Australia

Executive Summary

Australia is generally welcoming to foreign investment, which is widely considered to be an essential contributor to Australia’s economic growth and productivity. The United States is by far the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Australia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the stock of U.S. FDI totaled USD 170 billion in January 2020. The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2005, establishes higher thresholds for screening U.S. investment for most classes of direct investment. While welcoming toward FDI, Australia does apply a “national interest” test to qualifying investment through its Foreign Investment Review Board screening process.

Various changes to Australia’s foreign investment rules, primarily aimed at strengthening national security, have been made in recent years. This continued in 2020 with the passage of the Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020, which broadens the classes of foreign investments that require screening, with a particular focus on defense and national security supply chains. All foreign investments in these industries now require screening, regardless of their value or national origin. The Foreign Investment Reform legislation commenced in January 2021. Despite the increased focus on foreign investment screening, the rejection rate for proposed investments has remained low and there have been no cases of investment from the United States having been rejected in recent years, although some U.S. companies have reported greater scrutiny of their investments in Australia.

In response to a perceived lack of fairness, the Australian government has tightened anti-tax avoidance legislation targeting multi-national corporations with operations in multiple tax jurisdictions. While some laws have been complementary to international efforts to address tax avoidance schemes and the use of low-tax countries or tax havens, Australia has also gone further than the international community in some areas.

Australia has increased funding for clean technology projects and both local and international companies can apply for grants to implement emission-saving equipment to their operations. Australia adopted a net-zero emissions target at the national level in November 2021 although made no change to its short-term goal of a 26-28 percent emission reduction by 2030 on 2005 levels. Australia’s eight states and territories have adopted both net-zero targets and a range of interim emission reduction targets set above the federal target. Various state incentive schemes may also be available to U.S. investors.

The Australian government is strongly focused on economic recovery from the COVID-driven recession Australia experienced in 2020, the country’s first in three decades. In addition to direct stimulus and business investment incentives, it has announced investment attraction incentives across a range of priority industries, including food and beverage manufacturing, medical products, clean energy, defense, space, and critical minerals processing. U.S. involvement and investment in these fields is welcomed.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 18 of 179 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 25 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 170 billion https://www.bea.gov/data/
intl-trade-investment/direct-investment-
country-and-industry
 
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 53,690 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

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

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

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

Other than the screening process described in Section 4, there are few limits or restrictions on foreign investment in Australia. Foreign purchases of agricultural land greater than AUD 15 million (USD 11 million) are subject to screening. This threshold applies to the cumulative value of agricultural land owned by the foreign investor, including the proposed purchase. However, the agricultural land screening threshold does not affect investments made under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). The current threshold is AUD 1.25 billion (USD 925 million) for U.S. non-government investors. Investments made by U.S. non-government investors are subject to inclusion on the foreign ownership register of agricultural land and to Australian Tax Office (ATO) information gathering activities on new foreign investment.

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

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

The Australian Trade Commission compiles an annual “Why Australia Benchmark Report” that presents comparative data on investing in Australia in the areas of Growth, Innovation, Talent, Location, and Business. The report also compares Australia’s investment credentials with other countries and provides a general snapshot on Australia’s investment climate. The 2021 Benchmark Report can be found at: http://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Resources/Benchmark-Report .

Australia’s private sector frequently provides policy recommendations to the government, including as part of annual federal budget reviews and ad hoc policy reviews. In 2021 the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia published a report titled “The Opportunity is Now: Attracting U.S. Investors to Australia,” which provides a range of recommendations to government relating to Australia’s investment screening and general investment environment. The report is available via the following link: https://www.pwc.com.au/amcham-pwc-opportunity-is-now.html

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

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

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

3. Legal Regime

The Australian Government utilizes transparent policies and effective laws to foster national competition and is consultative in its policy making process. The government generally allows for public comment of draft legislation and publishes legislation once it enters into force. Details of the Australian government’s approach to regulation and regulatory impact analysis can be found on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s website: https://www.pmc.gov.au/regulation 

Regulations drafted by Australian Government agencies must be accompanied by a Regulation Impact Statement when submitted to the final decision maker (which may be the Cabinet, a Minister, or another decision maker appointed by legislation.) All Regulation Impact Statements must first be approved by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) which sits within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, prior to being provided to the relevant decision maker. They are required to demonstrate the need for regulation, the alternative options available (including non-regulatory options), feedback from stakeholders, and a full cost-benefit analysis. Regulations are subsequently required to be reviewed periodically. All Regulation Impact Statements, second reading speeches, explanatory memoranda, and associated legislation are made publicly available on Government websites. Australia’s state and territory governments have similar processes when making new regulations.

The Australian Government has tended to prefer self-regulatory options where industry can demonstrate that the size of the risks are manageable and that there are mechanisms for industry to agree on, and comply with, self-regulatory options that will resolve the identified problem. This manifests in various ways across industries, including voluntary codes of conduct and similar agreements between industry players.

The Australian Government has recognized the impost of regulations and has undertaken a range of initiatives to reduce red tape. This has included specific red tape reduction targets for government agencies and various deregulatory groups within government agencies. In 2019, the Australian Government established a Deregulation Taskforce within its Treasury Department, stating its goal was to “drive improvements to the design, administration and effectiveness of the stock of government regulation to ensure it is fit for purpose.” The taskforce’s work is ongoing.

Australian accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international standards. Accounting standards are formulated by the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB), an Australian Government agency under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001. Under that Act, the statutory functions of the AASB are to develop a conceptual framework for the purpose of evaluating proposed standards; make accounting standards under section 334 of the Corporations Act 2001, and advance and promote the main objects of Part 12 of the ASIC Act, which include reducing the cost of capital, enabling Australian entities to compete effectively overseas and maintaining investor confidence in the Australian economy. The Australian Government conducts regular reviews of proposed measures and legislative changes and holds public hearings into such matters.

Australian government financing arrangements are transparent and well governed. Legislation governing the type of financial arrangements the government and its agencies may enter into is publicly available and adhered to. Updates on the Government’s financial position are regularly posted on the Department of Finance and Treasury websites. Issuance of government debt is managed by the Australian Office of Financial Management, which holds regular tenders for the sale of government debt and the outcomes of these tenders are publicly available. The Australian Government also publishes and adheres to strict procurement guidelines. Australia formally joined the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement in 2019.

Environmental Social Governance (ESG) reporting is not currently mandated for companies in Australia. However, companies are required to disclose any information that shareholders may deem relevant in assessing the performance of value of the company and this may include ESG components. Companies are also increasingly disclosing ESG aspects of their operations in response to shareholder demands and in order to secure an advantage over competitors. Further, financial services companies are required to disclose their exposure to climate risk as part of their standard risk disclosures (see further detail here: https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/news-centre/speeches/corporate-governance-update-climate-change-risk-and-disclosure/ )

Australia is a member of the WTO, G20, OECD, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and became the first Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) Dialogue Partner in 1974. While not a regional economic block, Australia’s free trade agreement with New Zealand provides for a high level of integration between the two economies with the ultimate goal of a single economic market. Details of Australia’s involvement in these international organizations can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website: https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/organisations/Pages/wto-g20-oecd-apec 

The Australian legal system is firmly grounded on the principles of equal treatment before the law, procedural fairness, judicial precedent, and the independence of the judiciary. Strong safeguards exist to ensure that people are not treated arbitrarily or unfairly by governments or officials. Property and contractual rights are enforced through the Australian court system, which is based on English Common Law. Australia’s judicial system is fully independent and separate from the executive branch of government.

Information regarding investing in Australia can be found in Austrade’s “Guide to Investing” at http://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Investor-guide . The guide is designed to help international investors and businesses navigate investing and operating in Australia.

Foreign investment in Australia is regulated by the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and Australia’s Foreign Investment Policy. The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is a non-statutory body, comprising independent board members advised by a division within the Treasury Department, established to advise the Treasurer on Australia’s foreign investment policy and its administration. The FIRB screens potential foreign investments in Australia above threshold values, and based on advice from the FIRB the Treasurer may deny or place conditions on the approval of particular investments above that threshold on national interest grounds. In January 2021 new legislation, the Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020, took effect. This legislation tightened Australia’s investment screening rules by introducing the concept of a “national security business” and “national security land,” the acquisition of which trigger a FIRB review. Further details on national security considerations, including the definitions of national security businesses, are available on the FIRB website: https://firb.gov.au/guidance-resources/guidance-notes/gn8.

The Australian Government applies a “national interest” consideration in reviewing foreign investment applications. “National interest” covers a broader set of considerations than national security alone and may include tax or competition implications of an investment. Further information on foreign investment screening, including screening thresholds for certain sectors and countries, can be found at FIRB’s website: https://firb.gov.au/ . Under the AUSFTA agreement, all U.S. greenfield investments are exempt from FIRB screening.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation, promotes competition, and fair trading, and regulates national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians. The ACCC plays a key role in assessing mergers to determine whether they will lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any market. The ACCC also engages in consumer protection enforcement and has, in recent years, been given expanded responsibilities to monitor energy assets, the national gas market, and digital industries.

Private property can be expropriated for public purposes in accordance with Australia’s constitution and established principles of international law. Property owners are entitled to compensation based on “just terms” for expropriated property. There is little history of expropriation in Australia.

Bankruptcy is a legal status conferred under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 and operates in all of Australia’s states and territories. Only individuals can be made bankrupt, not businesses or companies. Where there is a partnership or person trading under a business name, it is the individual or individuals who make up that firm that are made bankrupt. Companies cannot become bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act though similar provisions (called “administration and winding up”) exist under the Corporations Act 2001. Bankruptcy is not a criminal offense in Australia.

Creditor rights are established under the Bankruptcy Act 1966, the Corporations Act 2001, and the more recent Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016. The latter legislation commenced in two tranches over 2017 and aims to increase the efficiency of insolvency administrations, improve communications between parties, increase the corporate regulator’s oversight of the insolvency market, and “improve overall consumer confidence in the professionalism and competence of insolvency practitioners.” Under the combined legislation, creditors have the right to: request information during the administration process; give direction to a liquidator or trustee; appoint a liquidator to review the current appointee’s remuneration; and remove a liquidator and appoint a replacement.

The Australian parliament passed the Corporations Amendment (Corporation Insolvency Reforms) Act 2020 in December 2020. The legislation is a response to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and is designed to both assist viable businesses remain solvent and simplify the liquidation process for insolvent businesses. The new insolvency process under this legislation came into effect in January 2021.

Australia ranks 20th globally on the World Bank’s Doing Business Report “resolving insolvency” measure.

4. Industrial Policies

The Commonwealth Government and state and territory governments provide a range of measures to assist investors with setting up and running a business and undertaking investment. Types of assistance available vary by location, industry, and the nature of the business activity. Austrade provides coordinated government assistance to attracting FDI and is intended to serve as the national point-of-contact for investment inquiries. State and territory governments similarly offer a suite of financial and non-financial incentives.

The Commonwealth Government also provides incentives for companies engaging in research and development (R&D) and delivers a tax offset for expenditure on eligible R&D activities undertaken during the year. R&D activities conducted overseas are also eligible under certain circumstances, and the program is jointly administered by government’s AusIndustry program and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The Australian Government typically does not offer guarantees on, or jointly finance projects with, foreign investors.

The Australian government announced a new USD 1.1 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Strategy is primarily grants-based and provides funding to businesses to commercialize ideas and scale-up production in six target industries: resources technology and critical minerals processing; food and beverage; medical products; clean energy; defense; and space industry. Further details of the Strategy can be found on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ website:

https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/make-it-happen-the-australian-governments-modern-manufacturing-strategy/our-modern-manufacturing-strategy 

The Australian government provides a range of incentives for business investments in clean energy technologies, administered by the Clean Energy Regulator within the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and funded through the Emission Reduction Fund. Details on the Fund and how to apply are available on the Department’s website via the following link: https://www.industry.gov.au/policies-and-initiatives/emissions-reduction-fund . The government also encourages voluntary investment in emission reduction, including through certifying carbon reductions resulting from business investments as part of the Climate Active initiative: https://www.industry.gov.au/regulations-and-standards/climate-active.

Australia does not have any free trade zones or free ports.

As a general rule, foreign firms establishing themselves in Australia are not subject to local employment or forced localization requirements, performance requirements and incentives, including to senior management and board of directors. Proprietary companies must have at least one director resident in Australia, while public companies are required to have a minimum of two resident directors. See Section 12 below for further information on rules pertaining to the hiring of foreign labor.

Under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015, telecommunications service providers are required to: retain and secure, for two years, telecommunications data (not including content); protect retained data through encryption; and prevent unauthorized interference and access. The Bill limits the range of agencies allowed to access telecommunications data and stored communications, and establishes a “journalist information warrants regime.” Australia’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act prohibits the transfer of health data out of Australia in some situations.

Australia has a strong framework for the protection of intellectual property (IP), including software source code. Foreign providers are not required to provide source code to the government in exchange for operating in Australia. In February 2021, the Australian parliament passed the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021, which among other things requires designated digital platforms to notify media companies of significant changes to their algorithms with at least 14-days’ notice of such changes. However, technology companies are not required to provide source code for algorithms, or any other such IP, to the government for any purpose.

Companies are generally not restricted in terms of how they store or transmit data within their operations. The exception to this is the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act (2012) which does require that certain personal health information is stored in Australia. The Privacy Act (1988) and associated legislation place restrictions on the communication of personal information between and within entities. The requirements placed on international companies, and the transmission of data outside of Australia, are not treated differently under this legislation. The Australian Attorney-General’s Department is the responsible agency for most legislation relating to data and storage requirements.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Strong legal frameworks protect property rights in Australia and operate to police corruption. Mortgages are commercially available, and foreigners are allowed to buy real property subject to certain registration and approval requirements. Property lending may be securitized, and Australia has one of the most highly developed securitization sectors in the world. Beyond the private sector property market, securitization products are being developed to assist local and state government financing. Australia has no legislation specifically relating to securitization, although issuers are governed by a range of other financial sector legislation and disclosure requirements.

Australia generally provides strong intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement through legislation that, among other things, criminalizes copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting. Australia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or on USTR’s Notorious Markets report.

Enforcement of counterfeit goods is overseen by the Australian Department of Home Affairs through the Notice of Objection Scheme, which allows the Australian Border Force to seize goods suspected of being counterfeit. Penalties for sale or importation of counterfeit goods include fines and up to five years imprisonment.

IP Australia is the responsible agency for administering Australia’s responsibilities and treaties under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Australia is a member of a range of international treaties developed through WIPO. Australia does not have specific legislation relating to trade secrets, however common law governs information protected through such means as confidentiality agreements or other means of illegally obtaining confidential or proprietary information.

Australia was an active participant in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations and signed ACTA in October 2011. It has not yet ratified the agreement. ACTA would establish an international framework to assist Parties in their efforts to effectively combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy.

Under the AUSFTA, Australia must notify the holder of a pharmaceutical patent of a request for marketing approval by a third party for a product claimed by that patent. U.S. and Australian pharmaceutical companies have raised concerns that unnecessary delays in this notification process restrict their options for action against third parties that would infringe their patents if granted marketing approval by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). In March 2020 the government recommended changes to the notification process whereby generic product owners must notify the patent holder of an intent to market a new product at the point they lodge an application for evaluation with the TGA. These changes have not been legislated at the time of writing.

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

6. Financial Sector

The Australian Government takes a favorable stance towards foreign portfolio investment with no restrictions on inward flows of debt or equity. Indeed, access to foreign capital markets is crucial to the Australian economy given its relatively small domestic savings. Australian capital markets are generally efficient and able to provide financing options to businesses. While the Australian equity market is one of the largest and most liquid in the world, non-financial firms face a number of barriers in accessing the corporate bond market. Large firms are more likely to use public equity, and smaller firms are more likely to use retained earnings and debt from banks and intermediaries. Australia’s corporate bond market is relatively small, driving many Australian companies to issue debt instruments in the U.S. market. Foreign investors are able to obtain credit from domestic institutions on market terms. Australia’s stock market is the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

Australia’s banking system is robust, highly evolved, and international in focus. Bank profitability is strong and has been supported by further improvements in asset performance. Total assets of Australian banks at the end of 2020 was USD4.2 trillion and the sector has delivered an annual average return on equity of around 10 percent (only falling to six percent in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, before rebounding to 11 percent in 2021).

According to Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the ratio of non-performing assets to total loans was approximately one percent at the end of 2021, having remained at around that level for the last five years after falling from highs of nearly two percent following the Global Financial Crisis. The RBA is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the stability of the financial sector, while the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) monitors individual institutions. The RBA is also responsible for monitoring and regulating payments systems in Australia.

Further details on the size and performance of Australia’s banking sector are available on the websites of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) and the RBA:
https://www.apra.gov.au/statistics 
https://www.rba.gov.au/chart-pack/banking-indicators.html 

Foreign banks are allowed to operate as a branch or a subsidiary in Australia. Australia has generally taken an open approach to allowing foreign companies to operate in the financial sector, largely to ensure sufficient competition in an otherwise small domestic market.

Australia’s main sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, is a financial asset investment fund owned by the Australian Government. The Fund’s objective is to enhance the ability of future Australian Governments to discharge unfunded superannuation (pension) liabilities. As a founding member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF), the Future Fund’s structure, governance, and investment approach is in full alignment with the Generally Accepted Principles and Practices for Sovereign Wealth Funds (the “Santiago principles”).

The Future Fund’s investment mandate is to achieve a long-term return of at least inflation plus 4-5 percent per annum. As of December 2021, the Fund’s portfolio consists of: 23 percent global equities, 8 percent Australian equities, 25 percent private equity (including 8 percent in infrastructure and 7 percent in property), and the remaining 37 percent in debt, cash, and alternative investments.

In addition to the Future Fund, the Australian Government manages five other specific-purpose funds: the DisabilityCare Australia Fund; the Medical Research Future Fund; the Emergency Response Fund; the Future Drought Fund; and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund. In total, these five funds have assets of AUD 50 billion (USD 37 billion), while the main Future Fund has assets of AUD 204 billion (USD 150 billion) as of December 31, 2021.

Further details of these funds are available at: https://www.futurefund.gov.au/ 

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In Australia, the term used for a Commonwealth Government State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) is “government business enterprise” (GBE). According to the Department of Finance, there are nine GBEs: two corporate Commonwealth entities and seven Commonwealth companies. (See: https://www.finance.gov.au/resource-management/governance/gbe/ ) Private enterprises are generally allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to markets, credit, and other business operations, such as licenses and supplies. Public enterprises are not generally accorded material advantages in Australia. Remaining GBEs do not exercise power in a manner that discriminates against or unfairly burdens foreign investors or foreign-owned enterprises.

Australia does not have a formal and explicit national privatization program. Individual state and territory governments may have their own privatization programs. Foreign investors are welcome to participate in any privatization programs subject to the rules and approvals governing foreign investment.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is general business awareness and promotion of responsible business conduct (RBC) in Australia. The Commonwealth Government states that companies operating in Australia and Australian companies operating overseas are expected to act in accordance with the principles set out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and to perform to the standards they suggest. In seeking to promote the OECD Guidelines, the Commonwealth Government maintains a National Contact Point (NCP), the current NCP being currently the General Manager of the Foreign Investment and Trade Policy Division at the Commonwealth Treasury, who is able to draw on expertise from other government agencies through an informal inter-governmental network. An NCP Web site links to the “OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas” noting that the objective is to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral sourcing practices. The Commonwealth Government’s export credit agency, EFA, also promotes the OECD Guidelines as the key set of recommendations on responsible business conduct addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries.

Australian companies have very few instances of human rights or labor rights abuses and domestic law prohibits such actions. In 2018 the Australian parliament passed the Modern Slavery Act, new legislation requiring large companies to assess risks of modern slavery in their supply chains and take action to limit these risks.

Australia began implementing the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2016.

Australia has ratified the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies, and was a founding member of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association.

The Australian government announced a net-zero emissions target for 2050 in October 2021. Since 2015, the government has not revised its interim target of a 26-28 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, which its own projections indicate Australia is likely to exceed. The opposition Labor Party has a 2030 target of a 43 percent reduction relative to 2005 levels.

Australia’s climate policies are set out on a sector-by-sector basis and Australia does not have an economy-wide carbon tax or emissions trading scheme. Companies considered to be large emitters are subject to the Safeguard Mechanism, a regulatory requirement that places caps on the emissions intensity of a company’s output. Companies may face penalties for exceeding their regulated emissions intensity level. Further details of the Safeguard Mechanism, along with the government’s other emissions reductions policies, are available on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources website at: https://www.industry.gov.au/policies-and-initiatives/australias-climate-change-strategies 

The Australian government has a strong emphasis on investing in clean energy technologies and has set out its technology priorities in its Technology Investment Roadmap. The Roadmap incentivizes research, investment and deployment of emissions reducing equipment through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which invests in new technologies in the early stage of development, and the Emissions Reduction Fund which provides funding to companies with eligible projects. Details on these programs are available through the link above.

Australia has a strong focus on emission reduction through improved land use management and has supported initiatives aimed at better measuring soil carbon. The Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment has also implemented an Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Package. This program allows farmers to receive payments not only for carbon abatement, but also now for delivering improvements in biodiversity on-farm.  The package also aims to create a trading platform to help farmers connect with buyers and kick-start private sector biodiversity markets.

Although Australia has a range of policies to achieve its emission reduction targets, it typically ranks low on various measure of climate and environmental sustainability. The MIT Green Future Index ranks Australia 36th out of 76 countries and 49th on the carbon emissions sub-index.

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Australia maintains a comprehensive system of laws and regulations designed to counter corruption. In addition, the government procurement system is generally transparent and well regulated. Corruption has not been a factor cited by U.S. businesses as a disincentive to investing in Australia, nor to exporting goods and services to Australia. Non-governmental organizations interested in monitoring the global development or anti-corruption measures, including Transparency International, operate freely in Australia, and Australia is perceived internationally as having low corruption levels.

Australia is an active participant in international efforts to end the bribery of foreign officials. Legislation exists to give effect to the anti-bribery convention stemming from the OECD 1996 Ministerial Commitment to Criminalize Transnational Bribery. Legislation explicitly disallows tax deductions for bribes of foreign officials. At the Commonwealth level, enforcement of anti-corruption laws and regulations is the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Department.

The Attorney-General’s Department plays an active role in combating corruption through developing domestic policy on anti-corruption and engagement in a range of international anti-corruption forums. These include the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group, and the United Nations Convention against Corruption Working Groups. Australia is a member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery and a party to the key international conventions concerned with combating foreign bribery, including the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (Anti-Bribery Convention).

The legislation covering bribery of foreign officials is the Criminal Code Act 1995. Under Australian law, it is an offense to bribe a foreign public official, even if a bribe may be seen to be customary, necessary, or required. The maximum penalty for an individual is 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of AUD 2. million (approximately USD 1.6 million). For a corporate entity, the maximum penalty is the greatest of: 1) AUD 22.2 million (approximately USD 16.4 million); 2) three times the value of the benefits obtained; or 3) 10 percent of the previous 12-month turnover of the company concerned.

A number of national and state-level agencies exist to combat corruption of public officials and ensure transparency and probity in government systems. The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) has the mandate to prevent, detect, and investigate serious and systemic corruption issues in the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, the CrimTrac Agency, and prescribed aspects of the Department of Agriculture.

Various independent commissions exist at the state level to investigate instances of corruption. Details of these bodies are provided below.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Australia has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption and is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

Resources to Report Corruption

Western Australia – Corruption and Crime Commission
86 St Georges Terrace
Perth, Western Australia
Tel. +61 8 9215 4888
https://www.ccc.wa.gov.au/ 

Queensland – Corruption and Crime Commission
Level 2, North Tower Green Square
515 St Pauls Terrace
Fortitude Valley, Queensland
Tel. +61 7 3360 6060
https://www.ccc.qld.gov.au/ 

Victoria – Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission
Level 1, North Tower, 459 Collins Street
Melbourne, Victoria
Tel. +61 1300 735 135
https://ibac.vic.gov.au 

New South Wales – Independent Commission against Corruption
Level 7, 255 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel. +61 2 8281 5999
https://www.icac.nsw.gov.au/ 

South Australia – Independent Commission against Corruption
Level 1, 55 Currie Street
Adelaide, South Australia
Tel. +61 8 8463 5173
https://icac.sa.gov.au 

10. Political and Security Environment

Political protests (including rallies, demonstrations, marches, public conflicts between competing interests) form an integral, though generally minor, part of Australian cultural life. Such protests rarely degenerate into violence.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Australia’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.5 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic but had fallen to 4 percent by early 2022. Average weekly earnings for full-time workers in Australia were AUD 1,748 (approximately USD 1,290) as of November 2021. The minimum wage is set annually and is significantly higher than that of the United States, currently sitting at AUD 2033 (USD 15.00). Overall wage growth has been low in recent years, growing at approximately the rate of inflation.

The Australian Government and its state and territory counterparts are active in assessing and forecasting labor skills gaps across industries. Tertiary education is subsidized by both levels of governments, and these subsidies are based in part on an assessment of the skills needed by industry. These assessments also inform immigration policy through the various working visas and associated skilled occupation lists. Occupations on these lists are updated annually based on assessment of the skills most needed by industry.

Immigration has always been an important source for skilled labor in Australia. The Department of Home Affairs publishes an annual list of occupations with skill shortages to be used by potential applicants seeking to work in Australia. The visas available to applicants, and length of stay allowed for, differ by occupation. The main working visa is the Temporary Skills Shortage visa (subclass 482). Applicants must have a nominated occupation when they apply which is applicable to their circumstances, and applications are subject to local labor market testing rules. These rules preference the hiring of Australian labor over foreign workers so long as local workers can be found to fill the advertised job.

Most Australian workplaces are governed by a system created by the Fair Work Act 2009. Enterprise bargaining takes place through collective agreements made at an enterprise level covering terms and conditions of employment. Such agreements are widely used in Australia. A Fair Work Ombudsman assists employees, employers, contractors, and the community to understand and comply with the system. The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes a set of clear rules and obligations about how this process is to occur, including rules about bargaining, the content of enterprise agreements, and how an agreement is made and approved. Unfair dismissal laws also exist to protect workers who have been unfairly fired from a job. Australia is a founding member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and has ratified 58 of the ILO’s conventions.

Chapter 18 of the AUSFTA agreement deals with labor market issues. The chapter sets out the responsibilities of each party, including the commitment of each country to uphold its obligations as a member of the ILO and the associated ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up (1998).

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2021 $1.33 trillion 2020 $1.50 trillion www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $170 billion 2019 $158 billion BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $98 billion 2019 $112 billion BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises
-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 59% 2019 53% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html   

* Source for Host Country Data: Australian Bureau of Statistics

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 790,655 100% Total Outward 627,680 100%
USA 151,171 19% USA 127,563 20%
Japan 101,508 13% UK 103,597 17%
UK 95,093 12% New Zealand 55,338 9%
Netherlands 40,660 5% Canada 26,500 4%
Canada 35,554 4% Singapore 13,934 2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Counselor Doug Sonnek
U.S. Embassy Canberra
21 Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT+61 2 6214 5759
SonnekDE@state.gov 

Canada

Executive Summary

Canada and the United States have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. U.S. investors are attracted to Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, proximity to the U.S. market, highly skilled work force, and abundant resources.  Canada encourages foreign direct investment (FDI) by promoting stability, global market access, and infrastructure. The United States is Canada’s largest investor, accounting for 44 percent of total FDI. As of 2020, the amount of U.S. FDI totaled USD 422 billion, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Canada’s FDI stock in the United States totaled USD 570 billion, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.

Canada attracted USD 61 billion inward FDI flows in 2021 (the highest since 2007), a rebound from COVID-19-related decreases in 2020 according to Canada’s national statistical office.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) came into force on July 1, 2020, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The USMCA supports a strong investment framework beneficial to U.S. investors. Foreign investment in Canada is regulated by the Investment Canada Act (ICA). The purpose of the ICA is to review significant foreign investments to ensure they provide an economic net benefit and do not harm national security. In March 2021, the Canadian government announced revised ICA foreign investment screening guidelines that include additional national security considerations such as sensitive technology areas, critical minerals, and sensitive personal data. The guidelines followed an April 2020 ICA update, which provides for greater scrutiny of foreign investments by state-owned investors, as well as investments involving the supply of critical goods and services.

Despite a generally welcoming foreign investment environment, Canada maintains investment stifling prohibitions in the telecommunication, airline, banking, and cultural sectors. The 2022 budget proposal included language that could limit foreign ownership of real estate for a two-year period (to cool an overheated market and lack of housing for Canadians). Ownership and corporate board restrictions prevent significant foreign telecommunication and aviation investment, and there are deposit acceptance limitations for foreign banks. Investments in cultural industries such as book publishing are required to be compatible with national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada. In addition, non-tariff barriers to trade across provinces and territories contribute to structural issues that have held back the productivity and competitiveness of Canada’s business sector.

Canada has taken steps to address the climate crisis by establishing the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act that enshrines in law the Government of Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and issuing the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan that describes the measures Canada is undertaking to reduce emissions to 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 13 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2020 16 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 402,255 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 43,580 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Canada actively encourages FDI and maintains a sound enabling environment. Investors are attracted to Canada’s proximity to the United States, highly skilled workforce, strong legal protections, and abundant natural resources. Once established, foreign-owned investments are treated equally to domestic investments. As of 2020, the United States had a stock of USD 422 billion of foreign direct investment in Canada. U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 44 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the United States totaled USD 570 billion.

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

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

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

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

The Canadian government announced revised ICA foreign investment screening guidelines on March 24, 2021. The revised guidelines include additional national security considerations such as sensitive technology areas, critical minerals, and sensitive personal data. The new guidelines are aligned with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada’s April 2020 update on greater scrutiny for foreign investments by state-owned investors, as well as investments involving the supply of critical goods and services. The 2020-21 Investment Canada Act Annual Report (released February 2, 2022) indicated a record high 24 investments were subject either to formal national security review or heightened screening despite historically fewer total foreign investments in Canada due to COVID-19-related factors. In contrast, a total of 21 investments were subject to similar screening in the four years from 2016 to 2020. Still, some Canadian elected officials and national security experts assess national security standards should be heightened. The government is exploring proposed amendments to the National Security Review of Investments Regulations which would introduce a voluntary filing mechanism for investments by non-Canadians that do not require an application or a notification.

Foreign ownership limits apply to Canadian telecommunication, airline, banking, and cultural sectors. Telecommunication carriers, including internet service providers, that own and operate transmission facilities are subject to foreign investment restrictions if they hold a 10 percent or greater share of total Canadian communication annual market revenues as mandated by The Telecommunications Act. These investments require Canadian ownership of 80 percent of voting shares, Canadians holding 80 percent of director positions, and no indirect control by non-Canadians. If the company is a subsidiary, the parent corporation must be incorporated in Canada and Canadians must hold a minimum of 66.6 percent of the parent’s voting shares. Foreign ownership of Canadian airlines is limited to 49 percent with no individual non-Canadian able to control more than 25 percent by mandate of the 2018 Transportation Modernization Act. Canadian airlines cannot be directly or indirectly controlled by non-Canadians to meet Canadian Transportation Agency “control in fact” licensure requirements. Foreign banks can establish operations in Canada but are generally prohibited from accepting deposits of less than USD 112,000. Foreign banks must receive Department of Finance and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) approval to enter the Canadian market. Investment in cultural industries also carries restrictions, including a provision under the ICA that foreign investment in book publishing and distribution must be compatible with Canada’s national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada.

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

Individuals from Canadian civil society organizations, industry, and academic institutions regularly comment on and assess investment policy-related concerns. In January and February 2022, for example, subject matter experts gave evidence to Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology regarding an investment policy decision concerning a high-profile critical mineral sector investment.

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

Canada prioritizes export promotion and outward investment as a means to enhance future Canadian competitiveness and productivity. Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service offers a number of funding opportunities and support programs for Canadian businesses to break into and expand in international markets: https://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/funding_support_programs-programmes_de_financement_de_soutien.aspx?lang=eng&wbdisable=true . Canada does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad except when recipient countries or businesses are designated under the government’s sanctions regime.

3. Legal Regime

Canada’s regulatory transparency is similar to the United States. Regulatory and accounting systems, including those related to debt obligations, are transparent and consistent with international norms. Proposed legislation is subject to parliamentary debate and public hearings, and regulations are issued in draft form for public comment prior to implementation in the Canada Gazette, the government’s official journal of record. While federal and/or provincial licenses or permits may be needed to engage in economic activities, regulation of these activities is generally for statistical or tax compliance reasons. Under the USMCA, parties agreed to make publicly available any written comments they receive, except to the extent necessary to protect confidential information or withhold personal identifying information or inappropriate content.

Canada published regulatory roadmaps for clean technology, digitalization and technology neutrality, and international standards in June 2021. These roadmaps, part of the federal government’s multi-year Targeted Regulatory Review program, lay out plans to advance regulatory modernization to support economic growth and innovation. Canadian securities legislation does not currently mandate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure for public or private companies. The Canadian Securities Administrators, an umbrella organization of all provincial and territorial securities regulators, released two proposed ESG disclosure policies for public comment between October 2021 and February 2022. The policies would require climate-related governance disclosures and climate-related strategy, risk management and metrics and targets disclosures if adopted.

Canada publishes an annual budget and debt management report. According to the Ministry of Finance, the design and implementation of the domestic debt program are guided by the key principles of transparency, regularity, prudence, and liquidity.

Canada addresses international regulatory norms through its FTAs and actively engages in bilateral and multilateral regulatory discussions. U.S.-Canada regulatory cooperation is guided by Chapter 28 of the USMCA “Good Regulatory Practices” and the bilateral Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). The USMCA aims to promote regulatory quality through greater transparency, objective analysis, accountability, and predictability. The RCC is a bilateral forum focused on harmonizing health, safety, and environmental regulatory differences. Canada-EU regulatory cooperation is guided by Chapter 21 “Regulatory Cooperation” of the CETA and the Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF). CETA encourages regulators to exchange experiences and information and identify areas of mutual cooperation. The RCF seeks to reconstitute regulatory cooperation under the previous Canada-EU Framework on Regulatory Cooperation and Transparency. The RCF is mandated to seek regulatory convergence where feasible to facilitate trade. CPTPP Chapter 25 “Regulatory Coherence” seeks to encourage the use of good regulatory practices to promote international trade and investment, economic growth, and employment. The CPTPP also established a Committee on Regulatory Coherence charged with considering developments to regulatory best practices in order to make recommendations to the CPTPP Commission for improving the chapter provisions and enhancing benefits to the trade agreement.

Canada is a member of the WTO and notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Canada is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in December 2016.

Canada’s legal system is based on English common law, except for Quebec, which follows civil law. Law-making responsibility is split between the Parliament of Canada (federal law) and provincial/territorial legislatures (provincial/territorial law). Canada has both written commercial law and contractual law, and specialized commercial and civil courts. Canada’s Commercial Law Directorate provides advisory and litigation services to federal departments and agencies whose mandate includes a commercial component and has legal counsel in Montréal and Ottawa.

The judicial branch of government is independent of the executive branch and the current judicial process is considered procedurally competent, fair, and reliable. The provinces administer justice in their jurisdictions, including management of civil and criminal provincial courts.

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

Canada relies on its Invest In Canada promotion agency to provide relevant information to foreign investors: https://www.investcanada.ca/ 

Competition Bureau Canada is an independent law enforcement agency charged with ensuring Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace as stipulated under the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act, and the Precious Metals Marking Act. The Bureau is housed under the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) and is headed by a Commissioner of Competition. Competition cases, excluding criminal cases, are brought before the Competition Tribunal, an adjudicative body independent from the government. The Competition Bureau and Tribunal adhere to transparent norms and procedures. Appeals to Tribunal decisions may be filed with the Federal Court of Appeal as per section 13 of the Competition Tribunal Act. Criminal violations of competition law are investigated by the Competition Bureau and are referred to Canada’s Public Prosecution Service for prosecution in federal court.

The federal government announced in February 2022 an intention to review competition law and policy including specific evaluation of loopholes that allow for harmful conduct, drip pricing, wage fixing agreements, access to justice for those injured by harmful conduct, adaptions to the digital economy, and penalty regime modernization. The announcement cited competition as a key tool to strengthen Canadian post-pandemic economic recovery.

In September 2020, the Bureau signed the Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities (MMAC) with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the New Zealand Commerce Commission, the United Kingdom Competition & Markets Authority, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission. The MMAC aims to improve international cooperation through information sharing and inter-organizational training.

Canadian federal and provincial laws recognize both the right of the government to expropriate private property for a public purpose and the obligation to pay compensation. The federal government has not nationalized a foreign firm since the nationalization of Axis property during World War II. Both the federal and provincial governments have assumed control of private firms, usually financially distressed companies, after reaching agreement with the former owners.

The USMCA, like the NAFTA, requires expropriation only be used for a public purpose and done in a nondiscriminatory manner, with prompt, adequate, and effective compensation, and in accordance with due process of law.

Bankruptcy in Canada is governed at the federal level in accordance with the provisions of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Each province also has specific laws for dealing with bankruptcy. Canada’s bankruptcy laws stipulate that unsecured creditors may apply for court-imposed bankruptcy orders. Debtors and unsecured creditors normally work through appointed trustees to resolve claims. Trustees will generally make payments to creditors after selling the debtors assets. Equity claimants are subordinate to all other creditor claims and are paid only after other creditors have been paid in full per Canada’s insolvency ladder. In all claims, provisions are made for cross-border insolvencies and the recognition of foreign proceedings. Secured creditors generally have the right to take independent actions and fall outside the scope of the BIA.

4. Industrial Policies

Federal and provincial governments offer a wide array of investment incentives designed to advance broader policy goals, such as boosting research and development, and promoting regional economies. The funds are available to qualified domestic and foreign investors. Export Development Canada offers financial support to inward investments under certain conditions. The government maintains a Strategic Innovation Fund that offers funding to firms advancing “the Canadian innovative ecosystem.” Canada also provides incentives through the Innovation Superclusters Initiative, which is investing more than USD 700 million over five years (2017‑2022) to accelerate economic and investment growth in Canada. The five superclusters focus on digital technology, protein industries, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and the ocean. Foreign firms may apply for supercluster funding. A 2020 Canada Parliamentary Budget Office report concluded Supercluster Initiative spending lagged budgetary targets and the Initiative was unlikely to meet its ten-year goal to increase GDP by USD 37 billion.

Several provinces also offer incentive programs available to foreign firms. These incentives are normally restricted to firms established in the province or that agree to establish a facility in the province. Quebec is implementing “Plan Nord” (Northern Plan), a 25-year program to incentivize natural resource development in its northern and Arctic regions. The program provides financing to facilitate infrastructure, mining, tourism, and other investments. Ontario provides financial support to investments in targeted sectors (e.g., life sciences) and provincial areas including Northern Ontario, southwest Ontario, rural Ontario, and Eastern Ontario. Alberta offers companies a provincial tax credit worth up to USD 220,000 annually for scientific research and experimental development, as well as Alberta Innovation Vouchers worth up to USD 75,000 to help small early-stage technology and knowledge-driven businesses get their ideas and products to market faster.

The federal government and several provincial governments offer specific incentives for businesses owned by underrepresented investors. The Black Entrepreneurship Program, for example, is a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, and financial institutions which will provide up to USD 160 million over four years (2021-2025) in loans to help Black Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

The federal government and several provincial governments offer incentives aimed at attracting and facilitating green investment. The federal government’s Clean Growth in Natural Resource Sectors Program is a USD 120 million fund to incentivize clean technology investment in the energy, mining, and forestry sectors. In April 2022, the federal government proposed a 50 percent tax credit for the construction of carbon capture, utilization, and storage projects for heavy greenhouse gas emitters.

Incentives for investment in cultural industries at both the federal and provincial level are generally available only to Canadian-controlled firms. Incentives may take the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees, venture capital, or tax credits. Provincial incentive programs for film production in Canada are available to foreign filmmakers.

Under the USMCA, Canada operates as a free trade zone for products made in the United States. Most U.S.-made goods enter Canada duty free.

As a general rule, foreign firms establishing themselves in Canada are not subject to local employment or forced localization requirements, although Canada has some requirements on local employment for boards of directors. Ordinarily, at least 25 percent of the directors of a corporation must be resident Canadians. If a corporation has fewer than four directors, however, at least one of them must be a resident Canadian. In addition, corporations operating in sectors subject to ownership restrictions (such as airlines and telecommunications) or corporations in certain cultural sectors (such as book retailing, video, or film distribution) must have a majority resident Canadian director.

Data localization is an evolving issue in Canada. The province of Quebec adopted a law in September 2021 that amends its data protection regime. Under the new law, the transfer of personal data outside of Quebec is limited to jurisdictions with data protection regimes possessing an adequate level of protection based on generally accepted data protection principles. Implementation of the law will be phased in 2021-2024. The federal government failed to pass a bill to modernize data protection and privacy standards in 2021, but pledged to re-introduce privacy legislation. Privacy rules in Nova Scotia mandate that personal information in the custody of a public body must be stored and accessed only in Canada unless one of the few limited exceptions applies. The law prevents public bodies such as primary and secondary schools, universities, hospitals, government-owned utilities, and public agencies from using non-Canadian hosting services. British Columbia maintained similar rules, however, the province passed legislation November 25, 2021 permitting some public bodies to disclose and store personal information outside of Canada to ensure operations, including meeting public health demand during the pandemic. Under the USMCA, parties are prevented from imposing data-localization requirements.

The Canada Revenue Agency stipulates that tax records must be kept at a filer’s place of business or residence in Canada. Current regulations were written over 30 years ago and do not consider current technical realities concerning data storage.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Foreign investors have full and fair access to Canada’s legal system, with private property rights limited only by the rights of governments to establish monopolies and to expropriate for public purposes. Investors under the USMCA have mechanisms available for dispute resolution regarding property expropriation by the Government of Canada. The recording system for mortgages and liens is reliable. Canada is ranked 36 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s “Ease of Registering Property” 2020 rankings. Approximately 89 percent of Canada’s land area is government owned (Crown Land). Ownership is divided between by federal (41 percent) and provincial (48 percent) governments. The remaining 11 percent of Canadian land is privately owned.

British Columbia and Ontario tax foreign buyers of real property. In British Colombia, foreign buyers of real property in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the central Okanagan regional district, Nanaimo, and the Capital Regional District are taxed at 20 percent of the property’s fair market value. In 2018, British Columbia broadened taxation on foreign ownership in Metro Vancouver and enacted a 0.5 percent Speculation and Vacancy Tax, targeting vacant foreign-owned homes. In 2019, the British Colombia Ministry of Finance increased the tax to 2 percent. The tax includes foreign owners and satellite families defined as those who earn most of their income outside of Canada. In Ontario, non-resident buyers of real property are subject to a non-resident speculation tax (NRST) at 15 percent of the property’s fair market value. Ontario extended the NRST in 2022 to apply to real property throughout the province. In 2022, Nova Scotia began levying property taxes on non-residents of Nova Scotia. Residential properties owned by non-residents of Nova Scotia (with exceptions for multi-unit buildings and properties leased for at least twelve months) are subject to a two percent property tax. In addition, non-residents who buy property and do not move to Nova Scotia within six months of closing have to pay a transfer tax of five percent of the property’s value. A federal one percent tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian owned residential real estate considered to be vacant or underused is undergoing parliamentary review as of March 2022. In April 2022, the federal government announced a proposed two year ban on sales of residential properties to non-Canadian residents.

In terms of non-resident access to land, including farmland, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have no restrictions on foreign ownership of land. Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan maintain measures aimed at prohibiting or limiting land acquisition by foreigners. The acreage limits vary by province, from as low as five acres in Prince Edward Island to as high as 40 acres in Manitoba. In certain cases, provincial authorities may grant exemptions from these limits, including for investment projects. In British Columbia, Crown land cannot be acquired by foreigners, while there are no restrictions on acquisition of other land.

Canada took significant steps to improve its intellectual property (IP) provisions when the USMCA came into force July 1, 2020, addressing areas with long-standing concerns, including full national treatment for copyright protections, transparency, and due process with respect to new geographical indications (GIs), more expansive trade secret protection, authority to seize counterfeit goods in transit to other countries, and enforcement measures in the digital environment. Canada must implement three additional provisions, including legislation to implement patent term adjustments to compensate for unreasonable patent prosecution delays by December 2024, legislation to extend copyright protections from 50 years to 70 years after the life of the author by December 2022, and accession to the Brussels Convention Relating to the Distribution of Program-Carrying Signals Transmitted by Satellite by July 2024. The Canadian courts have established meaningful penalties against circumvention devices and services. In 2019, Canada made positive reforms to the Copyright Board related to tariff-setting procedures for the use of copyrighted works, and efforts remain ongoing to implement those measures

Various challenges to IP protection in Canada remain despite this strong legal framework. Canadian IP enforcement of counterfeit and pirated goods at the border and within Canada remains limited. Canada’s system for providing patent term restoration for delays in obtaining marketing approval is also limited in duration, eligibility, and scope of protection. Canada’s ambiguous education-related exemption included in the 2012 copyright law undermines the market for educational publishers and authors.

Canada is on the 2022 Watch List in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report to Congress. The Pacific Mall located in Toronto, Ontario was listed in USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Canada’s capital markets are open, accessible, and regulated. Credit is allocated on market terms, the private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments, and foreign investors can get credit on the local market. Canada has several securities markets, the largest of which is the Toronto Stock Exchange, and there is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. The Canadian government and Bank of Canada do not place restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

The Canadian banking system is composed of 35 domestic banks and 16 foreign bank subsidiaries. Six major domestic banks are dominant players in the market and manage close to USD 5.4 trillion in assets. Many large international banks have a presence in Canada through a subsidiary, representative office, or branch. Ninety-nine percent of Canadians have an account with a financial institution. The Canadian banking system is viewed as very stable due to high capitalization rates that are well above the norms set by the Bank for International Settlements. The OSFI, Canada’s primary banking regulator, announced in January 2022 revised capital, leverage, liquidity, and disclosure rules that incorporate the final Basel III banking reforms with additional adjustments to make them suitable for federally regulated deposit-taking institutions. Most of the revised rules will take effect in the second fiscal quarter of 2023, with those related to market risk and credit valuation adjustment risk taking effect in early 2024.

Foreign financial firms interested in investing submit their applications to the OSFI for approval by the Minister of Finance. U.S. and other foreign banks can establish banking subsidiaries in Canada. Several U.S. financial institutions maintain commercially focused operations, principally in the areas of lending, investment banking, and credit card issuance. Foreigners can open bank accounts in Canada with proper identification and residency information.

The Bank of Canada is the nation’s central bank. Its principal role is “to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada,” as defined in the Bank of Canada Act. The Bank’s four main areas of responsibility are: monetary policy; promoting a safe, sound, and efficient financial system; issuing and distributing currency; and being the fiscal agent for Canada.

Canada does not have a federal sovereign wealth fund. The province of Alberta maintains the Heritage Savings Trust Fund to manage the province’s share of non-renewable resource revenue. The fund’s net financial assets were valued at USD 14 billion as of December 31, 2021. The Fund invests in a globally diversified portfolio of public and private equity, fixed income, and real assets. The Fund follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the “Santiago Principles” and participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group of SWFs. The Heritage Fund holds approximately 50 percent of its value in equity investments, seventeen percent of which are domestic.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Canada defines responsible business conduct (RBC) as “Canadian companies doing business abroad responsibly in an economic, social, and environmentally sustainable manner.” The Government of Canada has publicly committed to promoting RBC and expects and encourages Canadian companies working internationally to respect human rights and all applicable laws, to meet or exceed international RBC guidelines and standards, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and to conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner.

Canada encourages RBC by providing RBC-related guidance to the Canadian business community, including through Canadian embassies and missions abroad. Through its Fund for RBC, Global Affairs Canada provides funding to roughly 50 projects and initiatives annually. Canada also promotes RBC multilaterally through the OECD, the G7 Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation, and the Organization of American States. Canada promotes RBC through its trade and investment agreements via voluntary provisions for corporate social responsibility. Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service issued an Advisory to Canadian companies active abroad or with ties to Xinjiang, China in January 2021. The Advisory set clear compliance expectations for Canadian businesses with respect to forced labor and human rights involving Xinjiang.

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise is charged with receiving and reviewing claims of alleged human rights abuses involving Canadian companies foreign operations in the mining, oil and gas, and garment sectors. Contact information for making a complaint is available at: https://core-ombuds.canada.ca/core_ombuds-ocre_ombuds/index.aspx?lang=eng .

Canada is active in improving transparency and accountability in the extractive sector. The Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act was brought into force on June 1, 2015. The Act requires extractive entities active in Canada to publicly disclose, on an annual basis, specific payments made to all governments in Canada and abroad. Canada joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in February 2007, as a supporting country and donor. Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad” is available on the Global Affairs Canada website: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/other-autre/csr-strat-rse.aspx?lang=eng .

A comprehensive overview of Canadian RBC information is available at: https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/other-autre/csr-rse.aspx?lang=eng#:~:text=RBC%20is%20about%20Canadian%20companies,laws%20and%20internationally%20recognized%20standards .

Canada is working toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples including through the settlement of historical claims. The claims, made by First Nations against the Government of Canada, relate to the administration of land and other First Nation assets. As of March 2018 (the latest data provided by Canada), the Government of Canada has negotiated settlements on more than 460 specific claims. Hundreds of specific claims remain outstanding including 250 accepted for negotiation, 71 before the Specific Claims Tribunal, and 160 under review or assessment.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act enshrines in law the Government of Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  The Act establishes a legally binding process to set five-year national emissions-reduction targets as well as develop credible, science-based emissions-reduction plans to achieve each target.  It establishes the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target of reductions of 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 as Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.  The Act also establishes a requirement to set national emissions reduction targets for 2035, 2040, and 2045, ten years in advance. Canada issued on March 29, 2022, the first Emissions Reduction Plan under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. Progress under the plan will be reviewed in progress reports produced in 2023, 2025, and 2027. The 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan describes the measures Canada is undertaking to reduce emissions to 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.  This Plan reflects economy-wide measures such as carbon pricing and clean fuels, while also targeting actions sector by sector ranging from buildings to vehicles to industry and agriculture. The 2030 plan is designed to be evergreen and governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities across the country are expected to work together to reach these targets.

Canada’s 2020 Natural Climate Solutions Fund has three separate programs to encourage nature-based solutions including the Planting Two Billion Trees Program, Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, and the Agricultural Climate Solutions Program.

Canada’s Greening Government Strategy commits that the Government of Canada’s operations will be net-zero emissions by 2050 including government-owned and leased real property; government fleets, business travel, and commuting; procurement of goods and services; and national safety and security operations. The government intends to aid in the net-zero transition through green procurement that includes life-cycle assessment principles and the adoption of clean technologies and green products by including criteria that address greenhouse gas emissions reduction, sustainable plastics, and broader environmental benefits into procurements, among other efforts.

9. Corruption

Corruption in Canada is low and similar to that found in the United States. Corruption is not an obstacle to foreign investment. Canada is a party to the UN Convention Against Corruption, the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits corruption, bribery, influence peddling, extortion, and abuse of office. The Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act prohibits individuals and businesses from bribing foreign government officials to obtain influence and prohibits destruction or falsification of books and records to conceal corrupt payments. The law has extended jurisdiction that permits Canadian courts to prosecute corruption committed by Canadian companies and individuals abroad. Canada’s anti-corruption legislation is vigorously enforced, and companies and officials guilty of violating Canadian law are effectively investigated, prosecuted, and convicted of corruption-related crimes. In March 2014, Public Works and Government Services Canada (now Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC) revised its Integrity Framework for government procurement to ban companies or their foreign affiliates for 10 years from winning government contracts if they have been convicted of corruption. In August 2015, the Canadian government revised the framework to allow suppliers to apply to have their ineligibility reduced to five years where the causes of conduct are addressed and no longer penalizes a supplier for the actions of an affiliate in which it was not involved. PSPC has a Code of Conduct for Procurement, which counters conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts. Canadian firms operating abroad must declare whether they or an affiliate are under charge or have been convicted under Canada’s anti-corruption laws during the past five years to receive assistance from the Trade Commissioner Service.

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Mario Dion
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (for appointed and elected officials, House of Commons)
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
66 Slater Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario (Mailing address)

Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
Centre Block, P.O. Box 16
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Pierre Legault
Office of the Senate Ethics Officer (for appointed Senators)
Thomas D’Arcy McGee Building
Parliament of Canada
90 Sparks St., Room 526
Ottawa, ON K1P 5B4

10. Political and Security Environment

Canada is politically stable with rare instances of civil disturbance. In January and February 2022, however, various groups of protestors occupied large parts of the downtown core of Ottawa and blocked commercial trade at several U.S.-Canada ports of entry. The initial protest movement of several hundred individuals claimed to be focused on the reversal of cross-border vaccine mandates. The movement attracted thousands of additional followers with a spectrum of political philosophies and grievances including far right extremist and anti-government groups. The protestors hindered hundreds of millions of dollars in daily two-way trade causing production slowdowns at several factories on both sides of the border. Many Ottawa residents complained of acts of harassment, desecration, and destruction by the protestors including deafening horn honking. The federal government invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act to provide additional police powers to end the protests. Some commentators characterized the protests as a demonstration of growing politization within Canada.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The federal government and provincial/territorial governments share jurisdiction for labor regulation and standards. Federal employees and those employed in federally regulated industries, including the railroad, airline, and banking sectors, are covered under the federally administered Canada Labor Code. Employees in other sectors are regulated by provincial labor codes. As the laws vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to another, it is advisable to contact a federal or provincial labor office for specifics, such as minimum wage and benefit requirements.

Although labor needs vary by province, Canada faces a national labor shortage in skilled trades professions such as carpenters, engineers, and electricians. Canada launched several initiatives such as the Global Skills Visa to address its skilled labor shortage, including through immigration reform, the inclusion of labor mobility provisions in free trade agreements, including the Canada-EU CETA agreement, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and the International Mobility Program. The TFWP is jointly managed by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The International Mobility Program (IMP) primarily includes high skill/high wage professions and is not subject to a labor market impact assessment. The number of temporary foreign workers a business can employ is limited. For more information, see the TFWP website: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/foreign-workers.html 

The impact of COVID-19 on the labor force has yet to be fully realized. As of February 2022, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent, below the pre-COVID 5.7 percent reported in February 2020. Statistics indicate women and marginalized communities were disproportionately affected by job and other economic losses during the height of the pandemic. The Canadian government administered an emergency wage benefit in response to a significant increase in unemployment caused by the pandemic. Many minority groups including women and Indigenous populations have experienced notable employment gains since the depths of the pandemic.

Canadian labor unions are independent from the government. Canada has labor dispute mechanisms in place and unions practice collective bargaining. As of 2015 (the most recent year of available data), there were 776 unions in Canada. Eight of those unions – five of which were national and three international – represented 100,000 or more workers each and comprised 45 percent of all unionized workers in Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/collective-bargaining-data/labour-organizations.html). Less than one third of Canadian employees belonged to a union or were covered by a collective agreement as of 2015. In June 2017, Parliament repealed legislation public service unions had claimed contravened International Labor Organization conventions by limiting the number of persons who could strike.

In March 2022, 3,000 Canadian Pacific Railway workers participated in a 2-day strike and concurrent lockout over wage, benefit, and pension concerns. The parties agreed to binding arbitration following federal government mediation.

In August 2021, 9,000 Canadian border agents went on strike over pay and work conditions. The Canadian government and border agents reached a tentative agreement on a new contract following the one-day strike.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section
490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario
613-688-5335

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