An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Brazil

Executive Summary

Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western Hemisphere behind the United States, and the twelfth largest economy in the world (in nominal terms) according to the World Bank. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) named Brazil the seventh largest destination for global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in 2021 with inflows of $58 billion, an increase of 133percent in comparison to 2020 but still below pre-pandemic levels (in 2019, inflows totaled $65.8 billion). In recent years, Brazil has received more than half of South America’s total amount of incoming FDI, and the United States is a major foreign investor in Brazil. According to Brazilian Central Bank (BCB) measurements, U.S. stock was 24 percent ($123.9 billion) of all FDI in Brazil as of the end of 2020, the largest single-country stock by ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), while International Monetary Fund (IMF) measurements assessed the United States had the second largest single-country stock of FDI by UBO, representing 18.7 percent of all FDI in Brazil ($105 billion) and second only to the Netherlands’ 19.9 percent ($112.5 billion). The Government of Brazil (GoB) prioritized attracting private investment in its infrastructure and energy sectors during 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 delayed planned privatization efforts and despite government efforts to resume in 2021, economic and political conditions hampered the process.

The Brazilian economy resumed growth in 2017, ending the deepest and longest recession in Brazil’s modern history. However, after three years of modest recovery, Brazil entered a recession following the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent in 2021, in comparison to a 4.1 percent contraction in 2020. As of February 2022, analysts had forecasted 0.3 percent 2022 GDP growth. The unemployment rate was 11.1 percent at the end of 2021, with over one-quarter of the labor force unemployed or underutilized. The nominal budget deficit stood at 4.4 percent of GDP ($72.4 billion) in 2021, and is projected to rise to 6.8 percent by the end of 2022 according to Brazilian government estimates. Brazil’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached 89.4 percent in 2020 and fell to around 82 percent by the end of 2021. The National Treasury projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 86.7 percent by the end of 2022, while the Independent Financial Institution (IFI) of Brazil’s Senate projects an 84.8 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. The BCB increased its target for the benchmark Selic interest rate from 2 percent at the end of 2020 to 9.25 percent at the end of 2021, and 11.75 percent in March 2022. The BCB’s Monetary Committee (COPOM) anticipates raising the Selic rate to 12.25 percent before the end of 2022.

President Bolsonaro took office on January 1, 2019, and in that same year signed a much-needed pension system reform into law and made additional economic reforms a top priority. Bolsonaro and his economic team outlined an agenda of further reforms to simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and complicated code of labor laws in the country, but the legislative agenda in 2020 was largely consumed by the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Brazilian government passed a major forex regulatory framework and strengthened the Central Bank’s autonomy in executing its mandate. The government also passed a variety of new regulatory frameworks in transportation and energy sectors, including a major reform of the natural gas market. In addition, the government passed a law seeking to improve the ease of doing business as well as advance the privatization of its major state-owned enterprise Electrobras.

Brazil’s official investment promotion strategy prioritizes the automobile manufacturing, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and infrastructure sectors. Foreign investors in Brazil receive the same legal treatment as local investors in most economic sectors; however, there are foreign investment restrictions in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, and maritime sectors. The Brazilian congress is considering legislation to liberalize restrictions on foreign ownership of rural property.

Analysts contend that high transportation and labor costs, low domestic productivity, and ongoing political uncertainties hamper investment in Brazil. Foreign investors also cite concerns over poor existing infrastructure, rigid labor laws, and complex tax, local content, and regulatory requirements; all part of the extra costs of doing business in Brazil.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perception Index 2021 96 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 57 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $70,742 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $7,850 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Most state-owned and private sector corporations of any significant size in Brazil pursue corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Brazil’s new CFIAs (see sections on bilateral investment agreements and dispute settlement) contain CSR provisions. Some corporations use CSR programs to meet local content requirements, particularly in information technology manufacturing. Many corporations support local education, health, and other programs in the communities where they have a presence. Brazilian consumers, especially the local residents where a corporation has or is planning a local presence, generally expect CSR activity. Corporate officials frequently meet with community members prior to building a new facility to review the types of local services the corporation will commit to providing. Foreign and local enterprises in Brazil often advance United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of their CSR activity, and will cite their local contributions to SDGs, such as universal primary education and environmental sustainability. Brazilian prosecutors and civil society can be very proactive in bringing cases against companies for failure to implement the requirements of the environmental licenses for their investments and operations. National and international nongovernmental organizations monitor corporate activities for perceived threats to Brazil’s biodiversity and tropical forests and can mount strong campaigns against alleged misdeeds. A common challenge for foreign businesses, especially as it relates to child and forced labor, is a lack of transparency in supply chains.

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Brazil supports U.S. business CSR activities through the +Unidos Group (Mais Unidos), a group of multinational companies established in Brazil, which support public and private CSR alliances in Brazil. Additional information can be found at: www.maisunidos.org  

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

Climate Issues

Brazil is the world’s 12th largest greenhouse gas emitter. At COP 26 in November 2021, Brazil committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, ten years ahead of its previous commitment, ending illegal deforestation by 2028, and announced a plan to implement a Brazilian carbon market in 2022. However, rates of illegal deforestation continue to rise from a 2012 low; in 2021, illegal deforestation increased by 22 percent from the previous year. Private sector operators, especially in the agricultural sector, are concerned that consumer reaction to environmental issues in Brazil, especially deforestation in the Amazon Basin, could result in the boycott of Brazilian exports and a loss of market share. Such boycotts have already occurred in some supermarket chains in Europe.

Brazil established a National Policy on Climate Change in 2009 for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and consolidation of a low carbon economy. During COP 26 in Glasgow, Brazil published guidelines to update its national climate strategy, focusing on consolidating various initiatives to develop a low carbon economy. The strategy includes goals such as eliminating illegal deforestation, restoring forests, a “National Green Growth Plan,” and financing directed at developing a green economy.

In biodiversity, the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment coordinates and supports actions aimed at identifying species of native fauna and flora, monitoring and evaluating the conservation status of an increasingly significant portion of these species. To ensure the conservation of native species, the Ministry creates development models that encourage the sustainable use of biodiversity, along the lines of what is encouraged under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

In October 2021, the government launched the National Green Growth Program. The Program uses new resources from the BRICS Development Bank for forest conservation projects, the rational use of natural resources, and the generation of green jobs. The new program will have national and international resources, public and private, reimbursable and non-reimbursable impact funds and risk investments. The plan focuses on six areas: renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, low-emission industry, basic sanitation, waste treatment, and ecotourism. At the program launch, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment stated that the federal government has a total credit line of 411 billion reais ($82.2 million) allocated for green projects. However, critics argue that the program is just a repackaging of several initiatives that already existed in the government, claiming that of the 400 billion reais planned, only 12 billion ($2.4 million, 3 percent of the total) were new funds.

At COP 26, Brazil signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. In February 2022, the Ministry of Environment announced that it would soon present a “Methane Zero” plan that would incentivize biomethane capture/production from landfills, sugar cane waste, and dairy barns; however, as of March 2022 the plan has not been announced.

The government expects active participation from the private sector through contributions to the Ministry of Environment’s projects. For example, the “Adopt-a-Park” program was established to gather resources for the conservation of national parks and is directed at national and foreign companies or individuals that are interested in contributing to environmental protection in Brazil. Through the program, resources are invested by the adopter in services such as remote monitoring, wildland firefighting and prevention, actions against illegal deforestation, and recovery of degraded areas.

In 2019, Brazil launched the National Biofuels Policy (RenovaBio) to comply with its Paris Agreement commitments by promoting the expansion of biofuels in the energy matrix and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The policy established annual national decarbonization targets for the fuel sector, divided into mandatory individual targets for fuel distributors. To comply with the targets, fuel distributors purchase Decarbonization Credits (CBIO), a financial asset tradable on the stock exchange since 2020 derived from the certification of the biofuel production process and that corresponds to one ton of carbon dioxide. According to the Brazilian government, the program reached 85 percent of its targets in 2021, preventing the emission of 24 million tons of greenhouse gases and trading $212 million-worth of CBIOs in the stock market.

9. Corruption

Brazil has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption, but enforcement activities against corruption are inconsistent. Several bills to revise the country’s regulation of the lobbying/government relations industry have been pending before Congress for years. Bribery is illegal, and a bribe by a Brazilian-based company to a foreign government official can result in criminal penalties for individuals and administrative penalties for companies, including fines and potential disqualification from government contracts. A company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from its taxes. While federal government authorities generally investigate allegations of corruption, there are inconsistencies in the level of enforcement among individual states. Corruption is problematic in business dealings with some authorities, particularly at the municipal level. U.S. companies operating in Brazil are subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Brazil signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003 and ratified it in 2005. Brazil is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. It was one of the founders, along with the United States, of the intergovernmental Open Government Partnership, which seeks to help governments increase transparency.

In 1996, Brazil signed the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (IACAC), developed within the Organization of American States (OAS). It was incorporated in Brazil by Legislative Decree 152 and went into force in 2002.

In 2020, Brazil ranked 96th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The full report can be found at: https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021 

From 2014-2021, the complex federal criminal investigation known as Operação Lava Jato (Operation Carwash) investigated and prosecuted a complex web of public sector corruption, contract fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion stemming from systematic overcharging for government contracts, particularly at parastatal oil company Petrobras. The investigation led to the arrests and convictions of Petrobras executives, oil industry suppliers, executives from Brazil’s largest construction companies, money launderers, former politicians, and political party operators. Appeals of convictions and sentences continue to work their way through the Brazilian court system. On December 25, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a packet of anti-crime legislation into law, which included several anti-corruption measures. The new measures include regulation of immunity agreements – information provided by a subject in exchange for reduced sentence – which were widely used during Operation Carwash. The legislation also strengthens Brazil’s whistleblower mechanisms, permitting anonymous information about crimes against the public administration and related offenses. Operation Carwash was dissolved in February 2021. In March 2021, the OECD established a working group to monitor anticorruption efforts in Brazil.

In December 2016, Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht and its chemical manufacturing arm Braskem agreed to pay the largest FCPA penalty in U.S. history and plead guilty to charges filed in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland that alleged the companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world. The U.S. Department of Justice case stemmed directly from the Lava Jato investigation and focused on violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Details on the case can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/odebrecht-and-braskem-plead-guilty-and-agree-pay-least-35-billion-global-penalties-resolve  

In January 2018, Petrobras settled a class-action lawsuit with investors in U.S. federal court for $3 billion, which was one of the largest securities class action settlements in U.S. history. The investors alleged that Petrobras officials accepted bribes and made decisions that had a negative impact on Petrobras’ share value. In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Petrobras would pay a fine of $853.2 million to settle charges that former executives and directors violated the FCPA through fraudulent accounting used to conceal bribe payments from investors and regulators.

In October 2020, Brazilian meatpacking and animal protein company JBS reached two settlements in the United States to pay fines to settle charges of corruption. The company is part of the J&F Group, which was also a part of the settlements. The group agreed to pay over $155 million in fines for violations of U.S. laws due to misconduct by J&F and failure to maintain accounting records by JBS. Lava Jato investigations also resulted in the arrest of several JBS executives who also signed plea bargains in the 2020 settlements.

Resources to Report Corruption

Secretaria de Cooperação Internacional – Ministério Público Federal

SAF Sul Quadra 04 Conjunto C Bloco “B” Sala 509/512

pgr-internacional@mpf.mp.br 
stpc.dpc@cgu.gov.br 
https://www.gov.br/cgu/pt-br/anticorrupcao 

Transparência BrasilR. Bela Cintra, 409; Sao Paulo, Brasil+55 (11) 3259-6986http://www.transparencia.org.br/contato

10. Political and Security Environment

Strikes and demonstrations occasionally occur in urban areas and may cause temporary disruption to public transportation. Brazil has over 41,000 murders annually, with low rates of murder investigation case completions and convictions.

Non-violent pro- and anti-government demonstrations have occurred periodically in recent years.

Although U.S. citizens usually are not targeted during such events, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Brazil are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. For the latest U.S. State Department guidance on travel in Brazil, please consult www.travel.state.gov.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Brazilian labor market is composed of approximately 107.8 million workers, including employed (95.7 million) and unemployed (12 million). Among employed workers, 38.95 million (40.7 percent) work in the informal sector. Brazil had an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in the last quarter of 2021, although that rate was more than double (22.8 percent) for workers ages 18-24. Low-skilled employment dominates Brazil’s labor market. The nearly 40 million workers in the informal sector do not receive the full benefits that formal workers enjoy under Brazil’s labor and social welfare system. The informal market represents approximately 16.8 percent of Brazil’s GDP. In 2021, employees’ average monthly income reached the lowest level in recorded history, at R$ 2,587 ($488).

Since 2012, women have on average been unemployed at a higher rate than their male counterparts, a scenario worsened by the pandemic. Between 2012 and 2019, the difference in average employment rates between men and women was 3.3 percentage points. In 2020, the average rate difference reached 4.5 percentage points and in 2021, 5.8 percentage points. In the last quarter of 2021, the Brazilian men’s unemployment rate was 9 percent, while the women’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent. This discrepancy in employment rates is also traditionally observed for people of color in Brazil: while unemployment rates for whites is 9 percent (below the national average), blacks and mixed-race unemployment rates are significantly higher, at 13.6 percent and 12.6 percent respectively.

Foreign workers made up less than one percent of the overall labor force, but the arrival of more than 305,000 economic migrants and refugees from Venezuela since 2016 has led to large local concentrations of foreign workers in the border state of Roraima and the city of Manaus. Since April 2018, the Brazilian government, through Operation Welcome’s voluntary interiorization strategy, has relocated more than 68,000 Venezuelans from the northern border region to cities with more economic opportunities. Migrant workers within Brazil play a significant role in the agricultural sector.

Workers in the formal sector contribute to the Time of Service Guarantee Fund (FGTS) the amount of one month’s salary over the course of a year. If a company terminates an employee, the employee can access the full amount of their FGTS contributions, or if the employee leaves voluntarily they are entitled to 20 percent of their contributions. Brazil’s labor code guarantees formal sector workers 30 days of annual leave and severance pay in the case of dismissal without cause. Unemployment insurance also exists for laid-off workers, equal to the country’s minimum salary (or more depending on previous income levels) for six months. The government does not waive any labor laws to attract investment.

Collective bargaining is common, and there are 17,630 labor unions operating in Brazil in 2022. Labor unions, especially in sectors such as metalworking and banking, are well organized in advocating for wages and working conditions. In some sectors, federal regulations mandate collective bargaining negotiations across the entire industry. A new labor law in November 2017 ended mandatory union contributions, which has reduced union finances by as much as 90 percent according to the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socio-economic Studies (DIEESE). According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the share of unionized workers dropped to 11.2 percent of the workforce in 2019. The Ministry of Labor reported 7,854 collective bargaining agreements in 2021, an increase compared to the 6,118 agreements reported in 2020. Employer federations also play a significant role in both public policy and labor relations. Each state has its own federations of industry and commerce, which report respectively to the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), headquartered in Brasilia, and the National Confederation of Commerce (CNC), headquartered in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil has a dedicated system of labor courts that are charged with resolving routine cases involving unfair dismissal, working conditions, salary disputes, and other grievances. Labor courts have the power to impose an agreement on employers and unions if negotiations break down and either side appeals to the court system. As a result, labor courts routinely are called upon to determine wages and working conditions in various industries across the country. The labor courts system has millions of pending legal cases on its docket, although the number of new filings has decreased since November 2017 labor law reforms.

Strikes occur periodically, particularly among public sector unions. A strike organized by truckers’ unions protesting increased fuel prices paralyzed the Brazilian economy in May 2018 and led to billions of dollars in losses to the economy. Trucker strikes in 2021, however, had more limited impact.

Brazil has ratified 98 International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and is party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and major ILO conventions concerning the prohibition of child labor, forced labor, and discrimination. For the past four years (2018-2021), the Department of Labor, in its annual publication “Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor,” has recognized Brazil for its moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. On July 28, 2021, President Jair Bolsonaro re-established the Ministry of Labor and Welfare as a separate ministry, reversing its January 2019 merger into the Ministry of Economy. In 2021, the GoB inspected 443 properties, resulting in the rescue of 1,937 victims of forced labor. Additionally, in 2020 GoB officials removed 810 child workers from situations of child labor, compared to 1,040 children in 2019.

Chile

Executive Summary

With the second highest GDP per capita in Latin America (behind Uruguay), Chile has historically enjoyed among the highest levels of stability and prosperity in the region. However, widespread civil unrest broke out throughout the country in 2019 in protest of the government’s handling of the economy and perceived systemic inequality. Pursuant to a political accord, Chile held a plebiscite in October 2020 in which citizens chose to redraft the constitution. Uncertainty about the outcome of the redrafting process may impact investment. Due to Chile’s solid macroeconomic policy framework, the country boasts one of the strongest sovereign bond ratings in Latin America, which has provided fiscal space for the Chilean government to respond to the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic through stimulus packages and other measures. As a result, Chile’s economic growth in 2021 was, according to the Central Bank’s latest estimation, between 11.5 percent and 12 percent. The same institution forecasts Chile’s economic growth in 2022 will be in the range of 1 to 2 percent due largely to the gradual elimination of COVID-19 economic stimulus programs.

Chile has successfully attracted large amounts of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) despite its relatively small domestic market. The country’s market-oriented policies have created significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate in the country’s economic growth. Chile has a sound legal framework and there is general respect for private property rights. Sectors that attract significant FDI include mining, finance/insurance, energy, telecommunications, chemical manufacturing, and wholesale trade. Mineral, hydrocarbon, and fossil fuel deposits within Chilean territory are restricted from foreign ownership, but companies may enter into contracts with the government to extract these resources. Corruption exists in Chile but on a much smaller scale than in most Latin American countries, ranking 27 – along with the United States – out of 180 countries worldwide and second in Latin America in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Although Chile is an attractive destination for foreign investment, challenges remain. Legislative and constitutional reforms proposed in response to the social unrest and the pandemic have generated concerns about the future government policies on property rights, rule of law, tax structure, the role of government in the economy, and many other issues. Importantly, the legislation enabling the constitutional reform process requires that the new constitution must respect Chile’s character as a democratic republic, its judicial sentences, and its international treaties (including the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement). Despite a general respect for intellectual property (IP) rights, Chile has not fully complied with its IP obligations set forth in the U.S.-Chile FTA and remains on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report for not adequately enforcing IP rights. Environmental permitting processes, indigenous consultation requirements, and cumbersome court proceedings have made large project approvals increasingly time consuming and unpredictable, especially in cases with political sensitivities. The current administration has stated its willingness to continue attracting foreign investment.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 27 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 53 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country (US$ billion, historical stock positions) 2020 23.0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita (US$) 2020 13,470 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Chile had 28 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in operation as of 2020. Twenty-seven SOEs are commercial companies and the newest one (FOINSA) is an infrastructure fund that was created to facilitate public-private partnership projects. 25 SOEs are not listed and are fully owned by the government, while the remaining three are majority government owned. Ten Chilean SOEs operate in the port management sector, six in the services sector, three in the defense sector, three in the mining sector (including CODELCO, the world’s largest copper producer, and ENAP, an oil and gas company), two in transportation, one in the water sector, one is a TV station, and one is a state-owned bank (Banco Estado). The state holds a minority stake in four water companies as a result of a privatization process. In 2020, total assets of Chilean SOEs amounted to US$ 89.3 billion, while their total net income was US$ 833.7 million. SOEs employed 47,225 people in 2020.

Twenty SOEs in Chile fall under the supervision of the Public Enterprises System (SEP), a state holding in charge of overseeing SOE governance. The rest – including the largest SOEs such as CODELCO, ENAP and Banco Estado – have their own governance and report to government ministries. Allocation of seats on the boards of Chilean SOEs is determined by the SEP, as described above, or outlined by the laws that regulate them. In CODELCO’s corporate governance, there is a mix between seats appointed by recommendation from an independent high-level civil service committee, and seats allocated by political authorities in the government.

A list of SOEs made by the Budget Directorate, including their financial management information, is available in the following link: http://www.dipres.gob.cl/599/w3-propertyvalue-20890.html.

In general, Chilean SOEs work under hard budget constraints and compete under the same regulatory and tax frameworks as private firms. The exception is ENAP, which is the only company allowed to refine oil in Chile. As an OECD member, Chile adheres to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Awareness of the need to ensure corporate social responsibility has grown over the last two decades in Chile. However, NGOs and academics who monitor this issue believe that risk mapping and management practices still do not sufficiently reflect its importance.

The government of Chile encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) principles and uses the United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference statements as its principal reference. Chile adhered in 1997 to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. It also recognizes the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy; the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles and the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility. The government established a National Contact Point (NCP) for OECD MNE guidelines located at the Undersecretariat for International Economic Relations, and has a Responsible Business Conduct Division, whose chief is also the NCP. In August 2017, Chile released its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights based on the UN Guiding Principles. Separately, the Council on Social Responsibility for Sustainable Development, coordinated by Chile’s Ministry of Economy, is currently developing a National Policy on Social Responsibility. On January 31, 2020, the CMF closed the public comments period on proposed new annual reporting requirements on social responsibility and sustainable development by publicly traded companies.

Regarding procurement decisions, ChileCompra, the agency in charge of centralizing Chile’s public procurement, incorporates the existence of a Clean Production Certificate and an ISO 14001-2004 certificate on environmental management as part of its criteria to assign public purchases.

No high profile or controversial instances of corporate impact on human rights have occurred in Chile in recent years.

The Chilean government effectively and fairly enforces domestic labor, employment, consumer, and environmental protection laws. There are no dispute settlement cases against Chile related to the Labor and Environment Chapters of the Free Trade Agreements signed by Chile.

Regarding the protection of shareholders, the Superintendence of Securities and Insurance (SVS) has the responsibility of regulating and supervising all listed companies in Chile. Companies are generally required to have an audit committee, a directors committee, an anti-money laundering committee and an anti-terrorism finance committee. Laws do not require companies to have a nominating/corporate governance committee or a compensation committee. Compensation programs are typically established by the board of directors and/or the directors committee.

Independent NGOs in Chile promote and freely monitor RBC. Examples include NGO Accion RSE: http://www.accionrse.cl/, the Catholic University of Valparaiso’s Center for Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development VINCULAR: http://www.vincular.cl/, ProHumana Foundation and the Andres Bello University’s Center Vitrina Ambiental.

Chile is an OECD member, but is not participating actively in the implementation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas.

Chile is not part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Chile joined The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies in 2009. However, there are no private security companies based in Chile participating in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association (ICoCA).

9. Corruption

Chile applies, in a non-discriminatory manner, various laws to combat corruption of public officials, including the 2009 Transparency Law that mandated disclosure of public information related to all areas of government and created an autonomous Transparency Council in charge of overseeing its application. Subsequent amendments expanded the number of public trust positions required to release financial disclosure, mandated disclosure in greater detail, and allowed for stronger penalties for noncompliance.

In March 2020, the administration of former President Piñera proposed new legislation aimed at combatting corruption, as well as economic and electoral crimes. The four new pieces of legislation, part of the Piñera administration’s “anti-abuse agenda” launched in December 2019 in response to societal demands to increase penalties for white-collar crimes, seeks to strengthen enforcement and increase penalties for collusion among firms; increase penalties for insider trading; provide protections for whistleblowers seeking to expose state corruption; and expand the statute of limitations for electoral crimes.

Anti-corruption laws, in particular mandatory asset disclosure, do extend to family members of officials. Political parties are subject to laws that limit campaign financing and require transparency in party governance and contributions to parties and campaigns.

Regarding government procurement, the website of ChileCompra (central public procurement agency) allows users to anonymously report irregularities in procurement. There is a decree that defines sanctions for public officials who do not adequately justify direct contracts. The Corporate Criminal Liability Law provides that corporate entities can have their compliance programs certified. Chile’s Securities and Insurance Superintendence (SVS) authorizes a group of local firms to review companies’ compliance programs and certify them as sufficient. Certifying firms are listed on the SVS website.

Private companies have increasingly incorporated internal control measures, as well as ethics committees as part of their corporate governance, and compliance management sections. Additionally, Chile Transparente (Chilean branch of Transparency International) developed a Corruption Prevention System to provide assistance to private firms to facilitate their compliance with the Corporate Criminal Liability Law.

Chile signed and ratified the Organization of American States (OAS) Convention against Corruption. The country also ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention on September 13, 2006. Chile is also an active member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and, as an OECD member, adopted the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

NGOs that investigate corruption operate in a free and adequately protected manner.

U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI.

10. Political and Security Environment

Pursuant to a political accord in response to the 2019 civil unrest, Chile held a plebiscite in October 2020 in which citizens voted to draft a new constitution. The process to create and ratify the new constitution launched on July 4, 2021 and will continue to mid-2022. Uncertainty over what changes could be made to Chile’s political and regulatory environment could negatively impact investor confidence. Importantly, the legislation enabling the constitutional reform process requires that the new constitution must respect Chile’s character as a democratic republic, its judicial sentences, and its international treaties (including the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement).

Prior to 2019, there were generally few incidents of politically motivated attacks on investment projects or installations with the exception of the southern Araucania region and its neighboring Arauco province in the southwest of Bio-Bio region. This area, home to nearly half a million indigenous inhabitants, has seen an ongoing trend of politically motivated violence and organized criminal activity. Land claims and conflicts with forestry companies are the main grievances underneath the radicalization of a relatively small number of indigenous Mapuche communities, which has led to the rise of organized groups that pursue their demands by violent means. Incidents include arson attacks on churches, farms, forestry plantations, forestry contractors’ machinery and vehicles, and private vehicles, as well as occupation of private lands, resulting in over a half-dozen deaths (including some by police forces), injuries, and damage to property. The indigenous issue has been further politicized due to anger among landowners, forestry transport contractors, and farmers affected by violence, as well as the illegal killing of a young Mapuche activist by special police forces in 2018 and the controversy over accusations of fraud by the police during the investigation of indigenous organized groups. In March 2020, a truck driver died in an arson attack on his vehicle.

Since 2007, Chile has experienced a number of small-scale attacks with explosive and incendiary devices, targeting mostly banks, police stations, and public spaces throughout Santiago, including metro stations, universities, and churches. ATMs have been blown up in the late evenings or early mornings. Anarchist groups often claim responsibility for these acts, as well as violent incidents during student and labor protests. In January 2017, an eco-terrorist group claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb that detonated at the home of the chairman of the board of Chilean state-owned mining giant CODELCO. The same group detonated a bomb of similar characteristics in 2019 at a bus stop in downtown Santiago, causing five injuries, and sent a letter bomb to the office of the president of the Metro system, which was defused by police. One suspect was arrested in 2019 and the investigation of the crimes is ongoing. Another group sent package bombs to a police station in the Santiago metro area, wounding 8 police officers, and to a former Interior Minister, which was defused by police. Two suspects were arrested in 2020, and the investigation remains ongoing at the time of this report. Then-President Piñera announced a 15-day State of Emergency in October 2021 in four southern provinces in the Araucania and Biobio regions.  Piñera emphasized the State of Emergency was intended to combat drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime.  The enactment of the State of Emergency placed the respective zones under a military authority designated by the president and empowered the armed forces to support law enforcement functions, prohibit public gatherings, and control the entry and exit of people in the four provinces, which have large populations of indigenous Mapuche among its 1.6 million residents.  Congress authorized multiple extensions to the State of Emergency until March 26. On March 15, the Minister of Interior traveled to the Araucania region to initiate dialogue on the conflict between indigenous Mapuche communities and the Chilean government, however, armed gunmen prevented the minister from entering the community of Temucuicui. The State of Emergency lapsed on March 26 after the Boric government decided not to seek an extension from Congress.

While the security environment is generally safe, street crime, carjackings, telephone scams, and residential break-ins are common, especially in larger cities. Vehicle thefts are a serious problem in Valparaiso and northern Chile (from Iquique to Arica). On occasion, illegal activity by striking workers resulted in damage to corporate property or a disruption of operations. Some firms have publicly expressed concern that during a contentious strike, law enforcement has appeared to be reluctant to protect private property.

After a truck driver died in Antofagasta February 10 following an altercation with irregular immigrants from Venezuela, federations of northern truck drivers created road blockages and supply-chain disruptions to demand the Piñera administration implement increased safety measures.  On February 14, the government initiated a State of Emergency in provinces along Chile’s northern border with Bolivia and Peru, sending soldiers to support law enforcement efforts.  The State of Emergency is set to expire on April 15.

Chilean civil society is active and demonstrations occur frequently. Although the vast majority of demonstrations are peaceful, criminal elements have taken advantage of civil society protests to loot stores along the protest route and clash with the police. Annual demonstrations to mark March 29, the Day of the Young Combatant; September 11, the anniversary of the 1973 coup against the government of President Salvador Allende; and October 18, the anniversary of the outbreak of the 2019 civil unrest, have resulted in damage to property, looting, and scuffles between police and protesters.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Unemployment in Chile averaged 9.1 percent of the labor force during 2021, while the labor participation rate was 58.5 percent of the working age population. Data on the labor participation of migrants is still pending. Chilean workers are adequately skilled and some sectors such as mining, agriculture, and fishing employ highly skilled workers. In general, there is an adequate availability of technicians and professionals. Estimates made by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) suggest informal employment in Chile constitutes 28.3 percent of the workforce.

Article 19 of the Labor Code stipulates that employers must hire Chileans for at least 85 percent of their staff, except in the case of firms with less than 25 employees. However, Article 20 of the Labor Code includes several provisions under which foreign employees can exceed 25 percent, independent of the size of the company.

In general, employees who have been working for at least one year are entitled to a statutory severance pay, upon dismissal without cause, equivalent to 30 days of the last monthly remuneration earned, for each year of service. The upper limit is 330 days (11 years of service) for workers with a contract in force for one year or more. The same amount is payable to a worker whose contract is terminated for economic reasons. Upon termination, regardless of the reason, domestic workers are entitled to an unemployment insurance benefit funded by the employee and employer contributions to an individual unemployment fund equivalent to three percent of the monthly remuneration. The employer’s contributions shall be paid for a maximum of 11 years by the same employer. Another fund made up of employer and government contributions is used for complementary unemployment payments when needed.

Labor and environmental laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investments.

During 2020, Labor Directorate data showed that 12,355 unions and 2,524 workers federations were active. In the same period, 273,706 workers were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Collective bargaining coverage rates are higher in the manufacturing (47,083), wholesale and retail; motor vehicles and motorcycles repair (43,676), and transportation and storage (20,468). Unions can form nationwide labor associations and can affiliate with international labor federations. Contracts are normally negotiated at the company level. Workers in public institutions do not have collective bargaining rights, but national public workers’ associations undertake annual negotiations with the government.

The Labor Directorate under the Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws and regulations. Both employers and workers may request labor mediation from the Labor Directorate, which is an alternate dispute resolution model aimed at facilitating communication and agreement between both parties.

Labor Directorate data shows that 494 legal strikes occurred in 2020, involving 86,152 workers. As legal strikes in Chile have a restricted scope and duration, in general they do not present a risk for foreign investment.

Chile has and generally enforces laws and regulations in accordance with internationally recognized labor rights of: freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labor, child labor, including the minimum age for work, discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, and acceptable conditions of work related to minimum wage, occupational safety and health, and hours of work. The maximum number of labor hours allowed per week in Chile is 45. On January 1, 2022, Chile raised its monthly minimum wage to CLP 350,000 – US$ 437 – for all occupations, including household domestic staff, more than twice the official poverty line. Workers older than 64 or younger than 19 years old are eligible for a special minimum wage of CLP 261,092 (US$ 326) a month. Information on potential gaps in law or practice with international labor standards by the International Labor Organization is pending.

Collective bargaining is not allowed in companies or organizations dependent upon the Defense Ministry or whose employees are prohibited from striking, such as in health care, law enforcement, and public utilities. Labor courts can require workers to resume work upon a determination that a strike causes serious risk to health, national security, the supply of goods or services to the population, or to the national economy.

The United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force on January 1, 2004. The FTA requires the United States and Chile to maintain effective labor and environmental enforcement.

On November 16, 2021, the government enacted a law enabling teleworking for workers who are the legal guardians of children in preschool or below the age of 12 and for those workers who are the caregivers of individuals with specials needs or with limited physical mobility whenever the government declares a State of Constitutional Exception as a result of a public calamity (such as events produced by the nature) or public health events (including a pandemic). A bill lowering the maximum number of labor hours allowed per week in Chile from 45 to 40 hours is still pending approval by the Senate.

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) ($M US$) 2020 $252.9 2020 $252.940 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (US$ billion, stock positions) 2020 $31.84 2020 23.01 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States (US$ billion, stock positions) 2020 $12.9 2019 3.0 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 109.9% 2020 41.4% OECD data available at
https://data.oecd.org/

* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Chile.

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 188,885 100% Total Outward 71,705 100%
Canada 30,592 13.6% Brazil 13,102 16.5%
United States 28,994 13.5% United States 10,095 9.9%
Spain 21,451 13.5% Peru 10,043 9.2%
The Netherlands 19,526 8.1% Colombia 6,734 7.1%
United Kingdom 15,740 7.4% Argentina 5,291 7.0%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- US$ 500,000.

According to the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS), total stock of FDI in Chile in 2020 amounted to US$ 188.9 billion, compared to US$ 254.3 billion in 2019. Canada, the United States and Spain are the main sources of FDI to Chile with US$ 30.6 billion, US$ 29.0 billion and US$ 21.5 billion, respectively, concentrating 42.9 percent of the total.

Chile’s outward direct investment stock in 2020 amounted to US$ 188.9 billion, compared to US$ 71.7 billion in 2020, a significant decrease compared to US$ 130.2 billion in 2019. It remains concentrated in South America, where Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Argentina together represented 49 percent of total Chilean outward FDI. The United States accounted for 14.1 percent of the total, an increase compared to 2019 when it represented 9.2 percent of the total.

The data below is consistent with host country statistics. Although not included in the table below, tax havens are relevant destinations of outward FDI to Chile, with the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Luxembourg, and Cayman Islands ranking sixth, seventh, ninth and tenth in inbound sources of FDI, respectively, according to the Central Bank of Chile. The Cayman Islands and Bermuda rank sixth and seventh and tenth, respectively, among Chile´s main inward FDI source.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

According to the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS), total stock of portfolio investment in Chile as of June 2021 amounted to US$ 200.4 billion, of which US$ 164.6 billion were equity and investment funds shares, and the rest were debt securities. The United States and Luxembourg (a tax haven) were the main sources of portfolio investment to Chile with US $71.3 billion and $54.9 billion, representing 35.6 percent and 27.4 percent of the total, respectively. Both countries also represent 65 percent of the total of equity investment. Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany are the following top sources of equity portfolio investment to Chile, while the United States, Mexico and Japan are the top sources of debt securities investment.

14. Contact for More Information

Alexis Gutiérrez
Economic Specialist
Avenida Andrés Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
(56-9) 4268 9005
gutierrezaj@state.gov

Costa Rica

Executive Summary

Costa Rica is the oldest continuous democracy in Latin America and the newest member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with an established government institutional framework, stable society, and a diversified upper-middle-income economy. The country’s well-educated labor force, relatively low levels of corruption, geographic location, living conditions, dynamic investment promotion board, and attractive free trade zone incentives all appeal to investors. Foreign direct investment inflow in 2020 was USD 1.76 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP, with the United States accounting for USD 1.2 billion. Costa Rica recorded 7.6 percent GDP growth in 2021 (the highest level since 2008) as it recovered from a 4.5 percent contraction in 2020 largely due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Costa Rica has had remarkable success in the last two decades in establishing and promoting an ecosystem of export-oriented technology companies, suppliers of input goods and services, associated public institutions and universities, and a trained and experienced workforce. A similar transformation took place in the tourism sector, with a plethora of smaller enterprises handling a steadily increasing flow of tourists eager to visit despite Costa Rica’s relatively high prices. Costa Rica is doubly fortunate in that these two sectors positively reinforce each other as they both require and encourage English language fluency, openness to the global community, and Costa Rican government efficiency and effectiveness. A 2019 study of the free trade zone (FTZ) economy commissioned by the Costa Rican Investment and Development Board (CINDE) shows an annual 9 percent growth from 2014 to 2018, with the net benefit of that sector reaching 7.9 percent of GDP in 2018. This sector continued to expand during the pandemic. The value of exports increased by 24 percent in 2021, representing the highest growth in 15 years.

The Costa Rican investment climate is threatened by a high and persistent government fiscal deficit, underperformance in some key areas of government service provision, including health care and education, high energy costs, and deterioration of basic infrastructure. The Covid-19 world recession damaged the Costa Rican tourism industry, although it is recovering. Furthermore, the government has very little budget flexibility to address the economic fallout and is struggling to find ways to achieve debt relief, unemployment response, and the longer-term policy solutions necessary to continue compliance under the current stabilizing agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On the plus side, the Costa Rican government has competently managed the crisis despite its tight budget and Costa Rican exports are proving resilient; the portion of the export sector that manufactures medical devices, for example, is facing relatively good economic prospects and companies providing services exports are specialized in virtual support for their clients in a world that is forced to move in that direction. Moreover, Costa Rica’s accession in 2021 to the Organization for Co-operation and Development (OECD) has exerted a positive influence by pushing the country to address its economic weaknesses through executive decrees and legislative reforms in a process that began in 2015. Also in the plus column, the export and investment promotion agencies CINDE and the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER) have done an excellent job of protecting the Free Trade Zones (FTZs) from new taxes by highlighting the benefits of the regime, promoting local supply chains, and using the FTZs as examples for other sectors of the economy. Nevertheless, Costa Rica’s political and economic leadership faces a difficult balancing act over the coming years as the country must simultaneously exercise budget discipline and respond to demands for improved government-provided infrastructure and services.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 39 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021/
index/cri
Global Innovation Index 2021 56 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-
indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 2.0bill https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 11,530 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.
PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Costa Rica’s total of 28 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are commonly known by their abbreviated names. They include monopolies in petroleum-derived fuels (RECOPE), lottery (JPS), railroads (INCOFER), local production of ethanol (CNP/FANAL), water distribution (AyA), and electrical distribution (ICE, CNFL, JASEC, ESPH). SOEs have market dominance in insurance (INS), telecommunications (ICE, RACSA, JASEC, ESPH) and finance (BNCR, BCR, Banco Popular, BANHVI, INVU, INFOCOOP). They have significant market participation in parcel and mail delivery (Correos) and ports operation (INCOP and JAPDEVA). Six of those SOEs hold significant economic power with revenues exceeding 1 percent of GDP: ICE, RECOPE, INS, BNCR, BCR and Banco Popular. The 2020 OECD report “Corporate Governance in Costa Rica” reports that Costa Rican SOE employment is 1.9% of total employment, somewhat below the OECD average of 2.5%. Audited returns for each SOE may be found on each company’s website, while basic revenue and costs for each SOE are available on the General Controller’s Office (CGR) “Sistema de Planes y Presupuestos” https://www.cgr.go.cr/02-consultas/consulta-pp.html . The Costa Rican government does not currently hold minority stakes in commercial enterprises.

Costa Rican state-owned enterprises have not in recent decades required continuous and substantial state subsidy to survive. Several (notably ICE, AyA and RECOPE) registered major losses in pandemic year 2020, while others (INS, BCR, BNCR) registered substantial profits, which are allocated as dictated by law and boards of directors. Financial allocations to and earnings from SOEs may be found in the CGR “Sistema de Informacion de Planes y Presupuestos (SIPP)”.

U.S. investors and their advocates cite some of the following ways in which Costa Rican SOEs competing in the domestic market receive non-market-based advantages because of their status as state-owned entities.

  • According to Law 7200, electricity generated privately must be purchased by public entities and the installed capacity of the private sector is limited to 30 percent of total electrical installed capacity in the country: 15 percent to small privately-owned renewable energy plants and 15 percent to larger “buildoperatetransfer” (BOT) operations.
  • Telecoms and technology sector companies have called attention to the fact that government agencies often choose SOEs as their telecom services providers despite a full assortment of private-sector telecom companies. The Information and Telecommunications Business Chamber (CAMTIC) has long protested against what its members feel to be unfair use by government entities of a provision (Article 2) in the public contracting law that allows noncompetitive award of contracts to public entities (also termed “direct purchase”) when functionaries of the awarding entity certify the award to be an efficient use of public funds. CAMTIC has compiled detailed statistics showing that while the yearly total dollar value of Costa Rican government direct purchases in the IT sector under Article 2 has dropped considerably from USD 226 million in 2017, to USD 72.5 million in 2018, USD 27.5 million in 2019, USD 54 million in 2020, and USD 5 million in 2021, the number of purchases has actually increased from 56 purchases in both 2017 and 2018 to 86 in 2019, 104 in 2020, and 115 in 2021.
  • The state-owned insurance provider National Insurance Institute (INS) has been adjusting to private sector competition since 2009 but in 2021 still registered 66 percent of total insurance premiums paid; 13 insurers are now registered with insurance regulator SUGESE: ( https://www.sugese.fi.cr/SitePages/index.aspx ). Competitors point to unfair advantages enjoyed by the stateowned insurer INS, including a strong tendency among SOE’s to contract their insurance with INS.

Costa Rica is not a party to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) although it is registered as an observer. Costa Rica is working to adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs ( www.oecd.org/daf/ca/oecdguidelinesoncorporategovernanceofstate-ownedenterprises.htm ). For more information on Costa Rica’s SOE’s, see the OECD Accession report “Corporate Governance in Costa Rica”, dated October 2020: https://www.oecd.org/countries/costarica/corporate-governance-in-costa-rica-b313ec37-en.htm  .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Corporations in Costa Rica, particularly those in the export and tourism sectors, generally enjoy a positive reputation within the country as engines of growth and practitioners of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC).  The Costa Rica government actively highlights its role in attracting high-tech companies to Costa Rica; the strong RBC culture that many of those companies cultivate has become part of that winning package.  Large multinational companies commonly pursue RBC goals in line with their corporate goals and have found it beneficial to publicize RBC orientation and activities in Costa Rica.  Many smaller companies, particularly in the tourism sector, have integrated community outreach activities into their way of doing business. There is a general awareness of RBC among both producers and consumers in Costa Rica.

Multinational enterprises in Costa Rica have not been associated in recent decades in any systematic or high-profile way with alleged human or labor rights violations.  The Costa Rican government maintains and enforces laws with respect to labor and employment rights, consumer protection and environmental protection.  Costa Rica has no legal mineral extraction industry with its accompanying issues, but illegal small scale gold mining, particularly in the north of the country, is a focal point of serious environmental damage, organized crime, and social disruption.  Large scale industrial agriculture is also occasionally the focus of health or environmental complaints, including in recent years the pineapple industry for allegedly affecting water supplies and a banana producer with many workers with rashes allegedly induced by pesticide use. The government appears to respond appropriately. Indigenous communities in specific areas of the country have longstanding grievances against non-indigenous encroachment on their reserves, which has led to recent incidents of violence.

Costa Rica encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted RBC principles such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNE) and maintains a national contact point for OECD MNE guidelines within the Ministry of Foreign Trade (see https://www.comex.go.cr/punto-nacional-de-contacto/  or  http://www.oecd.org/investment/mne/ncps.htm ). Costa Rica has been a participant since 2011 in the Montreux Document reaffirming the obligations of states regarding private military and security companies during armed conflict.

Costa Rica has a national climate strategy and a sophisticated system for monitoring natural capital, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. While the Central Bank compiles environmental accounts ( https://www.bccr.fi.cr/en/Economic-Indicators/environmental-accounts ), the Ministry of Environment and Energy oversees policies on environmental impact assessments and emissions. As part of Costa Rica’s nationally determined contribution to the United National Framework on Climate Change, Costa Rica targets maximum national net emissions in 2030 of 9.11 million tons of CO2. This number is consistent with the targeted trajectory of their National Decarbonization Plan which seeks to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Within the transportation sector Costa Rica aims to adopt standards to migrate towards a zero-emission motorcycle fleet by 2025, have 8% of their fleet of small vehicles be electric, and by 2030 have 8% of the public transportation fleet fully electric. There are currently no regulatory incentives or rebates for private sector contributions to achieve these goals. Costa Rican government efforts to reach net-zero emissions are largely limited to encouraging purchase and use of electric vehicles through tax reduction. In the absence of any significant budget for climate change response, the Costa Rican government necessarily relies on the private sector and international donors to implement its ambitions to be net zero by 2050. Costa Rica supports labels or designations meant to encourage good behavior with some considerable success: blue flag program at beaches and the Costa Rican country brand “Essential Costa Rica”. Official procurement policies do not include environmental or green growth considerations beyond those otherwise mandated by law.

9. Corruption

Costa Rica has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption. Though the resources available to enforce those laws are limited, Costa Rica’s institutional framework is strong, such that those cases that are prosecuted are generally perceived as legitimate. Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials, contemplate conflict-of-interest in both procurement and contract award, and penalize bribery by local businessmen of both local and foreign government officials. Public officials convicted of receiving bribes are subject to prison sentences up to ten years, according to the Costa Rican Criminal Code (Articles 347-360). Entrepreneurs may not deduct the costs of bribes or any other criminal activity as business expenses. In recent decades, Costa Rica saw several publicized cases of firms prosecuted under the terms of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Costa Rica ratified the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption in 1997. This initiative of the OECD and the Organization of American States (OAS) obligates subscribing nations to implement criminal sanctions for corruption and implies a series of follow up actions: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/cri.htm . Costa Rica also ratified the UN Anti-Corruption Convention in March 2007, has been a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) since 2012, and as of July 2017 is a party to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.

The Costa Rican government has encouraged civil society interest in good governance, open government and fiscal transparency, with a number of NGO’s operating unimpeded in this space. While U.S. firms do not identify corruption as a major obstacle to doing business in Costa Rica, some have made allegations of corruption in the administration of public tenders and in approvals or timely processing of permits. Developers of tourism facilities periodically cite municipal-level corruption as a problem when attempting to gain a concession to build and operate in the restricted maritime zone.

For further material on anti-bribery and corruption in Costa Rica, see the 2020 OECD study: https://www.oecd.org/countries/costarica/costa-rica-has-improved-its-foreign-bribery-legislation-but-must-strengthen-enforcement-and-close-legal-loopholes.htm 

Also on the OECD website, information relating to Costa Rica’s membership in the OECD anti-bribery convention: https://www.oecd.org/countries/costarica/costarica-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm 

10. Political and Security Environment

Since 1948, Costa Rica has not experienced significant domestic political violence. There are no indigenous or external movements likely to produce political or social instability. However, Costa Ricans occasionally follow a long tradition of blocking public roads for a few hours as a way of pressuring the government to address grievances; the traditional government response has been to react slowly, thus giving the grievances time to air. This practice on the part of peaceful protesters can cause logistical problems.

Crime increased in Costa Rica in recent decades and U.S. citizen visitors and residents are frequent victims.  While petty theft is the main problem, criminals show an increased tendency to use violence. Some crime in Costa Rica is associated with the illegal drug trade.  Please see the State Department’s Travel Advisory page for Costa Rica for the latest information- https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/costa-rica-travel-advisory.html

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Although the unemployment rate fell in 2021, unemployment remains a major issue for Costa Rica’s economy. According to the National Statistics Institute (INEC) as of January 2022, the unemployment rate was 13.1 percent, or 319,000 unemployed workers. The unemployment rate among the male population was estimated at 10.6 percent and the female population at 16.8 percent. When comparing these figures with the same quarter in 2020-21, there was a 4.6 percent decrease among males and a 7.8 percent reduction among females. 45.7 percent of work was in the informal sector (45.7 percent among males and 45.6 percent among females) with no significant variation compared to the same period in 2020-21. From the percentage of individuals with informal employment, 91.5 percent were self-employed, and 29.4 percent received a salary.

INEC reported that from November 2021 to January 2022, 532,000 persons in the labor force (employed and unemployed) were negatively affected by COVID-19. Of the country’s employed population, 213,000 had a reduction in salary or income associated with suspension or reduction in working hours or had to suspend their own activity or business during the pandemic, which represented 10.1 percent of the employed population, of which 63.5 percent were male, and 36.5 percent were female. Of the total number of unemployed persons, 318,000 were negatively affected by the pandemic. Of those, 48.7 percent were men and 51.3 percent were women. Of the total number of unemployed persons affected, 97.5 percent indicated that they could not find a job due to COVID-19; and 2.5 percent stated that they were fired, suspended, or closed their business or activity.

INEC reported that during the pandemic more formal jobs were preserved and more informal jobs were lost. It is possible that some of the informal businesses that survived the pandemic chose to seek formal work, given increased demand for health insurance. Some of the activities most affected by health restrictions and the consequences of the pandemic (such as tourism, commerce, construction, and entertainment activities) had high demand for workers, including informal workers, before the pandemic.

According to the Central Bank of Costa Rica, formal employment returned to levels registered before the beginning of the pandemic, while as of November 2021, the number of informally employed persons was 11.4 percent lower than in February 2020. The recovery of employment for workers operating in the informal sector and those with medium qualifications has been much slower than that of the most qualified and those who work in the formal sector. Workers in the informal sector were not covered by wage, hour, and occupational health and safety laws and inspections, nor were they enrolled in the public health system.

The Costa Rican labor force has high educational standards. The country boasts an extensive network of publicly funded schools and universities while Costa Rica’s national vocational training institute (INA) and private sector groups provide technical and vocational training.

The growth of Costa Rica’s service, tourism, and technology sectors has stimulated demand for English-language speakers. The pool of job candidates with English and technical skills in the Central Valley is sufficient to meet current demand. However, the current finite number of job candidates with these skills limits the ability of foreign and local businesses to expand operations.

The government implemented a controlled entry of foreign migrant workers (Migration Traceability System, SITLAM) through the northern and southern borders. In a joint effort, the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS), Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS) and the Costa Rican Coffee Institute implemented a program to enroll coffee workers in the health insurance system while taking into account turnover, migratory conditions, and harvest seasons while protecting the families of the workers.

The government does not keep track of shortages or surpluses of specialized labor skills. Foreign nationals have the same rights, duties, and benefits as local employees. The government is responsible for ensuring that foreign nationals do not displace local employees in employment. Labor law provisions apply equally across the nation, both within and outside free trade zones. The Immigration Law and the Labor Ministry’s regulations establish a mechanism to determine in which cases the national labor force would need protection. The Labor Ministry prepares a list of recommended and not-recommended jobs to be filled by foreign nationals.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions. The law does not differentiate between layoffs and dismissal without cause. There are concepts established in the law related to unemployment and dismissals such as the mandatory savings plan (Labor Capitalization Fund or Fondo de Capitalizacion Laboral, FCL), as well as the notice of termination of employment (preaviso) and severance pay (cesantia). The FCL, which is funded through employer contributions, functions as an unemployment insurance; the employee can withdraw the savings every five years if the employee has worked without interruption for the same employer. Costa Rican labor law requires that employees released without cause receive full severance pay, which can amount to close to a full year’s pay in some cases. Although there is no insurance for workers laid off for economic reasons, employers may voluntarily establish an unemployment fund.

In response to government-ordered temporary business closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, the Labor Ministry implemented the temporary suspension of employment contracts, a procedure established in the Labor Code, which grants employers the option of stopping the payment of wages temporarily during an emergency. Executive orders (Nos. 42522-MTSS and 42248-MTSS) established the procedures for employers to request the temporary suspension of labor contracts with their employees. Employers requested the suspension of contracts through the Labor Inspectorate of the Labor Ministry. In 2021, the Labor Ministry continued implementing the temporary suspension of employment contracts but only in sectors most adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the restrictions and closures imposed by authorities.

The National Assembly approved a law (Law 9832) in 2020 to reduce working hours during the pandemic. Under the law, if income in a company decreases by 20 percent, compared to the income during the same month in 2019 or compared to the income of the previous three months, the employer can reduce the employees’ hours and salary up to 50 percent. If the decrease in income is greater than 60 percent, the reduction in salary can reach 75 percent. Legislators initially authorized this reduction for three months and employers could request extensions for two equal terms (9 months) and then to five terms (15 months) as the emergency continued. In May 2021, the National Assembly approved an extension (Legislative Order No. 9982) in the tourism sector which authorizes a reduction for four equal terms with previous approval from the Labor Ministry.

In 2020, the National Assembly authorized employees, whose labor contracts were terminated or suspended or whose salaries were reduced during the state of emergency declaration, to withdraw their contributions to the FCL plan (Law 9839).

Costa Rican labor law and practice allows some flexibility in alternate schedules; nevertheless, it is based on a 48-hour week made up of eight-hour days. Workers are entitled to one day of rest after six consecutive days of work. The labor code stipulates that the workday may not exceed 12 hours. Use of temporary or contract workers for jobs that are not temporary in nature to lower labor costs and avoid payroll taxes does occur, particularly in construction and in agricultural activities dedicated to domestic (rather than export) markets. No labor laws are waived to attract or retain investment‒all labor laws apply in all Costa Rican territory, including free trade zones. The government has been actively exploring ways to introduce more flexibility into the labor code to facilitate teleworking and flexible work schedules.

Costa Rican law guarantees the right of workers to join labor unions of their choosing without prior authorization. Unions operate independently of government control and may form federations and confederations and affiliate internationally. Most unions are in the public sector, including in state-run enterprises. Collective bargaining agreements are common in the public sector. “Permanent committees of employees” informally represent employees in some enterprises of the private sector and directly negotiate with employers; these negotiations are expressed in “direct agreements,” which have a legal status. Based on 2021 statistics, 15 percent of employees were union members. The Labor Ministry reported that from 2019 to 2021, they approved 27 collective agreements and accompanied 43 negotiation processes and handled 7 conciliation processes of a social economic nature. In 2021, the Ministry reported that collective bargaining agreements covered 10.6 percent of the working population, 50.7 percent within public sector entities and 1.1 percent within the private sector. The Ministry reported that 13,897 workers were covered by “direct agreements” in different sectors (agriculture and manufacturing industry) during 2021.

In the private sector, many Costa Rican workers join “solidarity associations,” through which employers provide easy access to saving plans, low-interest loans, health clinics, recreation centers, and other benefits. A 2011 law solidified that status by giving solidarity associations constitutional recognition comparable to that afforded labor unions. Solidarity associations and labor unions coexist at some workplaces, primarily in the public sector. Business groups claim that worker participation in permanent committees and/or solidarity associations provides for better labor relations compared to firms with workers represented only by unions. However, some labor unions allege private businesses use permanent committees and solidarity associations to hinder union organization while permanent workers’ committees displace labor unions on collective bargaining issues in contravention of internationally recognized labor rights.

The Ministry of Labor has a formal dispute-resolution body and will engage in dispute-resolution when necessary; labor disputes may also be resolved through the judicial process. The Ministry of Labor’s regulations establish that conciliation is the mechanism to solve individual labor disputes, as defined in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Law (No. 7727, dated 9 December 1997). The Labor Code and ADR Law establish the following mechanisms: dialogue, negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. The Labor Law promotes alternative dispute resolution in judicial, administrative, and private proceedings. The law establishes three specific mechanisms: arbitration to resolve individual or collective labor disputes (including a Labor Ministry’s arbitrator roster list); conciliation in socio-economic collective disputes (introducing private conciliation processes); and arbitration in socio-economic collective disputes (with a neutral arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators issuing a decision). The Labor Ministry also participates as mediator in collective conflicts, facilitating and promoting dialogue among interested parties. The law provides for protection from dismissal for union organizers and members and requires employers found guilty of anti-union discrimination to reinstate workers fired for union activities.

The law provides for the right of workers to conduct legal strikes, but it prohibits strikes in public services considered essential (police, hospitals, and ports). Strikes affecting the private sector are rare and do not pose a risk for investment.

Child and adolescent labor is uncommon in Costa Rica, and it occurs mainly in agriculture in the informal sector.  In 2020, the government published the results of a child labor risk identification model and a strategy to design preventive measures at local level. In 2021, the government continued a pilot project for the prevention of child labor in two at-risk cantons in the province of Limón. The government also activated the Houses of Joy (“Casas de la Alegría”) during the coffee harvest season 2021-2022. These are daycare centers for children of workers in different coffee regions of the country, mainly in the Brunca, Los Santos, and Western Valley regions.

Chapter 16 of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement obliges Costa Rica to enforce laws that defend core international labor standards. The government, organized labor, employer organizations, and the International Labor Organization signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a Decent Work Program for the period 2019-2023, which aims to improve labor conditions and facilitate employability for vulnerable groups through government-labor-business tripartite dialogue.

The National Assembly recently approved a public employment reform bill that aims to establish the same salary for equal responsibilities in the public sector, eliminating different wage systems and salary bonus structures, which is projected to reduce the fiscal deficit.The legislation will take effect in March 2023.

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) 2020 $62,158 2020 $61,847 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $26,306 2020 $2,000 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $124 2020 $-86 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 1.2% 2020 2.9% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report

* Source for Host Country Data: Costa Rican Central Bank. The “FDI Stock” positions detailed here are an accounting expression of the accumulation of FDI through 2020, while the “FDI inflow” statistic given in the first paragraph of the executive summary is the sum of foreign direct investment made in Costa Rica during calendar year 2020, as reported by the Costa Rican Central Bank.    

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 46,115 100% Total Outward 3,578 100
United States 26,306 57% Nicaragua 1,065 30%
Spain 2,810 6% Guatemala 1,023 29%
Mexico 2,173 5% Panama 867 24%
The Netherlands 1,777 4% United States 124 4%
Colombia 1,681 4% Luxembourg 90 3%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

14. Contact for More Information

Attention: Investment Climate Statement
Economic Section
Embassy San Jose, Costa Rica
2519-2000
SanJoseEcon@state.gov 

Dominican Republic

Executive Summary

Foreign direct investment (FDI) plays an important role for the Dominican economy, and the Dominican Republic is one of the main recipients of FDI in the Caribbean and Central America. The government actively courts FDI with generous tax exemptions and other incentives to attract businesses to the country. Historically, the tourism, real estate, telecommunications, free trade zones, mining, and financing sectors are the largest FDI recipients.

Besides financial incentives, the country’s membership in the Central America Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) is one of the greatest advantages for foreign investors. Observers credit the agreement with increasing competition, strengthening rule of law, and expanding access to quality products in the Dominican Republic. The United States remains the single largest investor in the Dominican Republic. CAFTA-DR includes protections for member state foreign investors, including mechanisms for dispute resolution.

Foreign investors report numerous systemic problems in the Dominican Republic and cite a lack of clear, standardized rules by which to compete and a lack of enforcement of existing rules. Complaints include perceptions of widespread corruption at both national and local levels of government; delays in government payments; weak intellectual property rights enforcement; bureaucratic hurdles; slow and sometimes locally biased judicial and administrative processes, and non-standard procedures in customs valuation and classification of imports. Weak land tenure laws and interference with private property rights continue to be a problem. The public perceives administrative and judicial decision-making to be inconsistent, opaque, and overly time-consuming. A lack of transparency and poor implementation of existing laws are widely discussed as key investor grievances.

U.S. businesses operating in the Dominican Republic often need to take extensive measures to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Many U.S. firms and investors have expressed concerns that corruption in the government, including in the judiciary, continues to constrain successful investment in the Dominican Republic.

The current government, led by President Luis Abinader, made a concerted effort in its first full year of government to address issues of corruption and transparency that are a core issue for social, economic, and political prosperity, including prosecutorial independence, long-awaited electricity sector reform, and the empowerment of the supreme audit institution, the Chamber of Accounts. More work has repeatedly been promised, but passage remains uncertain as each measure is still subject to administrative or legislative processes, including approval of new public procurement legislation, passage of draft civil asset forfeiture legislation, the law for reform of the management of government assets, and a modern foreign investment law.

The Dominican Republic, an upper middle-income country, has been the fastest growing economy in Latin America over the past 50 years, according to World Bank data. It grew by 12.3 percent in 2021, 4.7 percent when compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic). Tax revenues were 12.7 percent higher than what was stipulated in the Initial Budget for 2021; coupled with budgetary discipline, the government closed its deficit to 2.7 percent of GDP. However, inflation at the end of 2021 was 8.50 percent, double the target of 4.0 percent ±1.0. Despite the government efforts to reduce public spending and increase revenues, absent meaningful fiscal reform, public debt continued to grow in 2021, reaching $47.7 billion at the end of November 2021 (if debt to the Central Bank is added, the public debt reached $62.04 billion), and a total service of debt of $5.9 billion – resulting in decrease in the debt to GDP ratio, but an increase in the total value of government debt. The government continues to apply large subsidies to different sectors of the economy such as the electricity sector and hydrocarbons. In 2021, the government allocated $1.03 billion to the subsidy for Electricity Distribution Companies (EDE’s) and $266.9 million directly to fuel.

According to the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, the Dominican Republic is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, though it represents only 0.06% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As a small island developing state, the Dominican Republic is particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme climate events, such as storms, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels. Combined with rapid economic growth (over 5 percent until 2020) and urbanization (more than 50 percent of population in cities, 30 percent in Santo Domingo), climate change could strain key socio-economic sectors such as water, agriculture and food security, human health, biodiversity, forests, marine coastal resources, infrastructure, and energy. The National Constitution calls for the efficient and sustainable use of the nation’s natural resources in accordance with the need to adapt to climate change. The government is acting, both domestically and in coordination with the international community, to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 128 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 93 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $2,806 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $7,260 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The legacy of autocratic rule in the mid-twentieth century and the practice of distributing social services as political patronage have resulted in a relatively larger role for state-actors in the Dominican economy when compared with the United States. Since 1997, by means of the approval of the General Law of Reform of Public Companies No. 141-97, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been on the decline and do not have as significant a presence in the economy as they once did, with most functions now performed by privately held firms. Notable exceptions are in the electricity, banking, mining, and refining sectors.

The Dominican Corporation of State Enterprises (CORDE) was established by Law No. 289 of June 30, 1966, with the purpose of managing, directing, and developing all the productive and commercial companies, goods, and rights ceded by the Dominican State as a result of the death of the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Among the state-owned companies that came to be managed by CORDE are the salt, gypsum, marble, and pozzolana mines. In 2017, the dissolution of CORDE was entrusted to a Commission chaired by the Legal Consultancy of the Executive Power, which assumed the operational, administrative, and financial management of this entity until the dissolution process was definitively completed. Within the framework of the dissolution process of CORDE, the ownership of the mining concessions of the Dominican State was transferred to the Patrimonial Fund of Reformed Companies (FONPER) through the Mining Concessions Transfer Agreement between CORDE and FONPER dated July 2, 2020.

Shortly after being sworn into office, in August 2020, President Abinader issued Decree 422-20 forming the Commission for the Liquidation of State Organs (CLOE) under the charge of the Ministry of the Presidency. Since then, the CLOE has been in the process of dissolution and liquidation of CORDE, and on December 8, 2020, CLOE requested the FONPER Board of Directors revoke the Concessions Transfer Agreement. FONPER’s Board of Directors approved the revocation through Minutes No. 02-2021 of March 11, 2021, authorizing the president of FONPER to sign an agreement with CLOE that revokes and nullifies the Transfer Agreement. It is not clear whether this revocation has been completed.

In 2021, the Office of the President proposed a bill to regulate government business assets, government participation in public trusts, and to create the National Center for Companies and Public Trusts (CENEFIP). The bill’s intent is to reform the management of state assets and replace the disgraced Patrimonial Fund of Reformed State Enterprises (FONPER), which is being investigated for alleged irregularities that may have personally benefited politically affiliated persons. The CENEFIP bill is under review in the legislature.

Also in 2021, the executive branch transferred the functions and properties of the State Sugar Council [Consejo Estatal del Azúcar] to the Directorate General of National Assests [Dirección General de Bienes Nacionales]. The State Sugar Council maintains one remaining sugar mill, Porvenir.

In the partially privatized electricity sector, private companies mainly provide electricity generation, while the government handles the transmission and distribution phases via the Dominican Electric Transmission Company (ETED) and the Dominican Corporation of State Electrical Companies (CDEEE). This sector is undergoing additional reforms, including the dissolution of the CDEEE and privatization of the management and operation of the distribution companies. The CDEEE and the distribution companies have traditionally been the largest SOEs in terms of government expenditures. The government also participates in the generation phase, too (most notably in hydroelectric power), and one of the distribution companies is partially privatized.

The Dominican financial sector consists of 112 entities, as follows: 47 financial intermediation entities (including large commercial banks, savings and loans associations, financial intermediation public entities, credit corporations), 41 foreign exchange and remittance agents (specifically, 35 exchange brokers and 6 remittances and foreign exchange agents), and 24 trustees. According to the latest available information (January 2022), total bank assets were $47.7 billion. The three largest banks hold 69.7 percent of the total assets – Banreservas 32.6 percent, Banco Popular 21.9 percent, and BHD Leon 16.4 percent. The state-owned, but autonomously operated BanReservas is the largest bank in the country and is a market leader in lending and deposits. Part of this success is due to a requirement for government employees to open accounts with BanReservas in order to receive salary payments. BanReservas was also utilized to distribute government social support payments during the pandemic. Roughly a third of the bank’s lending portfolio is to government institutions.

In the refining sector, the government is now the exclusive shareholder of the country’s only oil refinery; Refinery Dominicana (Refidomsa), after having extricated Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) in August 2021. Refidomsa operates and manages the refinery, is the only importer of crude oil in the country, and is also the largest importer of refined fuels, with a 60 percent market share. The price for fuel products is set by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and SMEs. Fuel prices are heavily subsidized.

Law No. 10-04 requires the Chamber of Accounts to audit SOEs. Audits should be published at https://www.camaradecuentas.gob.do/index.php/auditorias-publicadas . While audits have not always been publicly available, the new President of the Chamber is making a concerted effort to conduct and publish all audits required by law.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government does not have an official position or policy on responsible business conduct, including corporate social responsibility (CSR). Although there is not a local culture of CSR, large foreign companies normally have active CSR programs, as do some of the larger local business groups. While most local firms do not follow OECD principles regarding CSR, the firms that do are viewed favorably, especially when their CSR programs are effectively publicized. There is a growing trend for businesses to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and small and medium enterprises are beginning to follow examples of the CSR work of the larger local business groups of being more responsible to societal and environmental issues. These entities are viewing CSR as a competitive advantage. The CSR Risk Checker  is a tool designed to help companies understand some of the CSR risks associated with countries from which they may import or in which they may have production facilities. The report lists a total of 19 possible risks for the Dominican Republic, of which 11 are related to labor rights, three to human rights and ethics, three to environment, and two to fair business practices.

The Dominican Constitution does guarantee consumer rights stating, “Everyone has the right to have quality goods and services, to objective, truthful and timely information about the content and characteristics of the products and services that they use and consume.” To that end, the national consumer protection agency, ProConsumidor, offers consumer advocacy services.

The Dominican Republic also joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2016 ( https://eiti.org/dominican-republic)  and is rated as achieving meaningful progress in its efforts to incorporate EITI standards into its regulatory framework. Its fourth country report, covering 2019 and 2020, was recently approved and can be found at https://eiti.org/document/dominican-republic-20192020-eiti-report.  The Ministry of Energy and Mines, as the government entity in charge of sectoral policy, is carrying out reform processes in the area of mining and hydrocarbons, including modernizing, organizing, and streamlining its own role. Other reforms include 1) modification and modernizing of the Mining Law of 1971, which was submitted to the Presidency for review in February 2021; 2) public consultation and revision of the regulation that will govern creation and management of the 5% of the net benefits generated by the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources that accrue to the state, established in article 117 of Law No. 64-00 of Environment and Natural Resources, and 3) drafting the regulation governing Artisanal Mining.

In May 2018, the Ministry of Energy and Mines presented the Shared Production Model Contract that regulates hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities in the Dominican Republic, there are separate version of the contract for on and offshore explorations. These contract models are used in the awarding of oil and gas blocks in the country, which began in November 2019. The government is exploring another licensing round, but dates have not been released. After being signed, contracts must be approved by the National Congress and promulgated by the President.

On December 15, 2003, through Decree No. 1128-03, the government established the Superintendency of Surveillance and Private Security (SVSP) to exercises control, inspection, and surveillance, over all persons and institutions that carry out surveillance and private security activities and their users, in the Dominican Republic. Despite the sizeable sector, there do not appear to be any government, civil society, or private firms in the Dominican Republic affiliated with the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) and the government is not a signatory of the Montreaux Document.

According to the 2020 List of Goods Produced with Child and Forced Labor, there are indicators of child labor in the production of baked goods, coffee, rice, and tomatoes in the Dominican Republic and indicators of child and forced labor in the production of sugarcane. Stakeholders have raised serious inquiries regarding inhumane labor conditions in the Dominican Republic’s sugar sector for many years. In December 2011, Father Christopher Hartley filed a submission under the labor chapter of DR-CAFTA alleging numerous labor violations across the Dominican Republic’s sugar production industry. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) conducted an investigation and found “evidence of apparent and potential labor violations in the sector,” including concerns regarding acceptable conditions of work, child labor, and forced labor. Since issuing its report in 2013, DOL has engaged directly with the Government of the Dominican Republic (GODR), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and Dominican Republic industry stakeholders; provided technical assistance and related program funding; and conducted six public periodic reviews. The most recent review in 2018 found that “while concerns remain, the GODR continues to take positive steps towards addressing some of the labor issues identified in the report.” Another DOL periodic review is expected to be released in 2022.

At the same time, recent findings by investigative journalists assert that, despite ten years of effort, labor conditions in the Dominican Republic’s sugar sector remain abhorrent. Reports from the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and the Center for Investigative Reporting focusing on conditions at the Central Romana Corporation (owner of the world-famous Casa de Campo resort), include written and video testimonies by laborers about the conditions they experience in the bateys, colonos, sugar cane fields, and throughout the country’s sugar production. These testimonies describe poverty-level wages and crippling debt, excessive work hours, inadequate safety or protective equipment, abhorrent housing conditions with limited access to water and electricity, denial of public benefits such as pensions, social security, and medical care, and harassment, intimidation, and retaliation by supervisors, company representatives, company armed guards, and police.

9. Corruption

The Dominican Republic has a legal framework that includes laws and regulations to combat corruption and provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. While challenges remain, overall enforcement of these laws has improved thanks to a heightened focus on transparency by the Abinader administration and concerted efforts by the Office of the Attorney General. In a change from prior years, investigations targeted well-connected individuals and high-level politicians, both from prior administrations and the current one. The Dominican Republic’s rank on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index rose to 128 in 2021 from 137 in 2020 (out of 180 countries assessed).

Nonetheless, U.S. companies continued to identify corruption as a barrier to FDI. Firms often complained about a lack of technical proficiency in government ministries that resulted in public tender opportunities that were not competently drafted or executed in accordance with international best practices. Some firms went so far as to suggest that more problematic tenders had been set up intentionally to favor politically connected firms. The business community has also complained about corruption at the municipal level and its relevance to such things as permitting procedures. U.S. businesses operating in the Dominican Republic often need to take extensive measures to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

President Abinader has generally made good on his commitment to make fighting corruption a top priority of his administration. He appointed officials with reputations for professionalism and independence and went to great efforts to respect the independence of his appointed head of the Public Procurement General Directorate, the Chamber of Accounts (the country’s Supreme Audit Institution), and the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, the Abinader administration has publicly committed to prioritizing passage of institutional reforms that will advance the fight against corruption, such as new public procurement legislation, and a bill that would allow for civil asset forfeiture. Passage of this legislation, however, remains in question as the measures are in various levels of administrative and legislative review.

In a notable change from prior administrations, investigations into corruption and arrests have targeted senior officials not just from the opposing parties, but also from the ruling coalition. These moves have sent a powerful signal that the Abinader administration no longer tolerates the sort of pervasive corruption that was seen under prior administrations.

Civil society has been a critical voice in anti-corruption campaigns to date. 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).

The Dominican Republic signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention. The Dominican Republic is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.

10. Political and Security Environment

Despite political stability and strong pre-pandemic economic growth, citizen and public security concerns in the Dominican Republic impose significant costs on businesses and limit foreign and domestic investment. There are no known national security threats affecting foreign investment within the Dominican Republic.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Dominican labor market continues to regularize as pandemic-related economic impacts subside. 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. According to 2021 Dominican Central Bank data for July-September (the latest available), the Dominican labor force consists of approximately 4.6 million workers. The labor force participation rate is 63.1 percent; 57.7 percent of the labor force works in services, 10.0 percent in industry, 9.8 percent in education and health, 7.9 percent in agriculture and livestock, 9.2 percent in construction, and 5.4 percent in public administration and defense. Approximately 41.1 percent of the labor force works in formal sectors of the economy and 58.9 percent in informal sectors.

From January to September 2021, unemployment decreased from 8.0 percent to 6.8 percent as the economy continued its rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. When factoring in discouraged workers and others who were not actively seeking employment, however, the unemployment rate increased from 6.8 percent to 13.6 percent in the period July-September 2021. Youth unemployment remained steady at 13.5 percent, indicating the pandemic had a greater impact on employment for older, more vulnerable segments of the population. Central Bank data from 2021 indicates that the labor market has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with the percentage of employment reaching 97.5 percent of the levels before the pandemic.

With respect to migrant workers, the most recent reliable statistical data is from 2017 and shows a population of 334,092 Haitians aged ten or older living in the country, with 67 percent working in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. Migration experts believe that this number has increased to approximately 500,000 or more since 2017. The Dominican government and the United Nations are expected to provide an updated migrant survey in 2022.

The Dominican Labor Code 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. The code applies equally to migrant workers; however, many undocumented Haitian laborers and Dominicans of Haitian descent working in the construction and agricultural industries do not exercise their rights due to fear of being fired or deported. The law requires that at least 80 percent of non-management workers of a company be Dominican nationals. Exemptions and waivers are available and regularly granted. The law provides for severance payments, which are due upon layoffs or firing without just cause. The amount due is prorated based on length of employment.

Although the Labor Code provides for freedom to form unions and bargain collectively, it places several restrictions on these rights, which the International Labor Organization (ILO) has characterized as excessive. For example, it restricts trade union rights by requiring unions to represent 51 percent of the workers in an enterprise to bargain collectively. In addition, the law prohibits strikes until mandatory mediation requirements have been met. Formal requirements for a strike to be legal also include the support of an absolute majority of all company workers for the strike, written notification to the Ministry of Labor, and a 10-day waiting period following notification before proceeding with the strike. Government workers and essential public service personnel, in theory, may not strike; however, in practice such employees, including healthcare workers, have protested and gone on strike.

The law prohibits dismissal of employees for trade union membership or union activities. In practice, however, the law is inconsistently enforced. The majority of companies resist collective negotiating practices and union activities. Companies reportedly fire workers for union activity and blacklist trade unionists, among other anti-union practices. Workers frequently have to sign documents pledging to abstain from participating in union activities. Companies also create and support company-backed unions. Formal strikes occur but are not common.

The law establishes a system of labor courts for dealing with disputes. The process is often long, with cases pending for several years. One exception is workplace injury cases, which typically conclude quickly – and often in the worker’s favor. Both workers and companies report 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 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, however, resources for adequate monitoring and inspection are insufficient. Labor inspectors can request remediation for violations, and if remediation is not undertaken, can refer offending employers to the public prosecutor for sanctions.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Office
Embassy of the United States of America
Avenida República de Colombia #57
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic +1 (809) 567-7775
InvestmentDR@State.gov

Mexico

Executive Summary

In 2021, Mexico was the United States’ second largest trading partner in goods and services.  It remains one of our most important investment partners.  Bilateral trade grew 482 percent from 1993-2020, and Mexico is the United States’ second largest export market.  The United States is Mexico’s top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) with a stock of USD 184.9 billion (2020 per the International Monetary Fund’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey).

The Mexican economy averaged 2.1 percent GDP growth from 1994 to 2021, contracted 8.3 percent in 2020 — its largest ever annual decline — and rebounded 5 percent in 2021.  Exports surpassed pre-pandemic levels by five percent thanks to the reopening of the economy and employment recovery.  Still, supply chain shortages in the manufacturing sector, the COVID-19 omicron variant, and increasing inflation caused the economic rebound to decelerate in the second half of 2021.  Mexico’s conservative fiscal policy resulted in a primary deficit of 0.3 percent of GDP in 2021, and the public debt decreased to 50.1 percent from 51.7 percent of GDP in 2020.  The newly appointed Central Bank of Mexico (or Banxico) governor committed to upholding the central bank’s independence.  Inflation surpassed Banxico’s target of 3 percent ± 1 percent at 5.7 percent in 2021.  The administration maintained its commitment to reducing bureaucratic spending to fund an ambitious social spending agenda and priority infrastructure projects, including the Dos Bocas Refinery and Maya Train.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) entered into force July 1, 2020 with Mexico enacting legislation to implement it.  Still, the Lopez Obrador administration has delayed issuance of key regulations across the economy, complicating the operating environment for telecommunications, financial services, and energy sectors.  The Government of Mexico (GOM) considers the USMCA to be a driver of recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis given its potential to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) to Mexico.

Investors report the lack of a robust fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis, regulatory unpredictability, a state-driven economic policy, and the shaky financial health of the state oil company Pemex have contributed to ongoing uncertainties.  The three major ratings agencies (Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s) maintained their sovereign credit ratings for Mexico unchanged from their downgrades in 2020 (BBB-, Baa1, and BBB, lower medium investment grade, respectively).  Moody’s downgraded Pemex’s credit rating by one step to Ba3 (non-investment) July 2021, while Fitch and S&P maintained their ratings (BB- and BBB, lower medium and non-investment grades, respectively.  Banxico cut Mexico’s GDP growth expectations for 2022, to 2.4 from 3.2 percent, as did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to 2.8 percent from the previous 4 percent estimate in October 2021.  The IMF anticipates weaker domestic demand, ongoing high inflation levels as well as global supply chain disruptions in 2022 to continue impacting the economy.  Moreover, uncertainty about contract enforcement, insecurity, informality, and corruption continue to hinder sustained Mexican economic growth.  Recent efforts to reverse the 2013 energy reforms, including the March 2021 changes to the electricity law (found to not violate the constitution by the supreme court on April 7 but still subject to injunctions in lower courts), the May 2021 changes to the hydrocarbon law (also enjoined by Mexican courts), and the September 2021 constitutional amendment proposal prioritizing generation from the state-owned electric utility CFE, further increase uncertainty.  These factors raise the cost of doing business in Mexico.

Table 1:  Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 124 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi#
Global Innovation Index 2021 55 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $184,911

1st out of top 5

https://data.imf.org/?sk=40313609-
F037-48C1-84B1-E1F1CE54D6D5&
sId=1482331048410
World Bank GNI per capita  (current US$) 2020 $8,480 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are two main SOEs in Mexico, both in the energy sector.  Pemex operates the hydrocarbons (oil and gas) sector, which includes upstream, mid-stream, and downstream operations.  Pemex historically contributed one-third of the Mexican government’s budget but falling output and global oil prices alongside improved revenue collection from other sources have diminished this amount over the past decade to about 8 percent.  The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) operates the electricity sector.  While the GOM maintains state ownership, the 2013 constitutional reforms granted Pemex and CFE management and budget autonomy and greater flexibility to engage in private contracting.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Mexico’s private and public sectors have worked to promote and develop corporate social responsibility (CSR) during the past decade.  CSR in Mexico began as a philanthropic effort.  It has evolved gradually to a more holistic approach, trying to match international standards such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Global Compact.

Responsible business conduct reporting has made progress in the last few years with more companies developing a corporate responsibility strategy.  The government has also made an effort to implement CSR in state-owned companies such as Pemex, which has published corporate responsibility reports since 1999.  Recognizing the importance of CSR issues, the Mexican Stock Exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores) launched a sustainable companies index, which allows investors to specifically invest in those companies deemed to meet internationally accepted criteria for good corporate governance.

In October 2017, Mexico became the 53rd member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which represents an important milestone in its Pemex effort to establish transparency and public trust in its energy sector.

9. Corruption

Corruption exists in many forms in the GOM and society, including corruption in the public sector (e.g., demand for bribes or kickbacks by government officials) and private sector (e.g., fraud, falsifying claims, etc.), as well as conflict of interest issues, which are not well defined in the Mexican legal framework.

Government and law enforcement officials are sometimes complicit with criminal elements, posing serious challenges for the rule of law.  Some of the most common reports of official corruption involve government officials stealing from public coffers, creating fake companies to divert public funds, or demanding bribes in exchange for not prosecuting criminal activity or awarding public contracts.  The current administration supported anti-corruption reforms (detailed below) and judicial proceedings in several high-profile corruption cases, including former governors.  However, Mexican civil society asserts that the government must take more systematic, effective, and frequent action to address corruption at the institutional level.

Mexico adopted a constitutional reform in 2014 to transform the current Office of the Attorney General into an Independent Prosecutor General’s office to increase its independence.  President Lopez Obrador’s choice for Prosecutor General was confirmed by the Mexican Senate January 18, 2019.  In 2015, Mexico passed a constitutional reform creating the National Anti-Corruption System (SNA) with an anti-corruption prosecutor and a citizens’ participation committee to oversee efforts.  The system is designed to provide a comprehensive framework for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of corruption cases, including delineating acts of corruption considered criminal acts under the law.  The legal framework establishes a basis for holding private actors and private firms legally liable for acts of corruption involving public officials and encourages private firms to develop internal codes of conduct.  After seven years of operation, commentators attribute few successes to the SNA.  The implementation status of the mandatory state-level anti-corruption legislation varies.

The reform mandated a redesign of the Secretariat of Public Administration to give it additional auditing and investigative functions and capacities in combatting public sector corruption.  Congress approved legislation to change economic institutions, assigning new responsibilities and in some instances creating new entities.  Reforms to the federal government’s structure included the creation of a General Coordination of Development Programs to manage the federal-state coordinators (“superdelegates”) in charge of federal programs in each state.  The law also created the Secretariat of Public Security and Citizen Protection, and significantly expanded the power of the president’s Legal Advisory Office (Consejería Jurídica) to name and remove each federal agency’s legal advisor and clear all executive branch legal reforms before their submission to Congress.  The law eliminated financial units from ministries, with the exception of the Secretariat of Finance, SEDENA, and SEMAR, and transferred control of contracting offices in other ministries to the Hacienda.  Separately, the law replaced the previous Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) with a Welfare Secretariat in charge of coordinating social policies, including those developed by other agencies such as health, education, and culture.  The Labor Secretariat gained additional tools to foster collective bargaining, union democracy, and to meet International Labor Organization (ILO) obligations.

Mexico ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery and passed its implementing legislation in May 1999.  The legislation includes provisions making it a criminal offense to bribe foreign officials.  Mexico is also a party to the Organization of American States (OAS) Convention against Corruption and has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  The government has enacted or proposed laws attacking corruption and bribery, with average penalties of five to 10 years in prison.

Mexico is a member of the Open Government Partnership and enacted a Transparency and Access to Public Information Act in 2015, which revised the existing legal framework to expand national access to information.  Transparency in public administration at the federal level improved noticeably but expanding access to information at the state and local level has been slow.  According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 124 of 180 nations.  Civil society organizations focused on fighting corruption are high-profile at the federal level but are few in number and less powerful at the state and local levels.

Business representatives, including from U.S. firms, believe public funds are often diverted to private companies and individuals due to corruption and perceive favoritism to be widespread among government procurement officials.  The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal states compliance with procurement regulations by state bodies in Mexico is unreliable and that corruption is extensive, despite laws covering conflicts of interest, competitive bidding, and company blacklisting procedures.

The U.S. Embassy has engaged in a broad-based effort to work with Mexican agencies and civil society organizations in developing mechanisms to fight corruption and increase transparency and fair play in government procurement.  Efforts with specific business impact include government procurement best practices training and technical assistance under the U.S. Trade and Development Agency’s Global Procurement Initiative.  Mexico ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2004.  It ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999.

10. Political and Security Environment

Mass demonstrations are common in the larger metropolitan areas and in the southern Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca. While political violence is rare, drug and organized crime-related violence has increased significantly in recent years. Political violence is also likely to accelerate in the run-up to the June 2022 elections as criminal actors seek to promote election of their preferred candidates. The national homicide rate dropped to 27 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2021 from 29 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2020, although aggregate homicides remain near all-time highs. For complete security information, please see the Safety and Security section in the Consular Country Information page at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Mexico.html. Conditions vary widely by state. For a state-by-state assessment please see the Consular Travel Advisory at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/mexico-travel-advisory.html.

Companies have reported general security concerns remain an issue for those looking to invest in the country. The American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico estimates in a biannual report that security expenses cost business as much as 5 percent of their operating budgets. Many companies choose to take extra precautions for the protection of their executives. They also report increasing security costs for shipments of goods. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) monitors and reports on regional security for U.S. businesses operating overseas. OSAC constituency is available to any U.S.-owned, not-for-profit organization, or any enterprise incorporated in the United States (parent company, not subsidiaries or divisions) doing business overseas ( https://www.osac.gov/Country/Mexico/Detail ).

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Mexican labor law requires at least 90 percent of a company’s employees be Mexican nationals. Employers can hire foreign workers in specialized positions as long as foreigners do not exceed 10 percent of all workers in that specialized category. Mexico’s 56 percent rate of informality remains higher than countries with similar GDP per capita levels. High informality, defined as those working in unregistered firms or without social security protection, distorts labor market dynamics, contributes to persistent wage depression, drags overall productivity, and slows economic growth. In the formal economy, there exist large labor shortages due to a system that incentivizes informality. Manufacturing companies, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border and in the states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Querétaro, report labor shortages and an inability to retain staff due to wages sometimes being less that what can be earned in the informal economy, although the recent increases in the minimum wage are leading to increases in entry level wages which are attracting more workers. Shortages of skilled workers and engineers continue due to a mismatch between industry needs and what schools teach. Mexico has one of the lowest female labor participation rates in the OECD, 45 percent to a 76 percent male participation rate among people legally allowed to work (15 years or older). Barriers for female workers include the culturally assigned role for them as caretakers of children and the elderly. Most Mexican workers work for a micro business (41 percent) and 59 percent earn between USD 8.6 and USD 17 per day. The unemployment rate in Mexico has maintained a stable path ranging from 3.5 percent to 4.9 percent (its highest peak during the pandemic). This rate, however, masks the high level of underemployment (14.8 percent) in Mexico (those working part time or in the informal sector when they want full time, formal sector jobs). For 2020 the informal economy accounted for 22 percent of total Mexican GDP according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Informal businesses span across all economic activities from agriculture to manufacturing. In Mexico labor informality also spans across all economic activities with formal businesses employing both formal and informal workers to reduce their labor costs.

On May 1, 2019, Lopez Obrador signed into law a sweeping reform of Mexico’s labor law, implementing a constitutional change and focusing on the labor justice system. The reform replaces tripartite dispute resolution entities (Conciliation and Arbitration Boards) with independent judicial bodies and conciliation centers. In terms of labor dispute resolution mechanisms, the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (CABs) previously adjudicated all individual and collective labor conflicts. Under the reform, collective bargaining agreements will now be adjudicated by federal labor conciliation centers and federal labor courts.

Labor experts predict the labor reform will result in a greater level of labor action stemming from more inter-union and intra-union competition. The Secretariat of Labor, working closely with Mexico’s federal judiciary, as well as state governments and courts, created an ambitious state-by-state implementation agenda for the reforms, which started November 18, 2020, and will end during the second semester of 2022. On November 18, 2020 the first phase of the labor reform implementation began in eight states: Durango, State of Mexico, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Hidalgo. On November 3, 2021 the second phase started in 13 additional states, and the third phase will start during 2022 in 11 states. Further details on labor reform implementation can be found at: www.reformalaboral.stps.gob.mx .

Mexico’s labor relations system has been widely criticized as skewed to represent the interests of employers and the government at the expense of workers. Mexico’s legal framework governing collective bargaining created the possibility of negotiation and registration of initial collective bargaining agreements without the support or knowledge of the covered workers. These agreements are commonly known as protection contracts and constitute a gap in practice with international labor standards regarding freedom of association. The percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements is between five and 10 percent, of which more than half are believed to be protection contracts. As of March 7, 2022, 3,267 collective bargaining contracts have been legitimized (reviewed and voted on by the workers covered by them), according to the Secretariat of Labor. The reform requires all collective bargaining agreements to be submitted to a free, fair, and secret vote every two years with the objective of getting existing protectionist contracts voted out. The increasingly permissive political and legal environment for independent unions is already changing the way established unions manage disputes with employers, prompting more authentic collective bargaining. As independent unions compete with corporatist unions to represent worker interests, workers are likely to be further emboldened in demanding higher wages.

The USMCA’s labor chapter (Chapter 23) contains specific commitments on union democracy and labor justice which relate directly to Mexico’s 2019 labor reform and its implementation. In addition, the USMCA’s dispute settlement chapter (Chapter 31) includes a facility-specific labor rapid response mechanism to address labor rights issues and creates the ability to impose facility specific remedies to ensure remediation of such situations.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), government enforcement was reasonably effective in enforcing labor laws in large and medium-sized companies, especially in factories run by U.S. companies and in other industries under federal jurisdiction. Enforcement was inadequate in many small companies and in the agriculture and construction sectors, and it was nearly absent in the informal sector. Workers organizations have made numerous complaints of poor working conditions in maquiladoras and in the agricultural production industry. Low wages, poor labor conditions, long work hours, unjustified dismissals, lack of social security benefits and safety in the workplace, and lack of freedom of association were among the most common complaints.

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) 2021 MXN 26,213 billion* 2021 USD 1,293 billion *https://www.inegi.org.mx/

https://www.imf.org/en/
Publications/WEO

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 ($billion USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 USD 184.9  billion IMF’s CDIS:
https://data.imf.org/?sk=40313609-
F037-48C1-84B1-E1F1CE54D6D5&sId=
1482331048410
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 USD 20.9 billion BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2021 2.45%* 2020 2.7% *https://www.inegi.org.mx/
UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data* 2020
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 545,612 100 % Total Outward 189,536 100 %
United States 184,911 34 % United States 96,706 51 %
Netherlands 112,657 21 % Spain 21,543 11 %
Spain 88,430 16 % United Kingdom 17,163 9 %
Canada 35,664 7 % Brazil 10,203 5 %
United Kingdom 25,423 5 % Netherlands 8,908 5 %
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

* data from the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CCIS)
( https://data.imf.org/?sk=40313609-F037-48C1-84B1-E1F1CE54D6D5&sId=1482331048410 )

14. Contact for More Information

William Ayala
AyalaWM@state.gov
Economic Section
U.S. Embassy in Mexico
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Colonia Cuauhtemoc
06500 Mexico, CDMX

Panama

Executive Summary

Panama’s investment climate is mixed. Over the last decade, Panama was one of the Western Hemisphere’s fastest growing economies. Its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is outpacing most other countries in the region, with a 15.3 percent growth rate in 2021 (after a contraction of 17.9 percent in 2020) and a projected growth rate of 7.8 percent for 2022, according to the World Bank. Panama also has one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the region and has several investment incentives, including a dollarized economy, a stable democratic government, the world’s second largest free trade zone, and 14 international free trade agreements. Although Panama’s market is small, with a population of just over 4 million, the Panama Canal provides a global trading hub with incentives for international trade. However, Panama’s structural deficiencies weigh down its investment climate with high levels of corruption, a reputation for government non-payment, a poorly educated workforce, a weak judicial system, and labor unrest. Panama’s presence on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list since June 2019 for systemic deficiencies in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing increases the risk of investing in Panama, notwithstanding the government’s ongoing efforts to increase financial transparency.

The government is eager for international investment and has several policies in place to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). As such, it continues to attract one of the highest rates of FDI in the region, with $4.6 billion in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. As of March 18, 2022, Panama’s sovereign debt rating remains investment grade, with ratings of Baa2 (Moody’s), BBB- (Fitch), and BBB (Standard & Poor’s with a negative outlook).

Panama’s high vaccination rates of 80 percent of the eligible population with at least one dose and 70 percent with at least two doses as of March 21 have contributed to its economic recovery. As the global economy rebounded, Panama’s services and infrastructure-reliant industries bounced back significantly in 2021. Sectors with the highest economic growth in 2021 included mining (148 percent increase), construction (29 percent), commerce (18 percent), industrial manufacturing (11 percent), and transportation, storage, and communications (11 percent). Panama ended 2021 with a year-on-year inflation rate variation of 2.6 percent, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).

The government’s assertion that it is climate-negative creates opportunities for economic growth, aided by laws 37, 44, and 45 that provide incentives to promote investment in clean energy sources, specifically wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biomass/biofuels.

Panama’s investment climate is threatened, however, by high government fiscal deficits, unemployment, and inequality. The pandemic resulted in government debt ballooning by $3 billion in 2021 to over $40 billion. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio stands at around 64 percent, well above the 46 percent it stood at before the pandemic. Unemployment peaked at 18.5 percent in September 2020, a 20-year high, but has since fallen to 11.3 percent as of October 2021. Yet high levels of labor informality persist. Additionally, Panama is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with the 14th highest Gini Coefficient and a national poverty rate of 14 percent. The World Bank’s 2022 Global Economic Prospects Report and the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report noted that Panama should focus on inclusive economic growth and structural reforms to avoid economic stagnation and an employment crisis.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings 
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 105 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 83 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $4.6 billion https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $12,420 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Panama has 16 non-financial State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and 8 financial SOEs that are included in the budget and broken down by enterprise. Each SOE has a Board of Directors with Ministerial participation. SOEs are required to send a report to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Comptroller General’s Office, and the Budget Committee of the National Assembly within the first ten days of each month showing their budget implementation. The reports detail income, expenses, investments, public debt, cash flow, administrative management, management indicators, programmatic achievements, and workload. SOEs are also required to submit quarterly financial statements. SOEs are audited by the Comptroller General’s Office.

The National Electricity Transmission Company (ETESA) is an example of an SOE in the energy sector, and Tocumen Airport and the National Highway Company (ENA) are SOEs in the transportation sector. Financial allocations and earnings from SOEs are publicly available at the Official Digital Gazette ( http://www.gacetaoficial.gob.pa/ ). There is a website under construction that will consolidate information on SOEs: https://panamagov.org/organo-ejecutivo/empresas-publicas/ #.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Panama maintains strict domestic laws relating to labor and employment rights and environmental protection. While enforcement of these laws is not always stringent, major construction projects are required to complete environmental assessments, guarantee worker protections, and comply with government standards for environmental stewardship.

The ILO program “Responsible Business Conduct in Latin America and the Caribbean” is active in Panama and has partnered with the National Council of Private Enterprise (CoNEP) to host events on gender equality. Panama does not yet have a State National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

In February 2012, Panama adopted ISO 26000 to guide businesses in the development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) platforms. In addition, business groups, including the Association of Panamanian Business Executives (APEDE) and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), are active in encouraging and rewarding good CSR practices. Since 2009, the AmCham has given an annual award to recognize member companies for their positive impact on their local communities and environment.

Panama has two goods on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor”: melons and coffee. DOL removed sugarcane from the list in 2019. Child labor is also prevalent among street vendors and in other informal occupations.

There have been several disputes over the resettlement of indigenous populations to make room for hydroelectric projects, such as at Barro Blanco and Bocas del Toro. The government mediates in such cases to ensure that private companies are complying with the terms of resettlement agreements.

Despite human resource constraints, Panama effectively enforces its labor and environmental laws relative to the region and conducts inspections in a methodical and equitable manner. Panama encourages adherence to the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas and supports the Kimberley Process. Panama is not a government sponsor of either the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

The National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO) and the National Confederation of Trade Union Unity (CONUSI) are the most active labor organizations advocating for worker rights in the private sector. They enjoy access to and dialogue with key decisionmakers. CONATO is currently participating in a nationwide dialogue to defend the sustainability of the workers retirement fund. CONUSI is focused on labor rights in the construction sector.

Panama is a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies. Panama follows the standards set by the International Standards Organization (ISO) and certifies security companies in quality management and security principles consistent with ISO standards.

9. Corruption

10. Political and Security Environment

Panama is a peaceful and stable democracy. On rare occasions, large-scale protests can turn violent and disrupt commercial activity in affected areas. Mining and energy projects have been sensitive issues, especially those that involve development in designated indigenous areas called comarcas. One U.S. company has reported not only protests and obstruction of access to one of its facilities, but costly acts of vandalism against its property. The unrest is related to disagreements over compensation for affected community members. The GoP has attempted to settle the dispute, but without complete success.

In May 2019, Panama held national elections that international observers agreed were free and fair. The transition to the new government was smooth. Panama’s Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly, and the government respects this right. No authorization is needed for outdoor assembly, although prior notification for administrative purposes is required. Unions, student groups, employee associations, elected officials, and unaffiliated groups frequently attempt to impede traffic and disrupt commerce in order to force the government or private businesses to agree to their demands.

Homicides in Panama increased by 11 percent in 2021, to 554, 57 more than were recorded in 2020. Strife among rival gangs and turf battles in the narcotrafficking trade contributed significantly to the increase in the homicide rate in 2021. Panamanian authorities assess that 70 percent of homicides in the country are linked to organized crime, especially transnational drug trafficking and gangs. The 2021 homicide rate of 12.95 per 100,000 people is still among the lowest in Central America, but is consistent with an upward trend since 2019, year-on-year.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

According to official surveys carried out in October 2021, the unemployment rate in Panama improved significantly, but the level of informality and the size of the economically active population (EAP) worsened. That is, fewer people were looking for work. As of October 2021, the unemployment rate stood at 11.3 percent and the informality rate at 47.6 percent, while the economically active population had decreased by 66.5 percent, according to the labor market survey (EML) carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).

There is a shortage of skilled workers in accounting, information technology, and specialized construction, and a minimal number of English-speaking workers. Panama spends approximately 13 percent of its budget, or 3 percent of GDP, on education. While Panama has one of the highest minimum wages in the hemisphere, the 2018-2019 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranked Panama 89 out of 141 countries for the skillsets of university graduates.

The government’s labor code remains highly restrictive. The Panamanian Labor Code, Chapter 1, Article 17, establishes that foreign workers can constitute only 10 percent of a company’s workforce, or up to 15 percent if those employees have a specialized skill. By law, businesses can only exceed these caps for a defined period and with prior approval from the Ministry of Labor.

Several sectors, including the Panama Canal Authority, the Colon Free Zone, and export processing zones/call centers, are covered by their own labor regimes. Employers outside these zones, such as those in the tourism sector, have called for greater flexibility, easier termination of workers, and the elimination of many constraints on productivity-based pay. The Panamanian government has issued waivers to regulations on an ad hoc basis to address employers’ demands, but there is no consistent standard for obtaining such waivers.

The law allows private sector workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. Public sector employees may organize to create a professional association to bargain collectively on behalf of its members, even though public institutions are not legally obligated to bargain with the association. Members of the national police are the only workers prohibited from creating professional associations. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers terminated for union activity, but does not provide adequate mechanisms to enforce this right.

The Ministry of Labor’s Board of Appeals and Conciliation has authority to resolve certain labor disagreements, such as internal union disputes, enforcement of the minimum wage, and some dismissal issues. The law allows arbitration by mutual consent, at the request of the employee or the ministry, and in the case of a collective dispute in a privately held public utility. It allows either party to appeal if arbitration is mandated during a collective dispute in a public-service company. The Board of Appeals and Conciliation has exclusive competency for disputes related to domestic employees, some dismissal issues, and claims of less than $1,500.

The Ministry of the Presidency’s Conciliation Board hears and resolves complaints by public-sector workers. The Board refers complaints that it fails to resolve to an arbitration panel, which consists of representatives from the employer, the professional association, and a third member chosen by the first two. If the dispute cannot be resolved, it is referred to a tribunal under the Board. Observers, however, have noted that the Ministry of the Presidency has not yet designated the tribunal judges. The alternative to the Board is the civil court system.

Panama does not have a system of unemployment insurance. Instead, workers receive large severance payments from their employer upon termination. During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers were permitted to furlough workers for longer than normally permitted, without paying severance. Law 201 of February 25, 2021 allowed employers to establish temporary measures to preserve employment and normalize labor relations by extending furloughs to the end of 2021, This law ended on December 31, 2021. Yet even after its expiration, some companies have kept workers furloughed because of a lack of resources to rehire them or pay their severances. Press reports suggest these companies have yet to recover from the pandemic-related economic crisis.

14. Contact for More Information

Colombia Primola
Economic Specialist – Economic Section
E-mail: PrimolaCE@state.gov
Office: +507-317-5491
Cell: +(507) 6613-4687

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future