Dominican Republic

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Report
July 19, 2018

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Executive SummaryShare    

The Dominican Republic is an upper middle-income country and the second largest economy in the Caribbean region. In 2017, the Dominican economy grew an estimated 4.6 percent according to the Central Bank, making it the second fastest-growing country in Latin America. Growth was led by public and private sector construction, financial services, mining, and tourism.

The Dominican Republic has adopted policies of greater openness to international trade and investment in the last decade. As a result, foreign direct investment (FDI) has played a prominent role in the country’s economic development. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Dominican Republic was USD 1.4 billion in 2016, an increase of 7.8 percent over 2015. The Dominican Republic is among the main recipients of FDI in the Caribbean and Central America. The tourism, real estate, telecommunications, free zones, mining, and financing sectors are the largest recipients of foreign direct investment. Historically, the United States has been the largest investor, followed by Canada and Spain. The strength of the U.S.-Dominican trade relationship stems from close geographic proximity and the historical, cultural, and personal ties that many Dominicans have with the United States.

The Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), in force since 2007, has increased bilateral trade between the United States and the Dominican Republic from U.S. USD 9.9 billion the year before CAFTA-DR implementation to USD 12.5 billion in 2016, the latest figures available. CAFTA-DR is also credited with increasing competition, improving the rule of law, and expanding the range of choices and access to quality products in the Dominican Republic. CAFTA-DR includes a number of protections for foreign investors, including mechanisms for dispute resolution.

Despite the stable macroeconomic situation, significant systemic problems remain in the Dominican Republic. Foreign investors cite a lack of clear, standardized rules by which to compete and a lack of enforcement of existing rules. Complaints include allegations of widespread corruption, requests for bribes, delays in government payments, weak intellectual property rights enforcement, bureaucratic hurdles, slow and sometimes biased judicial processes, non-standard procedures in customs valuation of imported goods, as well as product misclassification as a means of negating CAFTA-DR benefits and increasing customs revenues. Weak land tenure laws and government expropriations continue to be a problem. The Dominican authorities have carried out some reform efforts aimed at improving transparency, especially fiscal transparency. Nevertheless, corruption and poor implementation of existing laws are openly and widely discussed as key public grievances.

The Dominican government in 2017 was the subject of several large corruption scandals, sparking public protests and calls for institutional change. The government’s response to these scandals and whether or not the government made a genuine effort to reduce perceived impunity for corrupt public officials will likely have a significant impact on whether it continues to be seen as an attractive market for foreign direct investment.

The investment climate in the coming years will largely depend on whether the government demonstrates the political will to implement reforms necessary to promote competitiveness and transparency, rein in the public debt, and bring corrupt public officials to justice.

Table 1

Measure

Year

Index/Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions Index

2017

135 of 180

http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”

2017

99 of 190

www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

Global Innovation Index

2017

79 of 128

https://www.globalinnovation
index.org/gii-2016-report

U.S. FDI in Partner Country (M USD, stock positions)

2016

USD 1,400

http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/

World Bank GNI Per Capita

2016

USD 6,390

http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

Under the Foreign Investment Law (No. 16-95), dated November 20, 1995, unlimited foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, with the exception of the disposal and storage of toxic, hazardous, or radioactive waste not produced in the country; activities negatively impacting public health and the environment; and the production of materials and equipment directly linked to national security, unless authorized by the President. The Dominican Republic provides certain tax incentives to investment in tourism, renewable energy, film industry, Haiti-Dominican Republic border development, and the industrial sector.

The Dominican Republic is a signatory of the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the countries of Central America (CAFTA-DR), which sets forth rules for the protection of current or potential investors against unfair or discriminatory governmental action. CAFTA-DR mandates non-discriminatory treatment, free transferability of funds, protection against expropriation, and procedures for the resolution of investment disputes.

The Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), a government agency created in 2013, offers assistance to foreign investors wanting to invest in the Dominican Republic. The National Council of Free Trade Zones for Export (CNZFE) offers assistance to companies looking to invest in the free trade zones.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no general (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. According to Law No. 98-03 and Regulation 214-04, an interested foreign investor must file an application form at the offices of CEI-RD within 180 calendar days from the date on which the foreign investment took place. CEI-RD will then evaluate the application and issue the corresponding Certificate of Registration within 15 working days.

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

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The government conducted an investment policy review in the context of a World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review in 2015. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s319_e.pdf.

In the past three years, the government has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The last United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) investment policy review was published in 2009.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business report, starting a business in the Dominican Republic requires a 7-step process that takes 14.5 days. Steps include (1) checking the company name with the National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI); (2) purchasing the company name with ONAPI; (3) paying the incorporation tax with the National Internal Revenue Agency (DGII); (4) registering the company with the Chamber of Commerce and obtaining an identification number; (5) filing for the national taxpayer registry and applying for fiscal receipts at DGII; (6) registering local employees with the Ministry of Labor; and (7) registering employees at the Social Security Office.

The Dominican Republic has a single-window registration website for S.R.L. company registration (http://www.formalizate.gob.do/) that offers a one-stop shop for registration needs. Foreign companies may use the registration website. The website received a rating of 6 out of 10 in the UN’s Global Enterprise Registration ranking for clarity and completeness. The use of a local lawyer is highly advisable for company registrations.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MIC) leads the Dominican Republic’s assistance and registration program for small and medium-sized enterprises (PYMES). The +PYMES program, a partnership between the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MIC) and the National Competitiveness Council, offers technical assistance to majority Dominican-owned companies and defines small businesses as those with fewer than 75 employees and medium-sized businesses as those with between 76 and 150 employees.

Outward Investment

The Dominican Republic promotes outward investment through the Export and Investment Center (CEI-RD), the government investment promotion agency. There are no restrictions on domestic investors investing abroad. Top exports are gold, silver, and agricultural goods. The largest recipient of Dominican outward investment is the United States.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation TreatiesShare    

The Dominican Republic has signed in-force BITs with: Chile, Finland, France, Italy, Republic of Korea, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Spain, Switzerland, and Taiwan. According to the Dominican Ministry of Industry and Commerce, currently in force FTAs include: CAFTA-DR; the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and CARIFORUM (an organization of Caribbean nations, including the Dominican Republic); a trade agreement between the Dominican Republic and the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; a free trade agreement with CARICOM (the Caribbean Community); and a trade agreement with Panama.

An agreement for the exchange of tax information between the United States and Dominican Republic has been in effect since 1989. On September 15, 2016, the United States and the Dominican Republic signed an agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). However, the agreement has yet to be implemented. The Dominican Republic has tax agreements to avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion currently in force with Canada and Spain.

3. Legal RegimeShare    

Transparency of the Regulatory System

By law, the full text of draft regulations should be made available for public review, and regulatory agencies should give notice of proposed regulations in public meetings where consultations can take place. All proposed regulations should be published on a unified website: http://www.consultoria.gov.do/. In practice, however, these actions do not always occur. Moreover, the scope of the website content is not always adequate for investors or interested parties.

On the 2017 Global Innovations Index, the Dominican Republic ranks 104 out of 127 for regulatory environment and 73 out of 127 for regulatory quality. The World Economic Forum’s 2017-18 Global Competitiveness report ranked the Dominican Republic 115th out of 137 countries in efficiency of the legal framework in challenging regulations, and 117th in burden of government regulations.

The Dominican Institute of Certified Public Accountants (ICPARD) is the country’s legally-recognized professional accounting organization and has authority to establish accounting standards in accordance with article 31 of Law 479-08, which also declares that financial statements should be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards nationally and internationally (as amended by Law 31-11). The ICPARD and the country’s stock market regulator (Superintendencia de Valores) require the use of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and IFRS for small and medium-sized entities (SMEs).

Law 42-08 from 2008 established he National Commission for the Defense of Competition (Pro-Competencia), an agency to improve and enforce competition laws. Private sector contacts note that significant public pressure is required for Pro-Competencia to take action. Efforts to establish the rule of law in many sectors of the economy have been impeded, or in some cases, soundly defeated by special interests. For example, in 2008, the government refused to enforce a court ruling to halt an illegal blockade of a U.S. business by disgruntled ex-contractors. As another example, in 2013, the Dominican government rescinded permits for an American-owned tourism and real estate development and declared large swaths of their land as a national park. In 2015, several U.S. investors cited the Dominican government’s repeated failure to pay compensation for or return expropriated land, even though valid court orders had been obtained. Some investors, both Dominican and foreign, consider that influence through political contacts can trump formal systems of regulation.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The legal system of the Dominican Republic is civil law and is based on the Napoleonic code. On October 23, 2007, Decree No. 610-07 placed the Directorate of Foreign Commerce of the then-Secretariat of State for Industry and Commerce (DICOEX) in charge of commercial dispute settlement, including disputes related to the Investment Chapter of CAFTA-DR. The main laws governing commercial disputes are the Commercial Code; Law No. 479-08, the Commercial Societies Law; Law No. 3-02, concerning Business Registration; Commercial Arbitration Law No. 489-08; and Law No. 126-02, concerning e-Commerce and Digital Documents and Signatures.

The country is divided into 11 Judicial Departments, each one headed by a Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters in 35 Judicial Districts. See website http://www.poderjudicial.gob.do/poder_judicial/organizacion_judicial/organizacion_judicial.aspx. Each Judicial District has a court of first instance. Justices of the Peace handle small claims, certain traffic accidents, landlord-tenant disputes, and other matters. There are also specialized courts with jurisdiction over labor cases, disputes involving registered land, cases involving minors, and administrative matters. The Supreme Court is the highest court, with jurisdiction to handle most appeals from the courts of appeal, and first instance jurisdiction in criminal matters involving certain high-level government officials. The Constitutional Tribunal, created in 2010, rules on the constitutionality of laws, decrees, and treaties and decides cases involving constitutional questions.

According to the Constitution, the Judicial Branch is independent of the other branches of the State. The right of access to justice is a constitutional right granted by Article 69 of the Constitution. It provides that every person, including foreigners, has the right to appear in court.

Some investors complain of long wait times for a decision by the judiciary. The Civil Procedure Code dates from 1884, and there have been few modifications. The resolution of a civil case normally takes 2-4 years, although some take significantly longer. Some investors have complained that the local court system is unreliable, biased against them, and that special interests and powerful individuals are able to use the legal system in their favor. Regardless of whether they are located in a free-trade zone, multiple companies have asserted that they have problems with dispute resolution, both with the Dominican government and with private-sector entities. U.S. firms indicate that corruption on all levels – business, government, and judicial – impedes their access to justice to defend their interests. Several large U.S. firms have been subjects of injunctions issued by lower courts on behalf of distributors with whom they are engaged in a contract dispute. These disputes are often the result of the firm seeking to end the relationship in accordance with the contract, and the distributor using the injunction as a way of obtaining a more beneficial settlement. These injunctions often disrupt the U.S. companies’ distribution activities, resulting in severe negative impact on sales. In order to effectively engage in the Dominican market, many U.S. companies seek local partners that are well-connected and understand the local business environment.

The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Competitiveness report ranked the Dominican Republic 130th out of 137 countries in judicial independence and 112th in efficiency of the legal framework in settling disputes. On the Global Innovations Index, the Dominican Republic ranked 89 out of 127 countries for rule of law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), which aims to be a one-stop-shop for investment information, registration, and investor after-care services, maintains a user-friendly website for guidance on the government’s priority sectors for inward investment and on the range of investment incentives (http://cei-rd.gob.do/).

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

There is no government agency that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns (whether domestic or international in nature); however, the government’s National Commission for the Defense of Competition (ProCompetencia) is responsible for promoting and defending competition by fostering best practices.

Expropriation and Compensation

There are dozens of outstanding disputes between U.S. investors and the Dominican government concerning unpaid government contracts or expropriated property and businesses. Property claims make up the majority of expropriation cases. Most, but not all, expropriations have been used for infrastructure or commercial development. In most cases, claims have remained unresolved for many years. Typically, investors and lenders have not received prompt payment of fair market value for their losses, and subsequent enforcement has been difficult even in cases in which the Dominican courts, including the Supreme Court, have ordered compensation or the government has recognized a claim. In other cases, lengthy delays in compensation payments have been blamed on errors committed by government-contracted property assessors, slow processes to correct land title errors, a lack of budgeted funds, and other technical problems. The procedures to resolve expropriations lack transparency and, to a foreigner, may appear to be antiquated. Few examples exist where government officials have been held responsible for not paying a recognized claim or not paying the claim in a timely manner.

Discussions at the U.S.-Dominican Trade and Investment Council meetings in October 2002 prompted the Dominican government to establish procedures under a 1999 law to issue bonds to settle claims against the Dominican government dating from before August 16, 1996, including claims for expropriated property.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

In 2000, the Dominican Republic signed the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID, also known as the Washington Convention), but has not ratified it. In 2002, the Dominican Republic became signatory to the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Dominican Republic has entered into several bilateral investment treaties, most of which contain dispute resolution provisions that submit the parties to arbitration. The Dominican Republic is a signatory to CAFTA-DR and is thus bound by the investment chapter of CAFTA-DR. There is currently one pending investor-state case filed against the Dominican Republic under CAFTA-DR.

The Embassy is aware of at least 26 U.S. investors who are involved in ongoing legal disputes with the Dominican government and parastatal firms involving payments, expropriations, contractual obligations, or regulatory obligations. The investors range from large firms to private individuals and the disputes are at various levels of legal review.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Law 489-08 on commercial arbitration governs the enforcement of arbitration awards, arbitral agreements, and arbitration proceedings in the Dominican Republic. Per law 489-09, arbitration may be ad-hoc or institutional, meaning the parties may either agree on the rules of procedure applicable to their claim, or they may adopt the rules of a particular institution. Fundamental aspects of the United Nations Commission on International Trade (UNCITRAL) model law are incorporated into Law 489-08.

Foreign arbitral awards are enforceable in the Dominican Republic in accordance with Law 489-09 and applicable treaties, including the New York Convention, to which the Dominican Republic is a party. There are complaints that the court process is slow and that domestic claimants with political connections have an advantage.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Restructuring and Liquidation of Business Entities and Merchants Law (Law 141-15) was signed by President Medina on August 18, 2015, and took effect 18 months after it was signed. The law allows a debtor company to continue to operate for up to five years during reorganization proceedings by staying legal proceedings. The law orders the creation of new courts with exclusive jurisdiction to hear all matters regarding the insolvency process, contemplates the appointment of conciliators, verifiers, experts, and employee representatives, allows the debtor to contract for new debt which will have priority status in relation to other secured and unsecured claims, stipulates civil and criminal sanctions for non-compliance, and permits the possibility of coordinating cross-border proceedings based on recommendations of the UNCITRAL Model Law of 1997.

Nearly two years after the law’s signing, specialized bankruptcy courts have not yet been established. However, the Supreme Court designated two lower courts and appeals courts to hear bankruptcy cases. The national juridical school is in the process of training judges on bankruptcy.

4. Industrial PoliciesShare    

Investment Incentives

Foreign investors receive no special investment incentives and no other types of favored treatment, except for, inter alia, investments in renewable energy; in manufacturing investments located in Special Zones and investments in tourism projects in certain locations (see below). There are no requirements for investors to export a defined percentage of their production.

Foreign companies are unrestricted in their access to foreign exchange. There are no requirements that foreign equity be reduced over time or that technology be transferred according to defined terms. The government imposes no conditions on foreign investors concerning location, local ownership, local content, or export requirements.

The Renewable Energy Incentives Law (No. 57-07), which entered into force in June 2008, provides an array of incentives to businesses developing renewable energy technologies. This law was passed as part of the Dominican government’s efforts to invigorate the local production of renewable energy as well as renewable energy-related manufactured products. The incentives included a 100 percent tax exemption on imported inputs (equipment and materials) and a 10-year (from the date of initial operation and not beyond 2020) tax exemption on profits derived from the sale of electricity generated from renewable resources. This law played a large role in the debut of the Caribbean’s first and only commercially viable wind farm in October 2011. Foreign investors praise the provisions of the law, but express frustration with approval and execution of potential renewable energy projects. In 2012, the law was modified as part of President Medina’s fiscal reform measures, reducing the tax incentive for small-scale producers of renewable energy and eliminating the 10-year tax exemption on profits derived from the sale of electricity generated from renewable sources.

In order to encourage development in economically deprived areas located near the Dominican Republic's border with Haiti, Special Zones for Border Development were created by Law No. 28-01, passed in 2001. A range of incentives, largely in the form of tax exemptions for a maximum period of 20 years, are available to direct investments in manufacturing projects in the Zones. These incentives include the exemption of income tax on the net taxable income of the projects, the exemption of sales tax, the exemption of import duties and tariffs and other related charges on imported equipment and machinery used exclusively in the industrial processes, as well as on imports of lubricants and fuels (except gasoline) used in the processes.

Law 158-01, on the Promotion of Tourism Development, grants incentives in the form of tax relief on tourism development projects in certain provinces and municipalities of the Dominican Republic listed in Law 158-01 and extended in Law 184-02. The government of the Dominican Republic announced a goal of doubling the number of tourist arrivals to the country from 5 million in 2012 to 10 million by 2022.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Dominican Republic's free trade zones (FTZs) are regulated by the Promotion of Free Zones Law (No. 8-90), which provides for 100 percent exemption from all taxes, duties, charges and fees affecting production and export activities in the zones. These incentives are for 20 years for zones located near the Dominican-Haitian border and 15 years for those located throughout the rest of the country. This legislation is managed by the Free Trade Zone National Council (CNZFE), a joint private sector/government body with discretionary authority to extend the time limits on these incentives.

Foreign currency flows from the free trade zones are handled via the free foreign exchange market. Foreign and Dominican firms are afforded the same investment opportunities both by law and in practice. The CNZFE’s Annual Statistical Report for 2016 (most recent available), noted a Free Zone Sector with a total of 68 free zone parks (up from 65 the previous year) and 645 operating companies (up from 630). Of those companies, 38.2 percent are from the United States (including Puerto Rico). Other significant investment was made by companies registered in the Dominican Republic, Canada, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Italy, and recently China. In general, firms operating in the free trade zones experience fewer bureaucratic and legal problems than do firms operating outside the zones. In 2015, free zone exports totaled USD 5.5 billion, comprising 3.1 percent of GDP.

At the end of 2015, the tax incentive laws governing the CNZFE's changed, allowing CNZFE's to offer any amount of their products on the Dominican market for sale (applicable taxing would apply), in parallel with overseas shipments.

Exporters/investors seeking further information from the CNZFE may contact:

Consejo Nacional de Zonas Francas de Exportacion
Leopoldo Navarro No. 61
Edif. San Rafael, piso no. 5
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Phone: (809) 686-8077
Fax: (809) 686-8079
Website Address: http://www.cnzfe.gov.do

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Dominican labor code establishes that 80 percent of the labor force of a foreign or national company, including free trade zone companies, be composed of Dominican nationals (although the management or administrative staff of a foreign company is exempt from this regulation). The Foreign Investment Law (No. 16-95) provides that contracts licensing patents or trademarks, leases of machinery and equipment, and contracts for provision of technical know-how must be registered with the Directorate of Foreign Investment of the Central Bank.

There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software or turn-over keys for encryption). There are no mechanisms used to enforce any rules on maintaining set amounts of data storage within the country/economy. The government has not enacted data localization policies.

5. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

The Constitution of the Dominican Republic recognizes and guarantees the right to own private property and provides that the state shall promote the acquisition of property, especially titled real property. The Constitution further provides that it is “in the public interest that land be devoted to useful purposes and that large estates be gradually eliminated” and that the social policy of the state shall promote land reform and effectively integrate the rural population to the national development process by encouraging renewal of agricultural production.

Mortgages and liens exist in the Dominican Republic and there is a National Registry of Deeds. The government advises that investors are ultimately responsible for due diligence and recommends partnering with experienced attorneys to ensure that all documentation ranging from title searches to surveys have been properly verified and processed.

Under Dominican law, all land must be registered; all unregistered land is considered state land. Registration requires seven steps, an average of 60 days, and payment of 3.7 percent of the value of the land as a registration fee. The landowner is required to have a survey of the land, a certificate demonstrating that property taxes are current, and a certificate from the Title Registry Office that evidences any encumbrances on the land (such as mortgages or easements) and serves as a check on the extent of land rights to be transferred. Property ownership may revert to occupants (such as squatters) after twenty years, if they properly register the property.

Land tenure insecurity persists, fueled by government land expropriations, institutional weaknesses, lack of effective law enforcement, and local community support for land invasions and squatting. Despite the requirement of land registration, most land in the Dominican Republic is not registered, and even if land rights are registered, tenure is not assured. In some parts of the country, unregistered land has been expropriated for development without notice or compensation. In some cases, however, holders of title certificates have received little or no additional security. Long-standing titling practices, such as issuing provisional titles that are never completed or providing title to land to multiple owners without requiring individualization of parcels, have created substantial ambiguity in property rights and undermined the reliability of land records. Some of these practices have been curtailed in the last few years, but nonetheless undermine the reliability of existing land documentation. In addition, the country has struggled to control fraud in the creation and registration of land titles, including illegal operations within the government agencies responsible for issuing titles.

In the last decade, the Dominican government has implemented reform programs focused on developing institutional frameworks and strengthening government agencies and public administration. As part of its overarching program to modernize the justice sector, the Dominican Republic Supreme Court modernized its property title registration process through a USD 10 million Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan in an effort to address deficiencies and gaps in the land administration system and strengthen land tenure security. The project involved digitization of land records, decentralization of registries, establishment of a fund to compensate people for title errors, separation of the legal and administrative functions within the agency, and redefinition of the roles and responsibilities of judges and courts.

The Dominican government has instituted a number of reforms, including the development of a cadaster with digitized property titles and the establishment and expansion of 23 land registry offices across the country. In 2012 the government created the State Lands Titling Commission, which, working with the Dominican Agrarian Institute, is intended to achieve the titling of around 150,000 urban and rural properties.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Dominican Republic has a legal structure with laws and sanctions adequate to protect intellectual property rights and has improved the regulatory framework for patent and trademark protection. However, industry representatives continue to cite a lack of enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) and common infringement on and theft of IPR as a major concern, validating the Dominican Republic’s placement on the United States Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List. During the past year, no new IPR related laws or regulations have been enacted.

Key issues include rampant television signal broadcast piracy, insufficient enforcement actions against the manufacturers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other products, a backlog of patents waiting for approval, and weak customs enforcement of counterfeit trafficking. The Dominican government committed, in a side-letter to CAFTA-DR, to take measures to halt television broadcast piracy and agreed to report on its efforts in this regard in a quarterly report to the U.S. Embassy and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The Dominican authorities have delivered these quarterly reports since January 2005, but significant signal piracy persists.

To fulfill CAFTA-DR requirements, the Dominican Congress passed legislation in November 2006 to strengthen the IPR protection regime by criminalizing end-user piracy and requiring authorities to seize, forfeit, and destroy counterfeit and pirated goods, as well as the equipment used to produce those goods. Customs officers have ex officio authority to seize any goods suspected as counterfeit. Prior to destroying counterfeit goods, customs officers must notify the rights holder. During this time, the goods are stored by customs, which charges the rights holder for storage. The rights holder then has 30 days to inspect the shipment and try to reach an agreement with the sender and manufacturer. At the end of the 30 days, if no agreement has been reached, then the rights holder can pay to send the items back or to have them destroyed.

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

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Mission:

David Baker
Economic Officer
(809) 567-7775, extension 7582
BakerDA3@state.gov

Country/Economy resources:

List of Attorneys in the Dominican Republic, compiled by the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/dominicanrepublic/66631/acs/attorneys.pdf.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic
(809) 381-0777
comunicaciones@amcham.org.do

National Copyright Office (ONDA)
Ministry of Culture
Edificio del Archivo General de la Nacion
Calle Modesto Diaz No. 2
Zona Universitaria
Santo Domingo, D.N.
(809) 2746-006
admin.onda@onda.gov.do

National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI)
Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Av. Los Proceres No.11,
Santo Domingo, D.N.
(809) 567-7474
servicioalcliente@onapi.gob.do
http://onapi.gob.do/

6. Financial SectorShare    

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Dominican securities market, the Bolsa de Valores de Santo Domingo, opened on December 12, 1991, and mostly handles offerings of commercial paper. It is supervised by the Superintendency of Securities (SIV), which approves all public securities offerings. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Foreign investors are able to obtain credit on the local market, but tend to prefer less expensive offshore sources. The Central Bank regularly issues certificates of deposit, using an auction process to determine interest rates and maturities.

Money and Banking System

During a period of strong GDP growth and largely successful economic reforms in the 1990s, Dominican authorities, including the Central Bank, failed to detect years of large-scale fraud and mismanagement at the privately-owned Banco Intercontinental (Baninter), the country’s third largest bank. The failure of Baninter and two other banks in 2003 cost the government in excess of USD 3 billion, severely destabilized the country’s finances, and shook business confidence. The failures, and their consequences, brought about a crisis of devaluation, inflation, and economic hardship. Upon taking office in August 2004, Leonel Fernandez’s administration formulated with the IMF, a comprehensive program aimed at addressing the weaknesses in macroeconomic policies, the banking system, and a wide range of other structural areas. In 2005, the IMF’s Executive Board approved a USD 665 million stand-by agreement (SBA) that helped the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC recover from its 2003 banking crisis. Business confidence gradually returned, but after effects of the 2003-2004 economic crisis remain, including lingering difficulty in accessing consumer and business credit financing. Reforms enacted after the 2003 crisis allowed the Dominican banking sector to avoid severe difficulties during the international financial crisis of 2008.

In the wake of the 2008 global economic and financial crisis, the IMF’s Executive Board approved a USD 1.7 billion SBA with the Dominican Republic. The 28-month program sought to assist the government in pursuing short-term counter-cyclical polices, strengthen medium-term sustainability, reduce vulnerabilities, and set the foundation for eventual recovery. The SBA lapsed in April 2012 with USD 500 million in pending IMF disbursements.

Currently, the Dominican Republic’s financial sector remains relatively stable and the financial system indicators were declared largely satisfactory by the IMF during its 2018 Article IV consultations, which noted that “Sound regulatory and supervisory reforms adopted since the banking crisis 15 years ago have strengthened the financial sector.”

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Dominican exchange system is a market with free convertibility of the peso. Economic agents perform their transactions of foreign currencies under free market conditions. There are generally no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

The Central Bank sets the exchange rates and practices a policy of managed float. Some firms have had repeated difficulties obtaining dollars during periods of high demand. Importers may obtain foreign currency directly from commercial banks and exchange agents. The Central Bank participates in this market in pursuit of monetary policy objectives, buying or selling currencies and performing any other operation in the market to minimize volatility.

Remittance Policies

The government has made no changes to investment remittance policies. The Dominican Republic became a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America in 2016. A mutual evaluation was conducted in January 2018 and will be published later in 2018 here: http://www.gafilat.org/index.php/es/biblioteca-virtual/miembros/republica-dominicana.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

State operations have few mechanisms and measures to ensure transparency and accountability. There is no requirement for an annual report from sovereign wealth funds.

7. State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in general do not have a significant presence in the economy, with most functions performed by privately-held firms. Notable exceptions are in the electricity, banking, and refining sectors. In the electricity sector, generally speaking, private companies only operate in the electricity generation phase of the process, with the government handling the transmission and distribution phases. However, Punta Cana-Macao Energy Consortium (CEPM), a private company which generates and transmits electricity in the Punta Cana area is a notable exception.

According to Article 2 of Law 10-04, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are subject to audits by the Chamber of Accounts (Camera de Cuentas). Audits are published in http://www.camaradecuentas.gob.do/index.php/auditorias-realizadas. In addition, all audits are available as requested according to freedom of information provisions. However, the audits which are available are dated several years ago.

Privatization Program

The government does not have any privatization programs. A partial privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) carried out in the late 1990s resulted in foreign investors purchasing shares and obtaining management control of former SOEs engaged in activities such as electricity generation, airport management, and sugarcane processing.

8. Responsible Business ConductShare    

The government does not have an official position or policy on responsible business conduct (RBC), including corporate social responsibility (CSR). Although in general there is not an entrenched culture of CSR on the part of local firms, large foreign companies do normally have an active CSR program, as do a number of the larger local business groups. The majority of local firms do not follow OECD principles regarding CSR, but the firms that do are viewed favorably (especially when their CSR programs are effectively publicized). In 2012, a group of large Dominican companies started the Heal a Nation CSR initiative, the largest and most important local CSR initiative.

9. CorruptionShare    

The Dominican Republic has a legal framework that includes laws, regulations and criminal penalties to permit the effective combating of corruption. Corruption and impunity for corrupt practices, however, are endemic problems in the security forces, civilian government, and private sector as the government does not implement the law effectively. U.S. businesses operating in the Dominican Republic often need to take extensive measures to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Giving or accepting a bribe is a criminal act according to Dominican law. Articles 177, 178 and 181 of the Criminal Code prohibit public officials and judges from accepting bribes or other gifts, under the penalty of a fine twice the benefit received and no less than six months in prison. Articles 2 and 3 of the Bribery in Commerce and Investments Law (No. 448-06) prohibit individuals or corporate bodies from giving, and public officials from accepting, gifts or bribes related to their public function, under the penalty of a fine twice the benefit received and three to ten years in prison with labor.

Several government agencies have responsibility for countering corruption. The Public Ministry, led by the Attorney General, is responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of judicial corruption through the Special Prosecution of Administrative Corruption (PEPCA). While the Public Ministry has issued administrative punishments to judges for accepting bribes to influence their decisions, PEPCA has never criminally prosecuted a judge for corruption. The Chamber of Accounts, similar to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, promotes government accountability through audits and investigations, which often form the basis of PEPCA corruption cases. The Comptroller General’s Office defines management controls and accounting procedures for all government agencies, and a joint commission between the Comptroller General and Chamber of Accounts facilitates audits and investigations. The General Directorate of Ethics and Governmental Integrity exists to improve ethics in government.

Corruption and the need for reform efforts are openly and widely discussed as public grievances. In 2017, Transparency International gave the Dominican Republic a Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of 29, ranking it 135 of 180 countries assessed. The World Economic Forum’s 2017-18 Global Competitiveness report identified corruption as the most problematic factor for doing business in the Dominican Republic, ranking the Dominican government in institutional strength as 129 out of 137 countries, and overall ranking the Dominican Republic as 104 out of 137 in its competitiveness index. Of the specific indicators, the DR was in the bottom 20 out of 138 countries for favoritism in decisions of government officials, public trust in politicians, diversion of public funds, judicial independence, reliability of police services, and ethical behavior of firms.

In December 2016, public officials in Dominican Republic were among those implicated in the far-reaching corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. In a plea agreement with the United States Department of Justice, Odebrecht admitted to paying more than USD 92 million in kickbacks to Dominican officials to secure public works contracts. Although it has placed some government officials under investigation, the attorney general’s office has not brought any criminal cases to trial related to the bribes that Odebrecht paid to public officials.

Civil society is engaged in anti-corruption campaigns. Several non-governmental organizations are particularly active in transparency and anti-corruption, notably the Foundation for Institutionalization and Justice (FINJUS), Citizen Participation (Participacion Ciudadana), and the Dominican Alliance Against Corruption (ADOCCO).

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

The Dominican Republic has signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention. The Dominican Republic is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact for government agency responsible for combating corruption:

Procuraduria Especializada contra la Corrupcion Administrativa (PEPCA)
Calle Hipolito Herrera Billini esq. Calle Juan B. Perez,
Centro de los Heroes, Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana
Telephone: (809) 533-3522
Fax: (809) 533-4098
Email: info@pepca.pgr.gob.do

Government service for filing complaints and denunciations:

Linea 311
Phone: 311 (from inside the country)
Website: http://www.311.gob.do/

Contact for "watchdog" organization that monitors corruption:

Participacion Ciudadana
Phone: +809 685 6200
Fax: +809 685 6631
Email: info@pciudadana.org

10. Political and Security EnvironmentShare    

There is no recent history of widespread politically motivated violence. In 2017, there were multiple mostly-peaceful protests throughout the country over corruption, access to identity documents for Dominicans of Haitian descent, and labor disputes. There are no examples of significant politically-motivated damage to projects or installations in the last 10 years. Polling shows that Dominicans consistently cite crime and violence as among the largest challenges affecting their families.

The World Economic Forum’s 2017-18 Global Competitiveness report ranked the Dominican Republic 125th out of 137 countries in business costs of crime and violence and 115th in organized crime.

11. Labor Policies and PracticesShare    

The Dominican Labor Code, which became law in June 1992, establishes policies and procedures for many aspects of employer-employee relationships, ranging from hours of work and overtime and vacation pay to severance pay, causes for termination, and union registration. President Medina and the Ministry of Labor have supported an update of the labor code, although the government has yet to present a bill to the legislature.

The Labor Code establishes a standard work period of 8 hours per day and 44 hours per week and stipulates that all workers are entitled to 36 hours of uninterrupted rest each week. The law provides for premium pay for overtime, which was mandatory at some firms in the free trade zones. An ample labor supply is available, although there is a scarcity of skilled workers and technical supervisors. Some labor shortages exist in professions requiring lengthy education or technical certification.

The Labor Code requires that at least 80 percent of non-management workers of a company be Dominican nationals. There is a set of exemptions and waivers available and they are regularly granted.

The Labor Code provides for the right of workers, with the exception of military and police, to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively; however, it places several restrictions on these rights. The Labor Code specifies that 20 or more workers in a company may form a union; however, a union must comprise 50 percent plus one of the workers in the entire company in order to bargain collectively. Few companies have collective bargaining agreements. The Labor Code stipulates that workers cannot be dismissed because of trade union membership or union activities. There are allegations, however, that workers associated with union activities have been fired for those activities and no penalty was assessed to the employer. Before a union may officially call a strike it must have the support of an absolute majority of all company workers, it must have previously attempted to resolve the conflict through mediation, it must have provided written notification to the Ministry of Labor of the intent to strike, and it must have waited 10 days from that notification before striking. Brief work stoppages are more common than lengthy strikes, in part due to these stringent requirements.

The Dominican Labor Code establishes a system of labor courts for dealing with disputes. While cases did make their way through the labor courts, the process was often long and cases remained pending for several years. One exception is workplace injury cases, which are typically concluded quickly and in majority found in favor of the worker. Both workers and companies reported that mediation facilitated by the Ministry of Labor was the most rapid and effective method for resolving worker-company disputes.

Many of the major manufacturers in free trade zones have voluntary codes of conduct that include worker rights protection clauses generally aligned with the International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work; however, workers are not always aware of such codes or the principles they contain. The Ministry of Labor monitors labor abuses, health, and safety standards in all worksites where an employer-employee relationship exists. Labor inspectors can request remediation for violations, and if remediation is not undertaken, can refer offending employers to the public prosecutor for sanctions.

The Dominican Labor Code does provide for severance payments, and there is no differentiation between layoffs and firings without just cause. Specifically, Article 80 of the Dominican Labor Code requires approximately one month salary for each year worked and Articles 219-222 of Dominican Labor Code require that the prorated portion of the "thirteenth month" (also known as the Christmas Bonus) and a pre-notice be paid as well.

In 2016, the Dominican government made it possible for immigrants with work and residency permits to participate in the national social security network, a contributory program which provides medical benefits to the worker and family (up to third-degree relatives), pension and disability pay.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has been active in the Dominican Republic with both insurance and loan programs and continues to support private enterprises working in the DR. The Dominican Republic signed a Guaranty of Private Investments Agreement with the U.S. government in 1962. The Dominican government is also a party to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Agreement.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

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

Some Dominican Republic data unavailable

 

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 )

2016

USD 72,418

2016

USD 71,584

 

www.worldbank.org/en/country

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)

N/A

2016

USD 1,401

BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/direct_
investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Note: the DR Central Bank does not release data for FDI stocks

Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD , stock positions)

N/A

2016

USD -2

BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_
investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Note: the DR Central Bank does not release data for FDI stocks

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP

N/A


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Data not available.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

14. Contact for More InformationShare    

Economic Section Chief and Senior Commercial Representative
Embassy of the United States of America
Avenida Republica de Colombia
Santo Domingo, DR
InvestmentDR@State.gov