal Republic of Germany.  In the case of acquisitions of critical infrastructure and companies in sensitive sectors, the threshold for triggering an investment review by the government is 10 percent. The Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance provide the legal basis for screening investments. To our knowledge, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy had not prohibited any acquisitions as of April 2019.

There is no requirement for investors to obtain approval for any acquisition, but they must notify the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy if the target company operates critical infrastructure.  In that case, or if the company provides services related to critical infrastructure or is a media company, the threshold for initiating an investment review is the acquisition of at least 10 percent of voting rights.  The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy may launch a review within three months after obtaining knowledge of the acquisition; the review must be concluded within four months after receipt of the full set of relevant documents.  An investor may also request a binding certificate of non-objection from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in advance of the planned acquisition to obtain legal certainty at an early stage. If the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy does not open an in-depth review within two months from the receipt of the request, the certificate shall be deemed as granted.

Special rules apply for the acquisition of companies that operate in sensitive security areas, including defense and IT security.  In contrast to the cross-sectoral rules, the sensitive acquisitions must be notified in written form including basic information of the planned acquisition, the buyer, the domestic company that is subject of the acquisition and the respective fields of business.  The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy may open a formal review procedure within three months after receiving notification, or the acquisition shall be deemed as approved. If a review procedure is opened, the buyer is required to submit further documents.  The acquisition may be restricted or prohibited within three months after the full set of documents has been submitted.

The German government amended domestic investment screening provisions, effective June 2017, clarifying the scope for review and giving the government more time to conduct reviews, in reaction to an increasing number of acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors, particularly from China.  The amended provisions provide a clearer definition of sectors in which foreign investment can pose a “threat to public order and security,” including operators of critical infrastructure, developers of software to run critical infrastructure, telecommunications operators or companies involved in telecom surveillance, cloud computing network operators and service providers, and telematics companies.  All non-EU entities are now required to notify Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in writing of any acquisition of or significant investment in a German company active in the above sectors. The new rules also extend the time to assess a cross-sector foreign investment from two to four months, and for investments in sensitive sectors, from one to three months, and introduce the possibility of retroactively initiating assessments for a period of five years after the conclusion of an acquisition. Indirect acquisitions such as those through a Germany- or EU-based affiliate company are now also explicitly subject to the new rules.  In 2018, the government further lowered the threshold for the screening of investments, allowing authorities to screen acquisitions by foreign entities of at least 10 percent of voting rights of German companies that operate critical infrastructure (down from 25 percent), as well as companies providing services related to critical infrastructure. The amendment also added media companies to the list of sensitive businesses to which the lower threshold applies, to prevent foreign actors to engage in disinformation.

Any decisions resulting from review procedures are subject to judicial review by the administrative courts.  The German Economic Development Agency (GTAI) provides extensive information for investors, including about the legal framework, labor-related issues and incentive programs, on their website: http://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Navigation/EN/Invest/investment-guide.html.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

German government ensures competition on a level playing field on the basis of two main legal codes:

The Law against Limiting Competition is the legal basis for the fight against cartels, merger control, and monitoring abuse.  State and Federal cartel authorities are in charge of enforcing anti-trust law. In exceptional cases, the Minister for Economics and Energy can provide a permit under specific conditions.  The last case was a merger of two retailers (Kaisers/Tengelmann and Edeka) to which a ministerial permit was granted in March 2016. A July 2017 amendment to the Cartel Law expanded the reach of the Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) to include internet and data-based business models; as a result, the FCA investigated Facebook’s data collection practices regarding potential abuse of market power.  A February 2019 decision affirming abuse by the FCA has been challenged by Facebook at a regional court.  In November 2018, the FCA initiated an investigation of Amazon over potential abuse of market power; a decision was pending as of April 2019.

The Law against Unfair Competition (amended last in 2016) can be invoked in regional courts.

Expropriation and Compensation

German law provides that private property can be expropriated for public purposes only in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of constitutional and international law.  There is due process and transparency of purpose, and investors and lenders to expropriated entities receive prompt, adequate, and effective compensation.

The Berlin state government is currently reviewing a petition for a referendum submitted by a citizens’ initiative which calls for the expropriation of residential apartments owned by large corporations.  At least one party in the governing coalition officially supports the proposal, whereas the others remain undecided. Certain long-running expropriation cases date back to the Nazi and communist regimes. During the 2008-9 global financial crisis, the parliament adopted a law allowing emergency expropriation if the insolvency of a bank would endanger the financial system, but the measure expired without having been used.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Germany is a member of both the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, meaning local courts must enforce international arbitration awards under certain conditions.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investment disputes involving U.S. or other foreign investors in Germany are extremely rare. According to the UNCTAD database of treaty-based investor dispute settlement cases, Germany has been challenged a handful of times, none of which involved U.S. investors.  

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Germany has a domestic arbitration body called the German Institution for Dispute Settlement. ”Book 10” of the German Code of Civil Procedure addresses arbitration proceedings. The International Chamber of Commerce has an office in Berlin. In addition, chambers of commerce and industry offer arbitration services.

Bankruptcy Regulations

German insolvency law, as enshrined in the Insolvency Code, supports and promotes restructuring.  If a business or the owner of a business becomes insolvent, or a business is over-indebted, insolvency proceedings can be initiated by filing for insolvency; legal persons are obliged to do so.  Insolvency itself is not a crime, but deliberately late filing for insolvency is.

Under a regular insolvency procedure, the insolvent business is generally broken up in order to release as much money as possible through the sale of individual items or rights or parts of the company.  Proceeds can then be paid out to the creditors in the insolvency proceedings. The distribution of the monies to the creditors follows the detailed instructions of the Insolvency Code.

Equal treatment of creditors is enshrined in the Insolvency Code.  Some creditors have the right to claim property back. Post-adjudication preferred creditors are served out of insolvency assets during the insolvency procedure.  Ordinary creditors are served on the basis of quotas from the remaining insolvency assets. Secondary creditors, including shareholder loans, are only served if insolvency assets remain after all others have been served.  Germany ranks fourth in the global ranking of “Resolving Insolvency” in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, with a recovery rate of 80.4 cents on the dollar.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Federal and state investment incentives – including investment grants, labor-related and R&D incentives, public loans, and public guarantees – are available to domestic and foreign investors alike.  Different incentives can be combined. In general, foreign and German investors have to meet the same criteria for eligibility.

Germany Trade & Invest, Germany’s federal economic development agency, provides comprehensive information on incentives in English at:  www.gtai.com/incentives-programs  .

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are currently two free ports in Germany operating under EU law:  Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. The duty-free zones within the ports also permit value-added processing and manufacturing for EU-external markets, albeit with certain requirements.  All are open to both domestic and foreign entities. In recent years, falling tariffs and the progressive enlargement of the EU have eroded much of the utility and attractiveness of duty-free zones.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

In general, there are no requirements for local sourcing, export percentage, or local or national ownership.  In some cases, however, there may be performance requirements tied to the incentive, such as creation of jobs or maintaining a certain level of employment for a prescribed length of time.

U.S. companies can generally obtain the visas and work permits required to do business in Germany.  U.S. Citizens may apply for work and residential permits from within Germany. Germany Trade & Invest offers detailed information online at www.gtai.com/coming-to-germany  .

There are no localization requirements for data storage in Germany.  However, in recent years German and European cloud providers have sought to market the domestic location of their servers as a competitive advantage.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The German Government adheres to a policy of national treatment, which considers property owned by foreigners as fully protected under German law.  In Germany, mortgages approvals are based on recognized and reliable collateral. Secured interests in property, both chattel and real, are recognized and enforced.  According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, it takes an average of 52 days to register property in Germany.

The German Land Register Act dates back to 1897 and was last amended in 2017.  The land register mirrors private real property rights and provides information on the legal relationship of the estate.  It documents the owner, rights of third persons, liabilities and restrictions and how these rights relate to each other. Any change in property of real estate must be registered in the land registry to make the contract effective.  Land titles are now maintained in an electronic database and can be consulted by persons with a legitimate interest.

Intellectual Property Rights

Germany has a robust regime to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.  Legal structures are strong and enforcement is good. Nonetheless, internet piracy and counterfeit goods remain an issue, and specific infringing websites are included in the 2018 Notorious Markets List.  Germany has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1970. The German Central Customs Authority annually publishes statistics on customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods.  The statistics for 2018 can be found under: https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/jahresstatistik_2018.html?nn=287024  .  

Germany is also a party to the major international intellectual property protection agreements: the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Brussels Satellite Convention, the Treaty of Rome on Neighboring Rights, and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Many of the latest developments in German IP law are derived from European legislation with the objective to make applications less burdensome and allow for European IP protection.

The following types of protection are available:

Copyrights:  National treatment is also granted to foreign copyright holders, including remuneration for private recordings.  Under the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS Agreement, Germany also grants legal protection for U.S. performing artists against the commercial distribution of unauthorized live recordings in Germany.  Germany signed the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)_Copyright Treaty and ratified it in 2003. Most rights holder organizations regard German authorities’ enforcement of intellectual property protections as effective.  In 2008, Germany implemented the EU enforcement directive with a national bill, thereby strengthening the privileges of rights holders and allowing for improved enforcement action.

Trademarks:  Foreigners may register trademarks subject to exactly the same terms as German nationals at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.  Protection is valid for a period of ten years and can be extended in ten-year periods.

Patents:  Foreigners may register patents subject to the same terms as German nationals at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.  Patents are granted for technical inventions which are new, involve an inventive step, and are industrially applicable. However, applicants having neither a domicile nor an establishment in Germany must appoint a patent attorney in Germany as a representative filing the patent application.  The documents must be submitted in German or with a translation into German. The duration of a patent is 20 years, beginning on the day following the invention patent application. Patent applicants can request accelerated examination when filing the application provided that the patent application was previously filed at the U.S. patent authority and that at least one claim had been determined to be allowable. There are a number of differences in patent law that a qualified patent attorney can explain to U.S. patent applicants.

Trade Secrets: Both technical and commercial trade secrets are protected in Germany by the Law Against Unfair Competition.  According to the law, the illegal passing of trade secrets to third parties – including the attempt to do so – for reasons related to competition, self-interest, the benefit of a third party, or with the intent to harm the business owner, is punishable with prison sentences of up to three years or a monetary fine.  In severe cases, including commercial-scale theft and those that involve passing trade secrets to foreign countries, courts can impose prison sentences of up to five years or a monetary fine.

U.S. grants of IP rights are valid in the United States only.  U.S. IPR owners should note that the EU operates on a “first-to-file” principle and not on the “first-inventor-to-file” principle, used in the United States.  It is possible to register for trademark and design protection nationally in Germany or with the European Union Trade Mark and/or Registered Community Design. These provide protection for industrial design or trademark in the entire EU market.  Both national trademarks and European Community Trade Marks (CTMs) can be applied for from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as part of an international trademark registration system (http://www.uspto.gov  ), or the applicant may apply directly for those trademarks from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) at https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/home  .

For patents, the situation is slightly different but protection can still be gained via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Although there is not yet a single EU-wide patent system, the European Patent Office (EPO) does grant individual European patents for the contracting states to the European Patent Convention (EPC), which entered into force in 1977.  The 38 contracting states include the entire EU membership and several additional European countries. As an alternative to filing patents for European protection with the USPTO, the EPO provides a convenient single point to file a patent in as many of these countries as an applicant would like: https://www.epo.org/index.html.

In addition, German law offers the possibility to register designs and utility models.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Country resources:

For additional information about how to protect intellectual property in Germany, please see Germany Trade & Invest website at http://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Navigation/EN/Invest/Investment-guide/The-legal-framework/patents-licensing-trade-marks.html  .

Statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods are available through the German Customs Authority (Zoll):

https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/jahresstatistik_2018.html?nn=287024  

Investors can identify IP lawyers in AmCham Germany’s Online Services Directory: https://www.amcham.de/services/overview/member-services/address-services-directory/   (under “legal references” select “intellectual property.”)

Businesses can also join the Anti-counterfeiting Association (APM)

http://www.markenpiraterie-apm.de/index.php?article_id=1&clang=1   or the Association for the  Enforcement of Copyrights (GVU) http://www.gvu.de  .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

As an EU member state with a well-developed financial sector, Germany welcomes foreign portfolio investment and has an effective regulatory system.  Germany has a very open economy, routinely ranking among the top countries in the world for exports and inward and outward foreign direct investment.  As a member of the Eurozone, Germany does not have sole national authority over international payments, which are a shared task of the Eurosystem, comprised of the European Central Bank and the national central banks of the 19 member states that are part of the eurozone, including the German Central Bank (Bundesbank).  A European framework for screening of foreign investments, which entered into force in April 2019, provides a basis under European law to restrict capital movements into Germany. Global investors see Germany as a safe place to invest, as the real economy continues to outperform other EU countries and German sovereign bonds retain their “safe haven” status.

Listed companies and market participants in Germany must comply with the Securities Trading Act, which bans insider trading and market manipulation.  Compliance is monitored by the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) while oversight of stock exchanges is the responsibility of the state governments in Germany (with BaFin taking on any international responsibility).  Investment fund management in Germany is regulated by the Capital Investment Code (KAGB), which entered into force on July 22, 2013. The KAGB represents the implementation of additional financial market regulatory reforms, committed to in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.  The law went beyond the minimum requirements of the relevant EU directives and represents a comprehensive overhaul of all existing investment-related regulations in Germany with the aim of creating a system of rules to protect investors while also maintaining systemic financial stability.

Money and Banking System

Although corporate financing via capital markets is on the rise, Germany’s financial system remains mostly bank-based.  Bank loans are still the predominant form of funding for firms, particularly the small- and medium-sized enterprises that comprise Germany’s “Mittelstand,” or mid-sized industrial market leaders.  Credit is available at market-determined rates to both domestic and foreign investors, and a variety of credit instruments are available. Legal, regulatory and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international banking norms.  Germany has a universal banking system regulated by federal authorities, and there have been no reports of a shortage of credit in the German economy. After 2010, Germany banned some forms of speculative trading, most importantly “naked short selling.” In 2013, Germany passed a law requiring banks to separate riskier activities such as proprietary trading into a legally separate, fully capitalized unit that has no guarantee or access to financing from the deposit-taking part of the bank.

Germany supports a worldwide financial transaction tax and is pursuing the introduction of such a tax along with several other Eurozone countries.

Germany has a modern banking sector but is considered “over-banked” resulting in low profit margins and a need for consolidation.  The country’s “three-pillar” banking system consists of private commercial banks, cooperative banks, and public banks (savings banks/Sparkassen and the regional state-owned banks/Landesbanken).  The private bank sector is dominated by Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, with balance sheets of €1.35 trillion and €462 billion respectively (2018 figures). Commerzbank received €18 billion in financial assistance from the federal government in 2009, for which the government took a 25 percent stake in the bank (now reduced to 15.6 percent).  Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank confirmed in March 2019 that they are in merger talks, with the outcome unclear as of April 2019. A merger of the two institutions would create the Eurozone’s third-largest lender after HSBC and BNP Paribas with roughly €1.9 trillion in assets (USD 2.04 trillion), about 150,000 employees, about one-fifth of the private customers in Germany, but a market value of just €25 billion (USD 28.4 billion).  Germany’s regional state-owned banks (Landesbanken) were among the hardest hit by the global financial crisis and were forced to reduce their business activities but have lately stabilized again.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

As a member of the Eurozone, Germany uses the euro as its currency, along with 18 other EU countries.  The Eurozone has no restrictions on the transfer or conversion of its currency, and the exchange rate is freely determined in the foreign exchange market.

German authorities respect the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB), and thus have no scope to manipulate the bloc’s exchange rate.  In a February 2019 report, the European Commission (EC) concluded Germany’s persistently high current account surplus – the world’s largest in 2018 at USD 294 billion (7.8 percent of GDP) – “has slightly narrowed since 2016 and is expected to gradually decline due to a pick-up in domestic demand in the coming years whilst remaining at historically high levels over the forecast horizon.”  While low commodity prices and the weak euro exchange rate explain some of the surplus’ increase in 2015-2016, the persistence of Germany’s surplus is a matter of international controversy. German policymakers view the large surplus is the result of market forces rather than active government policies, while the EC and IMF have called on authorities to rebalance towards domestic sources of economic growth by expanding public investment, using available fiscal space, and other policy choices that boost domestic demand.

Germany is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and is committed to further strengthening its national system for the prevention, detection and suppression of money laundering and terrorist financing.  In 2017, Germany’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was restructured and given more staff. It was transferred to the General Customs Directorate in the Federal Ministry of Finance. At the same time, its tasks and competencies were redefined taking into account the provisions of the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive.  One focus is now on operational and strategic analysis. On June 26, 2017, legislation to implement the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive and the European Funds Transfers Regulation (Geldtransfer-Verordnung) entered into force.  (The Act amends the German Money Laundering Act (Geldwäschegesetz – GwG) and a number of further laws).

There is no difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange.

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions or delays on investment remittances or the inflow or outflow of profits.

Germany is the sixth-largest remittance-sending country worldwide.  Migrants in Germany posted USD 22.09 billion (0.6 percent of GDP) abroad in 2018 (World Bank, Bilateral Remittances Matrix 2018).  The most important receiving states for remittances from Germany are EU neighbors such as France, Poland, and Italy. Around USD 8 billion was sent to developing countries, out of which Lebanon, Vietnam, China, Nigeria and Serbia were the biggest receivers.  Remittance flows into Germany amounted to around USD 17.36 billion in 2017, approximately 0.4 percent of Germany’s GDP.

The issue of remittances played a role during the German G20 Presidency.  During its presidency, Germany passed an updated version of its “G20 National Remittance Plan.”  The document states that Germany’s focus will remain on “consumer protection, linking remittances to financial inclusion, creating enabling regulatory frameworks and generating research and data on diaspora and remittances dynamics.” The 2017 “G20 National Remittance Plan” can be found at https://www.gpfi.org/sites/default/files/documents/2017 percent20G20 percent20Financial percent20Inclusion percent20Action percent20Plan percent20final.pdf    

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The German government does not currently have a sovereign wealth fund or an asset management bureau.  Following German reunification, the federal government set up a public agency to manage the privatization of assets held by the former East Germany.  In 2000, the agency, known as TLG Immobilien, underwent a strategic reorientation from a privatization-focused agency to a profit-focused active portfolio manager of commercial and residential property.  In 2012, the federal government sold TLG Immobilien to private investors.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The formal term for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Germany translates as “public funds, institutions, or companies,” and refers to entities whose budget and administration are separate from those of the government, but in which the government has more than 50 percent of the capital shares or voting rights.  Appropriations for SOEs are included in public budgets, and SOEs can take two forms, either public or private law entities. Public law entities are recognized as legal personalities whose goal, tasks, and organization are established and defined via specific acts of legislation, with the best-known example being the publicly-owned promotional bank KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau).  The government can also resort to ownership or participation in an entity governed by private law if the following conditions are met: doing so fulfills an important state interest, there is no better or more economical alternative, the financial responsibility of the federal government is limited, the government has appropriate supervisory influence, yearly reports are published, and such control is approved by the Federal Finance Ministry and the ministry responsible for the subject matter.

Government oversight of SOEs is decentralized and handled by the ministry with the appropriate technical area of expertise.  The primary goal of such involvement is promoting public interests rather than generating profits. The government is required to close its ownership stake in a private entity if tasks change or technological progress provides more effective alternatives, though certain areas, particularly science and culture, remain permanent core government obligations.  German SOEs are subject to the same taxes and the same value added tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. There are no laws or rules that seek to ensure a primary or leading role for SOEs in certain sectors or industries. Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including access to state-owned banks such as KfW.

The Federal Statistics Office maintains a database of SOEs from all three levels of government (federal, state, and municipal) listing a total of 16,833 entities for 2016, or 0.5 percent of the total 3.5 million companies in Germany.  SOEs in 2016 had €547 billion in revenue and €529 billion in expenditures. Almost 40 percent of SOEs’ revenue was generated by water and energy suppliers, 13 percent by health and social services, and 12 percent by transportation-related entities.  Measured by number of companies rather than size, 88 percent of SOEs are owned by municipalities, 10 percent are owned by Germany’s 16 states, and 2 percent are owned by the federal government.

The Federal Finance Ministry is required to publish a detailed annual report on public funds, institutions, and companies in which the federal government has direct participation (including a minority share), or an indirect participation greater than 25 percent and with a nominal capital share worth more than €50,000.  The federal government held a direct participation in 106 companies and an indirect participation in 469 companies at the end of 2016, most prominently Deutsche Bahn (100 percent share), Deutsche Telekom (32 percent share), and Deutsche Post (21 percent share). Federal government ownership is concentrated in the areas of science, infrastructure, administration/increasing efficiency, economic development, defense, development policy, culture.  As the result of federal financial assistance packages from the federally-controlled Financial Market Stability Fund during the global financial crisis of 2008-9, the federal government still has a partial stake in several commercial banks, including a 15.6 percent share in Commerzbank, Germany’s second largest commercial bank. The 2017 annual report (with 2016 data) can be found here:

https://www.bundesfinanzministerium.de/Content/DE/Standardartikel/Themen/Bundesvermoegen/
Privatisierungs_und_Beteiligungspolitik/Beteiligungspolitik/Beteiligungsberichte/beteiligungsbericht-des-bundes-2017.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=7
 

Publicly-owned banks also constitute one of the three pillars of Germany’s banking system (cooperative and commercial banks are the other two).  Germany’s savings banks are mainly owned by the municipalities, while the so-called Landesbanken are typically owned by regional savings bank associations and the state governments.  There are also many state-owned promotional/development banks which have taken on larger governmental roles in financing infrastructure. This increased role removes expenditures from public budgets, particularly helpful in light of Germany’s balanced budget rules, which go into effect for the states in 2020.

A longstanding, prominent case of a partially state-owned enterprise is automotive manufacturer Volkswagen, in which the state of Lower Saxony owns the fourth-largest share in the company at 12.7 percent share, but controls 20 percent of the voting rights.  The so-called Volkswagen Law, passed in 1960, limited individual shareholder’s voting rights in Volkswagen to a maximum of 20 percent regardless of the actual number of shares owned, so that Lower Saxony could veto any takeover attempts. In 2005, the European Commission successfully sued Germany at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), claiming the law impeded the free flow of capital.  The law was subsequently amended to remove the cap on voting rights, but Lower Saxony’s 20 percent share of voting rights was maintained, preserving its ability to block hostile takeovers.

The wholly federal government-owned railway company, Deutsche Bahn, was cleared by the European Commission in 2013 of allegations of abusing its dominant market position after Deutsche Bahn implemented a new, competitive pricing system.  A similar case brought by the German Federal Cartel Office against Deutsche Bahn was terminated in May 2016 after the company implemented a new pricing system.

Privatization Program

Germany does not have any privatization programs at this time.  German authorities treat foreigners equally in privatizations.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

In December 2016, the Federal Government passed the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP).  The action plan aims to apply the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights for the activities of German companies nationally as well as globally in their value and supply chains.  The 2018 coalition agreement for the 19th legislative period between the governing Christian Democratic parties, CDU/CSU, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) states its commitment to the action plan, including the principles on public procurement.  It further states that, if the NAP 2020’s effective and comprehensive review comes to the conclusion that the voluntary due diligence approach of enterprises is insufficient, the government will initiate legislation for an EU-wide regulation. The government is currently reviewing and evaluating the German companies’ voluntary measures to respect human rights in their business operations under the NAP.  

Germany adheres to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; the National Contact Point (NCP) is housed in the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.  The NCP is supported by an advisory board composed of several ministries, business organizations, trade unions, and NGOs. This working group usually meets once a year to discuss all Guidelines-related issues.  The German NCP can be contacted through the Ministry’s website: https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/EN/Textsammlungen/Foreign-Trade/national-contact-point-ncp.html  .

There is general awareness of environmental, social, and governance issues among both producers and consumers in Germany, and surveys suggest that consumers increasingly care about the ecological and social impacts of the products they purchase.  In order to encourage businesses to factor environmental, social, and governance issues into their decision-making, the government provides information online and in hard copy. The federal government promotes corporate social responsibility (CSR) through awards and prizes, business fairs, and reports and newsletters.  The government also set up so called “sector dialogues” to connect companies and facilitate the exchange of best practices, and offers practice days to help nationally as well as internationally operating small- and medium-sized companies discern and implement their entrepreneurial due diligence under the NAP. To this end it has created a website on CSR in Germany (http://www.csr-in-deutschland.de/EN/Home/home.html   in English). The German government maintains and enforces domestic laws with respect to labor and employment rights, consumer protections, and environmental protections.  The German government does not waive labor and environmental laws to attract investment.

On the business side, the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany (AmCham Germany) is active in promoting standards of ecological, economic, and social responsibility and sustainability within their members’ entrepreneurial actions in keeping with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015.  AmCham Germany issues publications on selected member companies’ approaches to CSR. Its Corporate Responsibility Committee serves as a platform to exchange best practices, identify trends, and discuss regulatory initiatives. Other business initiatives, platforms, and networks on sustainable corporate conduct and CSR exist.  In addition, Germany’s four leading business organizations regularly provide information on a common CSR internet portal to promote and illustrate companies’ engagement on CSR: www.csrgermany.de  .

Social reporting is voluntary, but publicly listed companies frequently include information on their CSR policies in annual shareholder reports and on their websites.

Civil society groups that work on CSR include 3p Consortium for Sustainable Management, Amnesty International Germany, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e. V. (BUND), CorA Corporate Accountability – Netzwerk Unternehmensverantwortung, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Germanwatch, Greenpeace Germany, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), Sneep (Studentisches Netzwerk zu Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik), Stiftung Warentest, Südwind – Institut für Ökonomie und Ökumene, TransFair – Verein zur Förderung des Fairen Handels mit der „Dritten Welt“ e. V., Transparency International, Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V., Bundesverband Die Verbraucher Initiative e.V., and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, known as the „World Wildlife Fund“ in the United States).

9. Corruption

Among industrialized countries, Germany ranks 11th out of 180, according to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.  Some sectors including the automotive industry, construction sector, and public contracting, exhibit political influence and party finance remains only partially transparent.  Nevertheless, U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an impediment to investment in Germany. Germany is a signatory of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

Over the last two decades, Germany has increased penalties for the bribery of German officials, corrupt practices between companies, and price-fixing by companies competing for public contracts.  It has also strengthened anti-corruption provisions on financial support extended by the official export credit agency and has tightened the rules for public tenders. Government officials are forbidden from accepting gifts linked to their jobs.  Most state governments and local authorities have contact points for whistle-blowing and provisions for rotating personnel in areas prone to corruption. There are serious penalties for bribing officials and price fixing by companies competing for public contracts.

According to the Federal Criminal Office, in 2017, 63 percent of all corruption cases were directed towards the public administration (up from 49 percent in 2016), 22 percent towards the business sector (down from 30 percent in 2016), 12 percent towards law enforcement and judicial authorities (down from 18 percent in 2016), and 3 percent to political officials (same as in 2016).

A prominent corruption case concerns the “BER” Berlin Airport construction project. Proceedings were opened in October 2015 against a manager of the airport operating company. In October 2016, the Cottbus district court sentenced the manager to 3.5 years in prison and a fine of €150,000 (USD 160,000) on the grounds of corruption.  Two leading employees of a technical company working on electricity, heating, and sanitary equipment received suspended jail sentences.

Parliamentarians are subject to financial disclosure laws that require them to publish earnings from outside employment.  Disclosures are available to the public via the Bundestag website (next to the parliamentarians’ biographies) and in the Official Handbook of the Bundestag. Penalties for noncompliance can range from an administrative fine to as much as half of a parliamentarian’s annual salary.

Donations to political parties are legally permitted.  However, if they exceed €50,000, they must be reported to the President of the Bundestag.  Donations of €10,000 or more must be included in the party’s annual accountability report to the President of the Bundestag.

State prosecutors are generally responsible for investigating corruption cases, but not all state governments have prosecutors specializing in corruption.  Germany has successfully prosecuted hundreds of domestic corruption cases over the years, including large scale cases against major companies.

Media reports in recent years about bribery investigations against Siemens, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom, and Ferrostaal increased awareness of the problem of corruption.  As a result, an increasing number of listed companies and multinationals have expanded their compliance departments, tightened internal codes of conduct, established points of conducts, and offered more ethics training to employees.

The Federation of Germany Industries (BDI), the Association of German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) provide guidelines in paper and electronic format on how to prevent corruption in an effort to convince all including small- and medium- sized companies to catch up.  In addition, BDI provides model texts if companies with two different sets of compliance codes want to do business with each other.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Germany was a signatory to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention in 2003.  The Bundestag ratified the Convention in November 2014.

Germany adheres to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which criminalizes bribery of foreign public officials by German citizens and firms.  The necessary tax reform legislation ending the tax write-off for bribes in Germany and abroad became law in 1999. Germany actively enforces the convention and is increasingly better managing the risk of transnational corruption.

Germany participates in the relevant EU anti-corruption measures and signed two EU conventions against corruption.  However, while Germany ratified the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in 2017, it has not yet ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

There is no central government anti-corruption agency in Germany.

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Prof. Dr. Edda Muller, Chair
Transparency International Germany
Alte Schonhauser Str. 44, 10119 Berlin
+49 30 549 898 0
office@transparency.de

The Federal Criminal Office publishes an annual report: “Lagebild Korruption” – the latest one covers 2017.

https://www.bka.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Publikationen/JahresberichteUndLagebilder/
Korruption/korruptionBundeslagebild2017.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6 10
 

10. Political and Security Environment

Political acts of violence against either foreign or domestic business enterprises are extremely rare.  Isolated cases of violence directed at certain minorities and asylum seekers have not targeted U.S. investments or investors.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The German labor force is generally highly skilled, well-educated, and productive.  Employment in Germany has continued to rise for the thirteenth consecutive year and reached an all-time high of 44.8 million in 2018, an increase of 562,000 (or 1.3 percent) from 2017—the highest level since German reunification in 1990.

Simultaneously, unemployment has fallen by more than half since 2005, and reached in 2018 the lowest average annual value since German reunification.  In 2018, around 2.34 million people were registered as unemployed, corresponding to an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent, according to the Germany Federal Employment Agency.  Using internationally comparable data from the European Union’s statistical office Eurostat, Germany had an average annual unemployment rate of 3.4 percent in 2018, the second lowest rate in the European Union.  All employees are by law covered by the federal unemployment insurance that compensates for the lack of income for up to 24 months.

Germany’s national youth unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in 2018, the lowest in the EU.  The German vocational training system has gained international interest as a key contributor to Germany’s highly skilled workforce and its sustainably low youth unemployment rate. Germany’s so-called “dual vocational training,” a combination of theoretical courses taught at schools and practical application in the workplace, teaches and develops many of the skills employers need.  Each year, there are more than 500,000 apprenticeship positions available in more than 340 recognized training professions, in all sectors of the economy and public administration. Approximately 50 percent of students choose to start an apprenticeship. The government is promoting apprenticeship opportunities, in partnership with industry, through the “National Pact to Promote Training and Young Skilled Workers.”

An element of growing concern for German business is the aging and shrinking of the population, which will result in labor shortages in the future.  Official forecasts at the behest of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs predict that the current working age population will shrink by almost 3 million between 2010 and 2030, resulting in an overall shortage of workforce and skilled labor.  Labor bottlenecks already constrain activity in many industries, occupations, and regions. According to the Federal Employment Agency, doctors; medical and geriatric nurses; mechanical, automotive, and electrical engineers; and IT professionals are in particular short supply.  The government has begun to enhance its efforts to ensure an adequate labor supply by improving programs to integrate women, elderly, young people, and foreign nationals into the labor market. The government has also facilitated the immigration of qualified workers.

Labor Relations

Germans consider the cooperation between labor unions and employer associations to be a fundamental principle of their social market economy and believe this has contributed to the country’s resilience during the economic and financial crisis.  Insofar as job security for members is a core objective for German labor unions, unions often show restraint in collective bargaining in weak economic times and often can negotiate higher wages in strong economic conditions. According to the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI), the number of workdays lost to labor actions increased significantly to 1 million in 2018, compared to 238,000 in 2017.  WSI assesses this unusual increase was mostly due to the labor conflict in the metal industry, which resulted in a large number of warning strikes at various companies and plants. However, in an international comparison, Germany is in the lower midrange with regards to strike numbers and intensity. All workers have the right to strike, except for civil servants (including teachers and police) and staff in sensitive or essential positions, such as members of the armed forces.

Germany’s constitution, federal legislation, and government regulations contain provisions designed to protect the right of employees to form and join independent unions of their choice. The overwhelming majority of unionized workers are members of one of the eight largest unions — largely grouped by industry or service sector — which are affiliates of the German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB).  Several smaller unions exist outside the DGB. Overall trade union membership has, however, been in decline over the last several years. In 2016, about 18.5 percent of the workforce and 26 percent of the whole population belonged to unions. Since peaking at around 12 million members shortly after German reunification, total DGB union membership has dropped to 5.9 million, IG Metall being the largest German labor union with 2.3 million members, followed by the influential service sector union Ver.di (1.9 million members).

The constitution and enabling legislation protect the right to collective bargaining, and agreements are legally binding to the parties.  In 2017, over three quarters (78 percent) of non-self-employed workers were directly or indirectly covered by a collective wage agreement, 59 percent of the labor force in the western part of the country and approximately 47 percent in the East.  On average, collective bargaining agreements in Germany were valid for 25 months in 2017.

By law, workers can elect a works council in any private company employing at least five people.  The rights of the works council include the right to be informed, to be consulted, and to participate in company decisions.  Works councils often help labor and management to settle problems before they become disputes and disrupt work. In addition, “co-determination” laws give the workforce in medium-sized or large companies (corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships limited by shares, co-operatives, and mutual insurance companies) significant voting representation on the firms’ supervisory boards.  This co-determination in the supervisory board extends to all company activities.

The strong collectively negotiated wage increases in 2018 and the rise of the federal Germany-wide statutory minimum wage to €9.19 (USD 10.32) on January 1, 2019, led to 3.1 percent nominal wage increase, the highest in Germany for eight years.

Labor costs increased by 2.6 percent in 2017.  With an average labor cost of €34.10 (USD 42.24) per hour, Germany ranked fifth among the 28 EU-members states (EU average: €26.80/USD 33.20) in 2017.  Since the introduction of the European common currency, the increases of the unit labor cost in Germany remained significantly below EU average.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

OPIC programs were available for the new states of eastern Germany for several years during the early 1990s following reunification, but were later suspended due to economic and political progress which caused the region to “graduate” from OPIC coverage.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 €3,386,000 million 2017 $3,677,439 https://data.worldbank.org/country/germany?view=chart  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 €54,810 2017 $136,128 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 €223,813 million 2017 $405,552 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2016 €21.7Amt 2017 27.2% UNCTAD data available athttps://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx    

* Source for Host Country Data: Federal Statistical Office DESTATIS, Bundesbank; http://www.bundesbank.de   (German Central Bank, 2017 data to be published in April 2019, only available in €)


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $950,837 100% Total Outward $1,606,120 100%
Netherlands $181,080 19.0% United States $267,769 16.7%
Luxembourg $164,449 17.3% Netherlands $202,022 12.6%
United States $93,572 9.8% Luxembourg $191,449 11.9%
United Kingdom $83,299 8.8% United Kingdom $149,184 9.3%
Switzerland $79,499 8.4% France $90,077 5.6%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $12,173,972 100% All Countries $1,266,593 100% All Countries $2,192,351 100%
Luxembourg $680,807 5.6% Luxembourg $566,381 44.7% France $317,050 14.5%
France $416,561 3.4% United States $161,234 12.7% United States $250,607 11.4%
United States $411,841 3.4% Ireland $113,430 9.0% Netherlands $232,576 10.6%
Netherlands $277,569 2.3% France $99,512 7.9% United Kingdom $153,672 7.0%
United Kingdom $211,076 1.7% United Kingdom $57,404 4.5% Italy $139,334 6.4%

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section
Pariser Platz 2, 14191 Berlin, Germany
+49-(0)30-8305-2940
Email: feedback@usembassy.de

United Kingdom

Executive Summary

The United Kingdom (UK) actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI).  The UK imposes few impediments to foreign ownership and throughout the past decade, has been Europe’s top recipient of FDI.  The UK government provides comprehensive statistics on FDI in its annual inward investment report: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/department-for-international-trade-inward-investment-results-2017-to-2018.

On June 23, 2016, the UK held a referendum on its continued membership in the European Union (EU) resulting in a decision to leave the EU.  On March 29, 2017, the UK initiated the formal process of withdrawing from the EU, widely known as “Brexit”.  Under EU rules, the UK and the EU had two years to negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.  At the time of writing, the deadline for the UK’s departure has been extended until October 31, 2019.  The terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU are still under negotiation, but it is widely expected that trade between the UK and the EU will be more difficult and expensive in the short-term.  At present, the UK enjoys relatively unfettered access to the markets of the other 27 EU member-states, equating to roughly 450 million consumers and USD 15 trillion worth of GDP. Prolonged uncertainty surrounding the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU and the terms of the future UK-EU relationship may continue to detrimentally impact the overall attractiveness of the UK as an investment destination for U.S. companies. 

Market entry for U.S. firms is facilitated by a common language, legal heritage, and similar business institutions and practices.  The UK is well supported by sophisticated financial and professional services industries and has a transparent tax system in which local and foreign-owned companies are taxed alike.  The British pound is a free-floating currency with no restrictions on its transfer or conversion. Exchange controls restricting the transfer of funds associated with an investment into or out of the UK do not exist.

UK legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international standards.  The UK legal system provides a high level of protection. Private ownership is protected by law and monitored for competition-restricting behavior.  U.S. exporters and investors generally will find little difference between the United States and the UK in the conduct of business, and common law prevails as the basis for commercial transactions in the UK.

The United States and UK have enjoyed a “Commerce and Navigation” Treaty since 1815 which guarantees national treatment of U.S. investors.  A Bilateral Tax Treaty specifically protects U.S. and UK investors from double taxation. There are early signs of increased protectionism against foreign investment, however.  HM Treasury announced a unilateral digital services tax which is due to come into force in April 2020, targeting digital firms, such as social media platforms, search engines, and marketplaces, with a 2 percent tax on revenue generated in the UK.  

The United States is the largest source of FDI into the UK.  Many U.S. companies have operations in the UK, including all top 100 of the Fortune 500 firms.  The UK also hosts more than half of the European, Middle Eastern and African corporate headquarters of American-owned firms.  For several generations, U.S. firms have been attracted to the UK both for the domestic market and as a beachhead for the EU Single Market.    

Companies operating in the UK must comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  The UK has incorporated the requirements of the GDPR into UK domestic law though the Data Protection Act of 2018.  After it leaves the EU, the UK will need to apply for an adequacy decision from the EU in order to maintain current data flows      

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 11 of 180 www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2018 9 of 189 www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 5 of 127 www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2018-report
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2017 $747,600 www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $40,530 data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The UK encourages foreign direct investment.  With a few exceptions, the government does not discriminate between nationals and foreign individuals in the formation and operation of private companies.  The Department for International Trade actively promotes direct foreign investment, and prepares market information for a variety of industries. U.S. companies establishing British subsidiaries generally encounter no special nationality requirements on directors or shareholders. Once established in the UK, foreign-owned companies are treated no differently from UK firms.   The British Government is a strong defender of the rights of any British-registered company, irrespective of its nationality of ownership.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign ownership is limited in only a few national security-sensitive companies, such as Rolls Royce (aerospace) and BAE Systems (aircraft and defense).  No individual foreign shareholder may own more than 15 percent of these companies. Theoretically, the government can block the acquisition of manufacturing assets from abroad by invoking the Industry Act 1975, but it has never done so in practice.  Investments in energy and power generation require environmental approvals. Certain service activities (like radio and land-based television broadcasting) are subject to licensing. The Enterprise Act of 2002 extends powers to the UK government to intervene in mergers and acquisitions which might give rise to national security implications and into which they would not otherwise be able to intervene.

The UK requires that at least one director of any company registered in the UK must be ordinarily resident in the UK.  The UK, as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), subscribes to the OECD Codes of Liberalization, committed to minimizing limits on foreign investment.

While the UK does not have a formalized investment review body to assess the suitability of foreign investments in national security sensitive areas, an ad hoc investment review process does exist and is led by the relevant government ministry with regulatory responsibility for the sector in question (e.g., the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy who would have responsibility for review of investments in the energy sector).  To date, U.S. companies have not been the target of these ad hoc reviews. The UK is currently considering revisions to its national security review process related to foreign direct investment. (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/national-security-and-infrastructure-investment-review ).

The Government has proposed to amend the turnover threshold and share of supply tests within the Enterprise Act 2002. This is to allow the Government to examine and potentially intervene in mergers that currently fall outside the thresholds in two areas: (i) the dual use and military use sector, (ii) parts of the advanced technology sector. For these areas only, the Government proposes to lower the turnover threshold from £70 million (USD 92 million) to £1 million (USD 1.3 million) and remove the current requirement for the merger to increase the share of supply to or over 25 percent.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Economist’s “Intelligence Unit”, World Bank Group’s “Doing Business 2018”, and the OECD’s “Economic Forecast Summary (May 2019) have current investment policy reports for the United Kingdom:

Business Facilitation

The UK government seeks to facilitate investment by offering overseas companies access to widely integrated markets.  Proactive policies encourage international investment through administrative efficiency in order to promote innovation and achieve sustainable growth.  The online business registration process is clearly defined, though some types of company cannot register as an overseas firm in the UK, including partnerships and unincorporated bodies. Registration as an overseas company is only required when it has some degree of physical presence in the UK.  After registering a business with the UK government body, named Companies House, overseas firms must register to pay corporation tax within three months. The process of setting up a business in the UK requires as few as thirteen days, compared to the European average of 32 days, which puts the country in first place in Europe and sixth place in the world for ease of establishing a business.  As of April 2016, companies have to declare their Persons of Significant Control (PSC’s).  This change in policy recognizes that individuals other than named directors can have significant influence on a company’s activity and that this information should be transparent.  More information is available at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-the-people-with-significant-control-requirements-for-companies-and-limited-liability-partnerships .  Companies House maintains a free, publicly searchable directory, available at this link: https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about-a-company .  

The UK offers a welcoming environment to foreign investors, with foreign equity ownership restrictions in only a limited number of sectors covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators.  As in all other EU member countries, foreign equity ownership in the air transportation sector is limited to 49 percent for investors from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). Furthermore, the Industry Act (1975) enables the UK government to prohibit transfer to foreign owners of 30 percent or more of important UK manufacturing businesses, if such a transfer would be contrary to the interests of the country.  While these provisions have never been used in practice, they are still included in the Investing Across Sectors indicators, as these strictly measure ownership restrictions defined in the laws.

Special Section on the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

The British Overseas Territories (BOTs) comprise Anguilla, British Antarctic Territory, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.  The BOTs retain a substantial measure of responsibility for their own affairs. Local self-government is usually provided by an Executive Council and elected legislature. Governors or Commissioners are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the British Foreign Secretary, and retain responsibility for external affairs, defense, and internal security. However, the UK imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands in August 2009 after an inquiry found evidence of corruption and incompetence.  Its Premier was removed and its constitution was suspended. The UK restored Home Rule following elections in November 2012.

Many of the territories are now broadly self-sufficient.  However, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) maintains development assistance programs in St. Helena, Montserrat, and Pitcairn.  This includes budgetary aid to meet the islands’ essential needs and development assistance to help encourage economic growth and social development in order to promote economic self-sustainability.  In addition, all other BOTs receive small levels of assistance through “cross-territory” programs for issues such as environmental protection, disaster prevention, HIV/AIDS and child protection. The UK also lends to the BOTs as needed, up to a pre-set limit, but assumes no liability for them if they encounter financial difficulty.

Seven of the BOTs have financial centers:  Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  These Territories have committed to the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS) for the automatic exchange of taxpayer financial account information.  They are already exchanging information with the UK, and began exchanging information with other jurisdictions under the CRS from September 2017. 

The OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes has rated Anguilla as “partially compliant” with the internationally agreed tax standard.  Although Anguilla sought to upgrade its rating in 2017, it still remains at “partially compliant” as of April 2019. The Global Forum has rated the other six territories as “largely compliant.”  Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar and the Turks and Caicos Islands have also committed in reciprocal bilateral arrangements with the UK to hold beneficial ownership information in central registers or similarly effective systems, and to provide UK law enforcement authorities with near real-time access to this information.  These arrangements came into effect in June 2017. 

Anguilla:  Anguilla is a neutral tax jurisdiction.  There are no income, capital gains, estate, profit or other forms of direct taxation on either individuals or corporations, for residents or non-residents of the jurisdiction.  The territory has no exchange rate controls. Non-Anguillan nationals may purchase property, but the transfer of land to an alien includes a 12.5 percent tax.

British Virgin Islands:  The government of the British Virgin Islands welcomes foreign direct investment and offers a series of incentive packages aimed at reducing the cost of doing business on the islands.  This includes relief from corporation tax payments over specific periods but companies must pay an initial registration fee and an annual license fee to the BVI Financial Services Commission.  Crown land grants are not available to non-British Virgin Islanders, but private land can be leased or purchased following the approval of an Alien Land Holding License. Stamp duty is imposed on transfer of real estate and the transfer of shares in a BVI company owning real estate in the BVI at a rate of 4 percent for belongers and 12 percent for non-belongers.  There is no corporate income tax, capital gains tax, branch tax, or withholding tax for companies incorporated under the BVI Business Companies Act. Payroll tax is imposed on every employer and self-employed person who conducts business in BVI. The tax is paid at a graduated rate depending upon the size of the employer. The current rates are 10 percent for small employers (those which have a payroll of less than USD 150,000, a turnover of less than USD 300,000 and fewer than 7 employees) and 14 percent for larger employers. Eight percent of the total remuneration is deducted from the employee, the remainder of the liability is met by the employer. The first USD 10,000 of remuneration is free from payroll tax.

Cayman Islands:  There are no direct taxes in the Cayman Islands.  In most districts, the government charges stamp duty of 7.5 percent on the value of real estate at sale; however, certain districts, including Seven Mile Beach, are subject to a rate of nine percent.  There is a one percent fee payable on mortgages of less than KYD 300,000, and one and a half percent on mortgages of KYD 300,000 or higher. There are no controls on the foreign ownership of property and land.  Investors can receive import duty waivers on equipment, building materials, machinery, manufacturing materials, and other tools.

Falkland Islands:  Companies located in the Falkland Islands are charged corporation tax at 21 percent on the first GBP one million and 26 percent for all amounts in excess of GBP one million.  The individual income tax rate is 21 percent for earnings below USD 15,694 (GBP 12,000) and 26 percent above this level.

Gibraltar:  The government of Gibraltar encourages foreign investment.  Gibraltar has a buoyant economy with a stable currency and few restrictions on moving capital or repatriating dividends.  The corporate income tax rate is 20 percent for utility, energy, and fuel supply companies, and 10 percent for all other companies.  There are no capital or sales taxes. Gibraltar is currently a part of the EU and receives EU funding for projects that improve the territory’s economic development.

Montserrat:  The government of Montserrat welcomes new private foreign investment.  Foreign investors are permitted to acquire real estate, subject to the acquisition of an Alien Land Holding license which carries a fee of five percent of the purchase price.  The government also imposes stamp and transfer fees of 2.6 percent of the property value on all real estate transactions. Foreign investment in Montserrat is subject to the same taxation rules as local investment, and is eligible for tax holidays and other incentives.  Montserrat has preferential trade agreements with the United States, Canada, and Australia. The government allows 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses but the administration of public utilities remains wholly in the public sector.

St. Helena:  The island of St. Helena is open to foreign investment and welcomes expressions of interest from companies wanting to invest.  Its government is able to offer tax based incentives which will be considered on the merits of each project – particularly tourism projects.  All applications are processed by Enterprise St. Helena, the business development agency.

Pitcairn Islands:  The Pitcairn Islands have approximately 50 residents, with a workforce of approximately 29 employed in 10 full-time equivalent roles.  The territory does not have an airstrip or safe harbor. Residents exist on fishing, subsistence farming, and handcrafts.

The Turks and Caicos Islands:  The islands operate an “open arms” investment policy.  Through the policy, the government commits to a streamlined business licensing system, a responsive immigration policy to give investment security, access to government-owned land under long-term leases, and a variety of duty concessions to qualified investors.  The islands have a “no tax” status, but property purchasers must pay a stamp duty on purchases over USD 25,000. Depending on the island, the stamp duty rate may be up to 6.5 percent for purchases up to USD 250,000, eight percent for purchases USD 250,001 to USD 500,000, and 10 percent for purchases over USD500,000.

The Crown Dependencies:

The Crown Dependencies are the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man.  The Crown Dependencies are not part of the UK but are self-governing dependencies of the Crown. They have their own directly elected legislative assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. The Crown Dependencies are not represented in the UK Parliament.

Jersey’s standard rate of corporate tax is zero percent.  The exceptions to this standard rate are financial service companies, which are taxed at 10 percent, utility companies, which are taxed at 20 percent, and income specifically derived from Jersey property rentals or Jersey property development, taxed at 20 percent. VAT is not applicable in Jersey as it is not part of the EU VAT tax area.

Guernsey has a zero percent rate of corporate tax.  Some exceptions include some specific banking activities, taxed at 10 percent, utility companies, which are taxed at 20 percent, Guernsey residents’ assessable income is taxed at 20 percent, and income derived from land and buildings is taxed at 20 percent

The Isle of Man’s corporate standard tax is zero percent.  The exceptions to this standard rate are income received from banking business, which is taxed at 10 percent and income received from land and property in the Isle of Man which is taxed at 20 percent. In addition, a 10 percent tax rate also applies to companies who carry on a retail business in the Isle of Man and have taxable income in excess of £500,000 from that business.  VAT is applicable in the Isle of Man as it is part of the EU customs territory.

This tax data is current as of April 2019.  

Outward Investment

The UK is one of the largest outward investors in the world, often protected through Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), which have been concluded with many countries.  The UK’s international investment position abroad (outward investment) increased from GBP 1,696.5 billion in 2017 to GBP 1,713.3 billion in 2018. By the end of 2018 the UK’s stock of outward FDI was GBP 1,713 billion, a 52 rise percent since 2002.  The main destination for UK outward FDI is the United States, which accounted for approximately 23 percent of UK outward FDI stocks at the end of 2017. Other key destinations include the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and Ireland which, together with the United States, account for a little under half of the UK’s outward FDI stock.

Europe and the Americas remain the dominant areas for British FDI positions abroad, accounting for 16 of the top 20 destinations for total UK outward FDI.  The UK’s international investment position within the Americas was GBP 401.9 billion in 2017. This is the third largest recorded value in the time series since 2006 for the Americas.  The United States, at GBP 329.3 billion, continued to be the largest destination for UK international investment positions abroad within the Americas in 2017.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The United States and UK have enjoyed a Commerce and Navigation Treaty since 1815 which guarantees national treatment of U.S. investors.  A Bilateral Tax Treaty specifically protects U.S. and UK investors from double taxation. The UK has its own bilateral tax treaties with more than 100 countries and a network of about a dozen double taxation agreements. The UK has concluded 105 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), which are known in the UK as Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements.  These include: Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, China SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea Republic of, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Republic of, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

For a complete current list, including actual treaty texts, see:  http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/221#iiaInnerMenu 

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

U.S. exporters and investors generally find little difference between the United States and UK in the conduct of business.  The regulatory system provides clear and transparent guidelines for commercial engagement. Common law prevails in the UK as the basis for commercial transactions, and the International Commercial Terms (INCOTERMS) of the International Chambers of Commerce are accepted definitions of trading terms.  For accounting standards and audit provisions, firms in the UK currently use the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) set by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and approved by the European Commission. The UK’s Accounting Standards Board provides guidance to firms on accounting standards and works with the IASB on international standards.

Statutory authority over prices and competition in various industries is given to independent regulators, for example Ofcom, Ofwat, Ofgem, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the Rail Regulator, and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA).  The PRA was created out of the dissolution of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2013. The PRA reports to the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) in the Bank of England. The PRA is responsible for supervising the safety and soundness of individual financial firms, while the FPC takes a systemic view of the financial system and provides macro-prudential regulation and policy actions.  The Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) acts as a single integrated regulator focused on conduct in financial markets. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is a regulatory enforcement mechanism designed to address financial and market misconduct through legally reviewable processes. These regulators work to protect the interests of consumers while ensuring that the markets they regulate are functioning efficiently.  Most laws and regulations are published in draft for public comment prior to implementation. The FCA maintains a free, publicly searchable register of their filings on regulated corporations and individuals here: https://register.fca.org.uk/ .

The UK government publishes regulatory actions, including draft text and executive summaries, on the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy webpage listed below.  The current policy requires the repeal of two regulations for any new one in order to make the business environment more competitive.

The primary difference between the regulatory environment in the UK and the United States is that so long as the UK is a member of the European Union, it is mandated to comply with and enforce EU regulations and directives.  The U.S. government has expressed concerns about the degree of transparency and accountability in the EU regulatory process. The extent to which the UK will deviate from the EU regulatory regime after the UK withdraws from the EU is unknown at this time.

International Regulatory Considerations

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU may result in an extended period of regulatory uncertainty across the economy as the UK determines the extent to which it will maintain and enforce the current EU regulatory regime or deviate towards new regulations in any particular sector .  The UK is an independent member of the WTO, and actively seeks to comply with all its WTO obligations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The UK is a common law country.  UK business contracts are legally enforceable in the UK, but not in the United States or other foreign jurisdictions.  International disputes are resolved through litigation in the UK Courts or by arbitration, mediation, or some other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method.  The UK has a long history of applying the rule of law to business disputes. The current judicial process remains procedurally competent, fair, and reliable, which helps position London as an international center for dispute resolution with over 10,000 cases filed per annum.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

There is no specific statute governing or restricting foreign investment in the UK.  The procedure for establishing a company in the UK is identical for British and foreign investors.  No approval mechanisms exist for foreign investment, apart from the ad hoc national security process outlined in Section 1.  Foreigners may freely establish or purchase enterprises in the UK, with a few limited exceptions, and acquire land or buildings.  The UK is currently reviewing its procedures and considering new rules for restricting foreign investment in those sectors of the economy with higher risk for adversely impacting national security.   

The practice of multinational enterprises structuring operations to minimize taxes, referred to as ‘tax avoidance’ in the UK, has been a controversial political issue and subject to investigations by the UK Parliament and EU authorities.  Both foreign and UK firms remain subject to the same tax laws. Foreign investors may have access to certain EU and UK regional grants and incentives designed to attract industry to areas of high unemployment.

In 2015, the UK flattened its structure of corporate tax rates.  The UK currently taxes corporations at a flat rate of 19 percent, with marginal tax relief granted for companies with profits falling between USD 391,000 (GBP 300,000) and 1.96 million (GBP 1.5 million).  Tax deductions are allowed for expenditure and depreciation of assets used for trade purposes. These include machinery, plant, industrial buildings, and assets used for research and development. A special rate of 20 percent is given to unit trusts and open-ended investment companies.  There are different Corporation Tax rates for companies that make profits from oil extraction or oil rights in the UK or UK continental shelf. These are known as ‘ring fence’ companies. Small ‘ring fence’ companies are taxed at a rate of 19 percent for profits up to USD 391,000 (GBP 300,000), and 30 percent for profits over USD 391,000 (GBP 300,000).

UK citizens also make mandatory payments of about 12 percent of income into the National Insurance system, which funds social security and retirement benefits.  The UK requires non-domiciled residents of the UK to either pay tax on their worldwide income or the tax on the relevant part of their remitted foreign income being brought into the UK.  If they have been resident in the UK for seven tax years of the previous nine, and they choose to pay tax only on their remitted earnings, they may be subject to an additional charge of USD 39,141 (GBP 30,000).  If they have been resident in the UK for 12 of the last 14 tax years, they may be subject to an additional charge of USD 78,282 (GBP 60,000).

The Scottish Parliament has the legal power to increase or decrease the basic income tax rate in Scotland, currently 20 percent, by a maximum of three percentage points.  The Scottish Government has been opposed to increasing tax rates, mainly because any financial advantage gained by an increase in taxes would be offset by the need to establish a new administrative body to manage the new revenue.

For guidance on laws and procedures relevant to foreign investment in the UK, follow the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/investment-in-the-uk-guidance-for-overseas-businesses 

All USD conversions based on spot exchange rate as of April 08, 2019.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

UK competition law contains both British and European elements.  The Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002 are the most important statutes for cases with a purely national dimension.  However, if the impact of a business’ conduct crosses borders, EU law applies. Section 60 of the Competition Act 1998 provides that UK rules are to be applied in line with European jurisprudence.

The Companies Act of 1985, administered by the Department for Business, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Skills (BEIS), governs ownership and operation of private companies.  The Companies Act of 2006 replaced the 1985 Act, simplifying existing rules.

BEIS uses a transparent code of practice that is fully in accord with EU merger control regulations, in evaluating bids and mergers for possible referral to the Competition Commission.  The Competition Act of 1998 strengthened competition law and enhanced the enforcement powers of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Prohibitions under the act relate to competition-restricting agreements and abusive behavior by entities in dominant market positions.  The Enterprise Act of 2002 established the OFT as an independent statutory body with a Board, and gives it a greater role in ensuring that markets work well. Also, in accordance with EU law, if deemed in the public interest, transactions in the media or that raise national security concerns may be reviewed by the Secretary of State of BEIS.

In 2014, the Competition Commission and the OFT merged into a single Non Departmental Government Body: the Competition and Markets Authority.  This new body is responsible for investigating mergers that could restrict competition, conducting market studies and investigations where there may be competition problems, investigating breaches of EU and UK prohibitions, initiating criminal proceedings against individuals who commit cartel offenses, and enforcing consumer protection legislation.  This body is unlikely to alter UK competition policy.

UK competition law has three main tasks: 1) prohibiting agreements or practices that restrict free trading and competition between business entities (this includes in particular the repression of cartels); 2) banning abusive behavior by a firm dominating a market, or anti-competitive practices that tend to lead to such a dominant position (practices controlled in this way may include predatory pricing, tying, price gouging, refusal to deal and many others); and 3) supervising the mergers and acquisitions of large corporations, including some joint ventures.  Transactions that are considered to threaten the competitive process can be prohibited altogether, or approved subject to “remedies” such as an obligation to divest part of the merged business or to offer licenses or access to facilities to enable other businesses to continue competing.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is the primary regulatory body for competition law enforcement.  It was created through the merger of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) with the Competition Commission through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.  Competition law is closely connected with law on deregulation of access to markets, state aids and subsidies, the privatization of state owned assets, and the establishment of independent sector regulators.

Although the OFT and the Competition Commission have general review authority, specific “watchdog” agencies such as Ofgem (the electricity and gas markets regulation authority), Ofcom (the communications regulation authority), and Ofwat (the water services regulation authority) are also charged with seeing how the operation of those specific markets work.

Expropriation and Compensation

The OECD, of which the UK is a member, states that when a government expropriates property, compensation should be timely, adequate and effective.  In the UK, the right to fair compensation and due process is uncontested and is reflected in all international investment agreements. Expropriation of corporate assets or the nationalization of industry requires a special act of Parliament.  A number of key UK banks became subject to full or part-nationalization from early 2008 as a response to the global financial crisis and banking collapse. The first bank to become nationalized was Northern Rock in February 2008, and by March 2009 the UK Treasury had taken a 65 percent stake in Lloyds Banking Group and a 68 percent stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).  In the event of nationalization, the British government follows customary international law by providing prompt, adequate, and effective compensation.

Dispute Settlement

As a member of the World Bank-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the UK accepts binding international arbitration between foreign investors and the State.  As a signatory to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, the UK provides local enforcement on arbitration judgments decided in other signatory countries.

London is a thriving center for the resolution of international disputes through arbitration under a variety of procedural rules such as those of the London Court of International Arbitration, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the American Arbitration Association International Centre for Dispute Resolution, and others.  Many of these arbitrations involve parties with no connection to the jurisdiction, but who are drawn to the jurisdiction because they perceive it to be a fair, neutral venue with an arbitration law and courts that support efficient resolution of disputes. They also choose London-based arbitration because of the general prevalence of the English language and law in international commerce.  A wide range of contractual and non-contractual claims can be referred to arbitration in this jurisdiction including disputes involving intellectual property rights, competition, and statutory claims. There are no restrictions on foreign nationals acting as arbitration counsel or arbitrators in this jurisdiction. There are few restrictions on foreign lawyers practicing in the jurisdiction as evidenced by the fact that over 200 foreign law firms have offices in London.

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The UK is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.  The latter convention has territorial application to Gibraltar (September 24, 1975), Hong Kong (January 21, 1977), Isle of Man (February 22, 1979), Bermuda (November 14, 1979), Belize and Cayman Islands (November 26, 1980), Guernsey (April 19, 1985), Bailiwick of Jersey (May 28, 2002), and British Virgin Islands (February 24, 2014).

The United Kingdom has consciously elected not to follow the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.  Enforcement of an arbitral award in the UK is dependent upon where the award was granted. The process for enforcement in any particular case is dependent upon the seat of arbitration and the arbitration rules that apply.  Arbitral awards in the UK can be enforced under a number of different regimes, namely: The Arbitration Act 1996, The New York Convention, The Geneva Convention 1927, The Administration of Justice Act 1920 and the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933, and Common Law.

The Arbitration Act 1996 governs all arbitrations seated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, both domestic and international. The full text of the Arbitration Act can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/23/data.pdf .

The Arbitration Act is heavily influenced by the UNCITRAL Model Law, but it has some important differences.  For example, the Arbitration Act covers both domestic and international arbitration; the document containing the parties’ arbitration agreement need not be signed; an English court is only able to stay its own proceedings and cannot refer a matter to arbitration; the default provisions in the Arbitration Act require the appointment of a sole arbitrator as opposed to three arbitrators; a party retains the power to treat its party-nominated arbitrator as the sole arbitrator in the event that the other party fails to make an appointment (where the parties’ agreement provides that each party is required to appoint an arbitrator); there is no time limit on a party’s opposition to the appointment of an arbitrator; parties must expressly opt out of most of the provisions of the Arbitration Act which confer default procedural powers on the arbitrators; and there are no strict rules governing the exchange of pleadings.  Section 66 of the Arbitration Act applies to all domestic and foreign arbitral awards. Sections 100 to 103 of the Arbitration Act provide for enforcement of arbitral awards under the New York Convention 1958. Section 99 of the Arbitration Act provides for the enforcement of arbitral awards made in certain countries under the Geneva Convention 1927.

Under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act, the court’s permission is required for an international arbitral award to be enforced in the UK.  Once the court has given permission, judgment may be entered in terms of the arbitral award and enforced in the same manner as a court judgment or order.  Permission will not be granted by the court if the party against whom enforcement is sought can show that (a) the tribunal lacked substantive jurisdiction and (b) the right to raise such an objection has not been lost.

The length of arbitral proceedings can vary greatly.  If the parties have a relatively straightforward dispute, cooperate, and adopt a fast track procedure, arbitration can be concluded within months or even weeks.  In a substantial international arbitration involving complex facts, many witnesses and experts and post-hearing briefs, the arbitration could take many years. A reasonably substantial international arbitration will likely take between one and two years.

There are two alternative procedures that can be followed in order to enforce an award.  The first is to seek leave of the court for permission to enforce. The second is to begin an action on the award, seeking the same relief from the court as set out in the tribunal’s award.  Enforcement of an award made in the jurisdiction may be opposed by challenging the award. However, the court also may refuse to enforce an award that is unclear, does not specify an amount, or offends public policy.  Enforcement of a foreign award may be opposed on any of the limited grounds set out in the New York Convention. A stay may be granted for a limited time pending a challenge to the order for enforcement. The court will consider the likelihood of success and whether enforcement of the award will be made more or less difficult as a result of the stay.  Conditions that might be imposed on granting the stay include such matters as paying a sum into court. Where multiple awards are to be rendered, the court may give permission for the tribunal to continue hearing other matters, especially where there may be a long delay between awards. UK courts have a good record of enforcing arbitral awards, which they will enforce in the same way that they would enforce an order or judgment of a court.  At the time of writing, there are no examples of the English courts enforcing awards which were set aside by the courts at the place of arbitration.

Most awards are complied with voluntarily.  If the party against whom the award was made fails to comply, the party seeking enforcement can apply to the court.  The length of time it takes to enforce an award which complies with the requirements of the New York Convention will depend on whether there are complex objections to enforcement which require the court to investigate the facts of the case.  If a case raises complex issues of public importance the case could be appealed to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. This process could take around two years. If no complex objections are raised, the party seeking enforcement can apply to the court using a summary procedure that is fast and efficient.  There are time limits relating to the enforcement of the award. Failure to comply with an award is treated as a breach of the arbitration agreement. An action on the award must be brought within six years of the failure to comply with the award or 12 years if the arbitration agreement was made under seal. If the award does not specify a time for compliance, a court will imply a term of reasonableness.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The UK has strong bankruptcy protections going back to the Bankruptcy Act of 1542, and in modern days both individual bankruptcy and corporate insolvency are regulated in the UK primarily by the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Insolvency Rules 1986, regulated through determinations in UK courts.  The World Bank’s Doing Business report Ranks the UK 14/189 for ease of resolving insolvency.

Regarding individual bankruptcy law, the court will oblige a bankrupt individual to sell assets to pay dividends to creditors.  A bankrupt person must inform future creditors about the bankrupt status and may not act as the director of a company during the period of bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized in the UK, and the Enterprise Act of 2002 dictates that for England and Wales, bankruptcy will not normally last longer than 12 months.  At the end of the bankrupt period, the individual is normally no longer held liable for bankruptcy debts unless the individual is determined to be culpable for his or her own insolvency, in which case the bankruptcy period can last up to fifteen years.

For corporations declaring insolvency, UK insolvency law seeks to equitably distribute losses between creditors, employees, the community, and other stakeholders in an effort to rescue the company.  Liability is limited to the amount of the investment. If a company cannot be rescued, it is liquidated and assets are sold to pay debts to creditors, including foreign investors.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The UK offers a range of incentives for companies of any nationality locating in depressed regions of the country, as long as the investment generates employment.  DIT works with its partner organizations in the devolved administrations – Scottish Development International, the Welsh Government and Invest Northern Ireland – and with London and Partners and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) throughout England, to promote each region’s particular strengths and expertise to overseas investors.

Local authorities in England and Wales also have power under the Local Government and Housing Act of 1989 to promote the economic development of their areas through a variety of assistance schemes, including the provision of grants, loan capital, property, or other financial benefit.  Separate legislation, granting similar powers to local authorities, applies to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Where available, both domestic and overseas investors may also be eligible for loans from the European Investment Bank.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The cargo ports and freight transportation ports at Liverpool, Prestwick, Sheerness, Southampton, and Tilbury used for cargo storage and consolidation are designated as Free Trade Zones.  No activities that add value to commodities are permitted within the Free Trade Zones, which are reserved for bonded storage, cargo consolidation, and reconfiguration of non-EU goods. The Free Trade Zones offer little benefit to U.S. exporters or investors, or any other non-EU exporters or investors.  Questions remain as to the UK’s use of Free Trade Zones in a post-Brexit environment.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

As of May 2018, companies operating in the UK comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  The UK presently intends to transpose the requirements of the GDPR into UK domestic law after the UK withdraws from the EU.  The potential impact of the UK leaving the EU on the free flow of data between the EU and the UK, and the UK and United States is unknown.     

The UK does not follow “forced localization” and does not require foreign IT firms to turn over source code.  The Investigatory Powers Act became law in November 2016 addressing encryption and government surveillance. It permitted the broadening of capabilities for data retention and the investigatory powers of the state related to data.

The UK Government does not mandate local employment, though at least one director of any company registered in the UK must be ordinarily resident in the UK.

Immigration policy is in the midst of sweeping reforms in the UK. Freedom of movement between the UK and EU member states is likely to soon come to an end and the government is looking at a post-Brexit system that will favour high-skilled migrants. New immigration rules (HC1888) that came into effect on April 6, 2012 have wide-ranging implications for foreign employees, primarily affecting businesses looking to sponsor migrants under Tier 2 as well as migrants looking to apply for settlement in the UK.  In particular, the UK Government has introduced a 12-month cooling off period for Tier 2 (General) applications similar to the one that is currently in place for Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer). The effect of this is that, while those who enter the UK under Tier 2 (General) to work for one company will be able to apply in-country under Tier 2 (General) to work for another company, if they leave the UK, they will not be able to apply to re-enter the UK under a fresh Tier 2 (General) permission until twelve months after their previous Tier 2 (General) permission has expired.

These provisions represent a significant tightening of the Tier 2 requirements.  One of the consequences is that, where an individual is sent to the UK on assignment under Tier 2 (Intracompany transfer), and the sponsoring company subsequently wishes to hire them permanently in the UK, they will not be able to apply either to remain in the UK under Tier 2 (General) or leave the UK and submit a Tier 2 (General) application overseas.

This change will mean that employers will have to carefully consider the long-term plans for all assignees that they send to the UK and whether Tier 2 (Intracompany transfer) is the most appropriate category. This is because, if the assignee is subsequently required in the UK on a long-term basis, it will not be possible for them to make a new application under Tier 2 (General) until at least twelve months after their Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) permission has expired.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The UK has robust real property laws stemming from legislation including the Law of Property Act 1925, the Settled Land Act 1925, the Land Charges Act 1972, the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, and the Land Registration Act 2002.

Interests in property are well enforced, and mortgages and liens have been recorded reliably since the Land Registry Act of 1862.  The Land Registry is the government database where all land ownership and transaction data are held for England and Wales, and it is reliably accessible online, here: https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry .  Scotland has its own Registers of Scotland, while Northern Ireland operates land registration through the Land and Property Services.

Long-term physical presence on non-residential property without their permission is not typically considered a crime in the UK.  Police take action if squatters commit other crimes when entering or staying in a property. A long-term squatter on otherwise unoccupied land can become the registered owner of property that they have occupied without the owner’s permission through an adverse possession process.

Intellectual Property Rights

The UK legal system provides a high level of protection for intellectual property rights (IPR). Enforcement mechanisms are comparable to those available in the United States.  The UK is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The UK is also a member of the major intellectual property protection agreements: the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  The UK has signed and, through implementing various EU Directives, enshrined into UK law the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), known as the internet treaties.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for IPR including patents, designs, trademarks and copyright.  The IPO website contains comprehensive information on UK law and practice in these areas.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office 

The British government tracks and reports seizures of counterfeit goods and regards the production and subsequent sale as a criminal act.  The Intellectual Property Crime Report for 2017/18 highlights the incidence of IPC and the harm caused to the UK economy, showing that almost 4 percent of all UK imports in 2013 were counterfeit, worth £9.3 billion (USD 12 billion). They estimate this equates to around 60,000 jobs being lost and almost £4 billion (USD 5.2 billion) in lost tax revenue.

The Special 301 Report is an annual, congressionally-mandated review of the global state of IPR protection and enforcement.  It is conducted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to identify countries with commercial environments possibly harmful to intellectual property.  The UK is not on the list, nor is it included on the Notorious Markets List

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The City of London houses one of the largest and most comprehensive financial centers globally.  London offers all forms of financial services: commercial banking, investment banking, re-insurance, venture capital, private equity, stock and currency brokers, fund managers, commodity dealers, accounting and legal services, as well as electronic clearing and settlement systems and bank payments systems.  London is highly regarded by investors because of its solid regulatory, legal, and tax environments, a supportive market infrastructure, and a dynamic, highly skilled workforce.

The UK government is generally hospitable toward foreign portfolio investment.  Government policies are intended to facilitate the free flow of capital and to support the flow of resources in product and services markets.  Foreign investors are able to obtain credit in local markets at normal market terms, and a wide range of credit instruments are available. The principles underlying legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent, and they are consistent with international standards.  In all cases, regulations have been published and are applied on a non-discriminatory basis by the PRA.

The London Stock Exchange is one of the most active equity markets in the world.  London’s markets have the advantage of bridging the gap between the day’s trading in the Asian markets and the opening of the U.S. market.  This bridge effect is also evident as many Russian and Central European companies have used London stock exchanges to tap global capital markets.  The Alternative Investment Market (AIM), established in 1995 as a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange, is specifically designed for smaller, rapidly expanding companies.  The AIM has a more flexible regulatory system than the main market and has no minimum market capitalization requirements. Since its launch, the AIM has raised more than USD 85 billion (GBP 60 billion) for more than 3,000 companies.

Money and Banking System

The UK banking sector is the largest in Europe.  According to TheCityUK, more than 150 financial services firms from the EU are based in the UK.  As of November 2017, EU banks in the UK held USD 1.9 trillion in assets, which represents a decline of USD 425 billion (or 17 percent) in the span of a year.  The sharp drop was a consequence of the Brexit vote, as European Banks trimmed their exposure to UK assets. The financial and related professional services industry contributed approximately 6.5 percent of UK Economic Output in 2017, employed around 1.1 million people, and contributed some GBP 75 billion in tax revenue in 2017/18, or 10.9 percent of total UK tax receipts.  The impact of Brexit on the financial services industry is uncertain at this time. Some firms have already moved jobs outside the UK, but most believe the UK will maintain its position as a top financial hub.

The Bank of England serves as the central bank of the UK by maintaining monetary and fiscal stability.  According to Bank of England guidelines, foreign banking institutions are legally permitted to establish operations in the UK as subsidiaries or branches.  Responsibilities for the prudential supervision of a non-European Economic Area (EEA) branch are split between the parent’s Home State Supervisors (HSS) and the PRA.  However, the PRA expects the whole firm to meet the PRA’s Threshold Conditions. The PRA has set out its approach to supervising branches and its appetite for allowing international banks to operate as branches in the United Kingdom in this Policy Statement and this Supervisory Statement.  In particular, the PRA expects new non-EEA branches to focus on wholesale banking and to do so at a level that is not critical to the UK economy. The FCA is the conduct regulator for all banks operating in the United Kingdom. For non-EEA branches the FCA’s Threshold Conditions and conduct of business rules apply, including areas such as anti-money laundering.  Eligible deposits placed in non-EEA branches may be covered by the UK deposit guarantee program and therefore non-EEA branches may be subject to regulations concerning UK depositor protection.

Although there are no legal restrictions that prohibit non-UK residents from opening a business bank account, in fact banks refuse to open accounts without proof of residency.  Setting up a business bank account as a non-resident is in principle straightforward. However, in practice most banks will not accept applications from overseas due to fraud concerns and the additional administration costs.  To open a personal bank account, an individual must at minimum present an internationally recognized proof of identification and prove residency in the UK. This is a problem for incoming FDI and American expats. Unless the business or the individual can prove UK residency, they will have limited banking options.

The UK has the most substantial financial services sector in the EU by reason of history, time-zone, language, legal system, critical mass of skill sets, expertise in professional services and London’s cultural appeal.  The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will impact the financial services sector and poses some risk to this financial stability. A period of prolonged uncertainty could increase sterling volatility, the risk-premiums on assets, cost and availability of financing, as well as relationships with EU-based financial institutions.  

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The British pound sterling is a free-floating currency with no restrictions on its transfer or conversion.  Exchange controls restricting the transfer of funds associated with an investment into or out of the UK are not exercised.

Remittance Policies

Not applicable.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The United Kingdom does not maintain a national wealth fund.  Although there have at time been calls to turn The Crown Estate – created in 1760 by Parliament as a means of funding the British monarchy – into a wealth fund, there are no current plans in motion.  Moreover, with assets of just under USD 12 billion, The Crown Estate would be small in relation to other national funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are 20 partially or fully state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the UK, with a combined turnover of about USD 15 billion (GBP 11.5 billion) in 2011.  These enterprises range from large, well-known companies to small trading funds. Some of these, where appropriate, are scheduled to be privatized over the next few years.  The government has already successfully sold its remaining shares in Lloyds, the bank nationalized during the global financial crisis. Since privatizing the oil and gas industry, the UK has not established any new energy-related SOEs or resource funds.

Privatization Program

The privatization of state-owned utilities in the UK is now essentially complete.  With regard to future investment opportunities, the few remaining SOEs or government shares in other utilities are likely to be sold off to the private sector when market conditions improve.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Businesses in the UK are accountable for a due diligence approach to responsible business conduct (RBC), or corporate social responsibility (CSR), in areas such as human resources, environmental issues, sustainable development, and health and safety practices – through a wide variety of existing guidelines at national, EU and global levels.  There is a strong awareness of CSR principles among UK businesses, promoted by UK business associations such as the Confederation of British Industry and the UK government.

The British government fairly and uniformly enforces laws related to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protection, and other statutes intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts.  The UK government adheres to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; as such, it has established a National Contact Point (NCP) to promote the Guidelines and to facilitate the resolution of disputes that may arise within that context: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/uk-national-contact-point-for-the-organisation-for-economic-co-operation-and-development-guidelines 

The UK is committed to the promotion and implementation of these Guidelines and encourages UK multinational enterprises to adopt high corporate standards involving all aspects of the Guidelines.    The UK NCP is housed in BEIS and is partially funded by DFID. A Steering Board monitors the work of the UK NCP and provides strategic guidance. It is composed of representatives of relevant government departments and four external members nominated by the Trades Union Congress, the Confederation of British Industry, the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and the NGO community.

The results of a UK government consultation on CSR can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/300265/bis-14-651-good-for-business-and-society-government-response-to-call-for-views-on-corporate-responsibility.pdf .

Information on UK and EU regulations and policies relating to the procurement of supplies, services and works for the public sector, and the relevance of promoting RBC, are found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-sector-procurement-policy 

9. Corruption

Although isolated instances of bribery and corruption have occurred in the UK, U.S. investors have not identified corruption of public officials as a factor in doing business in the UK.

The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on July 1, 2011.  It amends and reforms the UK criminal law and provides a modern legal framework to combat bribery in the UK and internationally.  The scope of the law is extra-territorial. Under the Bribery Act, a relevant person or company can be prosecuted for bribery if the crime is committed abroad.  The Act applies to UK citizens, residents and companies established under UK law. In addition, non-UK companies can be held liable for a failure to prevent bribery if they do business in the UK.

Section 9 of the Act requires the UK Government to publish guidance on procedures that commercial organizations can put in place to prevent bribery on their behalf.  It creates the following offenses: active bribery, described as promising or giving a financial or other advantage, passive bribery, described as agreeing to receive or accepting a financial or other advantage; bribery of foreign public officials; and the failure of commercial organizations to prevent bribery by an associated person (corporate offense).  This corporate criminal offense places a burden of proof on companies to show they have adequate procedures  in place to prevent bribery (http://www.transparency.org.uk/our-work/business-integrity/bribery-act/adequate-procedures-guidance/ ).  To avoid corporate liability for bribery, companies must make sure that they have strong, up-to-date and effective anti-bribery policies and systems.  The first prosecution under the Act (a domestic case) went forward in 2011. A UK administrative clerk faced charges under Section 2 of the Act for requesting and receiving a bribe intending to improperly perform his functions as a result.

The Bribery Act creates a corporate criminal offense making illegal the failure to prevent bribery by an associated person.  The briber must be “associated” with the commercial organization, a term which will apply to, amongst others, the organization’s agents, employees, and subsidiaries. A foreign corporation which “carries on a business, or part of a business” in the UK may therefore be guilty of the UK offense even if, for example, the relevant acts were performed by the corporation’s agent outside the UK. The Act does not extend to political parties and it is unclear whether it extends to family members of public officials.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

The UK formally ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery in December 1998.  The UK also signed the UN Convention Against Corruption in December 2003 and ratified it in 2006.  The UK has launched a number of initiatives to reduce corruption overseas. However, the OECD Working Group on Bribery (WGB) has expressed concerns with the UK’s implementation of the Anti-Bribery Convention.  In 2007, the UK Law Commission began a consultation process to draft a Bribery Bill that met OECD standards. The new Bill was published in draft in March 2009 and adopted by Parliament with cross-party support as the 2010 Bribery Act.

Resources to Report Corruption

UK law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government routinely implements these laws effectively.  The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is an independent government department, operating under the superintendence of the Attorney General with jurisdiction in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  It investigates and prosecutes those who commit serious or complex fraud, bribery, and corruption, and pursues them and others for the proceeds of their crime.

The SFO is the UK’s lead agency to which all allegations of bribery of foreign public officials by British nationals or companies incorporated in the United Kingdom should be reported – even in relation to conduct that occurred overseas.  Some of these allegations, where they involve serious or complex fraud and corruption, may fall to the SFO to investigate. Some may be more appropriate for other agencies to investigate, such as the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit of the City of London Police (OACU) or the International Corruption Unit of the National Crime Agency.  When the SFO receives a report of possible corruption, its intelligence team makes an assessment and decides if the matter is best dealt with by the SFO or passed to a law enforcement partner organization. Allegations can be reported in confidence using the SFO’s secure online reporting form: https://www.sfo.gov.uk/contact-us/reporting-serious-fraud-bribery-corruption/ .

Details can also be sent to the SFO in writing:

SFO Confidential
Serious Fraud Office
2-4 Cockspur Street
London, SW1Y 5BS
United Kingdom

10. Political and Security Environment

The UK is politically stable but shares with the rest of the world an increased threat of terrorist incidents.  2017 saw an uptick in the number of terrorist incidents in the UK, with deaths from attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park totaling 36.  The latest official figure, from December 2017, states that nine Islamist plots had been foiled since March 2017, and 22 since 2013, when the Islamic State group emerged in Syria.  The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is “Severe.”

Environmental advocacy groups in the UK have been involved with numerous protests against a variety of business activities, including:  airport expansion, bypass roads, offshore structures, wind farms, civilian nuclear power plants, and petrochemical facilities. These protests tend not to be violent but can be disruptive, with the aim of obtaining maximum media exposure.

Brexit remains a key source of political instability.  The June 2016 EU referendum campaign was characterized by significant polarization and widely varying perspectives across the country.  Differing views about what should be the terms of the future UK-EU relationship continue to polarize political opinion across the UK.  The people of Scotland voted to remain in the EU and Scottish political leaders have indicated that the UK leaving the EU may provide justification to pursue another Referendum on Scotland leaving the UK.  In addition, Brexit may be a factor contributing to the inability to reconstitute devolved government in Northern Ireland.

The process of Brexit itself has been politically fraught.  The UK was originally due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May twice had to request a delay as she remained unable to form a majority in the House of Commons to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement setting out the terms of the UK’s departure from the bloc.  The UK and the EU27 endorsed the draft Withdrawal Agreement at a special meeting of the European Council on November 25, 2018.  The draft deal makes provisions for an extendable 21-month status quo transition period through at least December 31, 2020 – during which the UK would effectively remain a member of the EU without voting rights, while continuing talks on its long-term future economic and security arrangements with the bloc. 

The transition period is, however, conditional upon the successful ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.  At time of writing, the House of Commons has three times rejected the draft Withdrawal Agreement, largely over concerns with a controversial “backstop” plan to avoid the return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by keeping the former in a closer economic relationship with the EU – potentially setting up additional regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.  The House of Commons has also voted to reject an exit from the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement in place, a so-called “no deal” Brexit scenario.  Facing the prospect of a no-deal exit on April 12, PM May agreed with her EU27 counterparts to a further extension of the Article 50 negotiating process until October 31, 2019.

Both main political parties (Conservative “Tories” and Labour) have recently tacked in a less business-friendly direction.  The Conservative Party, traditionally the UK’s pro-business party, is focused on implementing Brexit, a process many international businesses oppose because they expect it to make trade in goods, services, and capital with the UK’s largest trading partners more problematic and costly, at least in the short term.  The Conservative Party also intends to limit and reduce international immigration, an issue that was a main driver of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.  The Conservative Party capitalized on this anti-immigrant sentiment as a part of their overall campaign strategy to win the 2017 General Election.  The opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn MP and Chancellor John McDonnell MP, have also promoted polices opposed by business groups including laws that would give employees and shareholders the right to a binding vote on executive remuneration, make trade union rights stronger and more expansive, increase corporate taxes, and renationalize utility companies.  If the Labour Party were to prevail, such a shift to the economic left at a time when the Conservatives have made large, relatively unfunded public spending commitments, could potentially lead to higher levels of taxation and borrowing, crowding out private investment.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The UK’s labor force is the second largest in the European Union, at just over 41 million people. For the period between November 2018 and January 2019, the employment rate was 76.1 percent, with 31.4 million workers employed – the highest employment rate since 1971. Unemployment also hit a 43-year low with 1.32 million unemployed workers, or just 4 percent (down from 4.4 percent a year earlier).  For the same period, the unemployment rate for 18 to 24 year olds was 10.4 percent, lower than for a year earlier (10.5 percent).

The most serious issue facing British employers is a skills gap derived from a high-skill, high-tech economy outpacing the educational system’s ability to deliver work-ready graduates.  The government has placed a strong emphasis on improving the British educational system in terms of greater emphasis on science, research and development, and entrepreneurial skills. The UK’s skills base stands just below the OECD average.

As of 2017, approximately 23.2 percent of UK employees belonged to a union.  Public-sector workers have a much higher share of union members, at 51.8 percent, while the private sector is just under 14 percent.  Manufacturing, transport, and distribution trades are highly unionized. Unionization of the workforce in the UK is prohibited only in the armed forces, public-sector security services, and police forces.  Union membership has been relatively stable in the past few years, although the trend has been slightly downward over the past decade.

Once-common militant unionism is less frequent, but occasional bouts of industrial action, or threatened industrial action, can still be expected.  Recent strike action was motivated in part by the Coalition Government’s deficit reduction impacts on highly unionized sectors. In the 2017, there were 276,000 working days lost from 79 official labor disputes.  Privatization of traditional government entities has exacerbated frictions. The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the British nation-wide labor federation, encourages union-management cooperation as do most of the unions likely to be encountered by a U.S. investor.

In 2017 some cabin crew members of British Airways went on strike; 2018 saw significant strikes at the university level.  In February of 2018, university lecturers launched a widespread strike with staff and students taking collective action across 64 different universities.  Estimates show over a million students were affected and 575,000 teaching hours were lost.

On April 1, 2019, the UK raised the minimum wage to USD 10.71 (GBP 8.21) an hour for workers ages 25 and over.  The increased wage impacts about 2 million workers across Britain. The government plans to raise the National Living Wage to USD 11.75 an hour (GBP 9) by 2020.

The UK decision to leave the EU has introduced uncertainty into the labor market, with questions surrounding the rights of workers from other EU countries currently in the UK, the future rights of employers to hire workers from EU countries, and the extent to which the UK will maintain EU rules on workers’ rights.  

The 2006 Employment Equality (Age) Regulations make it unlawful to discriminate against workers, employees, job seekers, and trainees because of age, whether young or old.  The regulations cover recruitment, terms and conditions, promotions, transfers, dismissals, and training. They do not cover the provision of goods and services. The regulations also removed the upper age limits on unfair dismissal and redundancy.  It sets a national default retirement age of 65, making compulsory retirement below that age unlawful unless objectively justified. Employees have the right to request to work beyond retirement age and the employer has a duty to consider such requests.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

OPIC does not operate in the UK.  However, the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) financing is available to support major investment projects in the UK.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Ex-Im Bank and its UK equivalent, the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), enables bilateral U.S.-UK consortia intending to invest in third countries to seek investment funding support from the country of the larger partner.  This removes the need for each of the two parties to seek financing from their respective credit guarantee organizations.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2018 USD 2,115,000 2017 USD 2,622,000 https://data.worldbank.org/country/united-kingdom  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2016 USD 452,000 2017 USD 747,571 BEA data available at www.bea.gov/international/factsheet   /
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2016 USD 329,200 2017 USD 614,865 https://www.selectusa.gov/country-fact-sheet/United-Kingdom  
Total inbound stock of FDI as percent host GDP 2016 17.7 percent 2018 66.80 percent UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World percent20Investment percent20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (GBP Pounds, Billions)
Inward Direct Investment 2017 Outward Direct Investment 2017
Total Inward $1,336.5 Proportion Total Outward $1,313.3 Proportion
USA $351 26.3 percent USA $258 19.6 percent
Netherlands $228 17.1 percent Netherlands $1532 11.7 percent
Luxembourg $116 8.7 percent Luxembourg $112 8.5 percent
Japan $78 5.8 percent France $79 6.0 percent
Germany $64 4.8 percent Spain $71 5.4 percent

Notes:

The UK Department for International Trade Core Statistics Book denominates these figures in GBP. Due to a volatile GBP/USD exchange rate in 2018, Post has decided to leave the numbers in their denominated currency as to maintain the highest accuracy.

The current fourth ranking for Inward Direct Investment is the UK offshore island of Jersey, a self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom. However, we have chosen to focus here on country-to-country FDI only.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, U.S. Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries Amount Proportion All Countries Amount Proportion All Countries Amount Proportion
United States $1,150,129 34 percent United States $711,877 37 percent United States $438,252 33 percent
Ireland $246,975 7 percent Ireland $200,933 10 percent France $108,245 8 percent
France $191,416 6 percent Japan $126,848 6 percent Germany $107,224 8 percent
Japan $179,273 5 percent Luxembourg $104,678 5 percent Netherlands $70,922 5 percent
Germany $173,635 5 percent France $83,170 4 percent Japan $52,425 4 percent

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy London
Economic Section
33 Nine Elms Ln
London SW11 7US
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20-7499-9000
LondonEconomic@state.gov

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