Georgia

Executive Summary

Georgia, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, is a small but open market that derives benefits from international trade, tourism, and transportation. While it is susceptible to global and regional shocks, the country has made sweeping economic reforms since 1991 that have produced a relatively well-functioning and stable market economy. It ranks seventh in the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and twelfth in the Heritage Foundation’s 2020 Economic Freedom Index. Fiscal and monetary policy are focused on low deficits, low inflation, and a floating real exchange rate, although the latter has been affected by regional developments, including sanctions on Russia, and other external factors, such as a stronger dollar. Public debt and budget deficits remain under control. However, global challenges posed by COVID-19 and measures needed to mitigate the spread of the virus have placed significant pressure on the domestic currency and the local economy.

The Georgian government’s “Georgia 2020” economic strategy, initially published in 2014, outlines economic policy priorities. It stresses the government’s commitment to business-friendly policies, such as low taxes, but also pledges to invest in human capital and to strive for inclusive growth across the country. The strategy also emphasizes Georgia’s geographic potential as a trade and logistics hub along the New Silk Road linking Asia and Europe via the Caucasus.

Overall, business and investment conditions are sound. However, some companies have expressed an increasing lack of confidence in the judicial sector’s ability to adjudicate commercial cases independently or in a timely, competent manner, with some business dispute cases languishing in the court system for years. Other companies complain of inefficient decision-making processes at the municipal level, shortcomings in the enforcement of intellectual property rights, lack of effective anti-trust policies, selective enforcement of economic laws, and difficulties resolving disputes over property rights. The Georgian government continues to work to address these issues and, despite these remaining challenges, Georgia ranks high in the region as a good place to do business.

The United States and Georgia work to increase bilateral trade and investment through a High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment and through the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s Economic Working Group. Both countries signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994, and Georgia is eligible to export many products duty-free to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.

Georgia suffered considerable instability in the immediate post-Soviet period. After regaining independence in 1991, civil war and separatist conflicts flared up along the Russian border in the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In August 2008, tensions in the region of South Ossetia culminated in a brief war between Georgia and Russia. Russia invaded and occupied areas of undisputed Georgian territory. Russia continues to occupy these Georgian regions, and the central government in Tbilisi does not have effective control over these areas. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and does not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent. Tensions still exist both inside the occupied regions and near the administrative boundary lines, but other parts of Georgia, including Tbilisi, are not directly affected.

Transit and logistics are a priority sector as Georgia seeks to benefit from increased East/West trade through the country. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad has boosted Georgia’s transit prospects. The Anaklia Deep Sea Port project, however, has faced multiple delays and extensions since its initial contract in 2016. The government terminated its contract with the Anaklia Development Consortium in 2020, asserting the consortium did not mobilize the capital necessary to implement the project. However, the government said it remained committed to the construction of a deep sea port in Anaklia and planned to retender the project. Logistics and port management companies in Poti have started development and expansion of Poti Port, currently the largest port in Georgia. Pace Group launched a $120 million project to develop a new port terminal at the site of the former Poti Shipbuilding Factory. Additionally, APM Terminals announced plans in 2019 to create a deep-sea port in Poti.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 44 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 7 of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 48 of 149 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 35 million USD https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 4,440 USD https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Georgia is open to foreign investment. Legislation establishes favorable conditions for foreign investment, but not preferential treatment for foreign investors. The Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity protects foreign investors from subsequent legislation that alters the condition of their investments for a period of ten years. Investment promotion authority is vested in the Investment Division of Enterprise Georgia, a legal entity of public law under the Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development. The Investment Division’s primary role is to attract, promote, and develop foreign direct investment in Georgia. For this purpose, it acts as the moderator between foreign investors and the Georgian government, ensures access to updated information, provides a means of communication with government bodies, and serves as a “one-stop-shop” to support investors throughout the investment process. (http://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/about ).

To enhance relations with investors, in 2015 Georgia’s then-Prime Minister created an Investors Council, an independent advisory body aimed at promoting dialogue among the private business community, international organizations, donors, and the Georgian government for the development of a favorable, non-discriminatory, transparent, and fair business and investment climate in Georgia (http://ics.ge ). The Business Ombudsman, who is a member of the Investors Council, is another tool for protecting investors’ rights in Georgia (http://businessombudsman.ge ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Georgia does not have an established interagency process to screen foreign investment, but relevant ministries or agencies may have the right to review investments for national security concerns in certain circumstances, as outlined below. Foreign investors have participated in most major privatizations of state-owned property. Transparency of privatization has been an issue at times. No law or regulation authorizes private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Cross-shareholder or stable-shareholder arrangements are not used by private firms in Georgia. Georgian legislation does not protect private firms from takeovers. There are no regulations authorizing private firms to restrict foreign partners’ investment activity or limit foreign partners’ ability to gain control over domestic enterprises.

There are no specific licensing requirements for foreign investment other than those that apply to all companies. The government requires licenses for activities that affect public health, national security, and the financial sector: weapons and explosives production, narcotics, poisonous and pharmaceutical substances, exploration and exploitation of renewable or non-renewable substances, exploitation of natural resource deposits, establishment of casinos and gambling houses and the organization of games and lotteries, banking, insurance, securities trading, wireless communication services, and the establishment of radio and television channels. The law requires the state to retain a controlling interest in air traffic control, shipping traffic control, railroad control systems, defense and weapons industries, and nuclear energy. For investment projects requiring licenses or permits, the relevant government ministries and agencies have the right to review the project for national security concerns.  By law, the government has 30 days to make a decision on licenses, and if the licensing authority does not state a reasonable ground for rejection within that period, the government must approve the license or permit for issuance. Per Georgian law, it is illegal to undertake any type of economic activity in Abkhazia or South Ossetia if such activities require permits, licenses, or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. Laws also ban mineral exploration, money transfers, and international transit via Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Only the state may issue currency, banknotes, and certificates for goods made from precious metals, import narcotics for medical purposes, and produce control systems for the energy sector.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In January 2016, the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its second Trade Policy Review of Georgia. In this review, WTO members reiterated their approval of Georgia’s broadly open, transparent, and predictable trade and investment regimes. Members noted that, during the review period, Georgia undertook an impressive range of reform initiatives aimed at streamlining, liberalizing, and simplifying trade regulations and their implementation. The review lauded Georgia’s trade openness and its commitment to the multilateral system through its responsible contribution to the work of the WTO.

WTO members commended Georgia for ratifying the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and the related notification to the WTO of Category A, B and C commitments. Members also noted that Georgia was an observer to the Government Procurement Agreement and was assessing the prospects for joining the Agreement. Members welcomed the announcement that Georgia was considering joining the expanded Information Technology Agreement, which would constitute a significant step forward for attracting further investment. See more at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp428_crc_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

Registering a business in Georgia is relatively quick and streamlined, and Georgia ranks second in registering property among countries assessed in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. Registration takes one day to complete through Georgia’s single window registration process. The National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR) (www.napr.gov.ge  – webpage is in Georgian only), located in Public Service Halls (PSH) under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, carries out company registration. The web page of the PSH (http://www.psh.gov.ge/main/page/2/85 ) outlines procedures and requirements for business registration in English. For registration purposes, the law does not require a document verifying the amount or existence of charter capital. A company is not required to complete a separate tax registration as the initial registration includes both the revenue service and national business registration. The following information is required to register a business in Georgia: bio data for the founder and principal officers, articles of incorporation, and the company’s area of business activity. Other required documents depend on the type of entity to be established.

To register a business, the potential owner must first pay the registration fee, register the company with the Entrepreneurial Register, and obtain an identification number and certificate of state and tax registration. Registration fees are: GEL100 (around USD35) for regular registration, GEL200 (USD70) for expedited registration, plus GEL1 (bank fees). Second, the owner must open a bank account (free).

Georgia’s business facilitation mechanism provides for equitable treatment of women and men. There are a variety of state-run and donor-supported projects that aim to promote women entrepreneurs through specific training or other programs, including access to financing and business training.

Outward Investment

The Georgian government does not have any specific policy on promoting or restricting domestic investors from investing abroad and Georgia’s outward investment is insignificant.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Georgia’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms, and the Georgian government has committed to achieving even greater transparency and simplicity of regulations for these systems.

In Georgia, the lawmaking process involves Parliament (drafting and consideration) and the President (signing). Under Georgia’s constitution, the following subjects have the right to initiate legislation: the President, the government, members of Parliament, a committee, faction, the representative bodies of the Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Adjara, and groups of at least 30,000 voters.

A subject who does not have the right to launch a legislative initiative does, however, have the right to submit a “legislative proposal,” which should be a well-reasoned address to Parliament advocating for the adoption of a new law or of changes/amendments to existing legislation. According to Article 150 of the Law on Parliament, the following can submit a legislative proposal: citizens of Georgia, state bodies (except the establishments of the executive branch of government), the representative and executive bodies of local self-government, political and public unions registered in Georgia according to the established rule, and other legal entities.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, except their entitlement for participating in the law-making process prescribed by the above law.

Publicly listed companies are required to prepare financial statements in accordance with IFRS – International Financial Reporting Standards.

Draft bills or regulations are available for public comment. NGOs, professional associations, and business chambers actively participate in public hearings on legislation.

The government publishes laws and regulations in Georgian in the official online legislative herald gazette, the Legislative Messenger, ‘Matsne’ (www.matsne.gov.ge ). Another online tool to research Georgian legislation is www.codex.ge , or the webpage of the Parliament of Georgia, www.parliament.ge .

General oversight of the executive branch is vested in the parliament. The new Constitution, which entered into force in December 2018, and subsequently adopted new Parliamentary Rules and Procedures aim to strengthen Parliament’s oversight role. Under its strengthened role, public officials are obliged to respond to Parliament’s questions and government institutions submit annual reports. However, local watchdog organizations continue to raise concern that one party controls all branches of government, undermining checks and balances. Independent agencies, such as the State Audit Office, the Ombudsman’s office, including the Business Ombudsman, and business associations also provide an oversight function. Georgia maintains an active civil society that frequently reports on government activities.

Information on Georgia’s state budget and debt obligations was widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online, and considered generally reliable. Georgia’s State Audit Service reviewed the government’s accounts and made its reports publicly available. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in its Regional Economic Outlook  on the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, published in October 2019, that Georgia had successfully implemented fiscal reforms. The report states, “Fiscal transparency, measured by the Open Budget Index, has improved markedly. Tax revenues rose and the efficiency of revenue collection has been higher than among peers….The adoption of flexible fiscal rules helped foster fiscal discipline, limited the rise in public debt, and reduced volatility of government expenditure.”

Georgia has six types of taxes: corporate profit, value added, property, income, excise, and dividend. The tax on corporate profits is 15 percent. However, in January 2017, the government adopted a corporate profit tax scheme that exempts undistributed, reinvested, or retained corporate profits from income taxation. Georgia’s value added tax (VAT) rate is 18 percent, tax on personal income is 20 percent, and dividend income tax is five percent. There are no dividend or capital gains taxes for publicly traded equities (a free float in excess of 25 percent). Georgia imposes excise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, fuel, and mobile telecommunication. Most goods, except for some agricultural products, have no import tariffs. For goods with tariffs, the rates are five or 12 percent, unless excluded by an FTA.

Detailed information on the types and rates of taxes applicable to businesses and individuals, as well as a payment calendar, is available on the webpage  of Georgia’s Revenue Service.

In 2019, the Georgian government introduced new regulations to simplify the tax regime and streamline processes for small businesses. The new legislation decreased turnover tax from five percent to one percent for small businesses and defined small business as those with less than GEL 500,000 (USD 185 thousand) annual turnover, a fivefold increase from the previous GEL 100,000 (USD 31 thousand) threshold. In addition, the new regulations allow small businesses to pay taxes by the end of month, instead of requiring advance payments. For medium and large businesses, the reform introduced an automatic system of VAT returns and activated a special system whereby entrepreneurs can pay VAT returns in five to seven business days by filling out an electronic application.

Enterprise Georgia, a state agency under the Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development, operates the Business Service Center in Tbilisi, which provides domestic and foreign businesses with information on doing business in Georgia. The Business Service Center facilitates an online chat tool for interested individuals (http://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/SERVICE-CENTER ). Additionally, the Investor’s Council provides an opportunity for the private sector to discuss legislative reforms, economic development plans, and actions to spur economic growth with the government. Different commercial chambers, such as the American Chamber of Commerce (www.amcham.ge ), International Chamber of Commerce (www.icc.ge ), Business Association of Georgia (www.bag.ge ), Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.gcci.ge ), and EU-Georgia Business Council (http://eugbc.net ) remain important tools for facilitating ongoing dialogue between domestic and foreign business communities and the government.

International accounting standards are binding for joint stock companies, banks, insurance companies, companies operating in the insurance field, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, joint liability companies, and cooperatives. Private companies are required to perform accounting and financial reporting in accordance with international accounting standards. Sole entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-commercial legal entities perform accounting and financial reporting according to simplified interim standards approved by the Parliamentary Accounting Commission. Shortcomings in the use of international accounting standards persist, and qualified accounting personnel are in short supply.

The Law of Georgia on Free Trade and Competition provides for the establishment of an independent structure, the Competition Agency, to exercise effective state supervision over a free, fair, and competitive market environment. Nonetheless, certain companies have dominant positions in pharmaceutical, petroleum, and other sectors.

Public finances and debt obligations are transparent, and Georgia’s budget and information on debt obligations were widely and easily accessible to the public through government websites including the Ministry of Finance’s site (www.mof.gov.ge ). Georgia’s State Audit Office (www.sao.ge ) reviews the government’s accounts and makes its reports publicly available.

International Regulatory Considerations

Georgia’s Association Agreement of 2014 with the European Union introduced a preferential trade regime, the DCFTA, which increased market access between the EU and Georgia based on having better-aligned regulations. The agreement is designed to introduce gradually European standards in all spheres of Georgia’s economy and sectoral policy: infrastructure, energy, the environment, agriculture, tourism, technological development, employment and social policy, health protection, education, culture, civil society, and regional development. It also provides for the approximation of Georgian laws with nearly 300 separate European legislative acts.

The DCFTA should promote a gradual approximation with European standards for food safety, establish a transparent and stable business environment in Georgia, increase Georgia’s potential to attract investment, introduce innovative approaches and new technologies, stimulate economic growth, and support the country’s economic development.

Georgia has been a WTO member since 2000 and consistently meets requirements and obligations included in the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIM). Since WTO accession, Georgia has not introduced any Technical Barriers to Trade. In January 2016, Georgia ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Georgia’s legal system is based on civil law and the country has a three-tier court system. The first tier consists of 25 trial courts throughout the country that hear criminal, civil, and administrative cases. Two appellate courts, Tbilisi Appeal Court (East Georgia) and Kutaisi Appeal Court (West Georgia), represent the second tier. The Supreme Court of Georgia occupies the third, or the highest, instance and acts as the highest appellate court. In addition, there is a separate Constitutional Court for arbitrating constitutional disputes between branches of government and ruling on individual claims concerning human rights violations stemming from the Constitution.

Georgia does not have an integrated commercial code. There are a number of different laws and codes (Tax Code, Law on Entrepreneurs, and Law on Insolvency) that regulate commercial activity in Georgia. There are no specialized courts, such as a commercial court, to handle commercial disputes. The Ministry of Justice’s Public Service Halls provide property registration.

The independence of Georgia’s judiciary and political inference in the judicial system remain concerns. Freedom House’s 2018 Freedom in the World Report stated that “despite ongoing judicial reforms, executive and legislative interference in the courts remains a substantial problem, as does corruption and a lack of transparency and professionalism surrounding judicial proceedings.” In addition, delays in adjudicating cases and backlogs in Georgian courts remain problematic. International experts are providing Georgian officials with assistance aimed at improving judicial efficiency. The recommendations in the fourth wave of judicial reforms passed in 2019 included legislative changes, streamlining case management, increasing the number of matters resolved by non-judges, improved data exchanges, and implementing balanced caseload.

Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The U.S.-Georgia Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) guarantees U.S. investors national treatment and most favored nation treatment. Exceptions to national treatment have been carved out for Georgia in certain sectors, such as maritime fisheries, air and maritime transport and related activities, ownership of broadcast, common carrier, or aeronautical radio stations, communications satellites, government-supported loans, guarantees, and insurance, and landing of submarine cables.

Georgia’s legal system is based on civil law. Legislation governing foreign investment includes the Constitution, the Civil Code, the Tax Code, and the Customs Code. Other relevant legislation includes the Law on Entrepreneurs, the Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity, the Bankruptcy Law, the Law on Courts and General Jurisdiction, the Law on Limitation of Monopolistic Activity, the Accounting Law, and the Securities Market Law.

Ownership and privatization of property is governed by the following acts: the Civil Code, the Law on Ownership of Agricultural Land, the Law on Private Ownership of Non-Agricultural Land, the Law on Management of State-Owned Non-Agricultural Land, and the Law on Privatization of State Property. Property rights in extractive industries are governed by the Law on Concessions, the Law on Deposits, and the Law on Oil and Gas. Intellectual property rights are protected under the Civil Code and the Law on Patents and Trademarks. Financial sector legislation includes the Law on Commercial Banks, the Law on National Banks, and the Law on Insurance Activities.

There is no one-stop-shop website for investment that provides relevant laws in English.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Georgian Law “On Free Trade and Competition” of 2005 that governs competition is in line with the Georgian Constitution and international agreements.

The agency in charge of reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns is the Competition Agency, an independent legal entity of public law, subordinated to the Prime Minister of Georgia. The agency aims to promote market liberalization, free trade, and competition (www.competition.ge ). Georgia has also signed a number of international agreements containing competition provisions, including the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. The DCFTA within the AA goes further than most FTAs, with elimination of non-tariff barriers and regulatory alignment, as well as binding rules on investments and services.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Georgian Constitution protects property ownership rights, including ownership, acquisition, disposal, and inheritance of property. Foreign citizens living in Georgia possess rights and obligations equal to those of the citizens of Georgia, with the exception of certain property rights (see Section 5). The Constitution allows restriction or revocation of property rights only in cases of extreme public necessity, and then only as allowed by law.

The Law on Procedures for Forfeiture of Property for Public Needs establishes the rules for expropriation in Georgia. The law allows expropriation for certain enumerated public needs, establishes a mechanism for valuation and payment of compensation, and provides for court review of the valuation at the option of any party. The Georgian Law on Investment allows expropriation of foreign investments only with appropriate compensation. Amendments to the Law on Procedures for Forfeiture of Property for Public Needs allow payment of compensation with property of equal value as well as money. Compensation includes all expenses associated with the valuation and delivery of expropriated property. Compensation must be paid without delay and must include both the value of the expropriated property as well as the loss suffered by the foreign investor as a result of expropriation. The foreign investor has a right to review an expropriation in a Georgian court. In 2007, Parliament passed a law generally prohibiting the government from contesting the privatization of real estate sold by the government before August 2007. The law is not applicable, however, to certain enumerated properties.

The U.S.-Georgia BIT permits expropriation of covered investments only for a public purpose, in a non-discriminatory manner, upon payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation, and in accordance with due process of law and general principles of fair treatment.

Expropriation disputes are not common in Georgia, although under the previous government (before 2012), reputable NGOs raised cases of illegal revocation of historic ownership rights in Svaneti, Anaklia, Gonio, and Black Sea-adjacent territories. Under the previous government there were cases of property transfers that lacked transparency and allegedly were implemented under coercion.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Since 1992, Georgia has been a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). As a result of these international obligations, Georgia is bound to accept international arbitration and recognize arbitral awards. The Ministry of Justice oversees the government’s interests in arbitrations between the state and private investors.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Georgia has signed bilateral investments treaties (BITs) with 32 countries  including the United States. Georgian investment law allows disputes between a foreign investor and a government body to be resolved in Georgian courts or at ICSID, unless a different method of dispute settlement is agreed upon between the parties. If the dispute cannot be heard at ICSID, the foreign investor can also submit the dispute to ad-hoc international arbitration under United Nations Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL model law) rules. The right to use ICSID or UNCITRAL model law is provided for under the U.S.–Georgia BIT.

There were reports of lack of due process and respect for rule of law in a number of property rights cases. NGOs also reported several cases in which groups claimed the government improperly used taxes on property to pressure organizations.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there remain indications of interference in judicial independence and impartiality. Judges are vulnerable to political pressure from within and outside of the judiciary.

Disputes over property rights at times have undermined confidence in the impartiality of the Georgian judicial system and rule of law, and by extension, Georgia’s investment climate. The government identified judicial reform as one of its top priorities, and Parliament has passed a series of reforms aimed at strengthening judicial independence. While reforms have improved the independence of the judiciary, politically sensitive cases are still vulnerable to political pressure. The High Council of Justice is currently dominated by a group of anti-reform judges. Civil society asserts this group applies pressure on judges in politically sensitive cases. The government recently adopted additional judicial reforms focused on improving judicial discipline rules and regulating the operations of the High School of Justice and High Council of Justice.

Over the past 10 years, there have been over a dozen investment disputes involving U.S. citizens. As of 2019, five of those disputes were still ongoing, while the rest were resolved through arbitral awards or out-of-court settlements.

Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.

There is no substantial history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Georgia’s arbitration law went into force on January 1, 2010. Georgia has enacted legislation based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. Domestic private arbitration firms, such as the International Arbitration Center (www.giec.ge ), operate in dispute resolution between two private parties.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Law of Georgia on Insolvency Proceedings regulates rehabilitation and bankruptcy. The law defines two types of creditors: secured and non-secured. Creditors can file a court claim for opening an insolvency proceeding, given certain conditions are satisfied (conditions vary, depending on the outstanding debt amount and the delayed days of repayment).

Creditor meetings are held in court and chaired by a judge. The creditor meeting can decide several issues, including the appointment of a supervisor of the bankruptcy or rehabilitation proceedings, and the appointment of a member of the facilitation council.

Secured creditors: Secured creditors must make unanimous decisions on approving a debtor’s new debts, the encumbrance of the debtor’s property, and suretyship. If there are no secured creditors, the creditor’s meeting is authorized to make the same decisions. The secured creditors, in a creditor’s meeting, may suspend enforcement of the material conditions of the agreement with the bankruptcy or rehabilitation supervisor or on the definition of the terms of the rehabilitation. After the debtor’s property is sold on auction, secured creditors have first priority for being repaid. All secured creditors must approve the rehabilitation plan and plan amendments. New equity investment in the debtor’s company is only possible if there are prior consents from all secured creditors and the rehabilitation supervisor.

Non-secured creditors: Non-secured creditors are satisfied only after all secured creditors are satisfied (unless otherwise agreed by all creditors unanimously). Non-secured creditors do not have voting rights for the rehabilitation plan approval.

The priority system shall not apply to creditors whose claim is secured by financial collateral.

Foreign creditors: The law provides additional time for foreign creditors to file claims. Creditors may file claims to the court and request to declare the agreements made by the insolvent debtor voidable and/or request reimbursement of damages, if such agreements inflicted damages to the creditor.

The Law of Georgia on Insolvency Proceedings only incurs criminal liabilities in cases where the debtor does not provide information about its obligations, assets, financial situation and activities, or ongoing disputes in which the debtor is involved; or provides such information with intentional delay, or provides falsified information.

The Debt Registry of the National Agency of the Public Register is Georgia’s credit monitoring authority.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report , Georgia’s score of 40.5 in the category of Resolving Insolvency is above the regional average, and the Law of Georgia on Insolvency Proceedings entered into force in 2017 made insolvency proceedings more accessible for debtors and creditors, improved provisions on treatment of contracts during insolvency, and granted creditors greater participation in important decisions during the proceedings. According to the Law on Insolvency Proceedings, it should take no more than 225 days to complete liquidation proceedings. However, in practice, it often takes two years to complete the process because parties do not always comply with statutory deadlines.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Georgian government has created several tools to support investment in the country’s economy. The JSC Partnership Fund is a state-owned investment fund, established in 2011. The fund owns the largest Georgian state-owned enterprises operating in the transportation, energy, and infrastructure sectors. The Fund’s main objective is to promote domestic and foreign investment in Georgia by providing co-financing (equity, mezzanine, etc.) in projects at their initial stage of development, with a focus on tourism, manufacturing, energy, and agriculture. (www.fund.ge )

In 2013, the government launched the Georgian Co-Investment Fund (GCF) to promote foreign and domestic investments. According to the government, the GCF is a six billion USD private investment fund with a mandate of providing investors with unique access, through a private equity structure, to opportunities in Georgia’s fastest growing industries and sectors. (www.gcfund.ge )

The government’s “Produce in Georgia” program is another tool for jointly financing foreign investment under which investors establish limited liability companies in Georgia. The program aims to develop and support entrepreneurship, encourage creation of new enterprises, and increase export potential and investment in the country. Coordinated by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development through its Entrepreneurship Development Agency, National Agency of State Property, and Technology and Innovation Agency of Georgia, the project provides access to finance, access to real property, and technical assistant to entrepreneurs

For more information please visit: http://enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/home 

The National Agency of State Property is in charge of the Physical Infrastructure Transfer Component, i.e., the free-of-charge transfer of government-owned real property to an entrepreneur under certain investment obligations.

Low labor costs contribute to the attractiveness of Georgia as a foreign investment destination. Georgia is also increasingly recognized as a regional transportation hub that links Asia and Europe. Georgia’s free trade regimes provide easy access for companies to export goods produced in Georgia to foreign markets. In some cases, foreign investors can benefit from these agreements by producing goods that target these markets.

In October 2018, Georgia’s Prime Minister introduced the concept of electronic residency, allowing citizens of 34 countries to register their companies electronically and open bank accounts in Georgia while not having a physical presence in the country.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In June 2007, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the Law on Free Industrial Zones, which defines the form and function of free industrial/economic zones. Financial operations in such zones may be performed in any currency. Foreign companies operating in free industrial zones are exempt from taxes on profit, property, and VAT. Currently, there are four free industrial zones (FIZ) in Georgia:

Poti Free Industrial Zone (FIZ): This is the first free industrial zone in the Caucasus region, established in 2008. UAE-based RAK Investment Authority (Rakia) initially developed the zone, but in 2017, CEFC China Energy Company Limited purchased 75 percent of shares, and the Georgian government holds the remaining 25 percent. Poti FIZ, a 300-hectare area, benefits from its close proximity to the Poti Sea Port. www.potifreezone.ge .

A 27-hectare plot in Kutaisi is home to the Egyptian company Fresh Electric, which constructed a kitchen appliances factory in 2009. The company has committed to building about one dozen textile, ceramics, and home appliances factories in the zone, and announced its intention to invest over USD two billion.

Chinese private corporation “Hualing Group,” based in Urumqi, China, developed another FIZ in Kutaisi in 2015. This FIZ is a 36-hectare area that houses businesses focused on sales of wood, furniture, stone, building materials, pharmaceuticals, auto spare parts, electric vehicles, and beverages: www.hualingfiz.ge .

The Tbilisi Free Zone (TFZ) in Tbilisi occupies 17 hectares divided into 28 plots. TFZ has access to the main cargo transportation highway, Tbilisi International Airport (30 km), and the Tbilisi city center (17 km). For more information, visit: https://www.tfz.ge/en/510/ .

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Performance requirements are not a condition of establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment, but the government has imposed requirements on a case-by-case basis in some privatizations of large state assets, such as commitments to maintain employment levels or to make additional investments within a specified period of time. Performance requirements such as the scope and time limit on licenses to extract natural resources or production sharing agreements have triggered complaints from some companies that transactions lacked transparency. The U.S.-Georgia BIT prohibits certain performance requirements.

Georgia’s Law on Promotion and Guarantees of Investment Activity prohibits setting the required minimum number of Georgian citizens to be elected or appointed in leading bodies of enterprises.

The government does not follow a forced localization policy though recent legislative changes have created difficulties in acquiring residence permits for foreign employees working for VAT exempt entities. The government is aware of this oversight and Parliament plans to address this issue summer 2020. Foreign investors have no obligation to use domestic content in goods or technology. In addition, there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source codes and/or provide access to surveillance.

Customer- and business-related data transfer is not restricted in Georgia, neither within nor outside the country, unless it concerns personal or national security matters, which are protected by the law.

The Data Exchange Agency (DEA), under the Ministry of Justice, coordinates e-governance development, data exchange infrastructure, unified governmental networks, informational and communication standards, and cybersecurity policy. The DEA requires any company managing critical data to implement a number of security protocols to protect that information (www.dea.gov.ge ).

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Georgia ranks high in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report in general, but especially in the category of “registering property.” Processes to register property are streamlined, transparent, and take one day to process at Public Service Halls.

In June 2017, the Parliament adopted a legislative amendment that placed a moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreign citizens and stateless persons. Under the amendment, foreigners, legal entities registered abroad, and legal entities registered by foreigners in Georgia were not able to purchase agricultural land in Georgia. Furthermore, the new Constitution that came into force in December 2018 determined that agricultural land can only be owned by the state, self-governing entities, citizens of Georgia, or a group of Georgian citizens. The Constitution also states that exclusions may be specified in organic law, which requires votes from at least two-thirds of Parliament to pass. Parliament is considering a draft law that would provide an exception to the constitutional ban.

Mortgages and liens are registered through the public registry and information can be obtained from the webpage www.napr.gov.ge .

The government has taken multiple steps to regulate land titling, including facilitating simplified procedures, free registration campaigns, and mediation services. The National Public Registration Agency reported that from August 2016 through February 2019, 300 thousand hectares of land were registered under the land reform project, increasing the share of titled land to 45 percent. Unclear or unregistered titling bears the potential to hamper investment projects.

Property ownership cannot revert to other owners when legally purchased property stays unoccupied.

Intellectual Property Rights

Georgia acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 2000. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development is responsible for WTO compliance. Georgia is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is party to the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. The legal framework for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Georgia is approximated to international standards. Six laws regulate IPR in Georgia: the Law on Patents, the Law on Trademarks, the Law on Copyrights and Neighboring Rights, the Law on Appellation of Origin and Geographic Indication of Goods, the Law on Topographies of Integrated Circuits, and the Law on IP-Related Border Measures. Georgian law now provides protection for works of literature, art, science, and sound recordings for 50 years.

The National Intellectual Property Center of Georgia (Sakpatenti) provides legal protection for IPR in Georgia since it issues protective documents on invention, utility models, trademarks, design rights, geographical indications and appellation of origin, new animal breeds and plant varieties, and ensures the deposit of copyrighted works. The Revenue Service, which is part of the Ministry of Finance, is responsible for enforcing the IPR of holders listed in the Register of Intellectual Property Subject-Matters of the relevant service. The Revenue Service is also responsible for border control and can halt the import or export of items suspected of being counterfeit based on the register data. According to the Law, goods may be held for 10 working days, which may be extended by the Revenue Service for another 10 working days. The Law of Georgia on Border Measures Related to Intellectual Property allows for the destruction of counterfeit goods pending a court decision.

Infringement of IPR, including industrial property rights, copyrights, performers’ rights, rights of makers of databases, trademarks, or other illegal use of commercial indications can incur civil, criminal, and administrative penalties. Depending on the type and extent of the violation, penalties include fines, corrective labor, social work, or imprisonment.

Sakpatenti is an active and engaged partner of the United States in educating the public on IPR issues. Sakpatenti coordinates the government’s approach to the enforcement of IPR under the Interagency Coordination Council (Council) for IPR Enforcement. The Council is an efficient platform for government institutions to exchange their views on IPR enforcement issues. Georgia is improving its enforcement of IPR, but some problems persist, including the widespread use of unlicensed software and the availability of pirated video and audio recordings and other unlicensed content available online. The U.S. government Commercial Law Development Program continues to provide assistance to Sakpatenti and other government entities to build capacity to deal with IPR-related issues effectively.

With the aim of improving domestic legislation and harmonizing it with international standards, Sakpatenti has engaged in proposing amendments to existing legislation regulating IPR. For example, Sakpatenti continues work on the draft law “On Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications of Goods” in the framework of an EU-funded Twinning Project on “Establishing Efficient Protection and Control System of Geographical Indications (GIs) in Georgia.” The proposed legislative amendments address the state-controlled mechanism for the registration of appellations of origin and geographical indications, , obligation to use registered appellations of origin or geographical indications, define legal mechanisms to protect appellations of origin and geographical indications against infringement, and procedural specification for conducting substantive examinations of applications for appellations of origin and geographical indications.

In 2019, the Investigation Service of the Ministry of Finance of Georgia initiated 12 cases based on of Article 196 of the Criminal Code of Georgia governing unlawful use of trademark (service marks) or other commercial designations, six of which were initiated ex officio. As a result of these actions, the Georgian government seized 36,907 items of counterfeit goods worth approximately USD 53,000. Also in 2019, the Customs Department of Georgia issued 140 suspension orders on various goods entering Georgia, allowing them to confirm the legitimacy of the goods. In 102 cases, the rights holder and the purchaser of the goods agreed to destroy the infringing items. In 10 cases, the rights holder filed a lawsuit in court, and in the remaining cases the Customs Department was unable to prove the goods were counterfeit and so released the goods. The total value of the destroyed goods was around USD 51,000.

Georgia is not included in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The National Bank of Georgia regulates the securities market. All market participants submit their reports in line with international standards. All listed companies must make public filings, which are then uploaded to the National Bank’s website, allowing investors to evaluate a company’s financial standing. The Georgian securities market includes the following licensed participants: a Stock Exchange, a Central Securities Depository, nine brokerage companies, and six registrars.

The Georgian Stock Exchange (GSE) is the only organized securities market in Georgia. Designed and established with the help of USAID and operating under a legal framework drafted with the assistance of American experts, the GSE complies with global best practices in securities trading and offers an efficient investment facility to both local and foreign investors. The GSE’s automated trading system can accommodate thousands of securities that can be traded by brokers from workstations on the GSE floor or remotely from their offices: https://gse.ge/en/ 

No law or regulation authorizes private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation or control. Cross-shareholder or stable-shareholder arrangements are not used by private firms in Georgia. Georgian legislation does not protect private firms from takeovers. There are no regulations authorizing private firms to restrict the investment activity of foreign partners or to limit the ability of foreign partners to gain control over domestic enterprises.

The government and Central Bank (National Bank of Georgia) respect IMF Article VIII and do not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers in current international transactions.

Credit from commercial banks is available to foreign investors as well as domestic clients, although interest rates are high. Banks continue offering business, consumer, and mortgage loans.

The government adopted a new law in 2018 that introduced an accumulative pension scheme, which became effective on January 1, 2019. The pension scheme is mandatory for legally employed people under 40. For the self-employed and those above the age of 40, enrolment in the program is voluntary. The pension savings system applies to Georgian citizens, foreign citizens living in Georgia with permanent residency in the country, and stateless persons who are employed or self-employed and receive an income.

The government expects that that the new system will boost domestic capital market, as the pension funds will be invested within Georgia. The Pension Agency of Georgia made its first large scale investment in March 2020, when it invested 560 million GEL (around USD 200 million) in deposit certificates of high-rated Georgian commercial banks.

Money and Banking System

Banking is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Georgian economy. The banking sector is well-regulated and capitalized despite regional and global challenges faced in many neighboring countries. As of March 1, 2020, Georgia’s banking sector consists of 15 commercial banks, including 14 foreign-controlled banks, with 154 commercial bank branches and 830 service centers throughout the country. In January 2019, Georgian commercial banks held GEL 46.2 billion (around USD 15.5 billion) in total assets. As of early 2020, there were 17 insurance companies and 45 microfinance (MFI) organizations operating in Georgia. MFIs held GEL 500 million (USD155.5 million) in total assets as of January 1, 2020. Two Georgian banks are listed on the London Stock Exchange: TBC Bank (listed in 2014) and the Bank of Georgia (2006).

The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) is Georgia’s central bank, as defined by the Constitution. The rights and obligations of the NBG as the central bank, the principles of its activity, and the guarantee of its independence are defined in the Organic Law of Georgia on the National Bank of Georgia. The National Bank supervises the financial sector to facilitate the financial stability and transparency of the financial system, as well as to protect the rights of the sector’s consumers and investors. Through the Financial Monitoring Service of Georgia, a separate legal entity, the NBG undertakes measures against illicit income legalization and terrorism financing. In addition, the NBG is the government’s banker and fiscal agent. (www.nbg.gov.ge ).

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Asian Development Bank (ABD), and other international development agencies have a variety of lending programs making credit available to large and small businesses in Georgia. Georgia’s two largest banks – TBC and Bank of Georgia – have correspondent banking relationships with the United States through Citibank, N.A.

Georgia does not restrict foreigners from establishing a bank account in Georgia.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Georgian law guarantees the right of an investor to convert and repatriate income after payment of all required taxes. The investor is also entitled to convert and repatriate any compensation received for expropriated property. Georgia has accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement, effective as of December 20, 1996, to refrain from imposing restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions and from engaging in discriminatory currency arrangements or multiple currency practices without IMF approval. Parliament’s 2011 adoption of the Act of Economic Freedom further reinforced this provision.

Under the U.S.-Georgia BIT, the Georgian government guarantees that all money transfers relating to a covered investment by a U.S. investor can be made freely and without delay into and out of Georgia.

Foreign investors have the right to hold foreign currency accounts with authorized local banks. The sole legal tender in Georgia is the lari (GEL), which is traded on the Tbilisi Interbank Currency Exchange and in the foreign exchange bureau market.

The GEL’s official exchange rate is calculated based on transactions secured on the Interbank Foreign Exchange Market. Interbank trading with foreign currencies is organized via an international trading system (Bloomberg). Taking into consideration secured transactions, the weighted average exchange rate of the GEL against the USD is calculated and announced as the official exchange rate for the following day. The official exchange rate of the GEL against other foreign currencies is determined according to the rate on international markets or the issuer country’s domestic interbank currency market on the basis of cross-currency exchange rates. The cross-currency rates are acquired from the Reuters and Bloomberg information systems, and the corresponding webpages of central banks. The information is automatically received, calculated, and disseminated from these systems.

Georgia has a floating exchange rate. The National Bank of Georgia does not intend to peg the exchange rate and does not generally intervene in the foreign exchange market, except under certain circumstances when the GEL’s fluctuation has a high magnitude, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions, limitations, or delays involved remittances from overseas. Several Georgian banks participate in the SWIFT and Western Union interbank communication networks. Businesses report that it takes a maximum of three days for money transferred abroad from Georgia to reach a beneficiary’s account, unless otherwise provided by a customer’s order. There is no indication that remittance policies will be altered in the future. Travelers must declare at the border currency and securities in their possession valued at more than GEL 30,000 (around USD10,000).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Georgia does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Georgian government privatized most state-owned enterprises (SOEs). At the end of 2013, Georgian Railways, Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC), Georgian State Electrosystem (GSE), Electricity System Commercial Operator (ESCO), and Enguri Hydropower plant were the major remaining SOEs. Of these companies, only Georgian Railways is a major market player. The energy-related companies largely implement the government’s energy policies and help manage the electricity market. There are also a number of Legal Entities of Public Law (LEPLs), independent bodies that carry out government functions, such as the Public Service Halls.

During 2012, Georgian Railways, GOGC, GSE, and ESCO’s assets were placed under the Partnership Fund, a state-run fund to facilitate foreign investment into new projects. In addition, the fund controls 25 percent of shares in the TELASI Electricity Distribution Company. The fund has stated its intention to sell those shares but has not yet done so. (www.fund.ge)

Despite state ownership, SOEs act under the general terms of the Entrepreneurial Law. Georgian Railway and GOGC have supervisory boards, while GSE and ESCO do not. The SOEs’ individual charters describe their procedures and policies. Georgia encourages its SOEs to adhere to the OECD’s Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.

The senior management of SOEs report to Supervisory Boards where they exist (GRW, GOGC); in other cases they report to the line ministries. Governmental officials can be on the supervisory board of the SOEs, and the Partnership Fund has five key governmental officials on its board. SOEs explicitly are not obligated to consult with government officials before making business decisions, but informal consultations take place depending on the scale and importance of the issue.

To ensure the transparency and accountability of state business decisions and operations, SOEs have regular outside audits and publish annual reports. SOEs with more than 50 percent state ownership are obliged to follow the State Procurement Law and make procurements via public tender. The Partnership Fund, GRW and GOGC are subject to valuation by international rating agencies. There is no legal requirement for SOEs to publish annual report or to submit their books for independent audit, but this is done in practiced. In addition, GRW and GOGC are Eurobond issuer companies and therefore are required to publish reports. SOEs are subject to the same domestic accounting standards and rules. These standards are comparable to international financial reporting standards. No SOEs exercise delegated governmental powers.

Privatization Program

Georgia’s government has privatized most large SOEs. Successful privatization projects include major assets in energy generation and distribution, telecommunications, water utilities, port facilities, and real estate sectors. A list of entities available to be privatized can be found on the following website: www.privatization.ge. However, the government does not maintain a comprehensive website listing all privatization offers. The ministries covering the relevant sector of the economy handles the privatization information. Foreign investors are welcome to participate in privatization programs. Further information is also available at a website maintained by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia at: www.amcham.ge .

In 2019, the government offered mining deposits for privatization in addition to other state-owned assets through the 100 Investment Offers for Business  initiative. Within the initiative, the government selected mineral resource deposits from various regions to sell at e-auctions . The mineral deposits include gold and copper-polymetallic, ore, bentonite clay, volcanic slag, peat, diatomite, tuff breccia, zeolite-containing tuff, basalt, marble, limestone, underground fresh water, and carbonated mineral water. Mining license prices vary and depend on the type of mineral resource and its price.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

While the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not highly developed in Georgia, it is growing. Most large companies engage in charity projects and public outreach as part of their marketing strategy. The American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia has a Corporate CSR committee that works with member companies on CSR issues. The Global Compact, a worldwide group of UN agencies, private businesses, and civil society groups promoting responsible corporate citizenship, is active in Georgia. The Eurasia Partnership Foundation launched a program on corporate social investment to promote greater private company engagement in addressing Georgia’s development needs.

The Georgian government undertook an OECD CSR policy review in 2016 based on the OECD Policy Framework for Investment. The report states that Georgia engages regularly with the OECD. Georgia participates in the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Program, which works with countries in the region to unleash their economic and employment potential. Georgia participates in the OECD Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which provides a regional forum for promotion of anti-corruption activities, exchange of information on best practices, and donor coordination. Georgia is a member of the Task Force for the Implementation of the Environmental Action Program (EAP Task Force), which aims to address the heavy environmental legacy of the Soviet development model. Additionally, the Support for Improvement in Governance and Management (SIGMA) program, a joint initiative of the EU and the OECD, has provided assistance to Georgia since 2008, to strengthen public governance systems and public administration capacities. Georgia participates in the OECD Committee on Fiscal Affairs’ Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) Project.

Georgia is not a party to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and/or Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights despite extractive manganese, gold, and copper ore industries operating in Georgia. Among the local tools promoting CSR principles and policies in such industries are commercial chambers, the Public Defender’s office, the Business Ombudsman under the Prime Minister’s Office, sectoral trade unions, and Georgia’s Trade Union Confederation (GTUC).

9. Corruption

Georgia has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption. Georgia criminalizes bribery under Articles 332-342 of the Criminal Code. Senior public officials must file financial disclosure forms, which are available online, and Georgian legislation provides for the civil forfeiture of undocumented assets of public officials who are charged with corruption-related offenses. Penalties for accepting a bribe start at six years in prison and can extend to 15 years, depending on the circumstances. Penalties for giving a bribe can include a fine, a minimum prison sentence of two years, or both. In aggravated circumstances, when a bribe is given to commit an illegal act, the penalty is from four to seven years. Abuse of authority and exceeding authority by public servants are criminal acts under Articles 332 and 333 of the criminal code and carry a maximum penalty of eight years imprisonment. The definition of a public official includes foreign public officials and employees of international organizations and courts. White collar crimes, such as bribery, fall under the investigative jurisdiction of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Georgia is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Georgia has, however, ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. Georgia cooperates with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the OECD’s Anti-Corruption Network for Transition Economies (ACN).

Following its assessment of Georgia in June 2016, the OECD released a report in September 2016 that concluded Georgia had achieved remarkable progress in eliminating petty corruption in public administration and should now focus on combating high-level and complex corruption. The report commends Georgia’s mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of its Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan, as well as the role given to civil society in this process. It also welcomes the adoption of a new Law on Civil Service and recommends that the remaining legislation to implement civil service reforms is adopted without delay. The report notes that the Civil Service Bureau and Human Resources units in state entities should be strengthened to ensure the implementation of the required reforms. The report highlights Georgia’s good track record in prosecuting corruption crimes and in using modern methods to confiscate criminal proceeds. It recommends that Georgia increase enforcement of corporate liability and the prosecution of foreign bribery to address the perception of corruption among local government officials. The full report is available at: http://www.oecd.org/corruption/anti-bribery/Georgia-Round-4-Monitoring-Report-ENG.pdf .

Since 2003, Georgia has significantly improved its ranking in Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report.

Transparency International (TI) ranked Georgia 44th out of 180 countries in the 2019 edition  of its Corruption Perceptions Index (the same rank as Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, and Latvia).

While Georgia has been successful in fighting visible, low-level corruption, Georgia remains vulnerable to what Transparency International calls “elite” corruption: high-level officials exploiting legal loopholes for personal enrichment, status, or retribution. Although the evidence is mostly anecdotal, this form of corruption, or the perception of its existence, has the potential to erode public and investor confidence in Georgia’s institutions and the investment environment. Corruption remains a potential problem in public procurement processes, public administration practices, and the judicial system due to unclear laws and ethical standards.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Anti-Corruption Agency at the State Security Service of Georgia
Address: 72, Vazha Pshavela Ave.
Tel: +995-32-241-20-28

Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia
Mr. Gocha Gochashvili,
Head of Division of Criminal Prosecution of Corruption CrimesAddress: 24, Gorgasali Street, Tbilisi
Tel: +995-32-240-52-52
Email: ggochashvili@pog.gov.ge

Ministry of Justice of Georgia
Secretariat of the Anti-Corruption Council
Address: 24, Gorgasali Street, Tbilisi
Tel: +995-32-240-58-04
Email: ACCouncil@justice.gov.ge

Business Ombudsman’s Office
Mr. Mikheil Daushvili, Ombudsman
Address: 7, Ingorokva street
Hotline: +995 32 2 282828
Email: ask@businessombudsman.ge

Non-governmental organization:
Ms. Eka Gigauri
Director
Transparency International
26, Rustaveli Ave, 0108, Tbilisi, Georgia
Telephone: +995-32-292-14-03
ekag@transparency.ge

10. Political and Security Environment

The United States established diplomatic relations with Georgia in 1992, following Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since independence, Georgia has made impressive progress fighting corruption, developing modern state institutions, and enhancing global security. The United States is committed to helping Georgia deepen Euro-Atlantic ties and strengthen its democratic institutions.

In August 2008, tensions in the region of South Ossetia culminated in a brief war between Georgia and Russia. Russia invaded and occupied areas of undisputed Georgian territory. Russia continues to occupy these Georgian regions, and the central government in Tbilisi does not have effective control over these areas. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and does not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent. While South Ossetia and Abkhazia – which Russian troops and border guards have long occupied without Georgia’s consent – have declared independence, only Russia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Syria, and Venezuela recognize them as independent states. Tensions still exist both inside the occupied territories and near the administrative boundary lines (ABL). A Russian military build-up along the South Ossetia ABL dramatically escalated tensions in August 2019. In addition, Russian “border” guards regularly patrol the ABLs and have increasingly detained people trying to cross the ABLs. A number of attacks, criminal incidents, and kidnappings have occurred in and around the ABLs as well. While none of the activity has been anti-American in nature, there is a high risk of travelers finding themselves in a wrong place/wrong time situation. In addition, unexploded ordnance from previous conflicts poses a danger near the ABL of South Ossetia. However, other parts of Georgia, including Tbilisi, are not directly affected.

Per Georgian law, it is illegal to undertake any type of economic activity in Abkhazia or South Ossetia if such activities require permits, licenses, or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. Laws also ban mineral exploration, money transfers, and international transit via Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Violent street protests are uncommon, but there were significant clashes in June 2019 when protesters attempted to enter Parliament. Hundreds were injured, including some who suffered severe eye injuries due to police use of rubber bullets. Generally, police have fulfilled their duty to maintain order even in cases of unannounced protests.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Georgia offers skilled and unskilled labor at attractive costs compared not only to Western European and American standards, but also to Eastern European standards. Skilled labor availability in the engineering field remains underdeveloped. The official unemployment rate was 11.6 percent in 2019, according to State Department of Statistics, but actual unemployment is considerably higher given significant underemployment in the working population, especially in rural regions where subsistence farmers are considered employed for statistical purposes and job creation has remained a particular challenge. Some investment agreements between the Georgian government and private parties have included mandates for the contracting of local labor for positions below the management or executive level.

Georgia’s Labor Code defines the minimum age for employment (16), standard work hours (40 per week), and annual leave (24 calendar days). The law allows for other wage and hour issues to be agreed between the employer and employee. The amendments to the Labor Code in July 2013 defined the grounds for termination and severance pay for an employee at the time of termination, including the payment term. An employer is obliged to give compensation of not less than one month’s salary to an employee within thirty (30) days. Additionally, an employer is obliged to give the dismissed employee a written description of the grounds for termination within seven days after an employee’s request. The Labor Code also prescribes rules for paying overtime labor (over 40 hours), which must be paid at an increased hourly rate.

The Labor Code specifies essential terms for labor contracts, including: the starting date and the duration of labor relations, working hours and holiday time, location of workplace, position and type of work, amount of salary and its payment, overtime work and its payment, the duration of paid and unpaid vacation and leave, and rules for granting leave. The code states that the duration of a business day for an underage person (ages 16 to 18) should not exceed 36 hours per week. Regulations prohibit interference in union activities and discrimination of an employee due to union membership. The Labor Code amendments mandate the government to reestablish a labor inspectorate to ensure adherence to labor safety standards. The labor inspection program under the Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs, employs 25 labor inspectors, although in 2019 the government increased the number of inspectors to 100 to deal with increasing demand, and the vacancies are still to be filled. In 2018, Parliament passed the Occupational Safety, and Health (OSH) Law, that gave the government power to make unannounced inspections in some circumstances in companies operating among “hard, harmful, hazardous, and increased danger” occupations. Subsequent amendments that entered into force in September 2019 allowed unannounced inspections across all sectors of the economy. Employees are entitled to up to 183 days (six months) of paid maternity leave, which can last up to 24 months when combined with unpaid leave. The state subsidizes leave taken for pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and adoption of a newborn. An employer and employee may agree on additional compensation. The Labor Code permits non-competition clauses in contracts; this provision may remain in force even after the termination of employment.

Employees are entitled to up to 183 days (six months) of paid maternity leave, which can last up to 24 months when combined with unpaid leave. The state subsidizes leave taken for pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and adoption of a newborn. An employer and employee may agree on additional compensation. The Labor Code permits non-competition clauses in contracts; this provision may remain in force even after the termination of employment.

The government adopted a new law in 2018 establishing an accumulative pension scheme, which came into effect as of January 1, 2019. The pension is mandatory for legally employed persons under 40, while for the self-employed and those above the age of 40 enrollment in the program is voluntary. Each employee, employer, and the government must each make a contribution of two percent of the employee’s gross income to an individual retirement account. As for the self-employed, they will make a deposit of four percent of their income, and the state will match another two per cent. Employees pay a flat 20 percent income tax. The state social security system provides a modest pension and maternity benefits. The minimum monthly pension is GEL 220 (USD 73). The average monthly salary across the economy in 2019 was GEL 1,217 (around USD 420). The minimum wage requirement for state sector employees is GEL115 (USD 40) per month. Legislation on the official minimum wage in the private sector has not changed since the early 1990s and stands at GEL 20 (USD 7) per month, but is not applied in practice and is not being used for reference.

The law generally provides for the right of most workers, including government employees, to form and join independent unions, to legally strike, and to bargain collectively. Employers are not obliged, however, to engage in collective bargaining, even if a trade union or a group of employees wishes to do so. While strikes are not limited in length, the law limits lockouts to 90 days. A court may determine the legality of a strike, and violators of strike rules can face up to two years in prison. Although the law prohibits employers from discriminating against union members or union-organizing activities in general terms, it does not explicitly require reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. Certain categories of workers related to “human life and health,” as defined by the government, were not allowed to strike. The International Labor Organization noted the government’s list of such services included some it did not believe constituted essential services directly related to human life and health. Workers generally exercised their right to strike in accordance with the law.

Georgia has ratified some ILO conventions, including the Forced Labor Convention of 1930, the Paid Holiday Convention of 1936, the Anti-Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention of 1951, the Human Resources Development Convention of 1975, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention of 1949, the Equal Remuneration Convention of 1951, the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention of 1957, the Employment Policy Convention of 1964, and the Minimum Age Convention of 1973.

Information on labor related issues is also available in the State Department’s annual reports: Human Right Report: http://georgia.usembassy.gov/officialreports/hrr.html. Child Labor Report: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/georgia.htm .

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Since 1993, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), predecessor of the DFC, committed over USD 600 million in financing and political risk insurance for more than 60 projects in Georgia. DFC investment in Georgia has focused on the following sectors: credit for small and medium-sized enterprises, and projects in the infrastructure, franchising, education, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and health care sectors. Examples of 2019 of projects include a USD 50 million loan to finance the development, construction, and operation of a multifunctional general cargo, dry bulk, and container port terminal at Pace Terminal in Poti port, and a USD 15 million loan to Liberty Bank to upgrade Liberty Bank’s infrastructure, including the roll-out of approximately 500 ATMs, to help make formal financial services more accessible for SMEs and underbanked populations.

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) ($M USD) 2019 17,700 2018 17.6 https://data.worldbank.org/
country/georgia
Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, other
Foreign Direct Investment Year Amount Year Amount
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 99 2018 N/A https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host Country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 108 2018 108 https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

* Source for Host Country Data: GeoStat (Georgia National Statistics Department)

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 (2018) Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 18,258 100% Total Outward N/A 100%
Azerbaijan 3,998 21.9% N/A N/A N/A
UK 2,498 13.7% N/A N/A N/A
Netherlands 1,750 9.7% N/A N/A N/A
Cyprus 1,270 6.7% N/A N/A N/A
Turkey 1,095 6% N/A N/A N/A

Source: IMF

The IMF data on Direct Investment are inconsistent with Georgia’s Statistic Agency’s published data for 2018. The IMF report does not include two countries listed in Georgia’s published data for 2018, the United States and China, in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

United States Embassy, Political/Economic Section
29 Georgian-American Friendship Avenue, Tbilisi
Mackenzie Rowe, Economic Unit Chief +995-32-2-27-7000
RoweML2@state.gov

Germany

Executive Summary

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

The United States is the leading source of non-European foreign investment in Germany.  Foreign investment in Germany mainly originates from other European countries, the United States, and Japan.  FDI from emerging economies (and China) has grown slowly over 2015-2018, albeit from low levels.

The German government continues to strengthen provisions for national security screening inward investment in reaction to an increasing number of high-risk acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors in recent years, particularly from China.  German authorities strongly support the European Union framework to coordinate Member State screening of foreign investments, which entered into force in April 2019, and are currently enacting implementing legislation.

In 2018, the government lowered the threshold for the screening of investments, allowing authorities to screen acquisitions by foreign entities of at least 10 percent of voting rights of German companies that operate or provide services related to critical infrastructure. The amendment also added media companies to the list of sensitive businesses.

Further amendments, still in draft as of May 2020, will
a) introduce a more pro-active screening based on “prospective impairment” of public order or security by an acquisition, rather than a de facto threat,
b) take into account the impact on other EU member states, and
c) formally suspend transactions during the screening process.

Furthermore, acquisitions by foreign government-owned or funded entities will now trigger a review, and the healthcare industry will be considered a sensitive sector to which the stricter 10% threshold applies.  The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said it would draft a further amendment later in 2020 which would include a list of sensitive technologies (similar to the current list of critical infrastructure) to include artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, biotechnology, and quantum technology. Foreign investors who seek to acquire at least 10% of ownership rights of a German company in one those fields would be required to notify the government and potentially become subject to an investment review.  With these draft and planned amendments, Germany is implementing the 2019 EU Screening Regulation.

German legal, regulatory, and accounting systems can be complex and burdensome but are generally transparent and consistent with developed-market norms.  Businesses operate within a well regulated, albeit high cost, environment.  Foreign and domestic investors are treated equally when it comes to investment incentives or the establishment and protection of real and intellectual property.  Foreign investors can rely on the German legal system to enforce laws and contracts; at the same time, this system requires investors to closely track their legal obligations. New investors should ensure they have the necessary legal expertise, either in-house or outside counsel, to meet all national and EU regulations.

German authorities are committed to fighting money laundering and corruption.  The government promotes responsible business conduct and German SMEs are aware of the need for due diligence.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 9 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 22 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 9 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 140.331 billion USD  https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 54,560 USD http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The German government and industry actively encourage foreign investment. U.S. investment continues to account for a significant share of Germany’s FDI. The 1956 U.S.-Federal Republic of Germany Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation affords U.S. investors national treatment and provides for the free movement of capital between the United States and Germany. As an OECD member, Germany adheres to the OECD National Treatment Instrument and the OECD Codes of Liberalization of Capital Movements and of Invisible Operations.  The Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance provide the legal basis for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to review acquisitions of domestic companies by foreign buyers, to assess whether these transactions pose a risk to the public order or national security (for example, when the investment pertains to critical infrastructure).  For many decades, Germany has experienced significant inbound investment, which is widely recognized as a considerable contributor to Germany’s growth and prosperity.  The investment-related challenges facing foreign companies are broadly the same as face domestic firms, e.g high tax rates and labor laws that complicate hiring and dismissals. Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, provides extensive information for investors:  https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Under German law, a foreign-owned company registered in the Federal Republic of Germany as a GmbH (limited liability company) or an AG (joint stock company) is treated the same as a German-owned company.  There are no special nationality requirements for directors or shareholders.

The provision of employee placement services, such as providing temporary office support, domestic help, or executive search services, requires registration of a business in Germany.

Germany maintains an elaborate mechanism to screen foreign investments based on national security grounds.  The legislative basis for the mechanism (the Foreign Trade and Payments Act and Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance) has been amended several times in recent years in an effort to tighten parameters of the screening as technological threats evolve, particularly to address growing  investment interest by malevolent actors in both Mittelstand (mid-sized) and blue chip German companies.  Amendments to implement the 2019 EU Screening Regulation are in draft or have been announced as of May 2020.  In addition, authorities will make “prospective impairment” of public order and security the new trigger for an investment review, in place of the current standard (which requires a de facto threat).

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Bank Group’s “Doing Business 2020” and Economist Intelligence Unit both provide additional information on Germany’s investment climate.  The American Chamber of Commerce in Germany also publishes results of an annual survey of U.S. investors in Germany (“AmCham Germany Transatlantic Business Barometer”, https://www.amcham.de/publications).

Business Facilitation

Before engaging in commercial activities, companies and business operators must register in public directories, the two most significant of which are the commercial register (Handelsregister) and the trade office register (Gewerberegister).

Applications for registration at the commercial register, which is  available under www.handelsregister.de , are electronically filed in publicly certified form through a notary.  The commercial register provides information about all relevant relationships between merchants and commercial companies, including names of partners and managing directors, capital stock, liability limitations, and insolvency proceedings.  Registration costs vary depending on the size of the company.

Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, can assist in the registration processes  (https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest/investment-guide/establishing-a-company/business-registration-65532 ) and advises investors, including micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), on how to obtain incentives.

In the EU, MSMEs are defined as follows:

  • Micro-enterprises:  less than 10 employees and less than €2 million annual turnover or less than €2 million in balance sheet total.
  • Small-enterprises:  less than 50 employees and less than €10 million annual turnover or less than €10 million in balance sheet total.
  • Medium-sized enterprises:  less than 250 employees and less than €50 million annual turnover or less than €43 million in balance sheet total.

Outward Investment

Germany’s federal government provides guarantees for investments by Germany-based companies in developing and emerging economies and countries in transition in order to insure them against political risks.  In order to receive guarantees, the investment must have adequate legal protection in the host country. The Federal Government does not insure against commercial risks.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

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

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

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

International Regulatory Considerations

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

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

The federal states have a say over European affairs through the Bundesrat (upper chamber of parliament).  The Federal Government must inform the Bundesrat at an early stage of any new EU policies that are relevant for the federal states.

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

Legal System and Judicial Independence

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

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

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

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

Apart from the regular courts, which hear civil and criminal cases, Germany has specialized courts for administrative law, labor law, social law, and finance and tax law.  Many civil regional courts have specialized chambers for commercial matters.  In 2018, the first German regional courts for civil matters (in Frankfurt and Hamburg) established Chamber for International Commercial Disputes introducing the possibility to hear international trade disputes in English.  Other federal states are currently discussing plans to introduce these specialized chambers as well. The Federal Patent Court hears cases on patents, trademarks, and utility rights which are related to decisions by the German Patent and Trademarks Office.  Both the German Patent Office (Deutsches Patentamt) and the European Patent Office are headquartered in Munich.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy may review acquisitions of domestic companies by foreign buyers in cases where investors seek to acquire at least 25 percent of the voting rights to assess whether these transactions pose a risk to the public order or national security of the Federal Republic of Germany.  In the case of acquisitions of critical infrastructure and companies in sensitive sectors, the threshold for triggering an investment review by the government is 10 percent. The Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance provide the legal basis for screening investments. In 2019, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy screened a total of 106 foreign acquisitions. To our knowledge, it had not prohibited any acquisitions as of May 2020, however the prospect of rejection has caused at least one foreign investor to pull out of a prospective deal.  All decisions resulting are subject to judicial review by administrative courts.

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

Special rules apply for the acquisition of companies that operate in sensitive security areas, including defense and IT security.  In contrast to the cross-sectoral rules described above, all sensitive acquisitions must be notified in written form including basic information of the planned acquisition, the buyer, the domestic company that is subject of the acquisition and the respective fields of business.  The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy may open a formal review procedure if a foreign investor seeks to acquire at least 10 percent of voting rights of a German company in a sensitive security area within three months after receiving notification, or the acquisition shall be deemed as approved. If a review procedure is opened, the buyer is required to submit further documents.  The acquisition may be restricted or prohibited within three months after the full set of documents has been submitted.

The German government amended domestic investment screening provisions, effective June 2017, clarifying the scope for review and giving the government more time to conduct reviews, in reaction to an increasing number of acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors with apparent ties to national governments, .  The amended provisions provide a clearer definition of sectors in which foreign investment can pose a “threat to public order and security,” including operators of critical infrastructure, developers of software to run critical infrastructure, telecommunications operators or companies involved in telecom surveillance, cloud computing network operators and service providers, and telematics companies, and which are subject to notification requirements.  The new rules also extended the time to assess a cross-sector foreign investment from two to four months, and for investments in sensitive sectors, from one to three months, and introduced the possibility of retroactively initiating assessments for a period of five years after the conclusion of an acquisition. Indirect acquisitions such as those through a Germany- or EU-based affiliate company are now also explicitly subject to the new rules.

In 2018, the government further lowered the threshold for the screening of investments, allowing authorities to screen acquisitions by foreign entities of at least 10 percent of voting rights of German companies that operate critical infrastructure (down from 25 percent), as well as companies providing services related to critical infrastructure. The amendment also added media companies to the list of sensitive businesses to which the lower threshold applies, given the ability of foreign actors to engage in disinformation is independent of subjective quotas.

Further amendments, still in draft as of May 2020, will

a) introduce a more pro-active screening based on “prospective impairment” of public order or security by an acquisition, rather than a de facto threat,
b) take into account the impact on other EU member states, and
c) formally suspend transactions during the screening process.

Furthermore, acquisitions by foreign government-owned or funded entities will now trigger a review, and the healthcare industry will be considered a sensitive sector to which the stricter 10% threshold applies.  The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said it would draft a further amendment later in 2020 which would include a list of sensitive technologies (similar to the current list of critical infrastructure) to include artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, biotechnology, and quantum technology. Foreign investors who seek to acquire at least 10% of ownership rights of a German company in one those fields would be required to notify the government and potentially become subject to an investment review.  With these draft and planned amendments, Germany is implementing the 2019 EU Screening Regulation.

The Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides comprehensive information on Germany’s investment screening regime on its website in English:

https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/EN/Artikel/Foreign-Trade/investment-screening.html 

The German Economic Development Agency (GTAI) provides extensive information for investors, including about the legal framework, labor-related issues and incentive programs, on their website: http://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Navigation/EN/Invest/investment-guide.html.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

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

The Law against Limiting Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen – GWB) is the legal basis for the fight against cartels, merger control, and monitoring abuse.  State and Federal cartel authorities are in charge of enforcing anti-trust law. In exceptional cases, the Minister for Economics and Energy can provide a permit under specific conditions.  A June 2017 amendment to the GWB expanded the reach of the Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) to include internet and data-based business models; as a result, the FCA investigated Facebook’s data collection practices regarding potential abuse of market power.  A February 2019 FCA decision found that Facebook abused its dominant position in social media to harvest user data. Facebook challenged the FCA’s decision in court, but in June 2020, Germany’s highest court upheld the FCA’s action. The decision is likely to embolden the FCA in challenging the conduct of large tech platforms, particularly with regard to user data.  In November 2018, the FCA initiated an investigation of Amazon over potential abuse of market power; a July 2019 decision by the FCA led Amazon to make the requested changes to their terms of business.  The case was subsequently closed.

In January 2020, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy published additional draft amendments to the GWB, which were aimed at codifying tools that will allow greater scrutiny of digital platforms, particularly access to data.  The FCA has stated its support for the proposed amendments.  Among their provisions, the proposed amendments add access to data as a consideration in assessing a company’s market dominance and allow the FCA to declare that a digital business is of “paramount significance” in multi-sided markets, even if it lacks dominance. Upon designation as being of paramount significance, the FCA would have authority to prohibit these businesses from taking a variety of actions.  The proposed amendments remain subject to legislative passage.

The Law against Unfair Competition, whose goal – unlike the GWB – is not to preserve access to the market as a basic requirement for competition but to protect competitors, consumers and other market participants against unfair competitive behavior by companies, can be invoked in regional courts.

Expropriation and Compensation

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

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

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

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

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

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

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Germany has a domestic arbitration body called the German Arbitration Institute (DIS). ”Book 10” of the German Code of Civil Procedure addresses arbitration proceedings. The International Chamber of Commerce has an office in Berlin. In addition, local chambers of commerce and industry offer arbitration services.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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

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

Equal treatment of creditors is enshrined in the Insolvency Code.  Some creditors have the right to claim property back. Post-adjudication preferred creditors are served out of insolvency assets during the insolvency procedure.  Ordinary creditors are served on the basis of quotas from the remaining insolvency assets. Secondary creditors, including shareholder loans, are only served if insolvency assets remain after all others have been served.  Germany ranks fourth in the global ranking of “Resolving Insolvency” in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, with a recovery rate of 79.8 cents on the dollar.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

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

Germany Trade & Invest, Germany’s federal economic development agency, provides comprehensive information on incentives in English at:  https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest/investment-guide/incentive-programs .

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

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

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

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

U.S. companies can generally obtain the visas and work permits required to do business in Germany.  U.S. citizens may apply for work and residential permits from within Germany. Germany Trade & Invest offers detailed information online at https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest/investment-guide/coming-to-germany.

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

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

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

The German Land Register Act dates back to 1897 and was last amended in 2019.  The land register mirrors private real property rights and provides information on the legal relationship of the estate.  It documents the owner, rights of third persons, as well as liabilities and restrictions. Any change in property of real estate must be registered in the land registry to make the contract effective.  Land titles are now maintained in an electronic database and can be consulted by persons with a legitimate interest.

Intellectual Property Rights

Germany has a robust regime to protect intellectual property rights (IPR).  Legal structures are strong and enforcement is good.  Nonetheless, internet piracy and counterfeit goods remain issues, and specific infringing websites are included in USTR’s 2019 Notorious Markets List.  Germany has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1970.  The German Central Customs Authority annually publishes statistics on customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods.  The statistics for 2018 can be found under: https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/jahresstatistik_2018.html?nn=287024 .

Germany is party to the major international IPR agreements: the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Brussels Satellite Convention, the Treaty of Rome on Neighboring Rights, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Many of the latest developments in German IPR law are derived from European legislation with the objective to make applications less burdensome and allow for European IPR protection.  Germany is currently drafting legislation to implement  EU Directive 2019/790 on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market, including an ancillary copyright law for publishers, following a public consultation process.

The following types of protection are available:

Copyrights:  National treatment is granted to foreign copyright holders, including remuneration for private recordings.  Under the TRIPS Agreement, Germany grants legal protection for U.S. performing artists against the commercial distribution of unauthorized live recordings in Germany.  Germany is party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which came into force in 2010. Most rights holder organizations regard German authorities’ enforcement of IP rights as effective.  In 2008, Germany implemented the EU Directive (2004/48/EC) on IPR enforcement with a national bill, thereby strengthening the privileges of rights holders and allowing for improved enforcement action.

Trademarks:  National treatment is granted to foreigners seeking to register trademarks at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.  Protection is valid for a period of ten years and can be extended in ten-year periods.  It is possible to register for trademark and design protection nationally in Germany or with the EU Trade Mark and/or Registered Community Design.  These provide protection for industrial design or trademarks in the entire EU market.  Both national trademarks and European Community Trade Marks (CTMs) can be applied for from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as part of an international trademark registration system, or the applicant may apply directly for those trademarks from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) at https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/home .

Patents:  National treatment is granted to foreigners seeking to register patents at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.  Patents are granted for technical inventions that are new, involve an inventive step, and are industrially applicable.  However, applicants having neither a domicile nor an establishment in Germany must appoint a patent attorney in Germany as a representative filing the patent application.  The documents must be submitted in German or with a translation into German. The duration of a patent is 20 years from the patent application filing date.  Patent applicants can request accelerated examination under the Global Patent Protection Highway (GPPH) when filing the application, provided that the patent application was previously filed at the USPTO and that at least one claim had been determined to be patentable.  There are a number of differences between U.S. and German patent law, including the filing systems (“first-inventor-to-file” versus “first-to-file”, respectively), that a qualified patent attorney can explain to U.S. patent applicants.  German law also offers the possibility to register designs and utility models.

If a U.S. applicant seeks to file a patent in multiple European countries, this may be accomplished through the European Patent Office (EPO) which grants European patents for the contracting states to the European Patent Convention (EPC).  The 38 contracting states include the entire EU membership and several additional European countries; Germany joined the EPC in 1977.  It should be noted that some EPC members require a translation of the granted European patent in their language for validation purposes.  The EPO provides a convenient single point to file a patent in as many of these countries as an applicant would like:  https://www.epo.org/applying/basics.html .  U.S. applicants seeking patent rights in multiple countries can alternatively file an international Patent Coordination Treaty (PCT) application with the USPTO.

Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are protected in Germany by the Law for the Protection of Trade Secrets, which has been in force since April 2019 and implements the 2016 EU Directive (2016/943).  According to the law, the illegal accessing, appropriation, and copying of trade secrets, including through social engineering, is prohibited.  Explicitly exempt from the law is “reverse engineering” of a publicly available item, and appropriation, usage, or publication of a trade secret to protect a “legitimate interest”, including journalistic research and whistleblowing.  The law requires that companies have to implement “adequate confidentiality measures” for information to be protected as a trade secret under the law.  Owners of trade secrets are entitled to omission, compensation, and information about the culprit, as well as the destruction, return and recall, and ultimately the removal of the infringing products from the market.

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

Country resources:

For additional information about how to protect IPR in Germany, please see Germany Trade & Invest website at https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest/investment-guide/the-legal-framework/patents-licensing-trade-marks-65372 .

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

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

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

Businesses can also join the Anti-counterfeiting Association (APM)
http://www.markenpiraterie-apm.de/index.php?article_id=1&clang=1 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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

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

Money and Banking System

Although corporate financing via capital markets is on the rise, Germany’s financial system remains mostly bank-based.  Bank loans are still the predominant form of funding for firms, particularly the small- and medium-sized enterprises that comprise Germany’s “Mittelstand,” or mid-sized industrial market leaders.  Credit is available at market-determined rates to both domestic and foreign investors, and a variety of credit instruments are available. Legal, regulatory and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international banking norms.  Germany has a universal banking system regulated by federal authorities, and there have been no reports of a shortage of credit in the German economy. After 2010, Germany banned some forms of speculative trading, most importantly “naked short selling.” In 2013, Germany passed a law requiring banks to separate riskier activities such as proprietary trading into a legally separate, fully capitalized unit that has no guarantee or access to financing from the deposit-taking part of the bank.  Since the creation of the European single supervisory mechanism (SSM) in November 2014, the European Central Bank directly supervises 21 banks located in Germany (as of March 2020) among them four subsidiaries of foreign banks.

Germany supports a global financial transaction tax and is pursuing the introduction of such a tax along with other EU member states.

Germany has a modern and open banking sector that is characterized by a highly diversified and decentralized, small-scale structure.  As a result, it is extremely competitive, profit margins notably in the retail sector are low and the banking sector considered “over-banked” and in need of consolidation.  The country’s “three-pillar” banking system consists of private commercial banks, cooperative banks, and public banks (savings banks/Sparkassen and the regional state-owned banks/Landesbanken).  This structure has remained unchanged despite marked consolidation within each “pillar” since the financial crisis in 2008/9. The number of state banks (Landesbanken) dropped from 12 to 5, that of savings banks from 446 in 2007 to 380 at the end of 2019 and the number of cooperative banks has dropped from 1,234 to 842. Two of the five large private sector banks have exited the market (Dresdner, Postbank). The balance sheet total of German banks dropped from 304 percent of GDP in 2007 to 242 percent by the end of 2019. Market shares in corporate finance of the banking groups remained largely unchanged (all figures for end of 2019): Credit institutions 27 percent (domestic 17 percent, foreign banks 10 percent), savings banks 31 percent, state banks 10 percent, credit cooperative banks 21 percent, promotional banks 6 percent.

The private bank sector is dominated by globally active banks Deutsche Bank (Germany’s largest bank by balance sheet total) and Commerzbank (fourth largest bank), with balance sheets of €1.3 trillion and €466.6 billion respectively (2019 figures). Commerzbank received €18 billion in financial assistance from the federal government in 2009, for which the government took a 25 percent stake in the bank (now reduced to 15.6 percent).  Merger talks between Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank failed in 2019.  The second largest of the top ten German banks is DZ Bank, the central institution of the Cooperative Finance Group (after its merge with WGZBank in July 2016), followed by German branches of large international banks (UniCredit Bank or HVB, ING-Diba), development banks (KfW Group, NRW.Bank), and state banks (LBBW, Bayern LB, Helaba, NordLB).

German banks’ profitability continued to deteriorate in the years prior to the COVID-19 crisis due to the prevailing low and negative interest rate environment that narrowed margins on new loans irrespective of debtors’ credit worthiness, poor trading results and new competitors from the fintech sector , and low cost efficiency. In 2018 according to the latest data by the Deutsche Bundesbank (Germany’s central bank), German credit institutions reported a pre-tax profit of €18.9 billion or 0.23 percent of total assets. Their net interest income remained below its long-term average to €87.2 billion despite dynamic credit growth (19 percent since end-2014 until end of 2019 in retail and 23 percent in corporate loans) on ongoing cost-reduction efforts. Thanks to continued favorable domestic economic conditions, their risk provisioning has been at an all time low. Their average return on equity before tax in 2018 slipped to 3.74 percent (after tax: 2.4 percent) (with savings banks generating a higher return and big banks a lower and Landesbanken a –2.45 percent return). Both return on equity and return on assets were at their lowest level since 2010. Brexit saw banking activities relocated from the United Kingdom to the EU, with many foreign banks (notably US and Japanese banks) choosing Frankfurt as their new EU headquarters. Their Core Tier 1 equity capital ratios improved as did their liquidity ratios, but no German large bank has been able to organically raise its capital for the past decade.

It remains unclear how the current COVID-19 crisis will affect the German banking sector. Prior to the pandemic, the bleaker German economic outlook prompted a greater need for value adjustment and write-downs in lending business. German banks’ ratio of non-performing loans was low going into the crisis (1.24 percent).  In March 2020, the German government provided large-scale asset guarantees to banks (in certain instances covering 100 percent of the credit risk) via the German government owned KfW bank to avoid a credit crunch.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

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

The Deutsche Bundesbank is the independent central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany.  It has been a part of the Eurosystem since 1999, sharing responsibility with the other national central banks and the European Central Bank (ECB) for the single currency, and thus has no scope to manipulate the bloc’s exchange rate.  In a February 2020 report, the European Commission (EC) concluded Germany’s persistently high current account surplus – the world’s largest in 2019 at USD 293 billion (7.7 percent of GDP) – has again slightly increased despite a gradual decline between 2015 and 2018.  While low commodity prices and the weak euro exchange rate explain some of the surplus’ increase in 2015-2016, the persistence of Germany’s surplus is a matter of international controversy. German policymakers view the large surplus as the result of market forces rather than active government policies, while the EC and IMF have called on authorities to rebalance towards domestic sources of economic growth by expanding public investment, using available fiscal space, and other policy choices that boost domestic demand.

Germany is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and is committed to further strengthening its national system for the prevention, detection and suppression of money laundering and terrorist financing.   Federal law is enforced by regional state prosecutors. Investigations are conducted by the Federal and State Offices of Criminal Investigations (BKA/LKA). The administrative authority for imposing anti-money laundering requirements on financial institutions is the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin).

The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is the national central authority for receiving, collecting and analyzing reports of suspicious financial transactions that may be related to money laundering or terrorist financing. It was founded in 2001 and initially located at the Federal Criminal Investigation Office. In 2017, it was transferred to the General Customs Directorate in the Federal Ministry of Finance and given more staff. At the same time, its tasks and competencies were redefined taking into account the provisions of the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive.  One focus is now on operational and strategic analysis. On January 1, 2020, legislation to implement the Fifth EU Money Laundering Directive and the European Funds Transfers Regulation (Geldtransfer-Verordnung) entered into force.  The Act amends the German Money Laundering Act (Geldwäschegesetz – GwG) and a number of further laws. It provides, inter alia, the FIU and prosecutors with expanded access to data. In its annual report 2018, the FIU noted an “extreme vulnerability” in Germany’s real estate market to money laundering activities. In total, the FIU found 77,252 cases of money laundering in Germany in 2018, about 3,800 involving the real estate sector. Transparency International found that about €30 billion in illicit funds were funneled into German real estate in 2017. However, the FIU itself has come under criticism. Financial institutions deplore the quality of its staff and the effectiveness of its work. It will be subject to a FATF review in 2020.

There is no difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange.

Remittance Policies

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

Germany is the fifth-largest remittance-sending country worldwide.  Migrants in Germany posted USD 25.4 billion (0.6 percent of GDP) abroad in 2018 (World Bank, Bilateral Remittances Matrix 2018).  The most important receiving states for remittances from Germany are EU neighbors such as France, Poland, and Italy. Around USD 8 billion was sent to developing countries, out of which Lebanon, Vietnam, China, Nigeria and Serbia were the biggest receivers.  Remittance flows into Germany amounted to around USD 18 billion in 2018, approximately 0.5 percent of Germany’s GDP.

The issue of remittances played a role during the German G20 Presidency in 2017.  During its presidency, Germany passed an updated version of its “G20 National Remittance Plan.”  The document states that Germany’s focus will remain on “consumer protection, linking remittances to financial inclusion, creating enabling regulatory frameworks and generating research and data on diaspora and remittances dynamics.” The 2017 “G20 National Remittance Plan” can be found at https://www.gpfi.org/publications/2017-g20-national-remittance-plans-overview 

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The German government does not currently have a sovereign wealth fund or an asset management bureau.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

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

Government oversight of SOEs is decentralized and handled by the ministry with the appropriate technical area of expertise.  The primary goal of such involvement is promoting public interests rather than generating profits. The government is required to close its ownership stake in a private entity if tasks change or technological progress provides more effective alternatives, though certain areas, particularly science and culture, remain permanent core government obligations.  German SOEs are subject to the same taxes and the same value added tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. There are no laws or rules that seek to ensure a primary or leading role for SOEs in certain sectors or industries.  However, a white paper drafted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy in November 2019 outlines elements of a national industrial strategy, which includes the option of a temporary state participation in key technology companies as “last resort”.  Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including access to state-owned banks such as KfW.

The Federal Statistics Office maintains a database of SOEs from all three levels of government (federal, state, and municipal) listing a total of 18,014 entities for 2017, or 0.5 percent of the total 3.5 million companies in Germany.  SOEs in 2017 had €572 billion in revenue and €541 billion in expenditures. Almost 40 percent of SOEs’ revenue was generated by water and energy suppliers, 13 percent by health and social services, and 12 percent by transportation-related entities.  Measured by number of companies rather than size, 88 percent of SOEs are owned by municipalities, 10 percent are owned by Germany’s 16 states, and 2 percent are owned by the federal government.

The Federal Finance Ministry is required to publish a detailed annual report on public funds, institutions, and companies in which the federal government has direct participation (including a minority share) or an indirect participation greater than 25 percent and with a nominal capital share worth more than €50,000.  The federal government held a direct participation in 109 companies and an indirect participation in 444 companies at the end of 2017, most prominently Deutsche Bahn (100 percent share), Deutsche Telekom (32 percent share), and Deutsche Post (21 percent share). Federal government ownership is concentrated in the areas of economic development, infrastructure, science, administration/increasing efficiency, defense, development policy, culture.  As the result of federal financial assistance packages from the federally-controlled Financial Market Stability Fund during the global financial crisis of 2008-9, the federal government still has a partial stake in several commercial banks, including a 15.6 percent share in Commerzbank, Germany’s second largest commercial bank. The 2018 annual report (with 2017 data) can be found here: https://www.bundesfinanzministerium.de/Content/DE/Downloads/Broschueren_Bestellservice/2019-05-23-beteiligungsbericht-des-bundes-2018.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=3 

Publicly-owned banks constitute one of the three pillars of Germany’s banking system (cooperative and commercial banks are the other two).  Germany’s savings banks are mainly owned by the municipalities, while the so-called Landesbanken are typically owned by regional savings bank associations and the state governments.  Given their joint market share, about 40 percent of the German banking sector is publicly owned.  There are also many state-owned promotional/development banks which have taken on larger governmental roles in financing infrastructure. This increased role removes expenditures from public budgets, particularly helpful in light of Germany’s balanced budget rules, which go into effect for the states in 2020.

A longstanding, prominent case of a partially state-owned enterprise is automotive manufacturer Volkswagen, in which the state of Lower Saxony owns the third-largest share in the company at around 12 percent share, but controls 20 percent of the voting rights.  The so-called Volkswagen Law, passed in 1960, limited individual shareholder’s voting rights in Volkswagen to a maximum of 20 percent regardless of the actual number of shares owned, so that Lower Saxony could veto any takeover attempts. In 2005, the European Commission successfully sued Germany at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), claiming the law impeded the free flow of capital.  The law was subsequently amended to remove the cap on voting rights, but Lower Saxony’s 20 percent share of voting rights was maintained, preserving its ability to block hostile takeovers.

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

Privatization Program

Germany does not have any privatization programs at this time.  German authorities treat foreigners equally in privatizations of state-owned enterprises.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

In December 2016, the Federal Government passed the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP).  The action plan aims to apply the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights for the activities of German companies nationally as well as globally in their value and supply chains.  The 2018 coalition agreement for the 19th legislative period between the governing Christian Democratic parties, CDU/CSU, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) states its commitment to the action plan, including the principles on public procurement.  It further states that, if the NAP 2020’s effective and comprehensive review comes to the conclusion that the voluntary due diligence approach of enterprises is insufficient, the government will initiate legislation for an EU-wide regulation. The government is currently reviewing and evaluating the German companies’ voluntary due-diligence efforts to ensure their operations do not impinge upon human rights.

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

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

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

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

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

9. Corruption

Among industrialized countries, Germany ranks 9th out of 180, according to Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index.  Some sectors including the automotive industry, construction sector, and public contracting, exhibit political influence and party finance remains only partially transparent.  Nevertheless, U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an impediment to investment in Germany. Germany is a signatory of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

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

According to the Federal Criminal Office, in 2018, 73 percent of all corruption cases were directed towards the public administration (up from 63 percent in 2017), 18 percent towards the business sector (down from 22 percent in 2017), 7 percent towards law enforcement and judicial authorities (down from 12 percent in 2017), and 2 percent to political officials (down from 3 percent in 2017).

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

Donations by private persons or entities to political parties are legally permitted.  However, if they exceed €50,000, they must be reported to the President of the Bundestag, who is required to immediately publish the name of the party, the amount of the donation, the name of the donor, the date of the donation, and the date the recipient reported the donation.  Donations of €10,000 or more must be included in the party’s annual accountability report to the President of the Bundestag.

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

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

The Federation of Germany Industries (BDI), the Association of German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) provide guidelines in paper and electronic format on how to prevent corruption in an effort to convince all including small- and medium- sized companies to catch up.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

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

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

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

Resources to Report Corruption

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

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Hartmut Bäumer, Chair
Transparency International Germany
Alte Schönhauser Str. 44, 10119 Berlin
+49 30 549 898 0
office@transparency.de

The Federal Criminal Office publishes an annual report: “Bundeslagebild Korruption” – the latest one covers 2018.

https://www.bka.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Publikationen/JahresberichteUndLagebilder/Korruption/korruptionBundeslagebild2018.html?nn=28078 

10. Political and Security Environment

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

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The German labor force is generally highly skilled, well-educated, and productive.  Before the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, employment in Germany had risen for the thirteenth consecutive year and reached an all-time high of 45.3 million in 2019, an increase of 402,000 (or 0.9 percent) from 2018—the highest level since German reunification in 1990.

Simultaneously, unemployment had fallen by more than half since 2005, and reached in 2019 the lowest average annual value since German reunification.  In 2019, around 2.34 million people were registered as unemployed, corresponding to an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent, according to the Germany Federal Employment Agency.  Using internationally comparable data from the European Union’s statistical office Eurostat, Germany had an average annual unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in 2019, the second lowest rate in the European Union.  All employees are by law covered by the federal unemployment insurance that compensates for the lack of income for up to 24 months.  Long-term effects on the labor market, and the economy as a whole, due to COVID-19 are not yet fully conceivable.  However, as of April 2020, the number of unemployed had increased to 2.64 million (a 5.8% unemployment rate). A government-funded temporary furlough program allows companies to decrease its workforce and labor costs with layoffs and has helped mitigate a negative labor market impact in the short term.

Germany’s national youth unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in 2019, the lowest in the EU.  The German vocational training system has gained international interest as a key contributor to Germany’s highly skilled workforce and its sustainably low youth unemployment rate. Germany’s so-called “dual vocational training,” a combination of theoretical courses taught at schools and practical application in the workplace, teaches and develops many of the skills employers need.  Each year, there are more than 500,000 apprenticeship positions available in more than 340 recognized training professions, in all sectors of the economy and public administration. Approximately 50 percent of students choose to start an apprenticeship. The government is promoting apprenticeship opportunities, in partnership with industry, through the “National Pact to Promote Training and Young Skilled Workers.”

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

Labor Relations

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

Germany’s constitution, federal legislation, and government regulations contain provisions designed to protect the right of employees to form and join independent unions of their choice. The overwhelming majority of unionized workers are members of one of the eight largest unions — largely grouped by industry or service sector — which are affiliates of the German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB).  Several smaller unions exist outside the DGB. Overall trade union membership has, however, been in decline over the last several years. In 2016, about 18.5 percent of the workforce belonged to unions. Since peaking at around 12 million members shortly after German reunification, total DGB union membership has dropped to about 6 million, IG Metall being the largest German labor union with 2.27 million members, followed by the influential service sector union Ver.di (1.97 million members).

The constitution and enabling legislation protect the right to collective bargaining, and agreements are legally binding to the parties.  In 2018, over three quarters (78 percent) of non-self-employed workers were directly or indirectly covered by a collective wage agreement, 59 percent of the labor force in the western part of the country and approximately 47 percent in the East.  On average, collective bargaining agreements in Germany were valid for 25 months in 2017.

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

From 2010 to 2019, real wages grew by 1.2 percent on average.  Generous collective bargaining wage increases in 2019 (+3.2 percent) and the increase of the federal Germany-wide statutory minimum wage to €9.35 (USD 10.15) on January 1, 2020, led to 2.6 percent nominal wage increase. Real wages grew by 1.2 percent in 2019.

Labor costs increased by 2.3 percent in 2018.  With an average labor cost of €35 (USD 43) per hour, Germany ranked sixth among the 28 EU-members states (EU average: €26.80/USD 33.20) in 2018.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

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

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 €3,435,800 2018 $3,948,000 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 €81,988 2018 $140,331 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 €247,508 2018 $324,151 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 23.0% 2018 23.5% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
 

* Source for Host Country Data: Federal Statistical Office DESTATIS, Bundesbank; http://www.bundesbank.de  (German Central Bank, 2018 data published in April 2020, only available in €)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $939,189 100% Total Outward $$1,643,698 100%
The Netherlands $178,045 19.0% United States $299,328 18.2%
Luxembourg $165,567 17.6% Luxembourg $185,976 11.3%
United States $105,714 11.3% The Netherlands $165,686 10.1%
Switzerland $88,934 9.5% United Kingdom $144,224 8.8%
United Kingdom $64,559 6.9% France $97,067 5.9%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $3,609,694 100% All Countries $1,304,519 100% All Countries $2,305,175 100%
Luxembourg $686,162 19.0% Luxembourg $564,143 43.2% France $346,260 15.0%
France $447,458 12.4% United States $178,181 13.7% United States $260,562 11.3%
United States $438,743 12.2% Ireland $136,831 10.5% The Netherlands $255,640 11.1%
The Netherlands $300,669 8.3% France $101,198 7.8% United Kingdom $155,759 6.8%
Ireland $205,964 5.7% Switzerland 56,588 4.3% Spain $133,531 5.8%

14. Contact for More Information

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

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