Chile

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

For more than four decades, promoting inward FDI has been an essential part of the Chilean government’s national development strategy. The country’s market-oriented economic policy creates significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate. Laws and practices are not discriminatory against foreign investors, who receive treatment similar to Chilean nationals. Chile’s business climate is generally straightforward and transparent, and its policy framework has remained consistent despite developments such as civil unrest in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020. However, the permitting process for infrastructure, mining, and energy projects is contentious, especially regarding politically sensitive environmental impact assessments, water rights issues, and indigenous consultations.

InvestChile is the government agency in charge of facilitating the entry and retention of FDI into Chile. It provides services related to investment attraction (information about investment opportunities); pre-investment (sector-specific advisory services, including legal); landing (access to certificates, funds and networks); and after-care (including assistance for exporting and re-investment).

Regarding government-investor dialogue, in May 2018, the Ministry of Economy created the Sustainable Projects Management Office (GPS). This agency provides support to investment projects, both domestic and foreign, serving as a first point of contact with the government and coordinating with different agencies in charge of evaluating investment projects, which aims to help resolve issues that emerge during the permitting process.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have access to all productive activities, except for the domestic maritime freight sector, in which foreign ownership of companies is capped at 49 percent. Maritime transportation between Chilean ports is open since 2019 to foreign cruise vessels with more than 400 passengers. Some international reciprocity restrictions exist for fishing.

Most enterprises in Chile may be 100 percent owned by foreigners. Chile only restricts the right to private ownership or establishment in what it defines as certain “strategic” sectors, such as nuclear energy and mining. The Constitution establishes the “absolute, exclusive, inalienable and permanent domain” of the Chilean state over all mineral, hydrocarbon, and fossil fuel deposits within Chilean territory. However, Chilean law allows the government to grant concession rights and lease agreements to individuals and companies for exploration and exploitation activities, and to assign contracts to private investors, without discrimination against foreign investors.

Chile has not implemented an investment screening mechanism for national security purposes. FDI is subject to pro forma screening by InvestChile. Businesses in general do not consider these screening mechanisms as barriers to investment because approval procedures are expeditious and investments are usually approved. Some transactions require an anti-trust review by the office of the national economic prosecutor (Fiscalía Nacional Económica) and/or sector-specific regulators.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has not conducted a Trade Policy Review for Chile since June 2015 (available here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp415_e.htm). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has not conducted an Investment Policy Review for Chile since 1997 (available here: http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/investment-policy/34384328.pdf), and the country is not part of the countries covered to date by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Reviews.

Business Facilitation

The Chilean government took significant steps towards business facilitation during the past decade. Starting in 2018, the government introduced updated electronic and online systems for providing some tax information, complaints related to contract enforcement, and online registration of closed corporations (non-public corporations). In June 2019, the Ministry of Economy launched the Unified System for Permits (SUPER), a new online single-window platform that brings together 182 license and permit procedures, simplifying the process of obtaining permits for investment projects.

According to the World Bank, Chile has one of the shortest and smoothest processes among Latin American and Caribbean countries – 11 procedures and 29 days – to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC). Drafting statutes of a company and obtaining an authorization number can be done online at the platform https://www.registrodeempresasysociedades.cl/. Electronic signature and invoicing allow foreign investors to register a company, obtain a tax payer ID number and get legal receipts, invoices, credit and debit notes, and accountant registries. A company typically needs to register with Chile’s Internal Revenue Service, obtain a business license from a municipality, and register either with the Institute of Occupational Safety (public) or with one of three private nonprofit entities that provide work-related accident insurance, which is mandatory for employers. In addition to the steps required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing a subsidiary in Chile must authenticate the parent company’s documents abroad and register the incoming capital with the Central Bank. This procedure, established under Chapter XIV of the Foreign Exchange Regulations, requires a notice of conversion of foreign currency into Chilean pesos when the investment exceeds $10,000 (USD). The registration process at the Registry of Commerce of Santiago is available online.

Outward Investment

The Government of Chile does not have an active policy of promotion or incentives for outward investment, nor does it impose restrictions on it.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Chile’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and provide clear rules for competition and a level playing field for foreigners. They are consistent with international norms; however, environmental regulations – which include mandatory indigenous consultation required by the International Labor Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO 169) – and other permitting processes have become lengthy and unpredictable, especially in politically sensitive cases.

Four institutions play key roles in the rule-making process in Chile: The General-Secretariat of the Presidency (SEGPRES), the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy, and the General Comptroller of the Republic. However, Chile does not have a regulatory oversight body. Most regulations come from the national government; however, some, in particular those related to land use, are decided at the local level. Both national and local governments are involved in the issuance of environmental permits. Regulatory processes are managed by governmental entities. NGOs and private sector associations may participate in public hearings or comment periods. The OECD’s April 2016 “Regulatory Policy in Chile” report asserts that Chile took steps to improve its rule-making process, but still lags behind the OECD average in assessing the impact of regulations, consulting with outside parties on their design and evaluating them over time.

In Chile, non-listed companies follow norms issued by the Accountants Professional Association, while publicly listed companies use the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Since January 2018, IFRS 9 entered into force for companies in all sectors except for banking, in which IFRS 15 will be applied. IFRS 16 entered into force in January 2019. On January 12, 2021, Chile’s Financial Market Commission (CMF) published for consultation a regulation to implement the IFRS 17 accounting standards in the Chilean insurance market.

The legislation process in Chile allows for public hearings during discussion of draft bills in both chambers of Congress. Draft bills submitted by the Executive Branch to the Congress are readily available for public comment. Ministries and regulatory agencies are required by law to give notice of proposed regulations, but there is no formal requirement in Chile for consultation with the general public, conducting regulatory impact assessments of proposed regulations, requesting comments, or reporting results of consultations. For lower-level regulations or norms that do not need congressional approval, there are no formal provisions for public hearing or comment. As a result, Chilean regulators and rulemaking bodies normally consult with stakeholders, but in a less formal manner.

All decrees and laws are published in the Diario Oficial (roughly similar to the Federal Register in the United States), but other types of regulations will not necessarily be found there. There are no other centralized online locations where regulations in Chile are published.

According to the OECD, compliance rates in Chile are generally high. The approach to enforcement remains punitive rather than preventive, and regulators still prefer to inspect rather than collaborate with regulated entities on fostering compliance. Each institution with regulation enforcement responsibilities has its own sanction procedures. Law 19.880 from 2003 establishes the principles for reversal and hierarchical recourse against decisions by the administration. An administrative act can be challenged by lodging an action in the ordinary courts of justice, or by administrative means with a petition to the Comptroller General of the Republic. Affected parties may also make a formal appeal to the Constitutional Court against a specific regulation.

Chile still lacks a comprehensive, “whole of government” regulatory reform program. The World Bank´s Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance project finds that Chile is not part of the countries that have improved their regulatory governance framework since 2017.

Chile’s level of fiscal transparency is excellent. Information on the budget and debt obligations, including explicit and contingent liabilities, is easily accessible online.

International Regulatory Considerations

Chile does not share regulatory sovereignty with any regional economic bloc. However, several international norms or standards from multilateral organizations (UN, WIPO, ILO, among others) are referenced or incorporated into the country’s regulatory system. As a member of the WTO, the Chile notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Chile’s legal system is based on civil law. Chile’s legal and regulatory framework provides for effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. Laws governing issues of interest to foreign investors are found in several statutes, including the Commercial Code of 1868, the Civil Code, the Labor Code and the General Banking Act. Chile has specialized courts for dealing with tax and labor issues.

The judicial system in Chile is generally transparent and independent. The likelihood of government intervention in court cases is low. If a state-owned firm is involved in the dispute, the Government of Chile may become directly involved through the State Defense Council, which represents the government interests in litigation cases related to expropriations.

Regulations can be challenged before the court system, the National Comptroller, or the Constitutional Court, depending on the nature of the claim.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Law 20,848, of 2015, established a new framework for foreign investment in Chile and created the Agency for the Promotion of Foreign Investment (APIE), successor to the former Foreign Investment Committee and which also acts under the name of “InvestChile.” The InvestChile website (https://investchile.gob.cl/) provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. For more on FDI regulations and services for foreign investors, see the section on Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Chile’s anti-trust law prohibits mergers or acquisitions that would prevent free competition in the industry at issue. An investor may voluntarily seek a ruling by an Anti-trust Court that a planned investment would not have competition implications. The national economic prosecutor (FNE) is an active institution in conducting investigations for competition-related cases and filing complaints before the Free Competition Tribunal (TDLC), which rules on those cases.

In April 2020, Chile’s Supreme Court ruled on a collusion case introduced by the FNE in 2016 and more than doubled sanctions previously decided by the TDLC in 2019. Supermarket chains Walmart, Cencosud, and SMU were fined USD 7.9 million, USD 8.2 million, and USD 4.9 million, respectively. The ruling established that these retailers set up a minimum price accord in the market for fresh poultry.

In March 2020 and March 2021, respectively, after completing separate anti-trust reviews, the FNE cleared a Chinese state-owned enterprise’s acquisitions of two Chilean energy companies. In May 2020, the FNE approved the acquisition of a domestic e-commerce and delivery services digital platformby a U.S. ridesharing technology technology company. In August 2020, the Supreme Court ruled on a collusion case related to maritime transportation of cars into Chile between 2010 and 2013. In April 2019, the TDLC previously applied fines on two Japanese shipping and transport companies. – The Court accepted FNE’s complaint and extended fines to three other Chilean, Japanese, and Korean firms that participated in the agreement. Total fines amount to USD 30.5 million.

In September 2020, the FNE requested fines amounting to USD 4.1 million on a U.S. entertainment company and its subsidiary for failing to provide accurate information and to adopt adequate mitigation measures during the approval process for its acquisition of a U.S. multimedia company.

In December 2020, the FNE approved the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot, provided that some remedies provided by the companies would mitigate the risks to competition in the retail car market.

Expropriation and Compensation

Chilean law grants the government authority to expropriate property, including property of foreign investors, only on public interest or national interest grounds, on a non-discriminatory basis and in accordance with due process. The government has not nationalized a private firm since 1973. Expropriations of private land take place in a transparent manner, and typically only when the purpose is to build roads or other types of infrastructure. The law requires the payment of immediate compensation at fair market value, in addition to any applicable interest.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Since 1991, Chile has been a member state to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). In 1975, Chile became a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

National arbitration law in Chile includes the Civil Procedure Code (Law Num. 1552, modified by Law Num. 20.217 of 2007), and the Law Num. 19.971 on International Commercial Arbitration.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Apart from the New York Convention, Chile is also a party to the Pan-American Convention on Private International Law (Bustamante Code) since 1934, the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention) since 1976, and the Washington Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States since 1992.

The U.S.-Chile FTA, in force since 2004, includes an investment chapter that provides the right for investors to submit claims under the ICSID Convention, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration rules, or any other mutually agreed upon arbitral institution. So far, U.S. investors have filed no claims under the agreement.

Over the past 10 years, there were only two investment dispute cases brought by foreign investors against the state of Chile before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunal. In the first case, a Spanish-Chilean citizen demanded USD 338.3 million in compensation for the expropriation of a Chilean newspaper company in 1975 by Chile’s military regime. Despite an ICSID decision from 2016 in favor of the Chilean state, the claimant requested the nullification of the ruling, which extended the total duration of the case to 22 years. On January 7, 2020, ICSID issued a final ruling in favor of the Chilean state and rejecting the claimant’s case. The second case was brought in 2017 by a Colombian firm, which held concession contracts as operators of Transantiago, the public transportation system in Santiago de Chile. The Columbian firm claimed USD 347 million for Chilean government actions that allegedly created unfavorable operating conditions for the claimants’ subsidiaries and resulted in bankruptcy proceedings. On January 7, 2021, ICSID ruled in favor of the Chilean state, rejecting the claims.

Local courts respect and enforce foreign arbitration awards, and there is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Mediation and binding arbitration exist in Chile as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. A suit may also be brought in court under expedited procedures involving the abrogation of constitutional rights. The U.S.-Chile FTA investment chapter encourages consultations or negotiations before recourse to dispute settlement mechanisms. If the parties fail to resolve the matter, the investor may submit a claim for arbitration. Provisions in Section C of the FTA ensure that the proceedings are transparent by requiring that all documents submitted to or issued by the tribunal be available to the public, and by stipulating that proceedings be public. The FTA investment chapter establishes clear and specific terms for making proceedings more efficient and avoiding frivolous claims. Chilean law is generally to be applied to all contracts. However, arbitral tribunals decide disputes in accordance with FTA obligations and applicable international law. The tribunal must also accept amicus curiae submissions.

In Chile, the Judiciary Code and the Code of Civil Procedure govern domestic arbitration. Local courts respect and enforce foreign arbitral awards and judgments of foreign courts. Chile has a dual arbitration system in terms of regulation, meaning that different bodies of law govern domestic and international arbitration. International commercial arbitration is governed by the International Commercial Arbitration Act that is modeled on the 1985 UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. In addition to this statute, there is also Decree Law Number 2349 that regulates International Contracts for the Public Sector and sets forth a specific legal framework for the State and its entities to submit their disputes to international arbitration.

No Chilean state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been involved in investment disputes in recent decades. A Chilean government agency filed an arbitration case in February 2021 against a U.S. firm at the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration. The case remains pending.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Chile’s Insolvency Law from 1982 was updated in October 2014. The current law aims to clarify and simplify liquidation and reorganization procedures for businesses to prevent criminalizing bankruptcy. It also established the new Superintendence of Insolvency and created specialized insolvency courts. The new insolvency law requires creditors’ approval to select the insolvency representative and to sell debtors’ substantial assets. The creditor also has the right to object to decisions accepting or rejecting creditors’ claims. However, the creditor cannot request information from the insolvency representative. The creditor may file for insolvency of the debtor, but for liquidation purposes only. The creditors are divided into classes for the purposes of voting on the reorganization plan; each class votes separately, and creditors in the same class are treated equally.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests are recognized and generally enforced in Chile. Chile ranked 63 out of 190 economies in the “Registering Property” category of the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report. There is a recognized and generally reliable system for recording mortgages and other forms of liens.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of buildings and land, and no time limit on the property rights acquired by them. The only exception, based on national security grounds, is for land located in border territories, which may not be owned by nationals or firms from border countries, without prior authorization of the President of Chile. There are no restrictions to foreign and/or non-resident investors regarding land leases or acquisitions. In the Doing Business specific index for “quality of land administration” (which includes reliability of infrastructure, transparency of information, geographic coverage and land dispute resolution), Chile obtains a score of 14 out of 30.

Unoccupied properties can always be claimed by their legal owners and, as usurpation is a criminal offense, several kinds of eviction procedures are allowed by the law, though they can sometimes be onerous and lengthy.

Intellectual Property Rights

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index, Chile’s legal framework provides for fair and transparent use of compulsory licensing; extends necessary exclusive rights to copyright holders and maintains a voluntary notification system; and provides for civil and procedural remedies. However, intellectual property (IP) protection challenges remain. Chile’s framework for trade secret protection has been deemed insufficient by private stakeholders. Pharmaceutical products suffer from relatively weak patenting procedures, the absence of an effective patent enforcement and resolution mechanism, and some gaps in regulation governing data protection.

Two important IP-related laws that made progress in 2019 in the Chilean Congress and are still pending passage. A draft bill submitted to Congress in October 2018 would reform Chile’s Industrial Property Law. The new IP bill aims to reduce timeframes, modernize procedures, and increase legal certainty for patents and trademarks registration. On April 9, 2019, the bill was passed by the Lower Chamber and sent to the Senate. Meanwhile, a reform bill on Chile’s pharmaceutical drugs law called “Ley de Fármacos II”, originated in the Senate but was extensively amended by the opposition-controlled Lower Chamber, and is under review by a mixed committee of both houses of the Chilean Congress. The pharmaceutical industry contends that the bill, in its current version, could put Chile in non-compliance with its international trade obligations. Industry’s main IP concerns about the bill are related to: a labeling requirement by which a medication must include its International Nonproprietary Name (INN) in a size that occupies at least one-third of one of the main faces of its package, while limiting the size of the trademark to one-fifth of the main faces; a requirement that physicians prescribe a pharmaceutical product exclusively by INN, unless it contains three or more “active ingredients,” regardless of interchangeability and/or bioequivalence; a requirement that drugs may only be distributed if they are double registered under both generic and brand names; a provision allowing the government to issue compulsory licenses permitting the sale of generics based on “economic inaccessibility or lack of supply”; and a pathway toward a system of “price regulation” that will “prevent economic or financial inaccessibility of pharmaceutical products.” A mixed committee of senators and deputies is seeking to reconcile changes to the draft legislation introduced by the Chamber of Deputies. While the pharmaceutical industry reports that the reconciliation process addressed many of their concerns regarding the new regulations, especially those related to compulsory licenses, it identified the lack of coverage being offered in price regulations as the most significant outstanding issue.

The Intellectual Property Brigade (BRIDEPI) of the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI) reported that it seized 39,021 counterfeit products in 2020, worth a total of US$ 850,000, and arrested seven individuals on charges related to intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement. Additionally, the National Customs Service reported that, between January and September 2020 (latest data available), it seized more than 5.2 million counterfeit products worth a total of US$ 49 million.

Chile’s IPR enforcement remains relatively lax, particularly in relation to piracy, copyright, and patent protection, while prosecution of IP infringement is hindered by gaps in the legal framework and a lack of expertise in IP law among judges. Rightsholders indicate a need for greater resources devoted to customs operations and a clearer procedure for dealing with small packages containing infringing goods. The legal basis for detaining and seizing suspected transshipments is also insufficiently clear.

Chile has been included on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Priority Watch List since January 8, 2007, and remains on the 2021 Priority Watch List. In October 2018, Chile’s Congress successfully passed a law that criminalizes satellite piracy. However, other challenges remain, related to longstanding IPR issues under the U.S.-Chile FTA: the implementation of measures against circumvention of technological protection; pending implementation of UPOV 91; the implementation of an effective patent linkage in connection with applications to market pharmaceutical products; adequate protection for undisclosed data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products; and amendments to Chile’s Internet Service Provider liability regime to permit effective action against Internet piracy.

Chile is not listed in the USTR’s 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/.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Chile had 29 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in operation as of 2019. Twenty-eight SOEs are commercial companies and the newest one (FOINSA) is an infrastructure fund that was created to facilitate public-private partnership projects. 26 SOEs are not listed and are fully owned by the government, while the remaining three are majority government owned. Ten Chilean SOEs operate in the port management sector, seven in the services sector, three in the defense sector, three in the mining sector (including CODELCO, the world’s largest copper producer, and ENAP, an oil and gas company), two in transportation, one in the water sector, one is a TV station, and one is a state-owned bank (Banco Estado). The state holds a minority stake in four water companies as a result of a privatization process. In 2019, total assets of Chilean SOEs amounted to USD 74.2 billion, while their total net income was USD 556.7 million. SOEs employed 50,208 people in 2019.

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

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

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

Privatization Program

Chile does not have a privatization program.

9. Corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources to Report Corruption

David Ibaceta Medina
Acting Director General
Consejo para la Transparencia
Morande 360 piso 7
(+56)-(2)-2495-2000
contacto@consejotransparencia.cl

Alberto Precht
Executive Director
Chile Transparente (Chile branch of Transparency International)
Perez Valenzuela 1687, piso 1, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
(+56)-(2)-2236 4507
chiletransparente@chiletransparente.cl

Octavio Del Favero
Executive Director
Ciudadania Inteligente
Holanda 895, Providencia, Santiago
(+56)-(2)-2419-2770
https://ciudadaniai.org/contact 

Pía Mundaca
Executive Director
Espacio Publico
Santa Lucía 188, piso 7, Santiago, Chile
T: (+56) (9) 6258 3871
contacto@espaciopublico.cl

Observatorio Anticorrupción (Run by Espacio Publico and Ciudadania Inteligente)
https://observatorioanticorrupcion.cl/ 

Paula Díaz
Executive Director
Observatorio Fiscal (focused on public spending)
Don Carlos 2983, Oficina 3, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
(+562) (2) 4572 975
contacto@observatoriofiscal.cl

Finland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Finnish government is open to foreign direct investment. There are no general regulatory limitations relating to acquisitions. A mixture of domestic and EU competition rules govern mergers and acquisitions. Finland does not preclude foreign investment, but some tax policies may make it unattractive to investors. Finnish tax authorities treat the movement of ownership of shares from a Finnish company to a foreign company as a taxable event, though Finland complies with EU directives that require it to allow such transactions based in other EU member states without taxing them.

Finland does not grant foreign-owned firms preferential treatment like tax holidays or other subsidies not available to all firms. Instead, Finland relies on policies that seek to offer both domestic and international firms better operating conditions, an educated labor force, and well-functioning infrastructure. Companies benefit from preferential trade arrangements through Finland’s membership in the EU and the World Trade Organization (WTO), in addition to the protection offered by Finland’s bilateral investment treaties with sixty-seven countries. The corporate income tax rate is 20 percent.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on establishing a framework for the national security screening of high-risk foreign investments into the Union entered into force on April 10, 2019. At the moment, 17 Member States, including Finland, have national screening systems in place.

The law governing foreign investments is the Act on the Monitoring of Foreign Corporate Acquisitions in Finland (172/2012). The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM) monitors and confirms foreign corporate acquisitions. TEM decides whether an acquisition conflicts with “vital national interests” including securing national defense, as well as safeguarding public order and security. If TEM finds that a key national interest is jeopardized, it must refer the matter to the Council of State, which may refuse to approve the acquisition.

To meet the EU FDI screening regulation amendments to national legislation (the Act on the Screening of Foreign Corporate Acquisitions in Finland) entered into force in October 2020. National law continues to be premised on a positive attitude towards foreign investments, but authorities can exercise control over the ownership of companies considered essential in terms of the security of supply and national security and, if necessary, restrict foreign ownership in such companies. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment will act as the national contact point for cooperation and exchange of information between EU Member States and the European Union, and matters relating to the implementation of the EU Regulation establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments. The Act also includes new provisions on the setting of conditions that attach to decisions of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment regarding the approval of corporate acquisitions, inadmissibility of matters, circumvention of the Act, and the disclosure of secret information to public authorities. In addition, it will be necessary to apply for an advance approval by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment when making corporate acquisitions in the security sector in the future.

In the non-military sector, Finnish companies considered critical for securing vital functions of society are subject to screening.

For defense acquisitions, monitoring applies to all foreign owners, who must apply for prior approval. “Defense” includes all entities that supply or have supplied goods or services to the Finnish Ministry of Defense, the Finnish Defense Forces, the Finnish Border Guard, as well as entities dealing in dual-use goods. The substantive elements in evaluating the application are identical to those applied to other corporate acquisitions.

In regards to defense industry, monitoring covers all foreign owners. In other sectors, screening only applies to foreign owners residing or domiciled outside the EU or EFTA. There are no formal requirements for the layout of the application and notification submitted to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. However, the Ministry has drawn up instructions for preparing the application/notification. The application and notification must also be accompanied by a form containing the information required by the EU Regulation. Starting January 1, 2021, TEM charges a fee of EUR 5,000 for the processing of each application for confirming a foreign corporate acquisition. For more see: https://tem.fi/en/acquisition 

On February 26, 2019, the Finnish Parliament approved a law (HE 253/2018) that requires non-EU/ETA foreign individuals or entities to receive Defense Ministry permission before they purchase real estate in Finland. Even companies registered in Finland, but whose decision-making bodies are at least of one-tenth non-EU/ETA origin will have to seek a permit. The law, which took effect in early 2020, states that non-EU/ETA property purchasers can still buy residential housing and condominiums without restrictions. More info can be found here: https://www.defmin.fi/en/licences_and_services/authorisation_to_non-eu_and_non-eea_buyers_to_buy_real_estate#be2e4cd8 

Private ownership is common practice in Finland, and in most fields of business participation by foreign companies or individuals is unrestricted. When the government privatizes state-owned enterprises, both private and foreign participation is allowed except in enterprises operating in sectors related to national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Finland has been a member of the WTO and the EU since 1995. The WTO conducted its Trade Policy Review of the European Union (including Finland) in May 2017: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp457_e.htm .

Finland, in the past three years, has not undergone an investment policy review by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Business Facilitation

All businesses in Finland must be publicly registered at the Finnish Trade Register. Businesses must also notify the Register of any changes to registration information and most must submit their financial statements (annual accounts) to the register. The website is: https://www.prh.fi/en/kaupparekisteri.html . The Business Information System BIS (“YTJ” in Finnish, https://www.prh.fi/en/kaupparekisteri/rekisterointipalvelut/ytj.html ) is an online service enabling investors to start a business or organization, report changes, close down a business, or conduct searches.

Permits, licenses, and notifications required depend on whether the foreign entrepreneur originates from a Nordic country, the European Union, or elsewhere. The type of company also affects the permits required, which can include the registration of the right to residency, residence permits for an employee or self-employed person, and registration in the Finnish Population Information System. A foreigner may need a permit from the Finnish Patent and Registration Office to serve as a partner in a partnership or administrative body of a company. For more information: https://www.suomi.fi/company/responsibilities-and-obligations/permits-and-obligations . Improvements made in 2016 to the residence permit system for foreign specialists, defined as those with a specific field of expertise, a university degree, and who earn at least EUR 3,000 gross per month, should help attract experts to Finland. An online permit application ( https://enterfinland.fi/eServices ) available since November 2016 has made it easier for family members to acquire a residence permit. In December 2020, the Finnish Immigration Service reported that the average processing time for foreign specialist residency permits was two weeks. The practice of some trades in Finland requires only notification or registration with the authorities. Other trades, however, require a separate license; companies should confirm requirements with Finnish authorities. Entrepreneurs must take out pension insurance for their employees, and certain fields obligate additional insurance. All businesses have a statutory obligation to maintain financial accounts, and, with the exception of small companies, businesses must appoint an external auditor.

Finland ranks 20th according to the World Bank Group’s 2020 Doing Business Index; it ranked 31st on “Starting a Business” ( http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/finland ). According to a 2016 study (FDI Attractiveness Scoreboard) by the European Commission, Finland is the most attractive EU country for FDI in terms of the political, regulatory and legal environment.

Finland, together with Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands scored the highest ratings in EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index 2020 DESI, naming these countries the global leaders in digitalization. DESI summarizes relevant indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU Member States in digital competitiveness.

Gender inequality is low in Finland, which ranks third in the 2020 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index. Finland has the lowest gender pay gap in the OECD, thanks to decades of gender friendly policies. The employment gap between disadvantaged groups and prime-age men is among the ten lowest in the OECD, albeit higher than in all the other Nordics.

Outward Investment

Business Finland, part of the Team Finland network, helps Finnish SMEs go international, encourages foreign direct investment in Finland, and promotes tourism. Business Finland has a staff of around 600 persons and nearly 40 offices abroad. It operates16 regional offices in Finland and focuses on agricultural technology, clean technology, connectivity, e-commerce, education, ICT and digitalization, mining, and mobility as a service. While many of Business Finland’s programs are export-oriented, they also seek to offer business and network opportunities. More info here: https://www.businessfinland.fi/en/do-business-with-finland/home /. In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Culture launched the Team Finland Knowledge network to enhance international education and research cooperation and the export of Finnish educational expertise.

The government does not generally restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. The only exceptions are linked to matters of national security and national defense. The Defense Ministry is responsible for approving exports of arms for military use, while the National Police Board grants permission for the export of civilian weapons and the Foreign Ministry oversees exports of dual-use products. Export control seeks to promote responsible export of Finnish technology and to prevent the use of Finnish technology for the development of WMDs, for undesirable military ends, for uses against the interests of Finland, or for purposes that violate human rights.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Securities Market Act (SMA) contains regulations on corporate disclosure procedures and requirements, responsibility for flagging share ownership, insider regulations and offenses, the issuing and marketing of securities, and trading. The clearing of securities trades is subject to licensing and is supervised by the Financial Supervision Authority. The SMA is at https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2012/en20120746_20130258.pdf .

See the Financial Supervisory Authority’s overview of regulations for listed companies here: https://www.finanssivalvonta.fi/en/capital-markets/issuers-and-investors/regulation-of-listed-companies/ . Finland is currently not a member of the UNCTAD Business Facilitation Program https://businessfacilitation.org/ .

The Act on the Openness of Public Documents establishes the openness of all records in the possession of officials of the state, municipalities, registered religious communities, and corporations that perform legally mandated public duties, such as pension funds and public utilities. Exceptions can only be made by law or by an executive order for reasons such as national security. For more information, see the Ministry of Justice’s page on Openness: https://oikeusministerio.fi/en/act-on-the-openness-of-government-activities . The Act on the Openness of Government Activities can be found here: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/1999/en19990621 .

Finland ranks third on The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index (2020) regarding constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice. For more, see: https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/research-and-data/wjp-rule-law-index-2020 . Finland ranks fourth on World Bank’s Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance: http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/finland .

Availability of official information in Finland is the best in the EU, according to a report by the Center for Data Information (2017). The newly established Digital and Population Data Services Agency (2020) is responsible for developing and maintaining the national open data portal https://www.avoindata.fi/en 

Finland joined the Open Government Partnership Initiative (OGP) in April 2013. The global OGP-initiative aims at promoting more transparent, effective, and accountable public administration. The goal is to develop dialogue between citizens and administration and to enhance citizen engagement. The OGP aims at concrete commitments from participating countries to promote transparency, to fight corruption, to citizen participation and to the use of new technologies. Finland’s 4th national Open Government Action Plan for 2019–2023 was published in September 2019.

The current Government Program (issued in December 2019) sets openness of public information, including open data, application programming interface APIs and open source software, as key goals of the administration.

The status of Finland’s public finances is available at Statistics Finland, Finland’s official statistics agency: https://www.stat.fi/til/jul_en.html 

The status of Finland’s national debt is available at the State Treasury: https://www.treasuryfinland.fi/statistics/statistics-on-central-government-debt/#2fcc85c1 

International Regulatory Considerations

Finland respects EU common rules and expects other Member States to do the same. The Government seeks to constructively combine national and joint European interests in Finland’s EU policy and seeks better and lighter regulation that incorporates flexibility for SMEs. The Government will not increase burdens detrimental to competitiveness during its national implementation of EU acts.

Finland, as a member of the WTO, is required under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to report to the WTO all proposed technical regulations that could affect trade with other Member countries. In 2020, Finland submitted four notifications of technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures to the WTO and has submitted 103 notifications since 1995. Finland is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on February 22, 2017.

Finland follows European Union (EU) internal market practices, which define Finland’s trade relations both inside the EU and with non-EU countries. Restrictions apply to certain items such as products containing alcohol, pharmaceuticals, narcotics and dangerous drugs, explosives, etc. The import of beef cattle bred on hormones is forbidden. Other restrictions apply to farm products under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

In March 1997 EU commitments required the establishment of a tax border between the autonomously governed, but territorially Finnish, Aland Islands and the rest of Finland. As a result, the trade of goods and services between the Aland Islands and the rest of Finland is treated as if it were trade with a non-EU area. The Aland Islands belong to the customs territory of the EU but not to the EU fiscal territory. The tax border separates the Aland Islands from the VAT and excise territory of the EU. VAT and excise are levied on goods imported across the tax border, but no customs duty is levied. In tax border trade, goods can be sold with a tax free invoice in accordance with the detailed taxation instructions of the Finnish Tax Administration.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Finland has a civil law system. European Community (EC) law is directly applicable in Finland and takes precedence over national legislation. The Market Court is a special court for rulings in commercial law, competition, and public procurement cases, and may issue injunctions and penalties against the illegal restriction of competition. It also governs mergers and acquisitions and may overturn public procurement decisions and require compensatory payments. The Court has jurisdiction over disputes regarding whether goods or services have been marketed unfairly. The Court also hears industrial and civil IPR cases.

Amendments to the Finnish Competition Act (948/2011) entered into force on June 17, 2019, and on January 1, 2020. The amendments include, most notably, changes to the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority FCCA’s dawn raid practices, information exchange practices between national authorities and the calculation of merger control deadlines, which are now calculated in working days, rather than calendar days.

Finland is a party of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards since 1962. The provisions of the Convention have been included in the Arbitration Act (957/1992).

The Oikeus.fi website ( https://oikeus.fi/en/index.html ) contains information about the Finnish judicial system and links to the websites of the independent courts, the public legal aid and guardianship districts, the National Prosecution Authority, the National Enforcement Authority Finland, and the Criminal Sanctions Agency.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

There is no primary or “one-stop-shop” website that provides all relevant laws, rules, procedures and reporting requirements for investors. A non-European Economic Area (EEA) resident (persons or companies) operating in Finland must obtain a license or a notification when starting a business in a regulated industry. A comprehensive list of regulated industries can be found at: https://www.suomi.fi/company/responsibilities-and-obligations/permits-and-obligations .

See also the Ministry of Employment and the Economy’s Regulated Trade guidelines: https://tem.fi/en/regulation-of-business-operations . The autonomously governed Aland Islands, however are an exception. Right of domicile is acquired at birth if it is possessed by either parent. Property ownership and the right to conduct business are limited to those with the right of domicile in the Aland Islands. The Aland Government can occasionally, grant exemptions from the requirement of right of domicile for those wishing to acquire real property or conduct a business in Aland. This does not prevent people from settling in, or trading with, the Aland Islands. Provided they are Finnish citizens, immigrants who have lived in Aland for five years and have adequate Swedish may apply for domicile and the Aland Government can grant exemptions.

The Competition Act allows the government to block mergers where the result would harm market competition. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) issued guidelines in 2011: https://www.kkv.fi/en/facts-and-advice/competition-affairs/merger-control/ .

EnterpriseFinland/Suomi.fi ( https://www.suomi.fi/company/ ) is a free online service offering information and services for starting, growing and developing a company. Users may also ask for advice through the My Enterprise Finland website: https://oma.yrityssuomi.fi/en . Finnish legislation is available in the free online databank Finlex in Finnish, where some English translations can also be found: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/ .

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority FCCA protects competition by intervening in cases regarding restrictive practices, such as cartels and abuse of dominant position, and violations of the Competition Act and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Investigations occur on the FCCA’s initiative and on the basis of complaints. Where necessary, the FCCA makes proposals to the Market Court regarding penalties. In international competition matters, the FCCA’s key stakeholders are the European Commission (DG Competition), the OECD Competition Committee, the Nordic competition authorities and the International Competition Network (ICN). FCCA rulings and decisions can be found in the archive in Finnish. More information at: https://www.kkv.fi/en/facts-and-advice/competition-affairs/ .

In September 2020, the Nordic Competition Authorities released a joint memorandum on digital platforms, setting out the Nordic perspective on issues of competition in digital markets in Europe. For more see: https://www.kkv.fi/globalassets/kkv-suomi/julkaisut/pm-yhteisraportit/nordic-report-2020-digital-platforms-and-the-potential-changes-to-competition-law-at-the-european-level.pdf

Expropriation and Compensation

Finnish law protects private property rights. Citizen property is protected by the Constitution which includes basic provisions in the event of expropriation. Private property is only expropriated for public purposes (eminent domain), in a non-discriminatory manner, with reasonable compensation, and in accordance with established international law. Expropriation is usually based on a permit given by the government or on a confirmed plan and is performed by the District Survey Office. An expropriation permit granted by the Government may be appealed against to the Supreme Administrative Court. Compensation is awarded at full market price, but may exclude the rise in value due only to planning decisions.

Besides normal expropriation according to the Expropriation Act, a municipality or the State has the right to expropriate land for planning purposes. Expropriation is mainly for acquiring land for common needs, such as street areas, parks and civic buildings. The method is rarely used: less than one percent of land acquired by the municipalities is expropriated. Credendo Group ranks Finland’s expropriation risk as low (1), on a scale from 1 to 7: https://www.credendo.com/country-risk/finland .

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

In 1969, Finland became a member state to the World Bank-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID; Washington Convention). Finland is a signatory to the Convention of the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Finnish Arbitration Act (967/1992) is applied without distinction to both domestic and international arbitration. Sections 1 to 50 apply to arbitration in Finland and Sections 51 to 55 to arbitration agreements providing for arbitration abroad and the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Finland. Of 260 parties in 2020, the majority (238) were from Finland. There have been no reported investment disputes in Finland in recent years.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Finland has a long tradition of institutional arbitration and its legal framework dates back to 1928. Today, arbitration procedures are governed by the 1992 Arbitration Act (as amended), which largely mirrors the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of 1985 (with amendments, as adopted in 2006). The UNCITRAL Model law has not yet, however, been incorporated into Finnish Law.

Finland’s Act on Mediation in Civil Disputes and Certification of Settlements by Courts (394/2011) aims to facilitate alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and promote amicable settlements by encouraging mediation, and applies to settlements concluded in other EU member states: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2011/en20110394.pdf . In June 2016, the Finland Arbitration Institute of the Chamber of Commerce (FAI) launched its Mediation Rules under which FAI will administer mediations: https://arbitration.fi/mediation/mediation_rules/ .

Any dispute in a civil or commercial matter, international or domestic, which can be settled by agreement may be referred to arbitration. Arbitration is frequently used to settle commercial disputes and is usually faster than court proceedings. An arbitration award is final and binding. FAI promotes the settlement of disputes through arbitration, commonly using the “FAI Arbitration/Expedited Arbitration Rules”, which were updated in 2020: https://arbitration.fi/arbitration/guidelines-and-instructions/ 

The Finland Arbitration Institute (FAI) appoints arbitrators both to domestic and international arbitration proceedings, and administers domestic and international arbitrations governed by its rules. It also appoints arbitrators in ad hoc cases when the arbitration agreement so provides, and acts as appointing authority under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. The Finnish Arbitration Act (967/1992) states that foreign nationals can act as arbitrators. For more information see: https://arbitration.fi/arbitration/ 

Finland signed the UN Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (“Mauritius Convention”) in March 2015. Under these rules, all documents and hearings are open to the public, interested parties may submit statements, and protection for confidential information has been strengthened.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Finnish Bankruptcy Act was amended and the amendments took effect on July 1, 2019. The main objectives of these amendments were to simplify, digitize and speed-up bankruptcy proceedings. The amended Bankruptcy Act allows administrators to send notices and invitations to creditor addresses registered in the Trade Register. This will improve accessibility for foreign companies that have established a branch in Finland. Administrators of bankruptcy and restructuring proceedings must upload data and documentation to the bankruptcy and restructuring proceedings case management system (KOSTI). KOSTI is available only for creditors located in Finland due to the strong ID requirements.

The Reorganization of Enterprises Act (1993/47), https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/kaannokset/1993/en19930047 , establishes a legal framework for reorganization with the aim to provide an alternative to bankruptcy proceedings. The Act excludes credit and insurance institutions and certain other financial institutions. Recognition of restructuring or insolvency processes initiated outside of the EU requires an exequatur from a Finnish court.

The bankruptcy ombudsman, https://www.konkurssiasiamies.fi/en/index.html , supervises the administration of bankruptcy estates in Finland. The Act on the Supervision of the Administration of Bankruptcy Estates dictates related Finnish law: https://www.konkurssiasiamies.fi/material/attachments/konkurssiasiamies/konkurssiasiamiehentoimistonliitteet/6JZrLGPN1/Act_on_the_Supervision_of_the_Administration_of_Bankruptcy_Estates.pdf .

Finland can be considered creditor-friendly; enforcement of liabilities through bankruptcy proceedings as well as execution outside bankruptcy proceedings are both effective. Bankruptcy proceedings are creditor-driven, with no formal powers granted to the debtor and its shareholders. The rights of a secured creditor are also quite extensive.

According to data collected by the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, resolving insolvency takes 11 months on average and costs 3.5 percent of the debtor’s estate. The average recovery rate is 88 cents on the dollar. Globally, Finland ranked first of 190 countries on the ease of resolving insolvency in the Doing Business 2020 report : https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/country/f/finland/FIN.pdf

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Finnish legal system protects and enforces property rights and secured interests in property, both movable and real. Finland ranked first of 129 countries in the Property Rights Alliance 2020 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) which concentrates on a country’s legal and political environment, physical property rights, and intellectual property rights (IPR).

Mortgages exist in Finland and can be applied to both owned and rented real estate. Finland ranks 34th out of 190 countries in the ease of Registering Property according to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. In Finland, real property formation, development, land consolidation, cadastral mapping, registration of real properties, ownership and legal rights, real property valuation, and taxation are all combined within one basic cadastral system (real estate register) maintained by the National Land Survey: https://www.maanmittauslaitos.fi/en/real-property .

Intellectual Property Rights

The Finnish legal system protects intellectual property rights (IPR), and Finland adheres to numerous related international agreements. One of Prime Minister Marin’s goals is to draft a National IPR Strategy for Finland.

Treaties: Finland is a member of the World International Property Organization (WIPO) and party to a number of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (Rome Convention). Finland is party to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Copyrights: The Finnish Copyright Act can be found at: https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/text/397616 . Guidelines applicable for international use were published in 2016 and can be found at: https://www.cupore.fi/en/publications/cupore-s-publications/assessing-the-operation-of-copyright-and-related-rights-systems-141052-14122016 . Distribution of information on copyright and surveillance of rights is performed by the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC).

Trademarks: The new Finnish Trademarks Act entered into force in May 2019. With this Act, Finland implemented the revised EU Trademark Directive, enforces the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, and brings the 1964 trademark regulations up to date. Provisions concerning collective marks and control marks are included in the Act, which nullified the Act on Collective Marks. The Act also includes amendments to related legislation such as the Finnish Company Names Act, the Criminal Code, and relevant procedural acts. Trademark applicants or proprietors not domiciled in Finland are required to have a representative resident in the European Economic Area. Finland is party to the Madrid Protocol.

Trade secrets: In August 2018, Finland adopted a new Trade Secrets Act to incorporate the provisions of the EU Directive 2016/943 on Trade Secrets. The new Act replaces the Unfair Business Practices Act and provides harmonized definitions at the EU level for trade secrets, their lawful and unlawful acquisition, and their use and disclosure. The Act also includes a whistleblower provision according to which a person (e.g. an employee) is allowed to disclose a trade secret in order to reveal malpractice or illegal activity, so long as it is done to protect the public interest and the person has significant reasons to reveal the information. The Trade Secrets Act can be found at: https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2018/20180595  (available only in Finnish and Swedish).

Patents: Patent rights in Finland are consistent with international standards, and a granted patent is valid for 20 years. The Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) website contains unofficial translations in English of the Patents Act, Patents Decree, and Patent Regulations https://www.prh.fi/en/patentit/lainsaadantoa.html . The regulatory framework for process patents filed before 1995, and pending in 1996, denied adequate protection to many of the top-selling U.S. pharmaceutical products currently on the Finnish market. For this reason, Finland was placed on USTR’s Special 301 Report Watch List in 2009 but was removed in 2015 when the term for relevant patents expired.

Designs: Finland is party to the Locarno Agreement and the Hague Agreement for Industrial Designs, and design are protected by the Finnish Registered Designs Act. The Designs Register at the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) contains entries about national designs, i.e. design rights, applied for and registered in Finland: https://mallioikeustietopalvelu.prh.fi/en .

Finnish Customs officers have ex-officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods. IPR enforcement in Finland is based on EU Regulation 608/2013. In 2020, according to the Grey Economy Crime statistics, Finnish customs authorities inspected 119,337 suspected counterfeit goods (with a value of USD 240 million). The number and value of counterfeit goods detained by Finnish Customs have been in decline since 2013. The long-term trend indicates a decline in counterfeit goods detected in large volume shipments. However, due to increased online purchases, small volume shipments via postal and express freight traffic have increased in number, and these are more difficult to screen for counterfeits.

Finland is mentioned in USTR’s 2020 Notorious Markets List for reportedly hosting a Flokinet server associated with infringing activity.

The link to WIPO’s list of IPR legislation can be found at: https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/profile/FI .

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles here: https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=FI .

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in Finland are active in chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites; energy and mining; environmental technologies; food processing and packaging; industrial equipment and supplies; marine technology; media and entertainment; metal manufacturing and products; services; and travel. The Ownership Steering Act (1368/2007) regulates the administration of state-owned companies: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2007/en20071368 .

In general, SOEs are open to competition except where they have a monopoly position, namely in alcohol retail and gambling. The Ownership Steering Department in the Prime Minister’s Office has ownership steering responsibility for Finnish SOEs, and is responsible for Solidium, a holding company wholly owned by the State of Finland and a minority owner in nationally important listed companies.

The Government of Finland GOF, directly or through Solidium, is a significant owner in 16 companies listed on the Helsinki stock exchange. The market value of all State direct shareholdings was approximately USD 28 billion as of March 2021. More info can be found here: https://vnk.fi/en/government-ownership-steering/value-of-state-holdings . The GOF has majority ownership of shares in two listed companies (Finnair and Fortum) and owns shares in 33 commercial companies: https://vnk.fi/en/state-shareholdings-and-parliamentary-authorisations  (March 2021). The Finnish State development company Vake will be turned into a Climate Fund, focusing on combating climate change, driving digitalization and advancing low-carbon industry. More information can be found here: https://vake.fi/en/ 

Finnish state ownership steering complies with the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council in the Prime Minister’s Office serves in an advisory capacity regarding SOE policy; it does not make recommendations regarding the actual business in which the individual companies are engaged. The government has proposed changing its ownership levels in several companies and increasing the number of companies steered by the Prime Minister’s Office. Parliament decides the companies in which the State may relinquish its sole ownership (100 percent), its control of ownership (50.1 percent) or minority ownership (33.4 percent of votes). For more see https://vnk.fi/en/government-ownership-steering/ownership-policy 

In April 2020, the Government issued a new resolution on ownership policy, which will guide state-owned companies for the duration of the government term (until spring 2023). The Government Resolution on ownership policy will continue to pursue a predictable, forward-looking ownership policy that safeguards the strategic interests of the state. State ownership will be assessed from the perspectives of overall benefit to the national economy, development of the operations and value of companies, and the efficient distribution of resources. The new Government Resolution on ownership policy strongly emphasizes the fight against climate change, the use of digitalization and issues of corporate social responsibility.

Finland opened domestic rail freight to competition in early 2007, and in July 2016, Fenniarail Oy, the first private rail operator on the Finnish market, began operations. In November 2020, Estonian based Openrail Finland’s rail freight operations started in Finland. Passenger rail transport services will be opened to competition in stages, starting with local rail services in southern Finland. Based on an agreement between Finnish State Railways (VR) and the Ministry of Transport and Communications, VR has exclusive rights to provide passenger transport rail services in Finland until the end of 2024. The exclusive right applies to all passenger rail transport in Finland, excluding the commuter train transport services, provided by the Helsinki Regional Transport Agency (HSL). HSL put its commuter train transport services out for tender in February 2020, VR won the tender and will continue provide passenger rail service for the next ten years. The value of southern Finland commuter train services is USD 67 million per year, with 200 000 daily passengers. Three wholly state-owned enterprises will be separated from Finnish State Railways (VR) to create a level playing field for all operators: a rolling stock company, a maintenance company, and a real estate company. Cross-border transportation between Finland and Russia was opened to competition in December 2016. Trains to and from Russia can be operated by any railroad with permission to operate in the EU. This was earlier VR’s exclusive domain. Fenniarail Oy has an agreement with VR regarding information exchange between authorities in Finland and Russia, approvals of rail wagons on the Finnish rail network and the safety of rail wagons. The agreement was signed in January 2017 for an initial trial period.

Privatization Program

Parliament makes all decisions identifying the companies in which the State may relinquish sole ownership (100 percent of the votes) or control (minimum of 50.1 percent of the votes), while the Government decides on the actual sale. The State has privatized companies by selling shares to Finnish and foreign institutional investors, through both public offerings and directly to employees. Sales of direct holdings of the State totaled USD 2.89 billion (2007 – 2021). Solidium’s share sales totaled some USD 7.17 billion ( 2007 – 2021). According to the present Government Program, the proceeds from the sale of state assets are primarily to be used for the repayment of central government debt. Up to 25%, but no more than USD 168 million of any annual revenues exceeding USD 448 million, may be used for projects designed to strengthen the economy and promote growth.

The Government issued a new resolution on state-ownership policy in May 2016, seeking to ensure that corporate assets held by the State are put to more efficient use to boost economic growth and employment.

More info about state ownership can be found here : https://vnk.fi/en/government-ownership-steering .

9. Corruption

The National Risk Assessment of 2018 does not list corruption as a risk in Finland, nor does the 2017 Security Strategy for Society and there is no dedicated national anti-corruption strategy. In April 2020, the Ministry of Justice appointed an anti-corruption working group to draft Finland’s Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2023. The term of the working group ends in March 2023.

Over the past decade, Finland has ranked in the top three on Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). In 2020, Finland was ranked third on the CPI. In 2020, TI however stated that Finland scores high on the CPI but isn’t spared from corruption. Gaps in Finland’s anti-money laundering supervisory framework could make Finland, along with other Nordic countries, very attractive to corrupt individuals and money launderers. In addition, Finland demonstrates “little to no enforcement against foreign bribery”, TI concluded.

Corruption in Finland is covered by the Criminal Code and penalties range from fines to imprisonment of up to four years. The Criminal Code divides bribery offences into two categories, giving of bribes to public officials or acceptance of bribes and giving or acceptance of bribes in business. Finland has statutory tax rules concerning non-deductibility of bribes. Finland does not have an authority specifically charged to prevent corruption, instead several authorities and agencies contribute to anti-corruption work.. The Ministry of Justice coordinates anti-corruption matters, but Finland’s EU anti-corruption contact is the Ministry of the Interior. The National Bureau of Investigation also monitors corruption, while the tax administration has guidelines obliging tax officials to report suspected offences, including foreign bribery, and the Ministry of Finance has guidelines on hospitality, benefits, and gifts. The Ministry of Justice describes its anti-corruption efforts at https://oikeusministerio.fi/en/anti-corruption-activities .

In 2020, Ministry of Employment and Economy released an Anti-Corruption guide intended for companies, especially SMEs, to provide them with guidance and support for promoting good business practices and corruption-free business relations both in Finland and abroad. For more see: https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/162227/MEAE_guidelines_2b_2020_ENG_Anti_corruption_guide_for_SMES_07052020.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y 

The Ministry of Justice is maintaining an Anti-Corruption.fi website, https://korruptiontorjunta.fi/en/home , providing both ordinary citizens and professional operators with impartial and fact-based information on corruption and its prevention in Finland. The goal is a transparent, impartial, and corruption-free culture and society.

The Act on a Candidate’s Election Funding (273/2009) delineates election funding and disclosure rules. The Act requires presidential candidates, Members of Parliament, and Deputy Members to declare total campaign financing, the financial value of each contribution, and donor names for donations exceeding EUR 1,500: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2009/en20090273.pdf . The Act on Political Parties (10/1969) concerning the funding of political parties is at: https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/kaannokset/1969/en19690010.pdf . The National Audit Office of Finland keeps a register containing election-funding disclosures at: http://www.vaalirahoitusvalvonta.fi/en/index.html . Election funding disclosures must be filed with the National Audit Office of Finland within two months of election results being confirmed.

Finland does not regulate lobbying; there is no requirement for lobbyists to register or report contact with public officials. However, in March 2020, a parliamentary working group was set up to establish a transparency lobbying register. I The ethical Guidelines of the Finnish Prosecution Service can be found from a new website that was opened on October 1, 2019. https://syyttajalaitos.fi/en/the-ethical-guidelines .

The following are ratified or in force in Finland: the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime; the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption; the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption; the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; and, the UN Anticorruption Convention. Finland is a member of the European Partners against Corruption (EPAC).

Finland is a signatory to the OECD Convention on Anti-Bribery. In October 2020, the OECD working group on bribery said it recognizes Finland’s commitment to combat corruption, but is concerned about lack of foreign bribery enforcement. For more see Finland’s 4th evaluation report: http://www.oecd.org/corruption/Finland-phase-4-follow-up-report-ENG.pdf .

In October 2020, the Council of Europe’s anticorruption body GRECO (Group of States against Corruption) addressed 14 recommendations to Finland on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and compliance with these recommendations. For more see GRECO’s 5th evaluation round, Finland compliance report: https://rm.coe.int/fifth-evaluation-round-preventing-corruption-and-promoting-integrity-i/1680a0b0ca . The National Bureau of Investigation is responsible for the investigation of organized and international crimes, including economic crime and corruption, and operates an anti-corruption unit to detect economic offences. The Ministry of Justice has set up a specialist network, the anti-corruption cooperation network, which meets a few times a year to discuss and exchange information. The committee drafted an anti-corruption strategy for Finland and submitted it to the Ministry of Justice in 2017. The government has not yet adopted the strategy. Finnish Defense Forces, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Finnish Center for Integrity in Sports joined the anti-corruption network in 2020.

At the beginning of 2017, the Public Procurement Act based on the new EU directives on public procurement entered into force. Under the law, a foreign bribery conviction remains mandatory grounds for exclusion from public contracts.

Resources to Report Corruption

Markku Ranta-Aho
Head of Financial Crime Division
National Board of Investigation
P.O. Box 285, 01310 Vantaa, Finland
markku.ranta-aho@poliisi.fi 

Salla Nazarenko
Chairperson
Transparency Finland
info@transparency.fi 

France and Monaco

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

France welcomes foreign investment. In the current economic climate, the French government sees foreign investment as a means to create additional jobs and stimulate growth. Investment regulations are simple, and a range of financial incentives are available to foreign investors. According to surveys of U.S. investors, U.S. companies find France’s skilled and productive labor force, good infrastructure, technology, and central location in Europe attractive. France’s membership in the European Union (EU) and the Eurozone facilitates the efficient movement of people, services, capital, and goods. However, notwithstanding French efforts at economic and tax reform, market liberalization, and attracting foreign investment, perceived disincentives to investing in France include the relatively high tax environment. Labor market fluidity is improving due to labor market reforms but is still rigid compared to some OECD economies.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

France is among the least restrictive countries for foreign investment. With a few exceptions in certain specified sectors, there are no statutory limits on foreign ownership of companies. Foreign entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

France maintains a national security review mechanism to screen high-risk investments. French law stipulates that control by acquisition of a domiciled company or subsidiary operating in certain sectors deemed crucial to France’s national interests relating to public order, public security and national defense are subject to prior notification, review, and approval by the Economy and Finance Minister. Other sectors requiring approval include energy infrastructure; transportation networks; public water supplies; electronic communication networks; public health protection; and installations vital to national security. In 2018, four additional categories – semiconductors, data storage, artificial intelligence and robotics – were added to the list requiring a national security review. For all listed sectors, France can block foreign takeovers of French companies according to the provisions of the 2014 Montebourg Decree.

On December 31, 2019 the government issued a decree to lower the threshold for vetting of foreign investment from outside Europe from 33 to 25 percent and then lowered it again to 10 percent on July 22, 2020, a temporary provision to prevent predatory investment during the COVID-19 crisis. This lower threshold is set to expire at the end of 2021. The decree also enhanced government-imposed conditions and penalties in cases of non-compliance and introduced a mechanism to coordinate the national security review of foreign direct investments with the European Union (EU Regulation 2019/452). The new rules entered into force on April 1, 2020. The list of strategic sectors was also expanded to include the following activities listed in the EU Regulation 2019/452: agricultural products, when such products contribute to national food supply security; the editing, printing, or distribution of press publications related to politics or general matters; and R&D activities relating to quantum technologies and energy storage technologies. Separately, France expanded the scope of sensitive sectors on April 30, 2020 to include biotechnology companies.

Procedurally, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Recovery has 30 business days following the receipt of a request for authorization to either: 1) declare that the investor is not required to obtain such authorization; 2) grant its authorization without conditions; or 3) declare that an additional review is required to determine whether a conditional authorization is sufficient to protect national interests. If an additional review is required, the Minister has an additional 45 business days to either clear the transaction (possibly subject to conditions) or prohibit it. The Minister is further allowed to deny clearance based on the investor’s ties with a foreign government or public authority. The absence of a decision within the applicable timeframe is a de facto rejection of the authorization.

The government has also expanded the breadth of information required in the approval request. For example, a foreign investor must now disclose any financial relationship with or significant financial support from a State or public entity; a list of French and foreign competitors of the investor and of the target; or a signed statement that the investor has not, over the past five years, been subject to any sanctions for non-compliance with French FDI regulations.

In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction—the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

France has not recently been the subject of international organizations’ investment policy reviews. The OECD Economic Survey for France (April 2019) can be found here:  http://www.oecd.org/economy/france-economic-forecast-summary.htm .

Business Facilitation

Business France is a government agency established with the purpose of promoting new foreign investment, expansion, technology partnerships, and financial investment. Business France provides services to help investors understand regulatory, tax, and employment policies as well as state and local investment incentives and government support programs. Business France also helps companies find project financing and equity capital. Business France recently unveiled a website in English to help prospective businesses that are considering investments in the French market ( https://www.businessfrance.fr/en/invest-in-France ).

In addition, France’s public investment bank, Bpifrance, assists foreign businesses to find local investors when setting up a subsidiary in France. It also supports foreign startups in France through the government’s French Tech Ticket program, which provides them with funding, a resident’s permit, and incubation facilities. Both business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and minorities.

President Macron made innovation one of his priorities with a €10 billion ($11.8 billion) fund that is being financed through privatizations of State-owned enterprises. France’s priority sectors for investment include:  aeronautics, agro-foods, digital, nuclear, rail, auto, chemicals and materials, forestry, eco-industries, shipbuilding, health, luxury, and extractive industries. In the near-term, the French government intends to focus on driverless vehicles, batteries, the high-speed train of the future, nano-electronics, renewable energy, and health industries.

Business France and Bpifrance are particularly interested in attracting foreign investment in the tech sector. The French government has developed the “French Tech” initiative to promote France as a location for start-ups and high-growth digital companies. In addition to 17 French cities, French Tech offices have been established in 100 cities around the world, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Moscow, and Berlin. French Tech has special programs to provide support to startups at various stages of their development. The latest effort has been the creation of the French Tech 120 Program, which provides financial and administrative support to some 123 most promising tech companies. In 2019, €5 billion ($5.9 billion) in venture funding was raised by French startups, an increase of nearly threefold since 2015. In September 2019, President Emmanuel Macron convinced major asset managers such as AXA and Natixis to invest €5 billion ($5.9 billion) into French tech companies over the next three years. He also announced the creation of a listing of France’s top 40 startups “Next 40” with the highest potential to grow into unicorns.

On June 5, 2020, the French government introduced a new €1.2 billion ($1.4 billion) plan to support French startups, especially in the health, quantum, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity sectors. The plan includes the creation of a €500 million ($590 million) investment fund to help startups overcome the COVID-19 crisis and continue to innovate. It also comprises a “French Tech Sovereignty Fund” with an initial commitment of €150 million ($177 million) launched on December 11, 2020 by Bpifrance, France’s public investment bank.

The website Guichet Enterprises ( https://www.guichet-entreprises.fr/fr/ ) is designed to be a one-stop website for registering a business. The site, managed by the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), is available in both French and English although some fact sheets on regulated industries are only available in French.

Outward Investment

French firms invest more in the United States than in any other country and support approximately 780,000 American jobs. Total French investment in the United States reached $310.7 billion in 2019. France was our tenth largest trading partner with approximately $99.7 billion in bilateral trade in 2020. The business promotion agency Business France also assists French firms with outward investment, which it does not restrict.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The French government has made considerable progress in the last decade on the transparency and accessibility of its regulatory system. The government generally engages in industry and public consultation before drafting legislation or rulemaking through a regular but variable process directed by the relevant ministry. However, the text of draft legislation is not always publicly available before parliamentary approval. U.S. firms may also find it useful to become members of industry associations, which can play an influential role in developing government policies. Even “observer” status can offer insight into new investment opportunities and greater access to government-sponsored projects.

To increase transparency in the legislative process, all ministries are required to attach an impact assessment to their draft bills. The Prime Minister’s Secretariat General (SGG for Secretariat General du Gouvernement) is responsible for ensuring that impact studies are undertaken in the early stages of the drafting process. The State Council (Conseil d’Etat), which must be consulted on all draft laws and regulations, may reject a draft bill if the impact assessment is inadequate.

After experimenting with new online consultations, the Macron Administration is regularly using this means to achieve consensus on its major reform bills. These consultations are often open to professionals as well as citizens at large. Another innovation is to impose regular impact assessments after a bill has been implemented to ensure its maximum efficiency, revising, as necessary, provisions that do not work in favor of those that do. Finally, the Macron Administration aims to make all regulations and laws available online by 2022.

Over past decades, reforms have extended the investigative and decision-making powers of France’s Competition Authority. On April 11, 2019, France implemented the European Competition Network (ECN) Directive, which widens the powers of all European national competition authorities to impose larger fines and temporary measures. The Authority publishes its methodology for calculating fines imposed on companies charged with abuse of a dominant position. It issues specific guidance on competition law compliance, and government ministers, companies, consumer organizations, and trade associations now have the right to petition the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices.

While the Authority alone examines the impact of mergers on competition, the Minister of the Economy retains the power to request a new investigation or reverse a merger transaction decision for reasons of industrial development, competitiveness, or saving jobs.  The Competition Authority continues to simplify takeover and merger notifications with online procedures via a dedicated platform in 2020. Also in 2020, the Competition Authority issued new merger control guidelines that replaced the prior ones issued in 2013. The new guidelines clarify the Competition Authority’s procedural rules and increase transparency into the substantive merger review process. In particular, the new rules emphasize the Competition Authority’s ability to request documents from merging parties.

France’s budget documents are comprehensive and cover all expenditures of the central government. An annex to the budget also provides estimates of cost sharing contributions, though these are not included in the budget estimates. Last September, the French government published its first “Green Budget,” as an annex to the 2021 Finance Bill. This event attests to France’s strong commitment, notably under the OECD-led “Paris Collaborative on Green Budgeting” (which France joined in December 2017), to integrate “green” tools into the budget process. In its spring report each year, the National Economic Commission outlines the deficits for the two previous years, the current year, and the year ahead, including consolidated figures on taxes, debt, and expenditures. Since 1999, the budget accounts have also included contingent liabilities from government guarantees and pension liabilities.  The government publishes its debt data promptly on the French Treasury’s website and in other documents. Data on nonnegotiable debt is available 15 days after the end of the month, and data on negotiable debt is available 35 days after the end of the month.  Annual data on debt guaranteed by the state is published in summary in the CGAF Report and in detail in the Compte de la dette publique. More information can be found at:  https://www.imf.org/external/np/rosc/fra/fiscal.htm 

International Regulatory Considerations

France is a founding member of the European Union, created in 1957. As such, France incorporates EU laws and regulatory norms into its domestic law. France has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and a member of GATT since 1948. While developing new draft regulations, the French government submits a copy to the WTO for review to ensure the prospective legislation is consistent with its WTO obligations. France ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in October 2015 and has implemented all of its TFA commitments.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

French law is codified into what is sometimes referred to as the Napoleonic Code, but is officially the Code Civil des Francais, or French Civil Code. Private law governs interactions between individuals (e.g., civil, commercial, and employment law) and public law governs the relationship between the government and the people (e.g., criminal, administrative, and constitutional law).

France has an administrative court system to challenge a decision by local governments and the national government; the State Council (Conseil d’Etat) is the appellate court. France enforces foreign legal decisions such as judgments, rulings, and arbitral awards through the procedure of exequatur introduced before the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI), which is the court of original jurisdiction in the French legal system.

France’s Commercial Tribunal (Tribunal de Commerce or TDC) specializes in commercial litigation.  Magistrates of the commercial tribunals are lay judges, who are well known in the business community and have experience in the sectors they represent. Decisions by the commercial courts can be appealed before the Court of Appeals. France’s judicial system is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable and is independent of the government.

The judiciary – although its members are state employees – is independent of the executive branch. The judicial process in France is known to be competent, fair, thorough, and time-consuming. There is a right of appeal. The Appellate Court (cour d’appel) re-examines judgments rendered in civil, commercial, employment or criminal law cases. It re-examines the legal basis of judgments, checking for errors in due process and reexamines case facts. It may either confirm or set aside the judgment of the lower court, in whole or in part. Decisions of the Appellate Court may be appealed to the Highest Court in France (cour de cassation).

The French Financial Prosecution Office (Parquet National Financier, or PNF), specialized in serious economic and financial crimes, was set up by a December 6, 2013 law and began its activities in 2014.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all sorts of remunerative activities. U.S. investment in France is subject to the provisions of the Convention of Establishment between the United States of America and France, which was signed in 1959 and remains in force. The rights it provides U.S. nationals and companies include:  rights equivalent to those of French nationals in all commercial activities (excluding communications, air transportation, water transportation, banking, the exploitation of natural resources, the production of electricity, and professions of a scientific, literary, artistic, and educational nature, as well as certain regulated professions like doctors and lawyers). Treatment equivalent to that of French or third-country nationals is provided with respect to transfer of funds between France and the United States. Property is protected from expropriation except for public purposes; in that case it is accompanied by payment that is just, realizable, and prompt.

Potential investors can find relevant investment information and links to laws and investment regulations at  http://www.businessfrance.fr/ .

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Major reforms have extended the investigative and decision-making powers of France’s Competition Authority. France implemented the European Competition Network or ECN Directive on April 11, 2019, allowing the French Competition Authority to impose heftier fines (above €3 million / $3.5 million) and temporary measures to prevent an infringement that may cause harm. The Authority issues decisions and opinions mostly on antitrust issues, but its influence on competition issues is growing. For example, following a complaint in November 2019 by several French, European, and international associations of press publishers against Google over the use of their content online without compensation, the Authority ordered the U.S. company to start negotiating in good faith with news publishers over the use of their content online. In another matter, on December 20, 2019, Google was fined €150 million ($177 million) for abuse of dominant position. Following an in-depth review of the online ad sector, the Competition Authority found Google Ads to be “opaque and difficult to understand” and applied in “an unfair and random manner.”

The Competition Authority launches regular in-depth investigations into various sectors of the economy, which may lead to formal investigations and fines. The Authority publishes its methodology for calculating fines imposed on companies charged with abuse of a dominant position. It issues specific guidance on competition law compliance. Government ministers, companies, consumer organizations and trade associations have the right to petition the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices. While the Authority alone examines the impact of mergers on competition, the Minister of the Economy retains the power to request a new investigation or reverse a merger transaction decision for reasons of industrial development, competitiveness, or saving jobs.

A new law on Economic Growth, Activity and Equal Opportunities (known as the “Macron Law”), adopted in August 2016, vested the Competition Authority with the power to review mergers and alliances between retailers ex-ante (beforehand). The law provides that all contracts binding a retail business to a distribution network shall expire at the same time. This enables the retailer to switch to another distribution network more easily. Furthermore, distributors are prohibited from restricting a retailer’s commercial activity via post-contract terms. The civil fine incurred for restrictive practices can now amount to up to five percent of the business’s revenue earned in France.

Expropriation and Compensation

In accordance with international law, the national or local governments cannot legally expropriate property to build public infrastructure without fair market compensation. There have been no expropriations of note during the reporting period.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

France is a member of the World Bank-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a signatory to the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention) which means local courts are obligated to enforce international arbitral awards under this system. The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration (ICA) has been based in Paris since 1923.

France was one of the first countries to enact a modern arbitration law in 1980-1981. In 2011, the French Ministry of Justice issued Decree 2011-48, which introduced further international best practices into French arbitration procedural law. As a result, parties are free to agree orally to settle their disputes through arbitration, subject to standards of due process and a newly enacted principle of procedural efficiency and fairness.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The President of the High Civil Court of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) of Paris has the authority to issue orders related to ad-hoc international arbitration. Paris is the seat of the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration, composed of representatives from 90 countries, that handles investment as well as commercial disputes.

France does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.   The European Commission directly negotiates on behalf of the EU on foreign direct investment since it is part of the EU Common Commercial Policy. In 2015, the EU agreed to pursue an investment court approach to investor-State dispute settlement. While this model is included in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada and the EU-Vietnam FTA, no actual court has yet been established in any form or context; no disputes have been brought under these post-2015 treaties.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

French law provides conditions for the recognition and the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in relation to the New York Convention. The provisions of French law are contained in the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures. The recognition of judgments of foreign courts by French courts is possible, but judgements must be accompanied by the issuance of an exequatur – a legal document issued by a sovereign authority that permits the exercise or enforcement of a foreign judgement.  The French Civil Code additionally provides for several mechanisms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) including out-of-court arbitration and conciliation where a judicial conciliator facilitates resolution of a dispute.

Bankruptcy Regulations

France has extensive and detailed bankruptcy laws and regulations. Any creditor, regardless of the amount owed, may file suit in bankruptcy court against a debtor. Foreign creditors, equity shareholders and foreign contract holders have the same rights as their French counterparts. Monetary judgments by French courts on firms established in France are generally made in euros.  Not bankruptcy itself, but bankruptcy fraud – the misstatement by a debtor of his financial position in the context of a bankruptcy – is criminalized. Under France’s bankruptcy code managers and other entities responsible for the bankruptcy of a French company are prevented from escaping liability by shielding their assets (Law 2012-346).  France has adopted a law that enables debtors to implement a restructuring plan with financial creditors only, without affecting trade creditors.  France’s Commercial Code incorporates European Directive 2014/59/EU establishing a framework for the recovery and resolution of claims on insolvent credit institutions and investment firms.  In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index, France ranked 32nd of 190 countries on ease of resolving insolvency.

The Bank of France, the country’s only credit monitor, maintains files on persons having written unfunded checks, having declared bankruptcy, or having participated in fraudulent activities. Commercial credit reporting agencies do not exist in France.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Real property rights are regulated by the French civil code and are uniformly enforced. The World Bank’s Doing Business Index ranks France 32nd of 190 on registering property. French civil-law notaries (notaires) – highly specialized lawyers in private practice appointed as public officers by the Justice Ministry – handle residential and commercial conveyance and registration, contract drafting, company formation, successions, and estate planning. The official system of land registration (cadastre) is maintained by the French public land registry under the auspices of the French tax authority (Direction Generale des Finances Publiques or DGFiP), available online at  http://www.cadastre.gouv.fr . Mortgages are widely available, usually for a 15-year period.

Intellectual Property Rights

France is a strong defender of intellectual property rights (IPR). Under the French system, patents and trademarks protect industrial property, while copyrights protect literary/artistic property. By virtue of the Paris Convention, U.S. nationals have a priority period following filing of an application for a U.S. patent or trademark in which to file a corresponding application in France:  twelve months for patents and six months for trademarks.

Counterfeiting is a costly problem for French companies, and the government of France maintains strong legal protections and a robust enforcement mechanism to combat trafficking in counterfeit goods — from copies of luxury goods to fake medications — as well as the theft and illegal use of IPR. The French Intellectual Property Code has been updated repeatedly over the years to address this challenge, most recently in 2019 with the implementation of the so-called Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation or PACTE Law (Plan d’Action pour la Croissance et la Transformation des Entreprises).  This law reinforced France’s anti-counterfeiting legislation and implemented EU Directive 2015/2436 of the Trademark Reform Package. It increased the Euro amount for damages to companies that are victims of counterfeiting and extends trademark protection to smartcard technology, certain geographical indications, plants, and agricultural seeds. The legislation also increased the statute of limitations for civil suits from three to ten years and strengthened the powers of customs officials to seize fake goods sent by mail or express freight.  France also adopted legislation in 2019 to implement EU Directive 2019/790 on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market.

The government also reports on seizures of counterfeit goods. In February 2021, the government launched a new French customs plan to combat counterfeiting for the 2021-2022 calendar year. Customs seizures in France have increased from 200,000 in 1994 to 5.64 million in 2020 (+ 20 percent compared to 2019). This new action plan will focus on improved intelligence gathering, investigation, litigation, and cooperation between all the stakeholders involved, including the Customs Office, which investigates fraud cases; the National Institute of Industrial Property, which oversees patents, trademarks, and industrial design rights; and France’s top private sector anti-counterfeiting organization, UNIFAB.

France has robust laws against online piracy. A government agency called the High Authority for the Dissemination of Artistic Works and the Protection of Rights on Internet (Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet or HADOPI) administers a “graduated response” system of warnings and fines. It has taken enforcement action against several online pirate sites. HADOPI cooperates closely with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) including pursuing voluntary arrangements to single out awareness about intermediaries that facilitate or fund pirate sites. (Note that one of HADOPI’s tasks is to ensure that the technical measures used to protect works do not prevent the right of individuals to make personal copies of television programs for their private use.) In December 2019, HADOPI released its yearly barometer of online cultural consumption showing that 26 percent of French people acquired and consumed music, films, and television series through illegal sites (53 percent via streaming and 45 percent through direct or indirect download). This figure has remained steady over the past few years. Offenders risk fines of between €1,500 ($1,770) and €300,000 ($354,000) and/or up to three years imprisonment.

The French government is increasing its efforts to combat online piracy in 2021 with a bill on the creation of a new audiovisual regulatory authority, Arcom, to regulate websites and audiovisual communications. The Ministry of Culture (MoC) announced in September 2019 its intention to merge France’s digital piracy watchdog HADOPI with the Higher Audiovisual Council (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) to create a more powerful authority capable on blocking illegal sites and blacklisting pirate sites. However, the establishment of this new authority was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the appointment of a new government in July 2020.

France does not appear on USTR’s 2021 Special 301 Report.  USTR’s 2020 Notorious Market List includes an infringing site reportedly hosted in France.  The 2020 report also listed amazon.fr, based in France, noting alleged high levels of counterfeit goods on its platform (Note: Other Amazon sites were also included in the report: amazon.ca in Canada, amazon.de in Germany, amazon.in in India, and amazon.co.uk in the United Kingdom.)

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

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The 11 listed entities in which the French State maintains stakes at the federal level are Aeroports de Paris (50.63 percent); Airbus Group (10.95 percent); Air France-KLM (14.29 percent, although expected to increase temporarily to nearly 30 percent as part of a March 2021 bailout package); EDF (83.58 percent), ENGIE (23.64 percent), Eramet (25.57 percent), La Française des Jeux (FDJ) (21.91 percent), Orange (a direct 13.39 percent stake and a 9.60 percent stake through Bpifrance), Renault (15.01 percent), Safran (11.23 percent), and Thales 25.68 percent). Unlisted companies owned by the State include SNCF (rail), RATP (public transport), CDC (Caisse des depots et consignations) and La Banque Postale (bank). In all, the government has majority and minority stakes in 88 firms, in a variety of sectors.

Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including from state-owned banks or other state-owned investment vehicles. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. Conversely, SOEs may get subsidies and other financial resources from the government, just as private competitors.

France, as a member of the European Union, is party to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization. Companies owned or controlled by the state behave largely like other companies in France and are subject to the same laws and tax code. The Boards of SOEs operate according to accepted French corporate governance principles as set out in the (private sector) AFEP-MEDEF Code of Corporate Governance. SOEs are required by law to publish an annual report, and the French Court of Audit conducts financial audits on all entities in which the state holds a majority interest. The French government appoints representatives to the Boards of Directors of all companies in which it holds significant numbers of shares, and manages its portfolio through a special unit attached to the Ministry for the Economy and Finance Ministry, the shareholding agency APE (Agence de Participations de l’Etat). The State as a shareholder must set an example in terms of upholding high standards with respect for the environment, gender equality and social responsibility. The report also highlighted that the State must protect its strategic assets and remain a shareholder in areas where the general interest is at stake.

Privatization Program

The government will temporarily increase its stake in Air France-KLM, which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Although terms are still being negotiated as of March 2021, it is likely France’s stake in the entity will increase from 14.3 percent to nearly 30 percent.

The government was due to privatize many large companies in 2019, including ADP and ENGIE in order to create a €10 billion ($11.8 billion) fund for innovation and research. However, the program was delayed because of political opposition to the privatization of airport manager ADP, regarded as a strategic asset to be protected from foreign shareholders. The government succeeded in selling in November 2019 a 52 percent stake in gambling firm FDJ. The government continues to maintain a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries.

9. Corruption

In line with President Macron’s campaign promise to clean up French politics, the French parliament adopted in September 2017 the law on “Restoring Confidence in Public Life.” The new law bans elected officials from employing family members, or working as a lobbyist or consultant while in office. It also bans lobbyists from paying parliamentary, ministerial, or presidential staff and requires parliamentarians to submit receipts for expenses.

France’s “Transparency, Anti-corruption, and Economic Modernization Law,” also known as the “Loi Sapin II,” came into effect on June 1, 2017. It brought France’s legislation in line with European and international standards. Key aspects of the law include: creating a new anti-corruption agency; establishing “deferred prosecution” for defendants in corruption cases and prosecuting companies (French or foreign) suspected of bribing foreign public officials abroad; requiring lobbyists to register with national institutions; and expanding legal protections for whistleblowers. The Sapin II law also established a High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP). The HATVP promotes transparency in public life by publishing the declarations of assets and interests it is legally authorized to share publicly. After review, declarations of assets and statements of interests of members of the government are published on the High Authority’s website under open license. The declarations of interests of members of Parliament and mayors of big cities and towns, but also of regions are also available on the website. In addition, the declarations of assets of parliamentarians can be accessed in certain governmental buildings, though not published on the internet.

France is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The U.S. Embassy in Paris has received no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition in France in recent years. France ranked 23rd of 180 countries on Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 corruption perceptions index. See  https://www.transparency.org/country/FRA .

Resources to Report Corruption

The Central Office for the Prevention of Corruption (Service Central de Prevention de la Corruption or SCPC) was replaced in 2017 by the new national anti-corruption agency – the Agence Francaise Anticorruption (AFA). The AFA is charged with preventing corruption by establishing anti-corruption programs, making recommendations, and centralizing and disseminating information to prevent and detect corrupt officials and company executives. The French anti-corruption agency guidelines can be found here: https://www.agence-francaise-anticorruption.gouv.fr/files/2021-03/French%20AC%20Agency%20Guidelines%20.pdf . The AFA will also administrative authority to review the anticorruption compliance mechanisms in the private sector, in local authorities and in other government agencies.

Contact information for Agence Française Anti-corruption (AFA):

Director: Charles Duchaine
23 Avenue d’Italie
75013 Paris
Tel : (+33) 1 44 87 21 14
Email: charles.duchaine@afa.gouv.fr 

Contact information for Transparency International’s French affiliate:

Transparency International France
14, Passage Dubail
75010 Paris
Tel: (+33) 1 84 16 95 65;
Email:  contact@transparency-france.org 

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