Kazakhstan

Executive Summary

Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward creating a market economy and has achieved considerable results in its efforts to attract foreign investment. As of January 1, 2020, the stock of foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan totaled USD 161.2 billion, including USD 36.5 billion from the United States, according to official statistics from the Kazakhstani government.

While Kazakhstan’s vast hydrocarbon and mineral reserves remain the backbone of the economy, the government continues to make incremental progress toward its goal of diversifying the country’s economy by improving the investment climate.  Kazakhstan’s efforts to remove bureaucratic barriers have been moderately successful, and in 2020 Kazakhstan ranked 25 out of 190 in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business Report.

The government maintains an active dialogue with foreign investors, through the President’s Foreign Investors Council and the Prime Minister’s Council for Improvement of the Investment Climate.

Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2015.  In June 2017 Kazakhstan joined the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises and became an associated member of the OECD Investment Committee.

Despite institutional and legal reforms, concerns remain about corruption, bureaucracy, arbitrary law enforcement, and limited access to a skilled workforce in certain regions.  The government’s tendency to legislate preferences for domestic companies, to favor an import-substitution policy, to challenge contractual rights and the use of foreign labor, and to intervene in companies’ operations continues to concern foreign investors.  Foreign firms cite the need for better rule of law, deeper investment in human capital, improved transport and logistics infrastructure, a more open and flexible trade policy, a more favorable work-permit regime and a more customer-friendly tax administration.

In July 2018 the government of Kazakhstan officially opened the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), an ambitious project modelled on the Dubai International Financial Center, which aims to offer foreign investors an alternative jurisdiction for operations, with tax holidays, flexible labor rules, a Common Law-based legal system, a separate court and arbitration center, and flexibility to carry out transactions in any currency.  In April 2019 the government announced its intention to use the AIFC as a regional investment hub to attract foreign investment to Kazakhstan.  The government recommended foreign investors use the law of the AIFC as applicable law for contracts with Kazakhstan.

Table 1 : Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 113 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2020 25 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 79 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2012 $12,512 http://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $8,070 https://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/ny.gnp.pcap.cd

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Kazakhstan has attracted significant foreign investment since independence.  According to official statistics, as of January 1, 2020, the total stock of foreign direct investment (by the directional principle) in Kazakhstan totaled USD 161.2 billion, primarily in the oil and gas sector.  International financial institutions consider Kazakhstan to be an attractive destination for their operations, and international firms have established regional headquarters in Kazakhstan.

In June 2017 Kazakhstan joined the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises and became an associate member of the OECD Investment Committee.

In its Strategic Plan of Development for the current period (through 2025), the government stated that raising the living standards of Kazakhstan’s citizens to the level of OECD countries is one of the plan’s strategic goals.

In August 2017 the government adopted a new 2018-2022 National Investment Strategy, developed in cooperation with the World Bank, which outlined new coordinating measures on investment climate improvements, privatization plans, and economic diversification policies.  The strategy aims to increase annual FDI inflows as a percentage of GDP from 13.2 percent in 2018 to 19 percent in 2022.

The government of Kazakhstan has incrementally improved the business climate for foreign investors, and national legislation does not discriminate against foreign investors.  Corruption, lack of rule of law and excessive bureaucracy, however, do remain serious obstacles to foreign investment.

Over the last couple of years, the government has undertaken a number of structural changes aimed at improving how the government attracts foreign investment.  In April 2019 the Prime Minister announced the creation of the Coordination Council for Attracting Foreign Investment, which the Prime Minister will chair.  He will also act as Investment Ombudsman.  In December 2018 the Investment Committee was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is now in charge of attracting and facilitating activities of foreign investors.  The Investment Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes responsibility for investment climate policy issues and works with potential and current investors, while the Ministry of National Economy interacts on investment climate matters with international organizations like the OECD, WTO, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Each regional municipality designates a representative to work with investors, and Kazakhstani foreign diplomatic missions are charged with attracting foreign investments.  Specially designated front offices in Kazakhstan’s overseas embassies promote Kazakhstan as a destination for foreign investment.  In addition, the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC, see details in Section 3) operates as a regional investment hub, with tax, legal, and other benefits.  In 2019, the government founded Kazakhstan’s Direct Investment Fund, which is located at the AIFC and expected to attract private investments for diversifying Kazakhstan’s economy.  The state company KazakhInvest is also located in the AIFC and offers investors a single-window for government services.

The government maintains a dialogue with foreign investors through the Foreign Investors’ Council chaired by the President, as well as through the Council for Improving the Investment Climate chaired by the Prime Minister.

The COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented low oil prices changed the country’s economic development plans.  In March 2020, the government approved a USD 13.7 billion stimulus package, mostly oriented at  income smoothing, supporting local businesses and implementing an import-substitution policy.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

By law, foreign and domestic private firms may establish and own business enterprises.

While no sectors of the economy are legally closed to investors, restrictions on foreign ownership exist, including a 20 percent ceiling on foreign ownership of media outlets, a 49 percent limit on domestic and international air transportation services, and a 49 percent limit on telecommunication services.  The December 2017 Code on Subsoil and Subsoil Use (the Code) mandates the share of the national company Kazatomprom be no less than 51 percent in new uranium producing joint ventures.

As a result of its WTO accession, Kazakhstan formally removed this limit for telecommunication companies, except for the country’s main telecommunications operator, KazakhTeleCom.  Still, to acquire more than 49 percent of shares in a telecommunication company, foreign investors must obtain a government waiver.  No constraints limit the participation of foreign capital in the banking and insurance sectors.  Starting from January 2020 the restriction on opening branches of foreign banks and insurance companies was lifted in compliance with the country’s WTO commitments.  In addition, foreign citizens and companies are restricted from participating in private security businesses.  The law limits the participation of offshore companies in banks and insurance companies and prohibits foreign ownership of pension funds and agricultural land.

Foreign investors have complained about the irregular application of laws and regulations and interpret such behavior as efforts to extract bribes.  The enforcement process, widely viewed as opaque and arbitrary, is not publicly transparent.  Some investors report harassment by the tax authorities via unannounced audits, inspections, and other methods.  The authorities have used criminal charges in civil disputes as a pressure tactic.

Foreign Investment in the Energy & Mining Industries

Despite substantial investment in Kazakhstan’s energy sector, companies remain concerned about the risk of the government legislating or otherwise advocating for preferences for domestic companies, and creating mechanisms for government intervention in foreign companies’ operations, particularly in procurement decisions.  Recent developments range from a major reduction to a full annulment of work permits for some categories of foreign workforce.  (For more details, please see Part 5,  Performance and Data Localization Requirements.)

In April 2008 Kazakhstan introduced a customs duty on crude oil and gas condensate exports.  In general, oil-related revenue in Kazakhstan goes to the National Fund, a sovereign wealth fund that is financed by direct taxes paid by petroleum industry companies, other fees paid by the oil industry, revenues from privatization of mining and manufacturing assets and from the disposal of agricultural land.  In contrast, the customs duty on crude oil and gas condensate exports is an indirect tax that goes to the government’s budget.  Companies that pay taxes on mineral and crude oil exports are exempt from that export duty.  The government adopted a 2016 resolution that pegged the export customs duty to global oil prices – as the global oil price drops and approaches USD 25 per barrel, the duty rate approaches zero.

The Code defines “strategic deposits and areas” and restricts the government’s preemptive right to acquire exploration and production contracts to these areas, which helps to reduce significantly the approvals required for non-strategic objects.  The government approves and publishes the list of strategic deposits on its website.  The list has not changed since its approval on June 28, 2018: http://www.government.kz/ru/postanovleniya/postanovleniya-pravitelstva-rk-za-iyun-2018-goda/1015356-ob-utverzhdenii-perechnya-strategicheskikh-uchastkov-nedr.html.

The Code entitles the government to terminate a contract unilaterally “if actions of a subsoil user with a strategic deposit result in changes to Kazakhstan’s economic interests in a manner that threatens national security.”  The Article does not define “economic interests.”  The Code, if properly implemented, appears to be a step forward in improving the investment climate, including the streamlining of procedures to obtain exploration licenses and to convert exploration licenses into production licenses.  The Code, however, appears to retain burdensome government oversight over mining companies’ operations.

The Ministry of Energy announced in April 2018 that Kazakhstan is ready to launch a CO2 emissions trading system.  It is unclear, however, when actual quota trading will begin.  In January 2018, the government adopted a National Allocation Plan for 2018-2020, and in February 2018 the Ministry of Energy announced the creation of an online CO2 emissions reporting and monitoring system.  The system is not operational, and it is likely to be launched after the new Environmental Code is passed into law; the draft Code is currently in the lower chamber of parliament.  Some companies have expressed concern that Kazakhstan’s trading system will suffer from insufficient liquidity, particularly as power consumption and oil and commodity production levels increase.  The successor of the Energy Ministry for environmental issues, the Ministry of Ecology, Geology, and Natural Resources, started drafting the 2050 National Low Carbon Development Strategy in October 2019.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Kazakhstan announced in 2011 its desire to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  To meet OECD requirements, the government will need to continue to reform its institutions and amend its investment legislation.  The OECD presented its second Investment Policy Review of Kazakhstan in June 2017, available at:  https://www.oecd.org/countries/kazakhstan/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-kazakhstan-2017-9789264269606-en.htm 

The OECD review recommended Kazakhstan undertake corporate governance reforms at state-owned enterprises (SOEs), implement a more efficient tax system, further liberalize its trade policy, and introduce responsible business conduct principles and standards.  OECD also said it is carefully monitoring the country’s privatization program that aims to decrease the SOE share in the economy to 15 percent of GDP by 2020.

In 2019 the OECD and the government launched a two-year project on improving the legal environment for business in Kazakhstan.

Business Facilitation

The 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranked Kazakhstan 25 out of 190 countries in the “Ease of Doing Business” category, and 22 out of 190 in the “Starting a Business” category.  The report noted Kazakhstan made starting a business easier by registering companies for value added tax at the time of incorporation.  The report noted Kazakhstan’s progress in the categories of dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, and resolving insolvency.  Online registration of any business is possible through the website https://egov.kz/cms/en 

In addition to a standard package of documents required for local businesses, non-residents should submit electronic copies of their IDs and any certification of their companies from the country of origin.  Both documents should be translated and notarized.  Foreign investors also have access to a “single window” service, which simplifies many business procedures.  Investors may learn more about these services here: https://invest.gov.kz/invest-guide/business-starting/registration/ .

According to the World Bank, it takes four procedures and five days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) in Almaty.  This is faster than the average for Eastern Europe and Central Asia and OECD high income countries.  A foreign-owned company registered in Kazakhstan is considered a domestic company for Kazakhstan currency regulation purposes.  Under the Law on Currency Regulation and Currency Control, residents may open bank accounts in foreign currency in Kazakhstani banks without any restrictions.

In 2019-2020, the government undertook some measures facilitating business operations for investors.  The General Prosecutor’s Office adopted an order in January 2020 that would decriminalize the tax errors of prompt taxpayers.  In July 2019 the government adopted the Road Map for further attraction of foreign investments.  In order to facilitate the work of foreign investors, the government recommended using the law of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) as the applicable law for investment contracts with Kazakhstan and planned other measures to showcase the AIFC as an investment hub, including tax preferences, liberalization of visa and migration rules, and the creation of additional international transportation and media links.

Outward Investment

The government neither incentivizes nor restricts outward investment.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The United States-Kazakhstan Bilateral Investment Treaty came into force in 1994, and the United States-Kazakhstan Treaty on the Avoidance of Double Taxation came into force in 1996.

Since independence, Kazakhstan has signed treaties on the avoidance of double taxation with 53 countries at: http://kgd.gov.kz/ru/content/konvencii-ob-izbezhanii-dvoynogo-nalogooblozheniya-i-predotvrashchenii-ukloneniya-ot , and bilateral investment protection agreements with 47 at: http://www.mfa.kz/ru/content-view/soglasenia-o-poosrenii-i-vzaimnoj-zasite-investicij-2 

Kazakhstan is also party to the Eurasian Economic Union Mutual Investment Protection Agreement, which came into force in 2016.  Some foreign investors allege Kazakhstani tax authorities are reluctant to refer double taxation questions to the appropriate resolution bodies. Among other tax issues that concern  U.S. investors is the criminalization of tax errors and VAT refund issues.

Eurasian Economic Integration and WTO

Kazakhstan joined the WTO in November 2015.  Kazakhstan entered into a Customs Union with Russia and Belarus on July 1, 2010 and was a founding member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) created on May 29, 2014 among Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Russia.  The EAEU is governed by the Eurasian Economic Commission, a supra-national body headquartered in Moscow, and is expected to integrate further the economies of its member states, and to provide for the free movement of services, capital, and labor within their common territory.

Kazakhstan’s trade policy has been heavily influenced by EAEU regulations.  While Kazakhstan asserts the EAEU agreements comply with WTO standards, since joining the Customs Union Kazakhstan doubled its average import tariff and introduced annual tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) on poultry, beef, and pork.  Per its WTO commitments, Kazakhstan will lower 3,512 import tariff rates to an average of 6.1 percent by December 2020. As a part of this commitment, Kazakhstan applies a lower-than-EAEU tariff rate on food products, automobiles, airplanes, railway wagons, lumber, alcoholic beverages, pharmaceuticals, freezers, and jewelry. After December 2020, Kazakhstan will have a three-year break prior to starting tariff adjustment negotiations with its EAEU partners.

Kazakhstan is a signatory to the Free Trade Agreement with CIS countries, and as a member of the EAEU, is party to the EAEU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and the Interim Agreement on formation of a free trade zone with Iran.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Kazakhstani law sets out basic principles for fostering competition on a non-discriminatory basis.  Kazakhstan is a unitary state, and national legislation accepted by the Parliament and President are equally effective for all regions of the country.  The government, ministries, and local executive administrations in the regions (“Akimats”) issue regulations and executive acts in compliance and pursuance of laws.  Kazakhstan is a member of the EAEU, and decrees of the Eurasian Economic Commission are mandatory and have preemptive force over national legislation.  Publicly-listed companies indicate that they adhere to international financial reporting standards, but accounting and valuation practices are not always consistent with international best practices.

The government consults on some draft legislation with experts and the business community; draft bills are available for public comment at www.egov.kz  under the Open Government section, however, the comment period is only ten days, and the process occurs without broad notifications.  Some bills are excluded from public comment, and the legal and regulatory process, including with respect to foreign investment, remains opaque.  All laws and decrees of the President and the government are available in Kazakh and Russian on the website of the Ministry of Justice: http://adilet.zan.kz/rus .

Implementation and interpretation of commercial legislation is reported to sometimes create confusion among foreign and domestic businesses alike.  In 2016, the Ministry of Health and Social Development introduced new rules on attracting foreign labor, some of which (including a Kazakh language requirement) created significant problems for foreign investors.  After active intervention by the international investment community through the Prime Minister’s Council for Improving the Investment Climate, the government canceled the most onerous rules.

The non-transparent application of laws remains a major obstacle to expanded trade and investment.  Foreign investors complain of inconsistent standards and corruption.  Although the central government has enacted many progressive laws, local authorities may interpret rules in arbitrary ways for the sake of their own interests.

Many foreign companies say they must defend investments from frequent decrees and legislative changes, most of which do not “grandfather in” existing investments.  Penalties are often assessed for periods prior to the change in policy.  For example, foreign companies report that local and national authorities arbitrarily impose high environmental fines, saying the fines are assessed to generate revenue for local and national authorities rather than for environmental protection.  Government officials have acknowledged the system of environmental fines requires reform.  In response, the government submitted a draft of a new Environmental Code (Eco Code) to Parliament, where it is currently under review in the lower chamber.  Oil companies complain that the emission payment rates for pollutants when emitted from gas flaring are at least 20 times higher than when the same pollutants are emitted from other stationary sources.  In February 2020, the Ecology Minister reported that fines for unauthorized emissions of hazardous substances would be raised tenfold.

In 2015, President Nazarbayev announced five presidential reforms and the implementation of the “100 Steps” Modernization program.  The program calls for the formation of a results-oriented public administration system, a new system of audit and performance evaluation for government agencies, and introduction of an open government system with better public access to information held by state bodies.  Initial implementation of this plan has already improved accountability.  For example, in addition to the Audit Committee that monitors government agencies’ performance, ministers and regional governors now hold annual meetings with local communities.

President Tokayev, elected in June 2019, has affirmed his commitment to the reforms initiated by former President Nazarbayev.

Public financial reporting, including debt obligations, explicit liabilities, are published by the Ministry of Finance on their site: http://www.minfin.gov.kz/ .  However, authorities have indicated that contingent liabilities, such as exposures to state-owned enterprises, their cross -holdings, and exposures to banks, are not fully captured there.

International Regulatory Considerations

Kazakhstan is part of the Eurasian Economic Union, and EAEU regulations and decisions supersede the national regulatory system.  In its economic policy Kazakhstan declares its adherence to both WTO and OECD standards.  Kazakhstan became a member of the WTO in 2015.  It notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade about drafts of national technical regulations (although lapses have been noted).  Kazakhstan ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in May 2016, notified its Category A requirements in March 2016, and requested a five-year transition period for its Category B and C requirements.  Early in 2018, the government established an intra-agency Trade Facilitation Committee to implement its TFA commitments.  By the end of 2018, Kazakhstan notified the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee that it has fulfilled its implementation commitments for Category A at 57 percent, for Category B at 19 percent, and for Category C at 24 percent.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Kazakhstan’s Civil Code establishes general commercial and contract law principles.  Under the constitution, the judicial system is independent of the executive branch, although the government interferes in judiciary matters.  According to Freedom House’s Nations in Transit report for 2018, the executive branch dominates de facto the judicial branch.  Allegedly, pervasive corruption of the courts and the influence of the ruling elites results in low public expectations and trust in the justice system.  Judicial outcomes are perceived as subject to political influence and interference.  Regulations or enforcement actions can be appealed and adjudicated in the national court system.  Monetary judgments are assessed in the domestic currency.

Parties of commercial contracts, including foreign investors, can seek dispute settlement in Kazakhstan’s courts or international arbitration, and Kazakhstani courts will enforce arbitration clauses in contracts.  Any court of original jurisdiction can consider disputes between private firms as well as bankruptcy cases.

The Astana International Financial Center, which opened in July 2018, includes its own arbitration center and court based on British Common Law and is independent of the Kazakhstani judiciary.  The court is led by former Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Harry Woolf, and several other Commonwealth judges have been appointed.  The government advises foreign investors to use the capacities of the AIFC arbitration center and the AIFC court more actively.  Provisions on using the AIFC law as applicable law are recommended for model investment contracts between a foreign investor and the government.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The following legislation affects foreign investment in Kazakhstan: the Entrepreneurial Code; the Civil Code; the Tax Code; the Customs Code of the Eurasian Economic Union; the Customs Code of Kazakhstan; the Law on Government Procurement; and the Law on Currency Regulation and Currency Control.  These laws provide for non-expropriation, currency convertibility, guarantees of legal stability, transparent government procurement, and incentives for priority sectors.  Inconsistent implementation of these laws and regulations at all levels of the government, combined with a tendency for courts to favor the government, have been reported to create significant obstacles to business in Kazakhstan.

The Entrepreneurial Code outlines basic principles of doing business in Kazakhstan and the government’s relations with entrepreneurs.  The Code reinstates a single investment regime for domestic and foreign investors, in principal, codifies non-discrimination for foreign investors.  The Code contains incentives and preferences for government-determined priority sectors, providing customs duty exemptions and in-kind grants detailed in Part 4, Industrial Policies.  The Code also provides for dispute settlement through negotiation, use of Kazakhstan’s judicial process, and international arbitration.  U.S. investors have expressed concern about the Code’s narrow definition of investment disputes and its lack of clear provisions for access to international arbitration.  The government’s single window for foreign investors, providing information to potential investors, business registration, and links to relevant legislation, can be found here: https://invest.gov.kz/invest-guide/ 

A revised Law on Currency Regulation and Currency Control, which came into force July 1, 2019, expands the monitoring of transactions in foreign currency and facilitates the process of de-dollarization.  In particular, the law will treat branches of foreign companies in Kazakhstan as residents and will enable the National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK) to enhance control over cross-border transactions.  The NBK approved a list of companies that will keep their non-resident status; the majority of these companies are from extractive industries (see also Part 6, Financial Sector).

The legal and regulatory framework offered by the AIFC to businesses registering on that territory differs substantially from that of Kazakhstan, although the Center is quite new, and experience is limited.  A more detailed analysis of the legal and regulatory implications of operating within AIFC can be found here: https://aifc.kz/annual-report/  and http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/news/astana-international-financial-center-can-it-become-a-regional-finance-hub.html 

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Entrepreneurial Code regulates competition-related issues such as cartel agreements and unfair competition.  The Committees for Regulating Natural Monopolies and Protection of Competition under the Ministry of National Economy are responsible for reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and Kazakhstan requires the government to provide compensation in the event of expropriation.  The Entrepreneurial Code allows the state to nationalize or requisition property in emergency cases, but fails to provide clear criteria for expropriation or require prompt and adequate compensation at fair market value.

Post is aware of cases when owners of developed businesses had to sell their businesses to companies affiliated with high-ranking and powerful individuals.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Kazakhstan has been a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) since December 2001 and ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 1995.  By law, any international award rendered by the ICSID, a tribunal applying the rules of the UN Commission on International Trade Law Arbitration, Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, London Court of International Arbitration, or Arbitration Commission at the Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce and Industry is enforceable in Kazakhstan.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The government is a signatory to bilateral investment agreements with 47 countries and 1 multilateral investment agreement with EAEU partners.  These agreements recognize international arbitration of investment disputes.  The United States and Kazakhstan signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994.

In July 2017, a U.S. investor initiated arbitration proceedings against Kazakhstan under the BIT, accusing the government of indirectly expropriating its ownership stake to explore and develop three hydrocarbon fields.

Kazakhstan does recognize arbitral awards by law.  Four cases against Kazakhstan have been under review by ICSID as of March 2, 2020.  In October 2018, ICSID ordered Kazakhstan to compensate a foreign company for USD 30 million in investments in oil transshipment and storage facilities.  In 2015, this company appealed to ICSID for Kazakhstan’s breach of its bilateral investment treaty and Energy Charter Treaty.  In March 2016, a foreign gold explorer and producer sought compensation for breaches of its BIT and the 1994 Foreign Investment Law of Kazakhstan.  The Entrepreneurial Code defines an investment dispute as “a dispute ensuing from the contractual obligations between investors and state bodies in connection with investment activities of the investor,” and states such disputes may be settled by negotiation, litigation or international arbitration.

Investment disputes between the government and investors fall to the Nur-Sultan City Court; disputes between the government and large investors fall under the competence of a special investment panel at the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan.  The Supreme Court is currently preparing changes to regulation so that any disputes between the government and investors, including large ones, will be in hands of the Nur-Sultan City Court, while the Supreme Court will be a cassational instance.  A number of investment disputes involving foreign companies have arisen in the past several years linked to alleged violations of environmental regulations, tax laws, transfer pricing laws, and investment clauses.  Some disputes relate to alleged illegal extensions of exploration schedules by subsurface users, as production-sharing agreements with the government usually make costs incurred during this period fully reimbursable.  Some disputes involve hundreds of millions of dollars.  Problems arise in the enforcement of judgments, and ample opportunity exists for influencing judicial outcomes given the relative lack of judicial independence.

To encourage foreign investment, the government has developed dispute resolution mechanisms aimed at enabling aggrieved investors to seek redress without requiring them to litigate their claims.  The government established an Investment Ombudsman in 2013, billed as being able to resolve foreign investors’ grievances by intervening in inter-governmental disagreements that affect investors.

Kazakhstani law provides for government compensation for violations of contracts guaranteed by the government.  Yet, where the government has merely approved or confirmed a foreign contract, the government’s responsibility is limited to the performance of administrative acts necessary to facilitate an investment activity (e.g., the issuance of a license or granting of a land plot).  The resolution of disputes arising from such cases may require litigation or arbitration.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Law on Mediation offers alternative (non-litigated) dispute resolutions for two private parties.  The Law on Arbitration defines rules and principles of domestic arbitration.  As of April 2020, Kazakhstan had 17 local arbitration bodies unified under the Arbitration Chamber of Kazakhstan.  Please see: https://palata.org/about/ .  The government noted that the Law on Arbitration brought the national arbitration legislation into compliance with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law, the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, and the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration.  Judgements of foreign arbitrations are recognized and enforceable under local courts.  Local courts recognize and enforce court rulings of CIS countries.  Judgement of other foreign state courts are recognized and enforceable by local courts when Kazakhstan has a bilateral agreement on mutual judicial assistance with the respective country or applies a principle of reciprocity.

When SOEs are involved in investment disputes, domestic courts usually find in the SOE’s favor.  By law, investment disputes with private commercial entities, employees, or SOEs are in the jurisdiction of local courts.  According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s 2014 Judicial Decision Assessment, judges in local courts lacked experience with commercial law and tended to apply general principles of laws and Civil Code provisions with which they are more familiar, rather than the relevant provisions of commercial legislation.

Even when investment disputes are resolved in accordance with contractual conditions, the resolution process can be slow and require considerable time and resources.  Many investors therefore elect to handle investment disputes privately, in an extrajudicial way.  In February 2018, a U.S. company initiated arbitration against the Kazakhstani government for failure to pay approximately USD 75 million for the return of two hydropower plants, operated under a 20-year concession agreement.  In April 2018 the government responded by denying liability and seeking over USD 480 million in counterclaims.  The final evidentiary hearing took place July 22-26, 2019.  As of June, 2020, the parties continue to await the arbitrator’s decision.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Kazakhstan’s 2014 Bankruptcy and Rehabilitation Law (The Bankruptcy Law) protects the rights of creditors during insolvency proceedings, including access to information about the debtor, the right to vote against reorganization plans, and the right to challenge bankruptcy commissions’ decisions affecting their rights.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized, unless the court determines the bankruptcy premeditated.  The Bankruptcy Law improves the insolvency process by permitting accelerated business reorganization proceedings, extending the period for rehabilitation or reorganization, and expanding the powers of (and making more stringent the qualification requirements to become) insolvency administrators.  The law also eases bureaucratic requirements for bankruptcy filings, gives creditors a greater say in continuing operations, introduces a time limit for adopting rehabilitation or reorganization plans, and adds court supervision requirements.  Amendments to the law accepted in 2019 introduced a number of changes.  Among them are a more specific definition of premeditated bankruptcy, the requirement to prove sustained insolvency when filing a bankruptcy claim, the potential for individual entrepreneurs to apply for a rehabilitation procedure to reinstate their solvency, and an option to be liquidated without filing bankruptcy in the absence of income, property, and business operations.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The government’s primary industrial development strategies, such as the Concepts for Industrial and Innovative Development  2020-2025 and the National Investment Strategy for 2018-2022, aim to diversify the economy from its overdependence on extractive industries.  The Entrepreneurial Code and Tax Code provide tax preferences, customs duty exemptions, investment subsidies, and in-kind grants as incentives for foreign and domestic investment in priority sectors.  Priority sectors include agriculture, metallurgy, extraction of metallic ore, chemical and petrochemical industry, oil processing, food production, machine manufacturing, and renewable energy.  Firms in priority sectors receive tax and customs duty waivers, in-kind grants, investment subsidies, and simplified procedures for work permits.  The government’s preference system applies to new and existing enterprises.  The duration and scope of preferences depends on the priority sector and the size of investment.  All information on priority sectors and preferences is available at: https://invest.gov.kz/doing-business-here/regulated-sectors/ .

The Investment Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes decisions on each incentive on a case-by-case basis.  The law also allows the government to rescind incentives, collect back payments, and revoke an investor’s operating license if an investor fails to fulfill contractual obligations.

Potential investors can apply for preferences through the government’s single window portal; these are special offices for serving investors, located in the capital and at district service centers in every region of Kazakhstan.  Submission for investment preferences requires a number of documents, including a comprehensive state appraisal of a proposed investment project.  More information is available here:  https://invest.gov.kz/invest-guide/  and at https://irm.invest.gov.kz/en/support/ 

A governmental guarantee or joint government financing are normally used for large infrastructure projects.

To facilitate the work of foreign investors, especially in targeted, non-extractive industries, the government has approved visa-free travel for citizens of 73 countries, including the United States, Germany, Japan, United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, and Spain.  Residents of these countries may stay in Kazakhstan without visas for up to 30 days.  The government has temporary suspended these rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since January 2019, foreigners may obtain business, tourist, and medical treatment visas to Kazakhstan online at: www.vmp.gov.kz . Electronic tourist visas are available for citizens of 117 counties; business and medical treatment visas can be issued electronically for citizens of 23 countries.  This system is applicable only for visitors who have letters of invitation and enter Kazakhstan through the Nur-Sultan or Almaty airports.  Businesses registered in the AIFC have a relaxed entry visa regime, allowing them to obtain entry visas upon arrival at the airport and to obtain five-year visas for employees.

Starting from 2020, the government introduced a more liberal regime for visa regulation violations.  Now, foreign visitors are permitted to only pay administrative fines for first and second violations.  The government is currently considering a bill on changes to tax legislation and further improvement of the investment climate.  The bill is expected to introduce new measures to facilitate business activity, including expanded access to investment tax credits, lowered thresholds for tax preferences for investments in the textile industry,  measures designed to stimulate public-private partnership development, and procedures for non-resident foreign investors to register businesses in Kazakhstan remotely.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Law on Special Economic Zones allows foreign companies to establish enterprises in special economic zones (SEZs), simplifies permit procedures for foreign labor, and establishes a special customs zone regime not governed by Eurasian Economic Union rules.  A system of tax preferences exists for foreign and domestic enterprises engaged in prescribed economic activities in Kazakhstan’s thirteen SEZs.  In April 2019, President Tokayev signed amendments which extend the rights of SEZ managing companies and set up a single center to coordinate the activities of all SEZs and industrial zones in Kazakhstan.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government requires businesses to employ local labor and use domestic content, though the country’s WTO accession commitments provide for abolition of most local content requirements over time.  In 2015, Kazakhstan adopted legislative amendments to alter existing local content requirements to meet accession requirements.  Pursuant to these amendments, subsoil use contracts concluded after January 1, 2015 no longer contain local content requirements, and any local content requirements in contracts signed before 2015 will phase out on January 1, 2021.

Kazakhstan’s WTO accession terms require that Kazakhstan relax limits on foreign nationals by increasing the “quota” for foreign nationals to 50 percent (from 30 percent for company executives and from 10 percent for engineering and technical personnel) by January 1, 2021.

Despite these commitments, the government, particularly at the regional level, continues to advocate for international businesses to increase their use of local content.  The USD 36.8 billion investment into the Tengiz oilfield by Tengizchevroil includes an agreement that 32 percent of total investment will be used to procure local content.  The Ministry of Energy announced in March 2017 that foreign companies providing services for the oil and gas sector would need to create joint ventures with local companies to continue to receive contracts at the country’s largest oilfields.  Although these recommendations are not legally binding, companies report feeling obliged to abide by them.  Some companies reported these forced joint ventures or consortia led to the creation of domestic monopolies, rather than to the stimulation of a healthy domestic market of oil service providers.  For example, the Ministry of Energy and the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating Consortium reportedly agreed that a Kazakhstani design research company would carry out at least 50 percent of the design work at the Karachaganak expansion project.

The government regulates foreign labor at the macro and micro levels.  Foreign workers must obtain work permits, which have historically been difficult and expensive to obtain.  Amendments to the Expatriate Workforce Quota and Work Permit Rules: (a) eliminate special conditions for obtaining a work permit for foreign labor (e.g. requirements to train local personnel or create additional vacancies); (b) eliminate the requirement that companies conduct a search for candidates on the internal market prior to applying for a work permit; (c) reduce the timeframe for issuance or denial of work permit from 15 to 7 days; (d) eliminate the required permission of local authorities for the appointment of CEOs and deputies of Kazakhstani legal entities that are 100 percent owned by foreign companies; and (e) expand the list of individuals requiring no permission from local authorities (including non-Kazakhstani citizens working in national holding companies as heads of structural divisions and non-Kazakhstani citizens who are members of the board of directors of national holding companies).

The Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development, and Sovereign Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna monitor firms compliance with local content obligations, and there are various enforcement tools for companies that do not meet performance requirements.

Following the June 2019 violence at Chevron-operated Tengiz oilfield that reportedly resulted from discontent with wage discrepancy between local and foreign workers with similar qualifications, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has sought to revisit the definition of administrative liability and administrative violation to make state control over employers with foreign workers more effective.

The foreign labor quota approved by the government for 2020 reduced the number of work permits for employees of category 3 (specialists) by 37 percent and for category 4 (qualified workers) by 23 percent.  The largest decreases are in administration; real estate; wholesale and retail; construction; professional, scientific and technological activities; and accommodation and catering.  To replace the gap in the foreign workforce, the government is introducing an obligation to replace foreign workers with skilled Kazakhstani labor.

Foreign investors may in theory participate in government and quasi-government procurement tenders, however, they should have production facilities in Kazakhstan and should go through a process of being recognized as a pre-qualified bidder.  In 2019, the government enacted new procurement rules by which only pre-qualified suppliers will be allowed to bid for government contracts.  A key requirement for being recognized as pre-qualified bidder is that the company’s product should be made in Kazakhstan and be added to a register of trusted products.  While this requirement is applied to some selected sectors at the government procurement (e.g. construction, IT, textile), it has been practiced since 2016 for procurement at quasi-sovereign companies under the National Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna.

In addition, the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs Atameken introduced in 2018 an industrial certificate which serves as an extra (and costly) tool to prove a company’s financial and production capabilities to participate in tenders.  The industrial certificate also acts as an indirect confirmation of a company’s status as a local producer.  Thus, a foreign investor who plans to bid for government and quasi-government contracts should obtain an industrial certificate.

In 2019, the government introduced significant recycling fees on the importation of combines and tractors.  Although major Western brands were granted a waiver for the fees, the government is expected to revisit the exception.  The government has suggested that foreign producers start local production of their equipment and become eligible for preferential treatment.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Private entities, both foreign and domestic, have the right to establish and own business enterprises, buy and sell business interests, and engage in all forms of commercial activity.

Secured interests in property (fixed and non-fixed) are recognized under the Civil Code and the Land Code.  All property and lease rights for real estate must be registered with the Ministry of Justice through its local service centers.  According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Kazakhstan ranks 24 out of 190 countries in ease of registering property.

Under Kazakhstan’s constitution, land and other natural resources may be owned or leased by Kazakhstani citizens.  The Land Code: (a) allows citizens and Kazakhstani companies to own agricultural and urban land, including commercial and non-commercial buildings, complexes, and dwellings; (b) permits foreigners to own land to build industrial and non-industrial facilities, including dwellings, with the exception of land located in border zones; (c) authorizes the government to monitor proper use of leased agricultural lands, the results of which may affect the status of land-lease contracts; (d) forbids private ownership of: land used for national defense and national security purposes, specially protected nature reserves, forests, reservoirs, glaciers, swamps, designated public areas within urban or rural settlements, except land plots occupied by private building and premises, main railways and public roads, land reserved for future national parks, subsoil use and power facilities, and social infrastructure.  The government maintains the land inventory and constantly updates its electronic data base, though the inventory data is not exhaustive.  The government has also set up rules for withdrawing land plots that have been improperly or never used.

In 2015, the government proposed Land Code amendments that would allow foreigners to rent agricultural lands for up to 25 years.  Mass protests in the spring of 2016 led the government to introduce a moratorium on these provisions until December 31, 2021.  The moratorium is also effective on other related articles of the Land Code that regulate private ownership rights on agricultural lands.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal structure for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection is relatively strong; however, enforcement needs further improvement.  Kazakhstan was not  included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR)  Special 301 Report or the  Notorious Markets List.  To facilitate its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and attract foreign investment, Kazakhstan continues to improve its legal regime for protecting IPR.  The Civil Code and various laws protect U.S. IPR.  Kazakhstan has ratified 18 of the 24 treaties endorsed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): http://www.wipo.int/members/en/details.jsp?country_id=97 .

The Criminal Code sets out punishments for violations of copyright, rights for inventions, useful models, industrial patterns, select inventions, and integrated circuits topographies.  The law authorizes the government to target internet piracy and shut down websites unlawfully sharing copyrighted material, provided that rights holders had registered their copyrighted material with Kazakhstan’s IPR Committee.  Despite these efforts, U.S. companies and associated business groups have alleged that 73 percent of software used in Kazakhstan is pirated, including in government ministries, and have criticized the government’s enforcement efforts.

To comply with OECD IPR standards, in 2018 Kazakhstan accepted amendments to its IPR legislation that would streamline IPR registration and enforcement.  The law set up a more convenient, one-tier system of IPR registration and provided rights holders the opportunity for pre-trial dispute settlement through the Appeals Council at the Ministry of Justice.  In addition, the law included IPR protection as one of the government procurement principles that should be strictly followed by government organizations.  The Ministry of Justice is working with the World Bank on developing new IPR legislation based on OECD norms, including patent protection of IT products.

Kazakhstani authorities conduct nationwide campaigns called “Counterfeit”, “Hi-Tech” and “Anti-Fraud” that are aimed at detecting and ceasing IPR infringements and increasing public awareness about IP issues.  The Ministry of Justice and law enforcement agencies regularly report the results of their inspections.  In 2019, they conducted 276 inspections and initiated 236 cases on violations of trade mark use, resulting in USD 32,900 in penalties.  In addition, authorities reportedly seized over 44,000 units of counterfeit goods worth around USD 52,570.  Customs officials seized counterfeited goods at border crossing worth around USD 14.4 million.  IPR violations are prosecuted regularly. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported 31 criminal copyright violations in 2019.  Of these 31 cases, three cases were closed, five were resolved by the conciliation of parties, and the rest remain in litigation.

Although Kazakhstan continues to make progress to comply with WTO requirements and OECD standards, foreign companies complain about inadequate IPR protection.  Judges, customs officials, and police officers also lack IPR expertise, which exacerbates weak IPR enforcement.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Kazakhstan maintains a stable macroeconomic framework, although weak banks inhibit the financial sector’s development (described further in next section), valuation and accounting practices are inconsistent, and large state-owned enterprises that dominate the economy face challenges in preparing complete financial reporting.  Capital markets remain underdeveloped and illiquid, with small equity and debt markets dominated by state-owned companies and lacking in retail investors.  Most domestic borrowers obtain credit from Kazakhstani banks, although foreign investors often find margins and collateral requirements onerous, and it is usually cheaper and easier for foreign investors to use retained earnings or borrow from their home country. The government actively seeks to attract foreign direct investment, including portfolio investment.  Foreign clients may only trade via local brokerage companies or after registering at the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE) or at the AIFC.

KASE, in operation since 1993, trades a variety of instruments, including equities and funds, corporate bonds, sovereign debt, foreign currencies, repurchase agreements (REPO) and derivatives, with 200 listed companies in total.  Most of KASE’s trading is comprised of money market (87 percent) and foreign exchange (10 percent).  As of March 31, 2020, stock market capitalization was USD 37.3 billion, while the corporate bond market was USD 31 billion. The Single Accumulating Pension Fund, the key source of the country’s local currency liquidity, accumulated $26.1 billion as of March 31, 2020.

In 2018, the government launched the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), a regional financial hub modeled after the Dubai International Financial Center.  The AIFC has its own stock exchange (AIX), regulator, and court (see Part 4).  The AIFC has partnered with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs International, the Silk Road Fund, and others.  AIX currently has 53 listings, including 24 traded on its platform.

Kazakhstan is bound by Article 8 of the International Monetary Fund’s Articles of Agreement, adopted in 1996, which prohibits government restrictions on currency conversions or the repatriation of investment profits.  Money transfers associated with foreign investments, whether inside or outside of the country, are unrestricted; however, Kazakhstan’s currency legislation requires that a currency contract must be presented to the servicing bank if the transfer exceeds USD 10,000.  Money transfers over USD 50,000 require the servicing bank to notify the transaction to the authorities, so the transferring bank may require the transferring parties, whether resident or non-resident, to provide information for that notification.

Money and Banking System

Kazakhstan has 27 commercial banks.  As of March 1, 2019, the five largest banks (Halyk Bank, Sberbank-Kazakhstan, Forte Bank, Kaspi Bank and Bank CenterCredit) held assets of approximately USD 43.6 billion, accounting for 62.2 percent of the total banking sector.

Kazakhstan’s banking system remains impaired by legacy non-performing loans, poor risk management, weak corporate governance practices at some banks and significant related-party exposures.  Over the past several years the government has undertaken a number of measures to strengthen the sector, including capital injections, enhanced oversight, and expanded regulatory authorities.  In 2019, the NBK initiated an asset quality review (AQR) of 14 major banks jointly holding 87 percent of banking assets as of April 1, 2019.  According to NBK officials, the AQR showed sufficient capitalization on average across the 14 banks and set out individual corrective measure plans for each of the banks to improve risk management.  As of March 2020, the ratio of non-performing loans to banking assets was 8.9 percent, down from 31.2 percent in January 2014.  The COVID-19 pandemic and the fall in global oil prices may pose additional risks to Kazakhstan’s banking sector.

Kazakhstan has a central bank system, led by the National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK).  In January 2020, parliament established the Agency for Regulation and Development after Financial Market (ARDFM), which assumed the NBK’s role as main financial regulator overseeing banks, insurance companies, stock market, microcredit organizations, debt collection agencies, and credit bureaus.  The National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK) retains its core central bank functions as well as management of the country’s sovereign wealth fund and pension system assets.  The NBK and ARDFM as its successor is committed to move gradually to Basel III regulatory standard.  As of May 2020, Basel III methodology applies to capital and liquidity calculation with required regulatory ratios gradually changing to match the standard.

Currently foreign banks are allowed to operate in the country only through their local subsidiaries.  Starting December 16, 2020, as a part of Kazakhstan’s WTO commitments, foreign banks will be allowed to operate via branches subject to compliance with regulatory norms prescribed by the NBK and ARDFM.

Foreigners may open bank accounts in local banks if they have a local tax registration number.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment (e.g. remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan or lease payments, or royalties).  Funds associated with any form of investment may be freely converted into any world currency, though local markets may be limited to major world currencies.

As of July 2019, foreign company branches are treated as residents, except for branches of foreign banks and insurance companies or non-financial organizations treated as non-residents based on previously made special agreements with Kazakhstan.  Foreign banks and insurance companies’ branches will be treated as residents from December 2020.  With some exceptions, foreign currency transactions between residents are forbidden.  There are no restrictions on foreign currency operations between residents and non-residents, unless specified otherwise by local foreign currency legislation.  Companies registered with AIFC are not subject to currency and settlement restrictions.

Kazakhstan abandoned its currency peg in favor of a free-floating exchange rate and inflation-targeting monetary regime in August 2015, although the National Bank admits to intervening in foreign exchange markets to combat excess volatility.  Kazakhstan maintains sufficient international reserves according to the IMF.  As of March 2020, international reserves at the National Bank, including foreign currency and gold, and National Fund assets totaled USD 87.4 billion.

Remittance Policies

The U.S. Mission in Kazakhstan is not aware of any concerns about remittance policies or the availability of foreign exchange conversion for the remittance of profits.  Local currency legislation permits non-residents to freely receive and transfer dividends, interest and other income on deposits, securities, loans, and other currency transactions with residents.  However, such remittances would be subject to the reporting requirements described in the “Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment” Section above.  There are no time limitations on remittances; and timelines to remit investment returns depend on internal procedures of the servicing bank. Residents seeking to transfer property or money to a non-resident in excess of USD 500,000 are required to register the contract with the NBK.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The National Fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan was established to support the country’s social and economic development via accumulation of financial and other assets, as well as to reduce the country’s dependence on oil sector and external shocks.  The Fund’s assets are generated from direct taxes and other payments from oil companies, public property privatization, sale of public farm lands, and investment income.  The government, through the Ministry of Finance, controls the National Fund, while the NBK acts as National Fund’s trustee and asset manager. The NBK selects external asset managers from internationally-recognized investment companies or banks to oversee a part of the National Fund’s assets.  Information about external asset managers and assets they manage is confidential.  As of March 2020, the National Fund’s assets were USD 57 billion or around 37 percent of GDP.

The government receives regular transfers from the National Fund for general state budget support, as well as special purpose transfers ordered by the President.  The National Fund is required to retain a minimum balance of no less than 30 percent of GDP.

Kazakhstan is not a member of the IMF-hosted International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

According to the Ministry of Finance, as of January 1, 2020, the government owns 3,661 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), including all forms of SOEs from small veterinary inspection offices, departments on anti-monopoly policy or hospitals in regions to large national companies,  controlling energy, transport,  agricultural finance and product development.

In 2019, President Tokayev introduced a moratorium on establishing new parastatal companies that will be effective until the end of 2021.  A bill on improving the business climate approved  by the Majilis, the lower Chamber of Parliament, in April 2020 makes it more difficult to establish new parastatal companies.  Despite these positive developments, the share of SOEs in the economy is still large.  According to the 2017 OECD Investment Policy Review, SOE assets amount to USD 48-64 billion, approximately 30-40 percent of GDP; their net income was approximately USD 2 billion.  The preferential status of parastatal companies remains unchanged; parastatals enjoy greater access to subsidies and government support.

The lists of SOEs is available at: http://www.minfin.gov.kz/irj/portal/anonymous?NavigationTarget=ROLES://portal_content/mf/kz.ecc.roles/kz.ecc.anonymous/kz.ecc.anonymous/kz.ecc.anonym_activities/activities/statistics_fldr 

The National Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna (SK) is Kazakhstan’s largest national holding company, and manages key SOEs in the oil and gas, energy, mining, transportation, and communication sectors.  At the end of 2018, SK had 317 subsidiaries and employed around 300,000 people.  By some estimates, SK controls around half of Kazakhstan’s economy, and is the nation’s largest buyer of goods and services.  In 2018, SK reported USD 74.3 billion in assets and USD 3.3 billion in consolidated net profit.  Created in 2008, SK’s official purpose is to facilitate economic diversification and to increase effective corporate governance.  In 2018, First President Nazarbayev approved SK’s new strategy, which declared the effective management of its companies, restructuring and diversification of assets and investment projects, and compliance with the principles of sustainable development as its priority goals.  To follow this new strategy, early in 2020, SK removed the Prime Minister from the Board and elected four independent directors, one of which became the Chairman of the Board.  Kazakhstani government participation in the Board is limited to three individuals: the Aide to the President, the Minister of National Economy and the CEO of Samruk-Kazyna.  SK Portfolio companies are required to have corporate governance standards and independent boards.  Despite these moves, the government maintains significant influence in SK.  First President Nazarbayev is the life-long Chairman of the Managing Council of SK, and can make decisions on SK activity.  SK has special rights not afforded to other companies, such as the ability to conclude large transactions among members of its holding companies without public notification.  SK has the pre-emptive right to buy strategic facilities and bankrupt assets, and is exempt from government procurement procedures.  Critically, the government can transfer state-owned property to SK, easing the transfer of state property to private owners.  More information is available at http://sk.kz/ .

In addition to SK, the government created the national managing holding company Baiterek in 2013 to provide financial and investment support to non-extractive industries, drive economic diversification, and improve corporate governance in government subsidiaries.  Baiterek is comprised of the Development Bank of Kazakhstan, the Investment Fund of Kazakhstan, the Housing and Construction Savings Bank, the National Mortgage Company, the National Agency for Technological Development, the Distressed Asset Fund, and other financial and development institutions.  Unlike SK, the Prime Minister remains the Chairman of the Board, assisted by several cabinet ministers and independent directors.  In 2019, Baiterek had USD 13.8 billion in assets and earned USD 104.5 million in net profit.  At the end of 2018, Baiterek held a 48 percent share of the country’s market of long-term crediting of the non-extractive sectors.   Please see https://www.baiterek.gov.kz/en 

Other SOEs include KazAgro, which manages state agricultural holdings such as the state wheat purchasing agent National Food Contract Corporation, farm equipment subsidy provider KazAgroFinance, and the Agrarian Credit Corporation, an agricultural insurance company (http://www.kazagro.kz/ ).  The national holding company Zerde is charged with creating modern information and communication infrastructure, using new technologies, and stimulating investments in the communication sector (http://zerde.gov.kz/ ).

Officially, private enterprises compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions.  In some cases, SOEs enjoy better access to natural resources, credit, and licenses than private entities.

In its 2017 Investment Review, the OECD recommended Kazakhstani authorities identify new ways to ensure that all corporate governance standards applicable to private companies apply to SOEs.  Samruk-Kazyna adopted a new Corporate Governance Code in 2015.  The Code, which applies to all SK subsidiaries, specified the role of the government as ultimate shareholder, underlined the role of the Board of directors and risk management, and called for transparency and accountability.

Privatization Program

As part of its overall plan to reduce the share of Kazakhstan’s SOEs to the OECD average of 15 percent of the economy, the government is conducting a large-scale privatization campaign.  By law and in practice, foreign investors may participate in privatization projects.  The public bidding process is established in law.  Government reports on this campaign are available at: https://privatization.gosreestr.kz/ 

As of April 2020, 499 out of 873 organizations planned for privatization have been sold for 315.8 billion tenge, or USD 734.5 million. The government sells small, state-owned and municipal enterprises through electronic auctions.

SK plans to offer institutional investors non-controlling shares in following national companies via initial public offerings (IPOs), secondary public offerings (SPO) and sale to strategic investors:  state oil company KazMunayGas, uranium mining company KazAtomProm, national airline Air Astana,  national telecom operator Kazakhtelecom, railway operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, KazPost, and Samruk–Energy, Tau-Ken Samruk, and Qazaq Air.  Samruk-Kazyna sold 15 percent of its stake in KazAtomProm in a dual-listed IPO on the London Exchange and the Astana International Stock Exchange in 2018.  Information on privatization of SK assets is available here: https://sk.kz/investors/privatization/information-on-assets-and-facilities/?lang=en 

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Entrepreneurs, the government, and non-governmental organizations are aware of the expectations of responsible business conduct (RBC).  Kazakhstan continues to make steady progress toward meeting the OECD Guidelines for International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, and the government promotes the concept of RBC.  The OECD National Point of Contact is the Ministry of National Economy.

A legal framework for RBC was introduced in 2015.  The Entrepreneurial Code has a special section on social responsibility, which is defined as a voluntary contribution for the development of social, environmental, and other spheres.  The Code says that the state creates conditions for RBC but specifies that it cannot force entrepreneurs to perform socially responsible actions.  The Code considers donations to charity one of the key forms of social responsibility and envisions a tax deduction for charitable giving, though no such rule exists.

In April 2015, the National Tripartite Commission on Social Partnership and Regulation of Social and Labor Relations adopted the National Concept on Social Corporate Responsibility, developed by the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs “Atameken” and the corporate fund Eurasia-Central Asia.  The non-binding document covers human rights, environmental protection, consumer interests, RBC, corporate governance, and community development.

First President Nazarbayev has repeatedly asked foreign investors and local businesses to implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, to provide occupational safety, pay salaries on time, and invest in human capital.  The president presents annual awards for achievements in CSR.  Foreign investors report that local government officials regularly pressure them to provide social investments to achieve local political objectives.  Local officials attempt to exert as much control as possible over the selection and allocation of funding for such projects.

The government has signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  Kazakhstan produces EITI reports disclosing revenues from the extraction of its natural resources.  Companies disclose what they pay in taxes and other payments, and the government discloses revenue received; these two sets of figures are then compared and reconciled.  Starting in August 2019, the EITI Board has been reviewing whether Kazakhstan has made meaningful progress in implementing EITI standards since its first validation in 2017.  The EITI Board is particularly concerned with disclosure of information by state-owned companies, such as KazMunayGas and its subsidiaries, oil supplies, revenues of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy from transportation of mineral resources, and free access of NGOs to EITI process in Kazakhstan.

Starting in 2019, members of EITI, including Kazakhstan, are required to disclose subsoil use contracts, signed after January 1, 2021.  In June 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development disclosed for the first time beneficial ownership data on its website.  The data include names of beneficial owners and their level of ownership under new licenses only.

9. Corruption

Kazakhstan’s rating in Transparency International’s (TI) 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index is 34/100, ranking Kazakhstan 113 out of 180 countries rated – a relatively weak score, but the best in Central Asia.  According to the report, corruption remains a serious challenge for Kazakhstan, amplified by the instability of the economy.  In its March 2019 report on the fourth round of monitoring under the Istanbul Action Plan, OECD stated a lack of progress on 9 of 29 recommendations, including: implementation of a holistic anti-corruption policy in the private sector, ensuring independence of the anti-corruption agency, detailed integrity rules for political officials, independence of the judiciary and judges, mandatory anti-corruption screening of all draft laws, bringing the Law on Access to Information in line with international standards, effective and dissuasive liability of legal entities for corruption crimes; and ensuring the effectiveness of investigative and prosecutorial practices to combat corruption crimes.

The 2015-2025 Anti-Corruption Strategy focuses on measures to prevent the conditions that foster corruption, rather than fighting the consequences of corruption.  The Criminal Code imposes tough criminal liability and punishment for corruption, eliminates suspension of sentences for corruption-related crimes, and introduces a lifetime ban on employment in the civil service with mandatory forfeiture of title, rank, grade and state awards.  The Law on Countering Corruption introduces broader definitions of corruption and risks, anticorruption monitoring and analysis, and stronger financial accountability measures.  The Law on Government Procurement prohibits companies, the managers of which are directly related to decision makers of contracting government agencies, from participation in tenders.  The Law on Countering Corruption states that private companies should undertake measures to prevent corruption, while business associations can develop codes of conduct for specific industries.

The Agency for Countering Corruption presents its report on countering corruption annually. Kazakhstan ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in 2008.  It has been a participant of the Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan of the OECD Anti-Corruption Network since 2004, the International Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies since 2009, and the International Counter-Corruption Council of CIS member-states since 2013.  Kazakhstan became a member of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in January 2020.  The government and local business entities are aware of the legal restrictions placed on business abroad, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act.

Despite provisions in laws, however, corruption allegations are noted in nearly all sectors, including extractive industries, infrastructure projects, state procurements, and the banking sector.  The International Finance Corporation’s Enterprise Survey that gathers responses from thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises in each of more than 100 countries, finds that respondents indicate corruption as the most severe obstacle to doing business in Kazakhstan.  For more information, please see: http://www.enterprisesurveys.org/data/exploreeconomies/2013/kazakhstan#corruption 

Transparency International Kazakhstan conducted a survey in 2019 to assess the corruption perception of 1,824 representatives of small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.  A total of 76.1 percent of respondents reported that they can develop their business without corruption.

The legal framework controlling corruption has been eased and loopholes exist.  In 2018 the president signed into law a set of criminal legislation amendments  mitigating punishment for acts of corruption by officials, including decriminalizing official inaction, hindrance to business activity, and falsification of documents; significantly reducing the amounts of fines for taking bribes; and reinstituting a statute of limitation for corruption crimes.  The largest loophole surrounds the first president and his family.  The Law on the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan—Leader of the Nation establishes blanket immunity for First President Nazarbayev and members of his family from arrest, detention, search or interrogation.  Journalists and advocates for fiscal transparency are reported to have faced frequent harassment, administrative pressure, and there are reports of disappearances and unaccounted deaths.

Resources to Report Corruption

Under the Law On Countering Corruption, all government, quasi-government entities, and officials are responsible for countering corruption.  Along with the Anti-Corruption Agency, prosecutors, national security agencies, police, tax inspectors, military police, and border guard service members are responsible for the detection, termination, disclosure, investigation, and prevention of corruption crimes, and for holding the perpetrators liable within their competence.

Transparency International maintains a national chapter in Kazakhstan.

Contact at the government agency responsible for combating corruption:

Alik Shpekbayev
Chairman
Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Countering Corruption
37 Seyfullin Street, Astana
+7 (7172) 909002
a.shpekbaev@kyzmet.gov.kz

Contact at a “watchdog” organization:

Olga Shiyan
Executive Director
Civic Foundation “Transparency Kazakhstan”
Office 308/2
89 Dosmuhamedov str,
Business Center Caspi
Almaty 050012
+7 (727) 292 0970; +7 771 589 4507
oshiyantikaz@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

There have been no reported incidents of politically-motivated violence against foreign investment projects, and although small-scale protests do occur, large-scale civil disturbances are infrequent.  In June 2016, individuals described by the government as Salafist militants attacked a gun shop and a military unit, killing 8 and injuring 37 people in the Aktobe region of northwestern Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan generally enjoys good relations with its neighbors. Although the presidential transition in neighboring Uzbekistan has opened the door to greater regional cooperation, including on border issues, Kazakhstan continues to exercise vigilance against possible penetration of its borders by extremist groups.  The government also remains concerned about the potential return of foreign terrorist fighters from Syria and Iraq.

After close to three decades, President Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president March 20, 2019, and was succeeded by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the former Senate Chairman and next in line of constitutional succession.  On April 9, 2019, President Tokayev announced that Kazakhstan would hold early presidential elections June 9, 2019.

In the June 9 election, the first without First President Nazarbayev, President Tokayev was elected to a full term with 71 percent of the vote.  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published a preliminary assessment of the election June 10, noting in its press release that “a lack of regard for fundamental rights, including detentions of peaceful protestors, and widespread voting irregularities on election day, showed scant respect for democratic standards.”  In the March 2016 election for the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament), Kazakhstan’s largest party, Nur-Otan, received 82 percent of the vote, while the business-friendly Ak Zhol party and the Communist People’s party each received 7 percent.  All three parties supported Nazarbayev and his policies.  The OSCE similarly critiqued the March 2016 election for its lack of adherence to OSCE standards for democratic elections.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The July 2017 EBRD Kazakhstan Diagnostic Paper singles out skills mismatches across sectors as the fifth most important constraint that is holding back private sector growth in Kazakhstan.  The gaps create real operational challenges such as high recruitment and training costs, lower productivity and constraints on innovation and new product development, according to the EBRD.  The existing skills mismatches are not a result of lack of access in education, but rather failure to acquire job-relevant skills and competencies, the EBRD report reads.  The 2019 OECD report on Monitoring Skills Development through Occupational Standards in Kazakhstan echoes the EBRD findings – despite improvements in educational attainment and labor market participation, Kazakhstan faces challenges with respect to skill relevance and availability, especially among large and middle-sized companies.  Strengthening vocational education and training is critical, because skilled manual workers, with medium and high qualifications, represent 40 percent of the total workforce need, according to the OECD.

Many large investors rely on foreign workers and engineers to fill the void.  Kazakhstan approved a quota for 29,300 foreign workers for 2020.  As of February 1, 2020, Labor Ministry had issued 19,100 work permits.  Chinese workers received over 27 percent of all permits, with the rest going to foreign workers from Turkey, U.K., India, Uzbekistan, and others.

The Kazakhstani government has made it a priority to ensure that Kazakhstani citizens are well represented in foreign enterprise workforces.  In 2009, the government instituted a comprehensive policy for local content, particularly for companies in extractive industries.  The government is particularly keen to see Kazakhstanis hired into the managerial and executive ranks of foreign enterprises.  In November 2015, the government amended the legislation on migration and employment that resulted in new rules for foreign labor starting January 2017 (please see details in Part 5, Performance and Data Localization Requirements).  U.S. companies are advised to contact Kazakhstan-based law and accounting firms and the U.S. Commercial Service in Almaty for current information on work permits.  AIFC-registered entities may employ a foreign workforce without any work permits.

Kazakhstan joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1993, and has ratified 24 out of 189 ILO conventions, including eight fundamental conventions pertaining to minimum employment age, prohibition on the use of forced labor and the worst forms of child labor, and prohibition on discrimination in employment, as well as conventions on equal pay and collective bargaining.  In March 2019, Kazakhstan’s Federation of Trade Unions proposed that the Kazakhstani government join five more ILO technical conventions on social security (minimum standards), minimum wage fixing, collective bargaining, part-time work, and safety and health in agriculture, but the country has not ratified any new ILO conventions since then.

In September 2017, the ILO expressed concern over Kazakhstan’s compliance with the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention by calling on the government to amend the relevant legislation in order to: (1) enable workers to form and join trade unions of their own choosing, (2) allow labor unions to benefit from joint projects with international organizations, and (3) allow financial assistance to labor unions from international organizations.  The Constitution and National Labor Code guarantee basic workers’ rights, including occupational safety and health, the right to organize, and the right to strike.  Amendments to the Labor Code since July 2018 leave many labor-related issues, including dismissals and layoffs, to the discretion of employers.  It imposes tighter collective bargaining restrictions on employees involved in labor disputes.  According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, 33.4 percent of all working enterprises have collective agreements.  Kazakhstan’s three independent labor unions – the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (FTU), Commonwealth of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan Amanat, and Kazakhstan Confederation of Labor (KCL) – had over three million members, or 40 percent of Kazakhstan’s workforce, as of March 1, 2020.

Article 46 of the Labor Code gives the employer the right to change work conditions due to fluctuating market conditions with proper and timely notifications to employees.  Article 52 of the Labor Code gives the employer the right to cancel an employment contract in case of a decline in production that may lead to the deterioration of economic and financial conditions of the company.  Article 131 of the Labor Code allows for severance of payment of average monthly wages for two months in case of layoffs for economic reasons.  The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is responsible for offering alternative job openings within state programs of the so-called Employment Road Map, alternative professional training, or temporary jobs to workers laid off for economic reasons.  The 2017-2021 Productive Employment and Mass Entrepreneurship National Program, run by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, aims at connecting workers with permanent jobs.  The program provides micro-loans and grants, and equips workers with basic entrepreneurial skills.

Chapter 15 of the Labor Code describes a mechanism for resolution of individual labor disputes via direct negotiations with an employer, mediation commission, and court.  Chapter 16 of the Labor Code identifies a mechanism for resolution of collective labor disputes via direct negotiations with an employer, mediation commission, labor arbitration, and court.

Labor unrest presents a risk where unemployment is high and where the bargaining power of limited skilled labor is relatively high, but authorities have been quick to intervene with controls and mitigating measures.  In June 2019, a violence broke out at the Chevron-operated Tengiz oilfield, in which large mobs of Kazakh men attacked dozens of their colleagues from countries like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.  The unrest had ostensibly been triggered by an interpersonal conflict, though it was widely acknowledged that festering resentment about pay and working conditions underlaid the violence.  Another conflict that took place on August 12, 2019, in the Zhairem settlement of the Karaganda region reportedly had similar grounds — fifty Zhairem residents trespassed the site of the Zhairem enrichment plant, owned by KazZinc (i.e. Glencore International AG), and started a brawl with Turkish workers.  The altercation resulted in the minor injuries of six Turkish workers.  The regional police brought charges for hooliganism and property theft against seven Zhairem residents.

In September 2019, several strikes over living standards hit the Chinese-run companies in the Mangystau region.  At least 165 workers of Mobil Service Group Ltd that provides transportation services for Oil Construction Company LLP in the Kalamkas field and Karazhanbasmunai JSC in the Karazhanbas field in the Mangystau region went on strike on September 20, 2019 to demand a 100 percent increase of wages and to complain about getting paid up to ten times less than their western and Chinese colleagues.  The labor dispute was resolved after MSG management agreed to raise wages by 50 percent.

Approximately 24 workers of the Sinopec-run Karakudykmunay and Buzachi Operating companies went on strike on September 23, 2019, demanding a 100 percent wage increase.  Over 150 workers wrote letters to the company’s management and to the ruling Nur Otan party prior to the strike.  Another strike over low wages reportedly took place at Buzachi Operating on October 31, 2019, which was later dismissed by the company’s management, stating that it was a regular staff meeting.

On September 30, 2019, a local newspaper published on its website a video message  (https://www.lada.kz/aktau_news/society/73745-rabochie-esche-odnoy-kompanii-v-mangistau-trebovali-povysheniya-zarabotnoy-platy.html ) to President Tokayev allegedly recorded by Emir Oil workers, requesting a 50 percent increase in wages.  Kazakh-Malaysian oil company, Emir Oil Ltd, dismissed this information, stating that the company had been negotiating with workers and gradually implementing a pay increase since March 2019.

Security workers of KMG-Security, a subsidiary of KazMunayGas National Company (KMG NC), held a strike demanding a wage increase and improved working conditions in the oil town of Zhanaozen in the Mangystau region on January 27, 2020.  Their requests have been addressed by KMG NC.  The government is particularly sensitive to any signs of unrest in Zhanaozen, after a seven-month strike of oil workers in the town culminated in riots that killed 15 and injured over 100 in December 2011.

Workers’ rights to strike are limited by several conditions.  It may take over 40 days to initiate the strike in accordance with the law, representatives of labor unions report.  Workers can strike if all arbitration measures defined by law have been exhausted.  Strike votes must be taken in a meeting where at least half of workers are present, and strikers are required to give five days’ notice to their employer, include a list of complaints, and tell the employer the proposed date, time and place of the strike.  Courts have the power to declare a strike illegal at the request of an employer or the General Prosecutor’s office.  Employers may fire striking workers after a court declares a strike illegal.  The Criminal Code enables the government to target labor organizers whose strikes are deemed illegal.

The Labor Union Law generally restricts workers’ freedom of association.  Under the law, any local (and potentially independent) labor union must be affiliated with larger unions, and the right to freely establish and join independent organizations without prior authorization is restricted.  On the basis of this law, in 2016 authorities did not allow the registration of one independent labor union and ordered its liquidation.  In 2018, the U.S. government initiated a review of Kazakhstan’s compliance with the Generalized System of Preferences following a petition by the AFL-CIO, based on the country’s alleged failure to afford internationally-recognized workers’ rights.  The AFL-CIO petition highlights the Law on Unions and also raises concerns about the use of Article 404 of the Criminal Code, which appears to prohibit unregistered organizations.  The amendments were signed into law by President Tokayev on May 4, 2020.  The law removes the requirement of affiliation with a large labor union for local labor unions.  Other changes include softening restrictions on strikes.  Workers employed in the railway, transport and communications, civil aviation, healthcare, and public utilities sectors may strike, if they maintain minimum services for the population, that is, provided there is no harm caused to other people.  The law also reduces the penalty for calls to continue strikes declared illegal by a court.  If such calls do not result in a material violation of rights and interests of other people, they will be classified as criminal misconduct, and penalty will be limited to fines or hours of community service.  The previous law classified such calls as criminal offences, and the penalties included restriction on freedom of movement or imprisonment.

Please see details at the Human Rights Report at: https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/.

The official unemployment rate in Kazakhstan has regularly been near five percent in recent years.  In 2019, Kazakhstan’s unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent, and youth unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

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

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the government of Kazakhstan signed an Investment Incentive Agreement in 1992, and OPIC has been active in Kazakhstan since 1994.  In January 2018, OPIC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with KazakhInvest JSC to support U.S. investment in Kazakhstan and improve collaboration between the two countries.  The U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the successor of OPIC, seeks commercially viable projects in Kazakhstan’s private sector and offers a full range of investment insurance and debt/equity stakes.  Kazakhstan is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, which is part of the World Bank Group and provides political risk insurance for foreign investments in developing countries.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD ) 2018 174,675  2018 179,340 https://data.worldbank.org/
country/kazakhstan
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD , stock positions) Jan 1, 2020 36,541   2012 12,512 BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD , stock positions) Jan 1, 2020 177 2016 -3 BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 91.8% 2018 87.5% https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

*The Statistic Committee and The National Bank of Kazakhstan

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data (2018)
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 149,008 100% Total Outward 16,798 100%
 Netherlands 63,219 42% Netherlands 11,002 65%
 United States 31,229 21%  United Kingdom 3,381 20%
 France 13,214 9% Russian Federation 1,320 8%
China P.R: Main land 8,269 6% Bahamas,The 794 5%
 Japan 5,906 4% Cayman Islands 605 4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD  500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets (Dec 31, 2018)
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 60,675 100% All Countries 10,626 100% All Countries 50,049 100%
United States 30,015 49.5%  United States 5,949 56% United States 24,066 48.1%
France 3,737 6.2%  Japan 843 8% Japan 3,599 7.2%
United Kingdom 3,647 6% United Kingdom 829 7.8% France 3,387 6.7%
Japan 3,599 5.9% Switzerland 357 3.4% South Korea 3,048 6.1%
South Korea 3,049 5% France 350 3.3% United Kingdom 2,818 5.6%

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section at the U.S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan
3, Qoshkarbayev Str., Astana
+7 7172 70 21 00
InvestmentClimateKZ@state.gov
Country/Economy resources: American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Kazakhstan www.amcham.kz 

Rwanda

Executive Summary

The data in this report reflects the economic situation in Rwanda before the COVID-19 pandemic.  Rwanda’s main economic drivers are tourism, hospitality, and exports of tea and coffee.  All of these sectors have either been completely shut down due to the pandemic or severely reduced.  The International Monetary Fund has forecasted that COVID-19 will result in the Rwandan economy having the lowest rate of growth, 2 percent, since the 1994 Genocide with a return to 6-7 percent growth by 2022. It is notable that the underlying regulatory environment and pro-growth government has not changed, leaving open the possibility that Rwanda could be back to its February 2020 level of economic performance by 2022.

The Government of Rwanda

Rwanda has a history of strong economic growth, high rankings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, and a reputation for low corruption.  The Government of Rwanda (GOR) has taken a series of policy reforms intended to improve Rwanda’s investment climate and increase foreign direct investment (FDI).  In 2018, the GOR implemented additional reforms to decrease bureaucracy in: construction permitting; establishing electrical service; and customs processing times for exporters.  The GOR also introduced online processes for certificates of origin and phytosanitary approvals.  The country presents a number of FDI opportunities, including:  manufacturing; infrastructure; energy distribution and transmission; off-grid energy; agriculture and agro-processing; low cost housing; tourism; services; and information and communications technology (ICT).  The Investment Code provides equal treatment between foreigners and nationals for certain operations, free transfer of funds, and compensation against expropriation; the 2008 U.S.-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) reinforced this treatment.

According to the National Institute of Statistics for Rwanda (NISR), Rwanda attracted USD 462 million in FDI inflows in 2018, representing five percent of GDP.  Rwanda had a total USD 3.2 billion of FDI stock in 2018, the latest year data is available.  In 2019, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) reported registering USD 2.46 billion in new investment commitments (a 22.6 percent increase from 2018), mainly in energy, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, services and mining.  FDI accounted for 37 percent of registered projects.

In February 2020, Standard and Poors upgraded Rwanda’s rating from B to B+, citing strong and continued growth prospects. The COVID pandemic has obviously changed this outlook.  Government debt has rapidly increased over the past few years to more than 50 percent of GDP, but most of these loans are on highly concessionary terms.  The GOR is expected to add to this debt as part of their COVID response.  Development Institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank , International Monetary Fund and others, have lessened or completely suspended debt repayment terms for less developed countries such as Rwanda as a result of COVID-19.  Many companies report that although it is easy to start a business in Rwanda, it can be difficult to operate a profitable or sustainable business due to a variety of hurdles and constraints.  These include the country’s landlocked geography and resulting high freight transport costs, a small domestic market, limited access to affordable financing, payment delays with government contracts, and inconsistent enforcement of laws and regulations.  Government interventions designed to support overall economic growth can significantly impact investors, with some expressing frustration that they were not consulted prior to the abrupt implementation of government policies and regulations that affected their business.  A number of investors have stated that tax incentives included in deals signed by RDB are not honored by the lead tax agency, the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA).  Similarly, some investors stated that Rwanda’s immigration authority does not always honor the employment and immigration commitments of investment certificates and deals.  Some investors reported difficulties in registering patents and having rules against infringement of their property rights enforced in a timely manner.    While electricity and water supply have improved, businesses may continue to experience intermittent outages, especially during peak times, due to distribution challenges.  Generating power is not an issue with the GOR as they are planning to develop more than100 percent of their power generation needs through various power projects.  Some investors report difficulties in obtaining foreign exchange from time-to-time, which could be attributed to Rwanda running a persistent trade deficit.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings 
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 51 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 38 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 94 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 N/A https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 780 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Note:  According to NISR, stock of U.S. FDI in the country stood at USD 182.67 million in 2018 (most recent data available)

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Over the past decade, the GOR has undertaken a series of policy reforms intended to improve the investment climate, wean Rwanda’s economy off foreign assistance, and increase FDI levels.   Rwanda enjoyed strong economic growth up until March 2020, averaging over seven percent  annually over the last decade, high rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business report (38 out of 190 economies in 2020, and second best in African, compared to 29 in 2019 and 41 in 2018), and a reputation for low corruption.  GDP growth in 2020 is expected to be negative due to the dampening economic effects of COVID-19.  The RDB was established in 2006 to fast track investment projects by integrating all government agencies responsible for the entire investor experience under one roof.  This includes key agencies responsible for business registration, investment promotion, environmental compliance clearances, export promotion and other necessary approvals.  New investors can register online at the RDB’s website and receive a certificate in as fast as six hours, and the agency’s “one-stop shop” helps investors secure required approvals, certificates, and work permits.  RDB states its investment priorities are: innovation and technology, particularly ICT and green innovation; tourism and real estate; agriculture and food security; energy and infrastructure; and mining.

In 2020, The World Bank Ease of Doing Business report indicated that Rwanda made doing business easier by exempting newly formed small and medium businesses from paying for a trading license during their first two years of operation.  In addition, the GOR reduced the time to obtain water and sewage connections in order to facilitate construction permits and improved building controls by requiring construction professionals to obtain liability insurance.  The country also upgraded its power grid infrastructure and improved its regulations on weekly rest, working hours, severance pay and reemployment priority rules.

A number of investors have said a top concern affecting their operations in Rwanda is that tax incentives included in deals negotiated or signed by the RDB are not fully honored by the RRA.   Investors further cite the inconsistent application of tax incentives and import duties as a significant challenge to doing business in Rwanda.  For example, a few investors have said that local customs officials have attempted to charge them duties based on their perception of the value of an import, regardless of the actual purchase price.

Under Rwandan law, foreign firms should receive equal treatment with regard to taxes, as well as access to licenses, approvals, and procurement.  Foreign firms should receive VAT tax rebates within 15 days of receipt by the RRA, but firms complain that the process for reimbursement can take months, and occasionally years.  Refunds can be further held up pending the results of RRA audits.  A number of investors cited punitive retroactive fines following audits that were concluded after many years.  RRA aggressively enforces tax requirements and imposes penalties for errors – deliberate or not – in tax payments.  Investors cited lack of coordination among ministries, agencies and local government (districts) leading to inconsistencies in implementation of promised incentives and other facilitation.  Others pointed to lack of clarity on who the regulator is on certain matters.  The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) has provided tax consultants to RRA to review auditing practices in Rwanda.  The OTA program concluded in 2020 and produced a standardized tax audit handbook for RRA’s auditors to use.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Rwanda has neither statutory limits on foreign ownership or control nor any official economic or industrial strategy that discriminates against foreign investors.  Local and foreign investors have the right to own and establish business enterprises in all forms of remunerative activity.

Foreign nationals may hold shares in locally incorporated companies.  The GOR has continued to privatize state holdings, although the government, ruling party, and military continue to play a dominant role in Rwanda’s private sector.  Foreign investors can acquire real estate but with a general limit on land ownership.  While local investors can acquire land through leasehold agreements that extend to a maximum of 99 years, foreign investors can be restricted to leases up to 49 years with the possibility of renewal.  The government published a new Investment Code in 2015 aimed at providing tax breaks and other incentives to boost FDI.  The Investment Code includes equal treatment for foreigners and nationals with regard to certain operations, free transfer of funds, and compensation against expropriation.  In April 2018, Rwanda introduced new laws to curb capital flight.  Management, loyalty and technical fees a local subsidiary can remit to its related non-residential companies (parent company) are capped at two percent of turnover.  Companies resolving to go beyond the cap are subject to a 30 percent corporate tax on turnover, in addition to 15 percent withholding tax and 18 percent reserve charge.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In February 2019, The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a Trade Policy Review for the East African Community (EAC) covering Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.  The report is available at: https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=(@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*)%20and%20((%20@Title=%20rwanda%20)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20rwanda))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true# 

The Rwanda annex to the report is available at:   https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/ExportFile.aspx?Id=251521&filename=q/WT/TPR/S384-04.pdf 

https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/ExportFile.aspx?Id=251521&filename=q/WT/TPR/S384-04.pdf 

Business Facilitation

RDB offers one of the fastest business registration processes in Africa.  New investors can register online at RDB’s website (http://org.rdb.rw/busregonline ) or register in person at RDB offices in Kigali.  Once a certificate of registration is generated, company tax identification and employer social security contribution numbers are automatically generated.  The RDB “One Stop Center” assists firms in acquiring visas and work permits, connections to electricity and water, and support in conducting required environmental impact assessments.

RDB is prioritizing additional reforms to improve the investment climate.  By 2020, it hopes to amend the land policy to merge issuance of freehold titles and occupancy permits; introduce online notarization of property transfers; implement small claims procedure to allow self-representation in court and reduce attorney costs; launch electronic auctioning to reduce time to enforce judgments, reducing court fees and allowing payments electronically; and establish a commercial division at the Court of Appeal to fast-track commercial dispute resolution.

Rwanda promotes gender equality and has pioneered a number of projects to promote women entrepreneurs, including the creation of the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs within the Rwanda Private Sector Federation (PSF).  Both men and women have equal access to investment facilitation and protections.

Outward Investment

The government does not have a formal program to provide incentives for domestic firms seeking to invest abroad, but there are no restrictions in place limiting such investment.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The GOR generally employs transparent policies and effective laws largely consistent with international norms.  Rwanda is a member of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development’s international network of transparent investment procedures.  The Rwanda eRegulations system is an online database designed to bring transparency to investment procedures in Rwanda.  Investors can find further information on administrative procedures at:  https://businessprocedures.rdb.rw/.

Rwandan laws and regulations are published in the Government Gazette and online at http://primature.gov.rw/index.php?id=97 .  Government institutions generally have clear rules and procedures, but implementation can sometimes be uneven.  Investors have cited breach of contracts and incentive promises, and the short time given to comply with changes in government policies, as hurdles to comply with regulations.  For example, in 2019 the GOR submitted a draft law that was passed by Parliament the same year, banning single use plastic containers.  Investors in the beverage and agro-processing sectors expressed concern that the law would have a serious impact on their operations, that alternative packaging was not available in some cases, and that the GOR did not consult effectively with stakeholders before submitting it.  The law built on a ban on the manufacture and use of polyethylene bags introduced in 2008.

There is no formal mechanism to publish draft laws for public comment, although civil society sometimes has the opportunity to review them.  There is no informal regulatory process managed by nongovernmental organizations.  Regulations are usually developed rapidly in an effort to achieve policy goals and sometimes lack a basis in scientific or data-driven assessments.  Scientific studies, or quantitative analysis (if any) conducted on the impact of regulations, are not generally made publicly available for comment.  Regulators do not publicize comments they receive.  Public finances and debt obligations are generally made available to the public before budget enactment.  Finances for State Owned Enterprises (SOE) are not publicly available but may be requested by civil society organizations with a legitimate reason.

There is no government effort to restrict foreign participation in industry standards-setting consortia or organizations.  Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms but are not always enforced.  The Rwanda Utility Regulation Agency (RURA), the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the Anticorruption Division of the RRA, the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), the National Tender Board, and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority also enforce regulations.  Consumer protection associations exist but are largely ineffective.  The business community has been able to lobby the government and provide feedback on some draft government policies through the PSF, a business association with strong ties to the government.  In some cases, the PSF has welcomed foreign investors to positively influence government policies.  However, some investors have criticized the PSF for advocating to businesses about government policies rather than advocating business concerns to the government.

The American Chamber of Commerce launched in November 2019, and a European Chamber of Commerce launched in March 2020.  Both are coordinating policy advocacy efforts to improve the business environment for American, European and other foreign firms in Rwanda.  The Chinese also have a Chamber of Commerce registered in China and active in Rwanda.

International Regulatory Considerations

Rwanda is a member of the EAC Standards Technical Management Committee. Approved EAC measures are generally incorporated into the Rwandan regulatory system within six months and are published in the National Gazette like other domestic laws and regulations.  Rwanda is also a member of the standards technical committees for the International Standardization Organization, the African Organization for Standardization, and the International Electrotechnical Commission. Rwanda is a member of the International Organization for Legal Metrology and the International Metrology Confederation. The Rwanda Standards Board represents Rwanda at the African Electrotechnical Commission. Rwanda has been a member of the WTO since 22 May 1996 and notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade on draft technical regulations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Rwandan legal system was originally based on the Belgian civil law system. However, since the renovation of the legal framework in 2002, the introduction of a new constitution in 2003, and the country’s entrance to the Commonwealth in 2009, there is now a mixture of civil law and common law (hybrid system). Rwanda’s courts address commercial disputes and facilitate enforcement of property and contract rights. Rwanda’s judicial system suffers from a lack of resources and capacity but continues to improve. Investors occasionally state that the government takes a casual approach to contract sanctity and sometimes fails to enforce court judgments in a timely fashion. The government generally respects judicial independence, though domestic and international observers have noted that outcomes in high-profile politically sensitive cases appeared predetermined.

In August 2018, the GOR created a Court of Appeal in an attempt to reduce backlogs and expedite the appeal process without going to the Supreme Court. The new Court of Appeal arbitrates cases handled by the High Court, Commercial High Court, and Military High Court. The Supreme Court continues to decide on cases of injustice filed from the Ombudsman Office and on constitutional interpretation. Based on Article 15 of Law 76/2013 of 11/09/2013, the Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to request that the Supreme Court reconsider and review judgments rendered at the last instance by ordinary, commercial, and military courts, if there is any persistence of injustice.  More information on the review process can be found at https://ombudsman.gov.rw/en/?Court-Judgement-Review-Unit-1375 . A Tax Court is yet to be established in Rwanda. In 2019, the RDB announced the government’s intent to create a commercial division at the Court of Appeal to fast-track resolution on commercial disputes.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

National laws governing commercial establishments, investments, privatization and public investments, land, and environmental protection are the primary directives governing investments in Rwanda.  Since 2011, the government reformed tax payment processes and enacted additional laws on insolvency and arbitration.  The 2015 Investment Code establishes policies on FDI, including dispute resolution (Article 9).  The RDB keeps investment-related regulations and procedures at:  http://businessprocedures.rdb.rw .

According to a WTO policy review report dated January 2019, Rwanda is not a party to any countertrade and offsetting arrangements, or agreements limiting exports to Rwanda.

A new property tax law was passed in August 2018.  The new law removes the provision that taxpayers must have freehold land titles to pay property taxes.  Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will receive a two-year tax trading license exemption upon establishment.

In April 2018, the GOR passed a new law to streamline income tax administration and to clarify the law.  The new law can be accessed here: http://www.primature.gov.rw/media-publication/publication/latest-offical-gazettes.html?no_cache=1&tx_drblob_pi1%5BdownloadUid%5D=464 .

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Since 2010, a Competition and Consumer Protection Unit was created at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) to address competition and consumer protection issues.  The government is setting up the Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA), a new independent body with the mandate to promote fair competition among producers.  The body will reportedly aim to ensure consumer protection and enforcement of standards.  To read more on competition laws in Rwanda, please visit:  http://www.minicom.gov.rw/index.php?id=136.

Market forces determine most prices in Rwanda, but, in some cases, the GOR intervenes to fix prices for items considered sensitive in Rwanda.  RURA, in consultation with relevant ministries, sets prices for petroleum products, water, electricity, and public transport.  MINICOM and the Ministry of Agriculture have fixed farm gate prices, or the market value of a cultivated product minus the selling costs, for agricultural products like coffee, maize, and Irish potatoes from time to time.  On international tenders, a 10 percent price preference is available for local bidders, including those from regional economic integration bodies in which Rwanda is a member.

Some U.S. companies have expressed frustration that while authorities require them to operate as a formal enterprise that meets all Rwandan regulatory requirements, some local competitors are informal businesses that do not operate in full compliance with all regulatory requirements.  Other investors have claimed unfair treatment compared to SOEs, ruling party-aligned or politically connected business competitors in securing public incentives and contracts.

More information on specific types of agreements, decisions and practices considered to be anti-competitive, or abuse of dominant position, in Rwanda can be found here: https://rura.rw/fileadmin/Documents/docs/ml08.pdf 

Expropriation and Compensation

The 2015 Investment Code forbids the expropriation of investors’ property in the public interest unless the investor is fairly compensated.  A new expropriation law came into force in 2015, which included more explicit protections for property owners.

A 2017 study by Rwanda Civil Society Platform argues that the government conducts expropriations on short notice and does not provide sufficient time or support to help landowners fairly negotiate compensation.  The report includes a survey that found only 27 percent of respondents received information about planned expropriation well in advance of action.  While mechanisms exist to challenge the government’s offer, the report notes that landowners are required to pay all expenses for the second valuation, a prohibitive cost for rural farmers or the urban poor.  Media have reported that wealthier landowners have the ability to challenge valuations and have received higher amounts.  Political exiles and other embattled opposition figures have been involved in taxation lawsuits that resulted in their “abandoned properties” being sold at auction, allegedly at below market values.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Rwanda is signatory to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI).  ICSID seeks to remove impediments to private investment posed by non-commercial risks, while ATI covers risk against restrictions on import and export activities, inconvertibility, expropriation, war, and civil disturbances.

Rwanda ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 2008.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Rwanda is a member of the East African Court of Justice for the settlement of disputes arising from or pertaining to the EAC.  Rwanda has also acceded to the 1958 New York Arbitration Convention and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency convention.  Under the U.S.-Rwanda BIT, U.S. investors have the right to bring investment disputes before neutral, international arbitration panels.  Disputes between U.S. investors and the GOR in recent years have been resolved through international arbitration, court judgments, or out of court settlements.  Judgments by foreign courts and contract clauses that abide by foreign law are accepted and enforced by local courts, though they lack capacity and experience to adjudicate cases governed by non-Rwandan law.  There have been a number of private investment disputes in Rwanda, though the government has yet to stand as complainant, respondent, or third party in a WTO dispute settlement.  Rwanda has been a party to two cases at ICSID since Rwanda became a member in 1963; one of these cases is an ongoing case brought by an American investor against Rwanda.  SOEs are also subject to domestic and international disputes.  SOEs and ruling party-owned companies party to suits have both won and lost judgments in the past.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In 2012, the GOR launched the Kigali International Arbitration Center (KIAC).   KIAC case handling rules are modeled on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration rules.  By July 2019, KIAC reviewed 115 cases worth USD 64 million in claims involving petitions from 19 different nationalities since 2012.  Some businesses report being pressured to use the Rwanda-based KIAC for the seat of arbitration in contracts signed with the GOR.  Because KIAC has a short track record and its domiciled in Rwanda, these companies would prefer arbitration take place in a third country, and some have reported difficulty in securing international financing due to KIAC provision in their contracts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Rwanda ranks 38 out of 190 economies for resolving insolvency in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report and is number two in Africa.  It takes an average of two and a half years to conclude bankruptcy proceedings in Rwanda.  The recovery rate for creditors on insolvent firms was reported at 19.3 cents on the dollar, with judgments typically made in local currency.

In April 2018, the GOR instituted a new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Law.  One major change is the introduction of an article on “pooling of assets” allowing creditors to pursue parent companies and other members of the group, in case a subsidiary is in liquidation.  The new law can be accessed here:  http://org.rdb.rw/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Insolvency-Law-OGNoSpecialbisdu29April2018.pdf 

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The 2015 Investment Code offers a package of benefits and incentives to both domestic and foreign investors under certain conditions, including:

  • For an international company with its headquarters or regional office in Rwanda, a preferential corporate income tax rate of 0 percent;
  • For any investor, a preferential corporate income tax rate of 15 percent;
  • Corporate income tax holiday of up to seven years;
  • Exemption of customs tax for products used in Export Processing Zones (EPZ);
  • Exemption of capital gains tax;
  • VAT refund;
  • Accelerated depreciation; and
  • Immigration incentives.

Further details on benefits under the Investment Code can be accessed here:  http://businessprocedures.rdb.rw/media/Investiment_promotion_law.pdf .

Poorly coordinated efforts between the RDB, RRA, MINICOM, and the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration can lead to inconsistent application of incentives, according to investors.  Investors reported that tax incentives included in deals signed by the RDB are not honored by the RRA in all cases or sometimes not in a timely manner.  Additionally, investors continue to face challenges receiving payment for services rendered for GOR projects, VAT refund delays, and/or expatriation of profits.  In 2016, the GOR instituted a law governing public-private partnership (PPPs) as a step toward courting investments in key development projects.  The law provides a legal framework concerning establishment, implementation, and management of PPPs.  Detailed guidelines for the law can be accessed here:  http://rdb.rw/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/PPP-Guidelines.pdf 

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Rwanda has established the Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ), which was set up through the merger of former Kigali Free Trade Zone and the Kigali Industrial Park projects.  SEZs in Rwanda are regulated by the SEZ Authority of Rwanda (SEZAR), based at the RDB.  Land in KSEZ is acquired through Prime Economic Zone Secretariat, a private developer, under the regulations of SEZAR.  The price per square meter is USD 62, and the minimum size that can be acquired is one hectare.  Bonded warehouse facilities are now available both in and outside of Kigali for use by businesses importing duty-free materials.  The GOR has established a number of benefits for investors operating in the SEZs, including tax and land ownership advantages.  A company basing itself in the SEZ can also opt to be a part of the Economic Processing Zone.  A number of criteria must be satisfied in order to qualify, such as extensive records on equipment, materials and goods, suitable offices, security provisions, and a number of property constraints.

Holding an EPZ license will exempt a company from VAT, import duties, and corporate tax.  The company is then obliged to export a minimum of 80 percent of production.  Even after considering savings due to these government incentives, a few investors reported that land in the SEZs was significantly more expensive than land outside the zones.  The GOR has stated that there are no fiscal, immigration, or customs incentives beyond those provided in the 2015 Investment Code, though media has occasionally speculated that certain investors received additional incentives.  The negative list of goods prohibited under the EAC Customs Management Act applies in SEZs.  In November 2018, the GOR approved the Bugesera Special Economic Zone (BSEZ), located 45 minutes from Kigali.  Procedural information and cost involved in operating in SEZs can be accessed here: https://businessprocedures.rdb.rw/procedure/238/189?l=en .  The SEZ policy was revised in 2018.  Under the new policy, foreigners and locals may only lease land (formerly, foreign investors were able to purchase land outright in SEZ).  To read more on the new policy, please see: http://www.minicom.gov.rw/fileadmin/minicom_publications/documents/SEZ_Policy_-_January_2018_v2.pdf 

Rwanda created the Export Growth Facility (EGF) in 2015, with an initial capital of RWF 500 million, administered by the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD).  German KfW Development Bank injected EUR 8.5 million in support of the fund.  The pilot program targets SMEs with export sales below USD 1 million.  Priority sectors include horticulture, agro-processing, and manufacturing.  The facility has three windows: an investment catalyst fund, a matching grant fund for market entry costs, and an export guarantee facility.  Investment catalyst funds support private sector investments in export-orientated production through a 6.5 percent subsidy on market interest rates (normally between 16-20 percent).  The matching grant fund provides grants (50 percent of the need) for expenditure on specific market entry costs (export strategy elaboration, export promotion, compliance with standards, etc.).  The export guarantee fund provides short-term guarantees to commercial banks financing exporters’ pre- and post-shipment operations.  The export guarantee component is not yet operational.  The facility supports both locally and foreign-owned companies in Rwanda; at least one American company has already received a loan.  Rwanda created the Business Development Fund (BDF) in 2011 to provide support to SMEs in credit guarantees, matching grants, asset leasing, and advisory services.  BDF works with banks to provide guarantees between 50-75 percent of required collaterals.  The maximum guarantee is RWF 500 million for agriculture projects and RWF 300 million for other sectors, for a maturity period of up to 10 years.

The GOR also manages the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) to spur investment in green innovation.  The UK Aid Department for International Development, KFW, and other donors have invested in the fund.  FONERWA claims projects it supports have created more than 137,000 green jobs.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

There is no legal obligation for nationals to own shares in foreign investments or requirement that shares of foreign equity be reduced over time.  However, the government strongly encourages local participation in foreign investments.   There is no requirement for private companies to store their proprietary data in Rwanda.  There is also no requirement for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption technology.  IT companies dealing with government data cannot store it outside Rwanda or transfer it without GOR approval. Rwandans private data must be stored in Rwanda. There is no formal requirement that a certain number of senior officials or board members be citizens of Rwanda.  Under the 2015 Investment Code, the government allows registered those who invest a minimum of USD 250,000 to hire up to three expatriate employees, without the need to conduct a labor market test in Rwanda.  Investors who wish to hire more than three expatriate employees must conduct a labor market test, unless the available position is listed on Rwanda’s “Occupations in Demand” list.  The Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration does not always honor the employment and immigration commitments of investment certificates and deals, according to a number of investors.

While the government does not impose conditions on the transfer of technology, it does encourage foreign investors, without legal obligation, to transfer technology and expertise to local staff to help develop Rwanda’s human capital.  There is no legal requirement that investors must purchase from local sources or export a certain percentage of their output, though the government offers tax incentives for the latter.  Unless stipulated in a contract or memorandum of understanding characterizing the purchase of privatized enterprises, performance requirements are not imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding other investments.  Such requirements are imposed chiefly as a condition to tax and investment incentives.  The GOR is not involved in assessing the type and source of raw materials for performance, but the RSB determines quality standards for some product categories.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The law protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.  Investors involved in commercial agriculture have leasehold titles and are able to secure property titles, if necessary.  The 2015 Investment Code states that investors shall have the right to own private property, whether individually or in association with others.  Foreign investors can acquire real estate, though there is a general limit on land ownership.  While local investors can acquire land through leasehold agreements that extend to 99 years, the lease period for foreigners has been as limited to 49 years, in some cases.  Such leases are theoretically renewable, but the law is new enough that foreigners generally have not yet attempted to renew a lease.  Mortgages are a nascent but growing financial product in Rwanda, increasing from 770 properties in 2008 to 13,394 in 2017, according to the RDB.

Intellectual Property Rights

The 2015 Investment Code guarantees protection of investors’ intellectual property rights (IPR), and legitimate rights related to technology transfer.  IPR legislation covering patents, trademarks, and copyrights was approved in 2009.  A Registration Service Agency, which is part of the RDB, was established in 2008 and has improved IPR t protection by registering all commercial entities and facilitating business identification and branding.  The RDB and the RSB are the main regulatory bodies for Rwanda’s intellectual property rights law.  The RDB registers intellectual property rights, providing a certificate and ownership title.  Every registered IPR title is published in the Official Gazette.  The fees payable for substance examination and registration of IPR apply equally to domestic and foreign applicants.  Since 2016, any power of attorney that a non-resident grants to a Rwandan-based industrial property agent must be notarized. (Previously, a signature would have been sufficient.)

Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first time, first right basis, so companies should consider applying for trademark and patent protection in a timely manner.  It is the responsibility of the copyright holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, including retaining their own counsel and advisors.  Through the RSB and the RRA, Rwanda has worked to increase IPR protection, but many goods that violate patents, especially pharmaceutical products, make it to market nonetheless.  As many products available in Rwanda are re-exports from other EAC countries, it may be difficult to prevent counterfeit goods without regional cooperation.  Also, investors reported difficulties in registering patents and having rules against infringement of their property rights enforced in a timely manner.

Rwanda conducts anti-counterfeit goods campaigns on a regular basis, but statistics on IPR enforcement are not publicly available.  A few companies have expressed concern over inappropriate use of their intellectual property.  While the government has offered rhetorical support, enforcement has been mixed.  In some cases, infringement has stopped, but in other cases, companies have been frustrated with the slow pace of receiving judgment or of receiving compensation after successful legal cases.

As a COMESA member, Rwanda is automatically a member of African Regional Intellectual Property Organization.  Rwanda is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is working toward harmonizing its legislation with WTO Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).  Rwanda has yet to ratify WIPO Internet Treaties, though the government has taken steps to implement and enforce TRIPS Agreement. In addition to TRIPS, Rwanda is a party to the following treaties and conventions:  the Paris Convention; the Berne Convention; the Patent Cooperation Treaty; the Madrid Protocol; the Hague Agreement; and the Brussels Convention.   Rwanda is not a party to the following treaties and conventions: the Beijing Treaty; the Budapest Treaty; Locarno Agreement; the Marrakesh Treaty; the Nairobi Treaty; the Nice Agreement; the Phonograms Convention; the Singapore Treaty; the Strasbourg Agreement ; the Trademark Law Treaty; the Vienna Convention; the WIPO Copyright Treaty; and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty.

Rwanda is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR)Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Rwanda’s capital markets are relatively immature and lack complexity.  Only eight companies have publicly listed and traded equities in Rwanda.  The Rwanda Capital Market Authority was established in 2017 to regulate the capital market, commodity exchange and related contracts, collective investment schemes, and warehouse receipts.  Most capital market transactions are domestic.  While offers can attract some international interests, they are rare.  Rwanda is one of a few sub-Saharan African countries to have issued sovereign bonds.  In 2019, the National Bank of Rwanda issued five new bonds including a 20-year bond, the longest tenor ever issued by the country.  During the same year, seven existing bonds were reopened. Rwandan government bonds and other debt securities are highly oversubscribed and bond yields average 12 percent.  BNR, the country’s Central Bank, has implemented reforms in recent years that are helping to create a secondary market for Rwandan treasury bonds.  Secondary market continue go growth from low base.  In 2019, BNR reported that deals and turn overs increased by 47.0 percent and 106.5 percent respectively following intense awareness campaigns and increased number of products (new issuances and re-openings).  In January 2020, the IMF completed its first review of Rwanda’s economic performance under the Policy Coordination Instrument and Monetary Policy Consultation, which can be found here:  https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2020/01/17/Rwanda-First-Review-Under-the-Policy-Coordination-Instrument-and-Monetary-Policy-48956  

https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2020/01/17/Rwanda-First-Review-Under-the-Policy-Coordination-Instrument-and-Monetary-Policy-48956  

Money and Banking System

Many U.S. investors express concern that local access to affordable credit is a serious challenge in Rwanda.  Interest rates are high for the region ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent, banks offer predominantly short-term loans, collateral requirements can be higher than 100 percent of the value of the loan, and Rwandan commercial banks rarely issue significant loan values.  The prime interest rate is 16-18 percent.  Large international transfers are subject to authorization.  Investors who seek to borrow more than USD 1 million must often engage in multi-party loan transactions, usually leveraging support from larger regional banks.  Credit terms generally reflect market rates, and foreign investors are able to negotiate credit facilities from local lending institutions if they have collateral and “bankable” projects.  In some cases, preferred financing options may be available through specialized funds including the Export Growth Fund, BRD, or FONERWA.

Rwanda’s financial sector remains highly concentrated.  The share of the three largest Banks’s assets increased from 46.5 percent in December 2018 to 48.4 percent in December 2019.  The largest, partially state-owned, Bank of Kigali (BoK), holds more than 30 percent of all assets.  The banking sector holds more than 65 percent of total financial sector assets in Rwanda.  Non-performing loans dropped from 6.4 percent in December 2018 to 4.9 percent in December 2019.  Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in Rwanda, with several Kenyan-based banks in the country.  Atlas Mara Limited acquired a majority equity stake in Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) in 2016.  BPR/Atlas Mara has the largest number of branch locations and is Rwanda’s second largest bank after BoK.  In total, Rwanda’s banks have assets of more than USD 3 billion, which increased 12.5 percent between  December 2018 and 2019, according to BNR.  The IMF gives BNR high marks for its effective monetary policy.  BNR introduced a new monetary policy framework in 2019, which shifts toward inflation-targeting monetary framework in place of a quantity-of-money framework.

In 2019, BNR reported that commercial banks liquidity ratio was 49 percent (compared to BNR’s required minimum of 20 percent), suggesting reluctance toward making loans.  The capital adequacy ratio grew to 24.1 percent from 21.4 percent over the year, well above the minimum of 15 percent, suggesting the Rwanda banking sector continues to be generally risk averse.  Local banks often generate significant revenue from holding government debt and from charging a variety of fees to banking customers.  Credit cards are becoming more common in major cities, especially at locations frequented by foreigners, but are not used in rural areas.  Rwandans primarily rely on cash or mobile money to conduct transactions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic local banks deferred loan payments from customers.  Despite this, the banking sector was confident that they had sufficient liquidity until July 2020 due to the favorable economic conditions prior to COVID-19.  In March 2020, the IMF disbursed USD 109 Million to Rwanda under the Rapid Credit Facility and the World Bank approved a USD 14.25 million immediate funding in the form of an International Development Association credit to support Rwanda’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  At the same time, the BNR arranged a 50 Billion Rwandan Franc (USD 53.4 Million) liquidity fund for local banks.  By December 2019, the number of debit cards in the country grew eight percent year over year to 945,000, and the number of mobile banking customers grew 22 percent to 1,266,000. The total number of bank and MFI accounts increased from 7.1 million to 7.7 million between 2018-2019. The number of retail point of sale (POS) machines grew from 2,801 to 3,477 while POS transactions grew by 53 percent in volume and 29 percent in value between 2019 and 2018 according to BNR.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In 1995, the government abandoned a dollar peg and established a floating exchange rate regime, under which all lending and deposit interest rates were liberalized.  BNR publishes an official exchange rate on a daily basis, which is typically within a two percent range of rates seen in the local market.  Some investors report occasional difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange.  Rwanda generally runs a large trade deficit, estimated at more than 10 percent of GDP in 2019. Transacting locally in foreign currency is prohibited in Rwanda.  Regulations set a ceiling on the foreign currency that can leave the country per day.  In addition, regulations specify limits for sending money outside the country; BNR must approve any transaction that exceed these limits.

Most local loans are in local currency.  In December 2018, BNR issued a new directive on lending in foreign currency which requires the borrow to have a turnover of at least RWF 50 million or equivalent in foreign currency, have a known income stream in foreign currency not below 150 percent of the total installment repayments, and the repayments must be in foreign currency.  The collateral pledged by non-resident borrowers must be valued at 150 percent of the value of the loan.  In addition, BNR requires banks to report regularly on loans granted in foreign currency.

Remittance Policies

Investors can remit payments from Rwanda only through authorized commercial banks.  There is no limit on the inflow of funds, although local banks are required to notify BNR of all transfers over USD 10,000 to mitigate the risk of potential money laundering.  A withholding tax of 15 percent to repatriate profits is considered high by a number of investors given that a 30 percent tax is already charged on profits, making the realized tax burden 45 percent.  Additionally, there are some restrictions on the outflow of export earnings.  Companies generally must repatriate export earnings within three months after the goods cross the border.  Tea exporters must deposit sales proceeds shortly after auction in Mombasa, Kenya.  Repatriated export earnings deposited in commercial banks must match the exact declaration the exporter used crossing the border.

Rwandans working overseas can make remittances to their home country without impediment.  It usually takes up to three days to transfer money using SWIFT financial services.  The concentrated nature of the Rwandan banking sector limits choice, and some U.S. investors have expressed frustration with the high fees charged for exchanging Rwandan francs to dollars.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In 2012, the Rwandan government launched the Agaciro Development Fund (ADF), a sovereign wealth fund that includes investments from Rwandan citizens and the international diaspora.  By September 30, 2019, the fund was worth 194.3 billion RWF in assets (around USD 204 million).  The ADF operates under the custodianship of BNR and reports quarterly and annually to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, its supervisory authority.  ADF is a member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds and is committed to the Santiago Principles.  ADF only operates in Rwanda.  In addition to returns on investments, citizens and private sector voluntary contributions, and other donations, ADF receives RWF 5 billion every year from tax revenues and 5 percent of proceeds from every public asset that is privatized.  The fund also receives 5 percent of royalties from minerals and other natural resources each year.  The government has transferred a number of its shares in private enterprises to the management of ADF including those in the BoK, Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC), Gasabo 3D Ltd, Africa Olleh Services (AoS), Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN), and the One and Only Nyungwe Lodge.  ADF invests mainly in Rwanda.  While the fund can invest in foreign non-fixed income investments, such as publicly listed equity, private equity, and joint ventures, the AGDF Corporate Trust Ltd (the fund’s investment arm) held no financial assets and liabilities in foreign currency, according to the 2018 annual report.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Rwandan law allows private enterprises to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.  Since 2006, the GOR has made efforts to privatize SOEs; reduce the government’s non-controlling shares in private enterprises; and attract FDI, especially in the ICT, tourism, banking, and agriculture sectors, but progress has been slow.  Current SOEs include water and electricity utilities, as well as companies in construction, ICT, aviation, mining, insurance, agriculture, finance, and other investments.  Some investors complain about competition from state-owned and ruling party-aligned businesses.  SOEs and utilities appear in the national budget, but the financial performance of most SOEs is only detailed in an annex that is not publicly available.  The most recent state finances audit report of the OAG also covers SOEs and has sections criticizing the management of some of the organizations.   SOEs are governed by boards with most members having other government positions.

State-owned non-financial corporations include Ngali Holdings, Horizon Group Ltd, REG, Water and Sanitation Corporation, RwandAir, National Post Office, Rwanda Printery Company Ltd, King Faisal Hospital, Muhabura Multichoice Ltd, Prime Holdings, Rwanda Grain and Cereals Corporation, Kinazi Cassava Plant, and the Rwanda Inter-Link Transport Company.  State-owned financial corporations include the NBR, Development Bank of Rwanda, Special Guarantee Fund, Rwanda National Investment Trust Ltd, ADF, BDF and the Rwanda Social Security Board.  The GOR has interests in the BoK, Rwanda Convention Bureau, BSC, CIMERWA, Gasabo 3D Ltd, AoS, KTRN, Dubai World Nyungwe Lodge, and Akagera Management Company, among others.

Privatization Program

Rwanda continues to carry out a privatization program that has attracted foreign investors in strategic areas ranging from telecommunications and banking to tea production and tourism.  As of 2017 (latest data available), 56 companies have been fully privatized, seven were liquidated, and 20 more were in the process of privatization.  RDB’s Strategic Investment Department is responsible for implementing and monitoring the privatization program. Some observers have questioned the transparency of certain transactions, as a number of transactions were undertaken through mutual agreements directly between the government and the private investor, some of whom have personal relationships with senior government officials, rather than public offerings.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is a growing awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) within Rwanda, and several foreign-owned companies operating locally implement CSR programs.  Rwanda implements the OECD’s Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.  Rwanda also implements the International Tin Supply Chain Initiative tracing scheme.  In 2016, the Better Sourcing Program (currently RCS Global Group) began an alternative mineral tracing scheme in Rwanda.  Rwanda also has guidelines on corporate governance by publicly listed companies.  In recognition of the firm’s strong commitment to CSR, the U.S. Department of State awarded Sorwathe, a U.S.-owned tea producer in Kinihira, Rwanda, the Secretary of State’s 2012 Award for Corporate Excellence for Small and Medium Enterprises.  In 2015, the U.S. firm Gigawatt Global was also a finalist for the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in the environmental sustainability category.  Rwanda is not a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

9. Corruption

Rwanda is ranked among the least corrupt countries in Africa, with Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index putting the country among Africa’s four least corrupt nations and 51st in the world.  The government maintains a high-profile anti-corruption effort, and senior leaders articulate a consistent message emphasizing that combating corruption is a key national goal.  The government investigates corruption allegations and generally punishes those found guilty.  High-ranking officials accused of corruption often resign during the investigation period, and many have been prosecuted.  Rwanda has ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention.  It is a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.  It is also a signatory to the African Union Anticorruption Convention.  U.S. firms have identified the perceived lack of government corruption in Rwanda as a key incentive for investing in the country.  There are no local industry or non-profit groups offering services for vetting potential local investment partners, but the Ministry of Justice keeps judgments online, making it a source of information on companies and individuals in Rwanda at www.judiciary.gov.rw/home/ .  The Rwanda National Public Prosecution Authority issues criminal records on demand to applicants at www.nppa.gov.rw .

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Mr. Anastase Murekezi, Chief Ombudsman , Ombudsman (Umuvunyi)
P.O Box 6269, Kigali, Rwanda
Telephone: +250 252587308
omb1@ombudsman.gov.rw / sec.permanent@ombudsman.gov.rw

Mr. Felicien Mwumvaneza, Commissioner for Quality Assurance Department (Anti-Corruption Unit) Rwanda Revenue Authority
Avenue du Lac Muhazi, P.O. Box 3987, Kigali, Rwanda
Telephone: +250 252595504 or +250 788309563
felicien.mwumvaneza@rra.gov.rw / commissioner.quality@rra.gov.rw

Mr. Obadiah Biraro, Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General
Avenue du Lac Muhazi, P.O. Box 1020, Kigali, Rwanda
Telephone: +250 78818980 , oag@oag.gov.rw

Contact at “watchdog” organization

Mr. Apollinaire Mupiganyi , Executive Director , Transparency International Rwanda
P.O: Box 6252 Kigali, Rwanda
Telephone: +250 788309563,
amupiganyi@transparencyrwanda.org / mupiganyi@yahoo.fr

10. Political and Security Environment

Rwanda is a stable country with relatively little violence.  According to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, Rwanda is the ninth safest country in the world.   Gallup’s Global Law and Order Index report of 2018 ranked Rwanda 2nd safest place in Africa.  Investors have cited the stable political and security environment as an important driver of investments.  A strong police and military provide a security umbrella that minimizes potential criminal activity.

The U.S. Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling near the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border, given the possibility of fighting and cross-border attacks involving the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and other groups opposed to the GOR.  Relations between Burundi and Rwanda are tense, and there is a risk of cross-border incursions and armed clashes.  Since 2018, there have been a few incidents of sporadic fighting in districts bordering Burundi and in Nyungwe National Park.

Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace occurred on a recurring basis between 2008 and 2014 in Rwanda.  There have been several cross-border attacks in Western Rwanda on Rwandan police and military posts reportedly since 2016.  Despite occasional violence along Rwanda’s borders with the DRC and Burundi, there have been no incidents involving politically motivated damage to investment projects or installations since the late 1990s.  Relations with Uganda are also tense, but leaders continue to emphasize they are seeking a political solution.  Rwanda has not allowed commercial traffic to cross the Rwandan-Ugandan border since February 2019 forcing most, if not all, commercial traffic to the Rwandan-Tanzanian border.  In May 2020, the Rwandan-Tanzania border crossings were negatively impacted due to the influx of Tanzanian truck drivers infected with COVID-19.

Please see the following link for State Department Country Specific Information:   https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Rwanda.html 

11. Labor Policies and Practices

General labor is available, but Rwanda suffers from a shortage of skilled labor, including accountants, lawyers, engineers, tradespeople, and technicians.  Higher institutes of technology, private universities, and vocational institutes are improving and producing more and highly-trained graduates each year.  The Rwanda Workforce Development Authority sponsors programs to support both short and long-term professional trainings targeting key industries in Rwanda.  Carnegie Mellon University opened a campus in Kigali in 2012–its first in sub-Saharan Africa–and currently offers a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Master of Science in Information Technology.  In 2013, the nonprofit university program, Kepler, was established for students to work toward a U.S.-accredited degree through online learning and in-person seminars through a relationship with Southern New Hampshire University.  Oklahoma Christian University offers an online Master of Business Administration program with on-site support in Kigali.  The African Institute of Mathematics, University of Global Health Equity and African Leadership University campuses in Rwanda offer college level and advanced degrees in many fields.    Investors are strongly encouraged to hire Rwandan nationals whenever possible.  According to the Investment Code, a registered investor who invests an equivalent of at least USD 250,000 may recruit three foreign employees.  However, a number of foreign investors reported difficulties importing qualified staff in accordance with the Investment Code due to Rwandan immigration rules and practices.  In some cases, these problems occurred even though investors had signed agreements with the government regarding the number of foreign employees.

Investors are strongly encouraged to hire Rwandan nationals whenever possible.  According to the Investment Code, a registered investor who invests an equivalent of at least USD 250,000 may recruit three foreign employees.  However, a number of foreign investors reported difficulties importing qualified staff in accordance with the Investment Code due to Rwandan immigration rules and practices.  In some cases, these problems occurred even though investors had signed agreements with the government regarding the number of foreign employees.

Rwanda has ratified all of the International Labor Organization’s eight core conventions.  Policies to protect workers in special labor conditions exist, but enforcement remains inconsistent.  The government encourages, but does not require, on-the-job training and technology transfer to local employees.  The law restricts voluntary collective bargaining by requiring prior authorization or approval by authorities and requiring binding arbitration in cases of non-conciliation.  The law provides some workers the right to conduct strikes, subject to numerous restrictions, but strikes are very rare. There is no unemployment insurance or other social safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.  The minimum wage remains at 100 Rwandan Franc per day  (less than USD 0.10 per day) and has not been changed since the 1974.   The legal framework for employment rights for disabled persons is not as strong as in the United States, but the government and some employers are making efforts to offer reasonable accommodations. In 2000, the government revised the national labor code to eliminate gender discrimination, restrictions on the mobility of labor, and wage controls.   Private firms are responsible for their local employees’ income tax payments and Rwanda Social Security Board pension contributions.  For full-time workers, these payments amount to more than 30 percent of take-home pay, which can be a disadvantage if competing firms are in the informal economy and not compliant with these requirements.  Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment.  There are no labor law provisions in SEZs or industrial parks, which differ from national labor laws.  Collective bargaining is not common in Rwanda.  Few professional associations fix minimum salaries for their members and some investors have expressed concern that labor law enforcement is uneven or opaque.  The minimum wage has not changed since 1974 and is 100 Rwandan francs (USD 0.10) per day.

The legal framework for employment rights for disabled persons is not as strong as in the United States, but the government and some employers are making efforts to offer reasonable accommodations. In 2000, the government revised the national labor code to eliminate gender discrimination, restrictions on the mobility of labor, and wage controls.   Private firms are responsible for their local employees’ income tax payments and Rwanda Social Security Board pension contributions.  For full-time workers, these payments amount to more than 30 percent of take-home pay, which can be a disadvantage if competing firms are in the informal economy and not compliant with these requirements.  Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment.  There are no labor law provisions in SEZs or industrial parks, which differ from national labor laws.  Collective bargaining is not common in Rwanda.  Few professional associations fix minimum salaries for their members and some investors have expressed concern that labor law enforcement is uneven or opaque.  The minimum wage has not changed since 1974 and is 100 Rwandan francs (USD 0.10) per day.

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

DFC (Former Overseas Private Investment Corporation) has provided financing and political risk insurance to more than a dozen U.S. projects in Rwanda since 1975.  DFC officials have expressed interest in expanding the corporation’s portfolio in Rwanda and are currently evaluating potential projects.  The Export-Import Bank continues its program to ensure short-term export credit transactions involving various payment terms, including open accounts that cover the exports of consumer goods, services, commodities, and certain capital goods.  The 1965 U.S.-Rwanda Investment Incentive Agreement remains in force; Rwanda and the United States are discussing potential updates to this agreement.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2018 $9.507billion http://www.statistics.gov.rw/
publication/gdp-national-accounts-2018
 

www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $182.7 2018 $11 BEA data available
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Host Country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A N/A N/A

*Host country source: https://www.statistics.gov.rw/file/8442/download?token=pcrJ3_Fj 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/Top Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
Mauritius 779.5 24.4% N/A
Kenya 239.2 7.5%
Netherlands 211.5 6.6%
United States 182.7 5.7%
South Africa 183.8 5.7%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data on Rwanda equity security holdings by nationality is not available.  According to a 2018 BNR report, portfolio investment remains the lowest component of foreign investment in Rwanda mainly due to the low level of financial market development.  Portfolio investment stock amounted to $109.3 million in 2018, a 5 percent increase from 2017 levels.  In 2018, Rwanda recorded foreign portfolio inflows of $5.4 million compared to $2.5 million in 2017.

14. Contact for More Information

Jonathan Scott
Economic and Commercial Officer
United States Embassy
2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie, P.O. Box 28 Kigali, Rwanda
+250-252-596-538
KigaliEcon@state.gov

Vietnam

Executive Summary

Vietnam continues to welcome foreign direct investment (FDI) and the government has policies in place that are broadly conducive to U.S. investment. Factors that attract foreign investment to Vietnam include ongoing economic reforms, new free trade agreements, a young and increasingly urbanized population, political stability, and inexpensive labor costs.

Vietnam attracted USD 143 billion in cumulative FDI over the past 10 years (2010-2019 inclusive). Of this, 59 percent went into manufacturing – especially in the electronics, textiles, footwear, and automobile parts industries – as many companies shifted supply chains to Vietnam. In 2019, Vietnam attracted USD 20.3 billion in FDI. The government approved the following significant FDI projects in 2019: Beerco Limited’s USD 3.9 billion acquisition of Vietnam Beverage; Center of Techtronic Tools’ project to develop a USD 650 million research and development center in Ho Chi Minh City; Charmvit’s USD 420 million for an amusement park and horse racing field in Hanoi; and LG Display’s USD 410 million expansion.

In 2019, Vietnam advanced some reforms to make the country more FDI-friendly. In particular, the government issued Resolution 55, which aims to attract USD 50 billion of foreign investment by 2030 by amending regulations that inhibit foreign investments and by codifying quality, efficiency, advanced technology, and environmental protection criteria. In addition, Vietnam passed the 2019 Securities Law, which states the government’s intention to remove foreign ownership limits (but does not give specifics) and the 2019 Labor Code, which adds flexibility for labor contracts.

Despite the comparatively high level of FDI inflows as a percentage of the GDP (8 percent in 2019), significant challenges remain in the business climate. These include corruption, a weak legal infrastructure and judicial system, poor enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), a shortage of skilled labor, restrictive labor practices, impediments to infrastructure investments, and the government’s slow decision-making process.

Although Vietnam jumped 10 spots – from 77 to 67 – in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2019 Global Competitiveness Index, WEF recommends that Vietnam continue reforms to improve its attractiveness to foreign investors by simplifying legal procedures and streamlining the bureaucratic process related to decision making.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) came into force in Vietnam on January 14, 2019, and Vietnamese officials have said they will approve the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in late 2020. These agreements will facilitate FDI inflows into Vietnam, provide better market access for Vietnamese exports, and encourage reforms that will help all foreign investors. However, while these agreements lower trade and investment barriers for participating countries, they may make it more difficult for U.S. companies to compete.

COVID-19 buffeted Vietnam’s economy in early 2020, resulting in layoffs and unemployment, decreased consumption, and a projected decrease in the country’s growth rate. In March 2020, the government started enacting fiscal and monetary policies to counter the effects of the pandemic, including a stimulus worth USD 30 billion and monetary policy designed to inject upwards of USD 11 billion into the economy.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 96 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 70 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 42 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 USD 2,010 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 USD 2,360 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

Since Vietnam embarked on economic reforms in 1986 to transition to a market-based economy, the government has welcomed FDI and recognizes FDI as a key component of Vietnam’s high rate of economic growth over the last two decades. Foreign investments continue to play a crucial role in the economy: according to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office (GSO), Vietnam exported USD 181 billion in goods in 2019, of which 69 percent came from projects utilizing FDI.

In 2019, the Politburo issued Resolution 55 to increase Vietnam’s attractiveness to foreign investment. The Resolution aims to attract USD 50 billion in new foreign investment by 2030 by amending regulations that inhibit foreign investment and by codifying quality, efficiency, advanced technology, and environmental protection as the evaluation criteria. The government has not released further details on this strategy.

While the government does not have laws that specifically discriminate against foreign investment, the government continues to have foreign ownership limits (FOLs) in industries Vietnam considers important to national security. In January 2020, the government removed FOLs on companies in the eWallet sector and made reforms in procedures related to electronic payments made by foreign firms. Some U.S. investors report that these changes have given more regulatory certainty, which has, in turn, instilled greater confidence as they consider long-term investments in Vietnam.

Many U.S. investors cite concerns with confusing tax regulations, retroactive changes of laws – including tax rates, tax policies, and preferential treatment of Vietnamese state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In 2019, members of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hanoi noted that fair, transparent, stable, and effective legal frameworks would help Vietnam better attract U.S. investment. These concerns are echoed by Vietnamese companies.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) is the country’s national agency charged with promoting and facilitating foreign investment; most provinces and cities also have local equivalents. MPI and local investment promotion offices provide information and explain regulations and policies to foreign investors and inform the Prime Minister and National Assembly on trends in foreign investment. However, U.S. investors should still consult lawyers and/or other experts regarding issues on which regulations are unclear.

The Prime Minister, along with other senior leaders, states that Vietnam prioritizes both investment retention and maintaining dialogue with investors. Vietnam’s senior leaders often meet with foreign government and private-sector representatives to emphasize Vietnam’s attractiveness as an FDI destination. The semiannual Vietnam Business Forum includes meetings between foreign investors and Vietnamese government officials; the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC), AmCham, and other U.S. associations also host multiple yearly missions for their U.S. company members, which allow direct engagement with senior government officials. Foreign investors in Vietnam have reported that these meetings and dialogues have helped address obstacles.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Both foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises in Vietnam and engage in most forms of legal remunerative activity. Vietnam does have some statutory restrictions on foreign investment, including FOLs or requirements for joint partnerships in selected sectors, including banking, network infrastructure services, non-infrastructure telecommunication services, transportation, energy, and defense. By law, the Prime Minister can waive these FOLs on a case-by-case basis. In practice, however, when the government has removed or eased FOLs, it has done so for the whole industry sector (versus resolution for specific investments).

MPI takes the lead with respect to investment screening. Approval of an FDI project requires signoff by the provincial People’s Committee in which the project would be located. Large-scale FDI projects must obtain the approval of the National Assembly before investment can proceed. MPI’s process includes an assessment of the following criteria: the investor’s legal status and financial strength; the project’s compatibility with the government’s long- and short-term goals for economic development and government revenue; the investor’s technological expertise; environmental protection; and plans for land use and land clearance compensation, if applicable.

The following FDI projects require the Prime Minister’s approval: airports and seaports; casinos; oil and gas exploration, production, and refining; tobacco-related projects; telecommunications/network infrastructure; forestry projects; publishing; and projects with an investment capital greater than USD 217 million.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The most recent third-party investment policy review related to Vietnam is the OECD’s 2018 Review: https://www.oecd.org/countries/vietnam/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-viet-nam-2017-9789264282957-en.htm 

Business Facilitation

The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Index ranked Vietnam 70 of 190 economies. The World Bank reported that in some factors Vietnam lags behind other Southeast Asian countries. For example, it takes businesses 384 hours to pay taxes in Vietnam compared with 64 in Singapore, 174 in Malaysia, and 191 in Indonesia.

  • On February 1, 2019, Vietnam issued a decree that simplifies procedures for FDI related to vocational training;
  • On May 13, 2019, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued a Circular that allows foreign investors to pay for investment collateral in foreign currencies in certain defined circumstances. Previously, foreign investors had to pay collateral in the Vietnamese dong (VND);
  • On September 6, 2019, SBV issued a Circular on foreign exchange that simplified certain procedures with respect to foreign investments;
  • On November 18, 2019, Vietnam issued a decree that raised the foreign ownership cap on air transportation from 30 to 34 percent;
  • Further information can be found at the UNCTAD’s site: .

On May 5, 2020, USAID and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) released the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) 2019 Report, showing continued improvement in economic governance: http://eng.pcivietnam.org/ . This annual report provides an independent, unbiased view on the provincial business environment by surveying over 8,500 domestic private firms on a variety of business issues. Overall, Vietnam’s median PCI score improved, reflecting the government’s efforts to improve economic governance, improvements in the quality of infrastructure, and a decline in the prevalence of corruption (bribes).

Outward Investment

The government does not have a clear mechanism to promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it have regulations restricting domestic investors from investing abroad. Vietnam does not release statistics on outward investment, but local media reported that in 2019 total outward FDI investment from Vietnam was USD 508 billion and went to 32 countries. Australia received the most outward FDI, with USD 154 million in 2019, mostly to the dairy industry. The United States ranked second, with USD 93.4 million in 26 projects.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

U.S. companies continue to report that they face frequent and significant challenges with inconsistent regulatory interpretation, irregular enforcement, and an unclear legal framework. AmCham members have consistently said they perceive that Vietnam lacks a fair legal system for investments, which affects these companies’ ability to do business in Vietnam. The 2019 PCI report documented companies’ difficulties dealing with land, taxes, and social insurance issues, but also found improvements in procedures related to business administration.

Accounting systems are inconsistent with international norms, which increase transaction costs for investors. Vietnam has improved the way it accounts for government revenues, and the government’s long-term goal is to have financial institutions and companies using International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by 2020. Currently, Vietnam has its own accounting standards to which publicly listed Vietnamese companies must adhere. Some companies – particularly those that receive foreign investment – already prepare financial statements in line with IFRS.

In Vietnam, the National Assembly passes laws, which serve as the highest form of legal direction, but often lack specifics. Ministries provide draft laws to the National Assembly. The Prime Minister issues decrees, which provide guidance on how to implement a law. Individual ministries issue circulars, which provide guidance on how a ministry will administer a law or decree.

After line ministries have cleared a particular law in preparation to send the law to the National Assembly, the government posts the law for a 60-day comment period. However, sometimes, in practice, the public comment period is far shorter than 60 days. Foreign governments, NGOs, and private-sector companies can and do comment during this period, following which the ministry may redraft the law after considering the comments. Upon completion of the revisions, the ministry submits the legislation to the Office of the Government (OOG) for approval, including the Prime Minister’s signature, and then the legislation moves to the National Assembly for committee review. During this process, the National Assembly can send the legislation back to the originating ministry for further changes. The Communist Party of Vietnam’s Politburo reserves the right to review special or controversial laws.

In practice, drafting agencies often lack the resources needed to conduct adequate data-driven assessments. Ministries are supposed to conduct policy impact assessments that holistically consider all factors before drafting a law, but the quality of these assessments varies.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is in charge of ensuring that government ministries and agencies follow administrative procedures. The MOJ has a Regulatory Management Department, which oversees and reviews legal documents after they are issued to ensure compliance with the legal system. The Law on the Promulgation of Legal Normative Documents requires all legal documents and agreements be published online for comments for 60 days and published in the Official Gazette before implementation.

Business associations and various chambers of commerce regularly comment on draft laws and regulations. However, when issuing more detailed implementing guidelines, government entities sometimes issue circulars with little advance warning and without public notification, resulting in little opportunity for comment by affected parties. In several cases, authorities receive comments for the first draft only and do not provide subsequent draft versions to the public. The centralized location where key regulatory actions are published can be found here: http://vbpl.vn/ .

While general information is publicly available, Vietnam’s public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) are not transparent. The National Assembly set a statutory limit for public debt at 65 percent of nominal GDP, and, according to official figures, Vietnam’s public debt to GDP ratio in late 2019 was 56 percent, down 6 percent from 2018. However, the official public-debt figures exclude the debt of certain SOEs. This poses a risk to Vietnam’s public finances, as the government is ultimately liable for the debts of these companies. Vietnam could improve its fiscal transparency by making its executive budget proposal, including budgetary and debt expenses, widely and easily accessible to the general public long before the National Assembly enacts the budget, ensuring greater transparency of off-budget accounts, and by publicizing the criteria by which the government awards contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction.

International Regulatory Considerations

Vietnam is a member of ASEAN, a 10-member regional organization working to advance economic integration through cooperation in economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields. Within ASEAN, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has the goal of establishing a single market across ASEAN nations (similar to the EU’s common market), but member states have not made significant progress. To date, the greatest success of the AEC has been tariff reductions.

Vietnam is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), an inter-governmental forum for 21 member economies in the Pacific Rim that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. APEC aims to facilitate business among member states through trade facilitation programming, senior-level leaders’ meetings, and regular dialogue. However, APEC is a non-binding forum. ASEAN and APEC membership has not resulted in Vietnam incorporating international standards, especially when compared with the EU or North America.

Vietnam is a party to the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and has been implementing the TFA’s Category A provisions. Vietnam submitted its Category B and Category C implementation timelines on August 2, 2018. According to these timelines, Vietnam will fully implement the Category B and C provisions by the end of 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Vietnam’s legal system mixes indigenous, French, and Soviet-inspired civil legal traditions. Vietnam generally follows an operational understanding of the rule of law that is consistent with its top-down, one-party political structure and traditionally inquisitorial judicial system.

The hierarchy of the country’s courts is: 1) the Supreme People’s Court; 2) the High People’s Court; 3) Provincial People’s Courts; and 4) District People’s Courts. The People’s Courts operate in five divisions: criminal, civil, administrative, economic, and labor. The Supreme People’s Procuracy is responsible for prosecuting criminal activities as well as supervising judicial activities.

Vietnam lacks an independent judiciary and separation of powers among Vietnam’s branches of government. For example, Vietnam’s Chief Justice is also a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. According to Transparency International, there is significant risk of corruption in judicial rulings. Low judicial salaries engender corruption; nearly one-fifth of surveyed Vietnamese households that have been to court declared that they had paid bribes at least once. Many businesses therefore avoid Vietnamese courts.

Along with corruption, the judicial system continues to face additional problems. For example, many judges and arbitrators lack adequate legal training and are appointed through personal or political contacts with party leaders or based on their political views. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and appeals are adjudicated in the national court system. Through a separate legal mechanism, individuals and companies can file complaints against enforcement actions under the Law on Complaints.

The 2005 Commercial Law regulates commercial contracts between businesses. Specific regulations prescribe specific forms of contracts, depending on the nature of the deals. If a contract does not contain a dispute-resolution clause, courts will have jurisdiction over a possible dispute. Vietnamese law allows dispute-resolution clauses in commercial contracts explicitly through the Law on Commercial Arbitration. The law follows the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law as an international standard for procedural rules.

Vietnamese courts will only consider recognition of civil judgments issued by courts in countries that have entered into agreements on recognition of judgments with Vietnam or on a reciprocal basis. However, with the exception of France, these treaties only cover non-commercial judgments.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The legal system includes provisions to promote foreign investment. Vietnam uses a “negative list” approach to approve foreign investment, meaning foreign businesses are allowed to operate in all areas except for six prohibited sectors (illicit drugs, wildlife trade, prostitution, human trafficking, human cloning, and other commerce related to otherwise illegal activities).

The law also requires foreign and domestic investors be treated the same in cases of nationalization and confiscation. However, foreign investors are subject to different business-licensing processes and restrictions, and Vietnamese companies that have a majority foreign investment are subject to foreign-investor business-license procedures.

In 2019, Vietnam passed a new Securities Law, which stated the government’s long-term intention to remove some FOLs (but did not give specifics) and allows for the sale of certain derivatives. Also, in 2019, Vietnam adopted a new Labor Code, which allows greater flexibility in contract termination, allows employees to work more overtime hours, increases the retirement age, and adds more flexibility in terms of labor contracts. There is a “one-stop-shop” website for investment that provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors: https://vietnam.eregulations.org/ 

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

In 2018, Vietnam passed a new Law on Competition, which came into effect on July 1, 2019, replacing Vietnam’s Law on Competition of 2004. The Law includes punishments – such as fines – for those who violate the law. The government has not prosecuted any person or entity under this law since it came into effect, though there were prosecutions under the 2004 law. The law does not appear to have affected foreign investment.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under Vietnamese law, the government can only expropriate investors’ property in cases of emergency, disaster, defense, or national interest, and the government is required to compensate investors if it expropriates property. Under the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, Vietnam must apply international standards of treatment in any case of expropriation or nationalization of U.S. investor assets, which includes acting in a non-discriminatory manner with due process of law and with prompt, adequate, and effective compensation. The U.S. Mission in Vietnam is unaware of any expropriation cases involving U.S. firms.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Vietnam has not yet acceded to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention. MPI has submitted a proposal to the government to join the ICSID, but the government has not moved forward on this. Vietnam is a party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”), meaning that foreign arbitral awards rendered by a recognized international arbitration institution should be respected by Vietnamese courts without a review of cases’ merits.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Vietnam has signed 66 bilateral investment treaties, is party to 26 treaties with investment provisions, and is a member of 12 free trade agreements in force. Some of these include provisions for Investor-State Dispute Settlement. As a signatory to the New York Convention, Vietnam is required to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards within its jurisdiction, with very few exceptions. Technically, foreign and domestic arbitral awards are legally enforceable in Vietnam; however, foreign investors in Vietnam do not trust the system will work in a fair and impartial manner. Vietnamese courts may reject foreign arbitral awards if the award is contrary to the basic principles of Vietnamese laws.

According to UNCTAD, over the last 10 years there were two dispute cases against the Vietnamese government involving U.S. companies.  The courts decided in favor of the government in one case, and the parties decided to discontinue the other case.  The Vietnamese government is currently in two pending, active disputes (with the UK and South Korea, respectively). More details are available at https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/investment-dispute-settlement/country/229/viet-nam.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

With an underdeveloped legal system, Vietnam’s courts are often ineffective in settling commercial disputes. Negotiation between concerned parties is the most common means of dispute resolution. Since the Law on Arbitration does not allow a foreign investor to refer an investment dispute to a court in a foreign jurisdiction, Vietnamese judges cannot apply foreign laws to a case before them, and foreign lawyers cannot represent plaintiffs in a court of law. Vietnam does not have a domestic arbitration body, but the Law on Commercial Arbitration of 2011 permits foreign arbitration centers to establish branches or representative offices (although none have done so).

There are no readily available statistics on how often domestic courts rule in favor of SOEs. In general, the court system in Vietnam works slowly. International arbitration awards, when enforced, may take years from original judgment to payment. Many foreign companies, due to concerns related to time, costs, and potential for bribery, have reported that they have turned to arbitration or asking influential individuals to weigh in.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Based on the 2014 Bankruptcy Law, bankruptcy is not criminalized unless it relates to another crime. The law clarified the definition of insolvency as an enterprise that is more than three months overdue in meeting its payment obligations. The law also provided provisions allowing creditors to commence bankruptcy proceedings against an enterprise and created procedures for credit institutions to file for bankruptcy. Despite these changes, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report, Vietnam ranked 122 out of 190 for resolving insolvency. The report noted that it still takes, on average, five years to conclude a bankruptcy case in Vietnam. The Credit Information Center of the State Bank of Vietnam provides credit information services for foreign investors concerned about the potential for bankruptcy with a Vietnamese partner.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Foreign investors are exempt from import duties on goods imported for their own use that cannot be procured locally, including machinery; vehicles; components and spare parts for machinery and equipment; raw materials; inputs for manufacturing; and construction materials. Remote and mountainous provinces are allowed to provide additional tax breaks and other incentives to prospective investors.

Projects in the following sectors are eligible for investment incentives, including lower corporate income tax rates, exemption of some import tariffs, and/or favorable land rental rates: high-tech; research and development; new materials; energy; clean energy; renewable energy; energy saving products; automobiles; software; waste treatment and management; and primary or vocational education.

The government rarely issues guarantees for financing FDI projects; when it does so, it is usually because the project links to a national security priority. Joint financing with the government occurs when a foreign entity partners with an SOE. The government’s reluctance to guarantee projects reflects its desire to stay below a statutory 65 percent public debt-to-GDP ratio cap, and a desire to avoid incurring liabilities from projects that would not be economically viable without the guarantee. This has delayed approval of some large-scale projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Vietnam has prioritized efforts to establish and develop foreign trade zones (FTZs) over the last decade. Vietnam currently has more than 350 industrial zones (IZs) and export processing zones (EPZs). Many foreign investors report that it is easier to implement projects in IZs because they do not have to be involved in site clearance and infrastructure construction. Enterprises pay no duties when importing raw materials if they export the finished products. Customs warehouse companies in FTZs can provide transportation services and act as distributors for the goods deposited.

Additional services relating to customs declaration, appraisal, insurance, reprocessing, or packaging require the approval of the provincial customs office. In practice, the time involved for clearance and delivery of goods by provincial custom officials can be lengthy and unpredictable. Vietnam also has economic zones which can contain IZs and EPZs. Companies operating economic zones are entitled to more tax reductions as measures to incentivize investments.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Vietnamese law states that employers can only recruit foreign nationals for high-skilled positions such as manager, managing director, expert, or technical worker. Local companies must also justify that their efforts to hire suitable local employees were unsuccessful before recruiting foreigners, and their justification must be approved in writing by the local authority and/or the national government. This does not apply to board members elected by shareholders or capital contributors.

Over the last four years, the government has issued decrees that have made it easier for foreign investors and workers to obtain visas, work permits, and residence. The government plans to further streamline this process in 2021.

On January 1, 2019, the Law on Cybersecurity (LOCS) came into effect, requiring cross-border services to store data of Vietnamese users in Vietnam, despite sustained international and domestic opposition to the regulation. The latest draft of the LOCS implementing decree, released in July 2019, sparked concerns among foreign digital services firms regarding the draft decree’s provisions on data localization and local presence for a broad range of services in the Internet economy, from cloud computing to email. Provisions of the LOCS require firms to provide unencrypted user information upon request by law enforcement. However, application of this requirement hinges on issuance of the implementing decree, which is still pending as of May 2020. The government committed to consider comments from the U.S. government, companies, and trade associations and promised to consult with the U.S. government before finalization.

On July 1, 2020, the Law on Tax Administration will come into effect and will require foreign entities doing business on digital platforms without permanent presence in Vietnam to register as taxpaying entities in Vietnam. The Ministry of Finance said it would issue guidance on this requirement but had not done so as of May 2020.

There are currently no measures preventing or unduly impeding companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Vietnam.

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) issued Circular 38 on Cross Border Provisioning of Public Information in 2016. Circular 38 does not require localization of servers but does require offshore service providers in Vietnam to comply with local-content restrictions. This includes websites, social networks, mobile phone apps, search engines, and other similar services that 1) have more than one million monthly users in Vietnam or 2) lease a data center to store digital information in Vietnam in order to provide services. MIC’s Authority on Broadcasting and Electronic Information is currently reviewing Circular 38 and related legislation with the goal of revision by late 2020.

MIC released a draft of Decree 72 on Internet Services and Information Content Online for public comment on April 19, 2020. Foreign investors reported concerns regarding Decree 72’s provisions on mandatory licensing requirements for large foreign social networks; tightened regulations on social media companies; compulsory content review; and policies requiring responses to government takedown requests within 24 to 48 hours. The draft Decree requires local Internet service providers to terminate services for companies that fail to cooperate with the new regulations. According to the government’s plan for issuing legal documents, the revised decree is scheduled to go into effect in late 2020.

MIC is also revising Decree 06 on Management, Provision and Utilization of Radio and Television Services, which applies specifically to streaming services that provide online content. The first draft, released August 2019, required onerous licensing procedures, local-presence (including joint venture) requirements, local-content quotas, content preapproval, compulsory translation, and local advertising agents. These requirements are inconsistent with Vietnam’s commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The State collectively owns and manages all land in Vietnam, and therefore neither foreigners nor Vietnamese nationals can own land. However, the government grants land-use and building rights, often to individuals. According to the Ministry of National Resources and Environment (MONRE), as of September 2018 – the most recent time period in which the government has made figures available – the government has issued land-use rights certificates for 96.9 percent of land in Vietnam. If land is not used according to the land-use rights certificate or if it is unoccupied, it reverts to the government. Vietnam is building a national land-registration database, and some localities have already digitized their land records.

State protection of property rights are still evolving, and the law does not clearly demarcate circumstances in which the government would use eminent domain. Under the Housing Law and Real Estate Business Law passed by the National Assembly in November 2014, the government can take land if it deems it necessary for socio-economic development in the public or national interest and the Prime Minister, the National Assembly, or the Provincial People’s Council approves such action. However, the law loosely defines “socio-economic” development, and there are many outstanding legal disputes between landowners and local authorities – including some U.S. entities. Disputes over land rights continue to be a significant driver of social protest in Vietnam. Foreign investors also may be exposed to land disputes through merger and acquisition activities when they buy into a local company.

Foreign investors can lease land for renewable periods of 50 years, and up to 70 years in some underdeveloped areas of the country. This allows titleholders to conduct property transactions, including mortgages on property. Some investors have encountered difficulties amending investment licenses to expand operations onto land adjoining existing facilities. Investors also note that local authorities may seek to increase requirements for land-use rights when current rights must be renewed, particularly when the investment in question competes with Vietnamese companies.

The government is working on reforms relating to property rights. MONRE is currently drafting amendments to the 2013 Land Law, which would allow foreigners to own homes in Vietnam. MONRE expects to submit the draft law to the National Assembly for review and approval in late 2020.

Intellectual Property Rights

Vietnam does not have a strong record on protecting and enforcing intellectual property (IP). There were positive developments over the past year, such as the issuance of the national IP strategy, public awareness campaigns and training activities, and reported improvements on border enforcement in some parts of the country. However, IP enforcement continues to be a challenge.

Lack of coordination among ministries and agencies responsible for enforcement is a primary obstacle, and capacity constraints related to enforcement persist, in part, due to a lack of resources and IP expertise. Vietnam continues to rely heavily on administrative enforcement actions, which have consistently failed to deter widespread counterfeiting and piracy.

The United States is closely monitoring and engaging with the Vietnamese government on the ongoing implementation of amendments to the 2015 Penal Code with respect to criminal enforcement of IP violations. Counterfeit goods are widely available online and in physical markets. In addition, online piracy (including the use of piracy devices and applications to access unauthorized audiovisual content); book piracy; lack of effective criminal measures for cable and satellite signal theft; and both private and public-sector software piracy remain problematic.

Vietnam’s system for protecting against the unfair commercial use and unauthorized disclosure of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products needs clarification.  The United States is monitoring the implementation of IP provisions of the CPTPP, which the National Assembly ratified in November 2018, and the EVFTA, which Vietnam’s National Assembly expects to ratify in late 2020.

In its international agreements, Vietnam committed to strengthen its IP regime and is in the process of drafting implementing legislation and other measures in a number of IP-related areas, including in preparation for acceding to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.  In September 2019, Vietnam acceded to the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, and the United States will monitor the implementation of that agreement.

The United States, through the U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and other bilateral fora, continues to urge Vietnam to address these issues and to provide interested stakeholders with meaningful opportunities for input as it proceeds with these reforms. The United States and Vietnam signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement in December 2019, which will facilitate bilateral cooperation in IP enforcement.

In 2019, the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam (IP Vietnam) reported receiving 120,793 IP applications of all types (up 10 percent from 2018), of which 75,742 were registered for industrial property rights (up 16 percent from 2018). IP Vietnam reported granting 2,922 patents in 2019 (up 13 percent from 2018). Industrial designs registrations reached 2,172 in 2019 (down 8 percent from 2018). In total, IP Vietnam granted more than 40,715 protection titles for industrial property, out of more than 75,742 applications in 2019 (up 41 percent from 2018). The DMS processed 9,510 counterfeit and IP infringement cases and collected over USD 1.5 million in fines. The most infringed-upon products were clothes, consumer goods, electronics, foodstuffs, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, construction materials, and bicycle and automobile parts.

The Copyright Office of Vietnam received and settled 15 copyright petitions and five requests for copyright assessment in 2019. In 2019, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism’s Inspector General carried out inspections for software licensing compliance and discovered 111 violations, resulting in total fines of USD 150,000 – nearly triple the amount in 2018. For more information, please see the following reports from the U.S. Trade Representative:

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Vietnamese government generally encourages foreign portfolio investment. The country has two stock markets – the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, which lists publicly traded companies, and the Hanoi Stock Exchange, which lists bonds and derivatives. Vietnam also has a market for unlisted public companies (UPCOM) at the Hanoi Securities Center.

Although Vietnam welcomes portfolio investment, the country sometimes has difficulty in attracting such investment. Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) classifies Vietnam as a Frontier Market, which precludes some of the world’s biggest asset managers from investing in its stock markets. Vietnam is improving its legal framework to reach its goal of meeting the “emerging market” criteria in 2020 and attracting more foreign capital. However, exogenous events may make this difficult: in the first quarter of 2020, foreign investors withdrew USD 500 million in portfolio assets from Vietnam due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is enough liquidity in the markets to enter and maintain sizable positions. Combined market capitalization at the end of 2019 was approximately USD 189 billion, equal to 73 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, with the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange accounting for USD 141 billion, the Hanoi Exchange USD 8 billion, and the UPCOM USD 40 billion. Bond market capitalization reached over USD 50 billion in 2019, the majority of which were government bonds, largely held by domestic commercial banks.

Vietnam complies with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article VIII. The government notified the IMF that it accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4, effective November 8, 2005.

Local banks generally allocate credit on market terms, but the banking sector is not as sophisticated or capitalized as those in advanced economies. Foreign investors can acquire credit in the local market, but both foreign and domestic firms often seek foreign financing since Vietnamese banks do not have sufficient capital at appropriate interest rate levels for a significant number of FDI projects.

Money and Banking System

Vietnam’s banking sector has been stable since recovering from the 2008 global recession. Nevertheless, the SBV estimated in 2018 that half of Vietnam’s population is underbanked or lacks bank accounts due to a preference for cash, distrust in commercial banking, limited geographical distribution of banks, and a lack of financial acumen. The World Bank’s Global Findex Database 2017 (the most recent available) estimated that only 31 percent of Vietnamese over the age of 15 had an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider.

Although the banking sector was stable during 2019, COVID-19 may challenge the sector. Ratings agency Moody’s reported, on April 7, 2020, that “the consumer finance industry in Vietnam is vulnerable to disruptions given its risky borrower profile,” and noted that layoffs, underemployment, and business closures resulting from COVID-19 further decrease the creditworthiness of borrowers. At the end of 2019, the SBV reported that the percentage of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the banking sector was 1.9 percent, a significant improvement from the 2.4 percent at the end of 2018.

The banking sector’s estimated total assets stood at USD 519 billion, of which USD 222 billion belonged to seven state-owned and majority state-owned commercial banks – accounting for 42 percent of total assets. Though classified as joint-stock (private) commercial banks, the Bank of Investment and Development Bank (BIDV), Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (VietinBank), and Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) all are majority-owned by SBV. In addition, the SBV holds 100 percent of Agribank, Global Petro Commercial Bank (GPBank), Construction Bank (CBBank), and Oceanbank.

The U.S. Mission in Vietnam did not find any evidence that a Vietnamese bank had lost a correspondent banking relationship in the past three years; there is also no evidence that a correspondent banking relationship is currently in jeopardy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no legal restrictions on foreign investors converting and repatriating earnings or investment capital from Vietnam. A foreign investor can convert and repatriate earnings provided the investor has the supporting documents required by law and has applied to remit money. The SBV sets the interbank lending rate and announces a daily interbank reference exchange rate. SBV determines the latter based on the previous day’s average interbank exchange rates, while considering movements in the currencies of Vietnam’s major trading and investment partners. The Vietnamese government generally keeps the exchange rate at a stable level compared to major world currencies.

Remittance Policies

Vietnam mandates that in-country transactions must be made in the local currency – Vietnamese dong (VND). The government allows foreign businesses to remit lawful profits, capital contributions, and other legal investment earnings via authorized institutions that handle foreign currency transactions. Although foreign companies can remit profits legally, sometimes these companies find difficulties bureaucratically, as they are required to provide supporting documentation (audited financial statements, import/foreign-service procurement contracts, proof of tax obligation fulfillment, etc.). SBV also requires foreign investors to submit notification of profit remittance abroad to tax authorities at least seven working days prior to the remittance; otherwise there is no waiting period to remit an investment return.

The inflow of foreign currency into Vietnam is less constrained. There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Vietnam does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In 2018, the government created the Commission for State Capital Management at Enterprises (CMSC) to manage SOEs with increased transparency and accountability. The CMSC’s goals include accelerating privatization in a transparent manner, promoting public listings of SOEs, and transparency in overall financial management of SOEs.

SOEs do not operate on a level playing field with domestic companies and continue to benefit from preferential access to resources such as land, capital, and political largesse. In the 2019 PCI report, however, the percentage of surveyed firms agreeing with the statement “SOEs find it easier to win state contracts” dropped to 21 percent from 27 percent in 2015.

Third-party market analysts note that a significant number of SOEs have extensive liabilities, including pensions owed, real estate holdings in areas not related to the SOE’s ostensible remit, and a lack of transparency with respect to operations and financing.

Privatization Program

Vietnam officially started privatizing SOEs in 1998. The process has been slow because privatization has historically transferred only a small share of an SOE (two to three percent) to the private sector, and investors have had concerns about the financial health of many companies. Additionally, the government has inadequate regulations with respect to privatization procedures.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Companies are required to publish their corporate social responsibility activities, corporate governance work, information of related parties and transactions, and compensation of management. Companies must also announce extraordinary circumstances, such as changes to management, dissolution, or establishment of subsidiaries, within 36 hours of the event.

Most multinational companies implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that contribute to improving the business environment in Vietnam, and awareness of CSR programs is increasing among large domestic companies. The VCCI conducts CSR training and highlights corporate engagement on a dedicated website (http://www.csr-vietnam.eu/ ) in partnership with the UN.

AmCham also has a CSR group that organizes events and activities to raise awareness of social issues. Non-governmental organizations collaborate with government bodies, such as VCCI and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), to promote business practices in Vietnam in line with international norms and standards.

Overall, the government has not defined responsible business conduct (RBC), nor has it established a national plan or agenda for RBC. The government has yet to establish a national point of contact or ombudsman for stakeholders to get information or raise concerns regarding RBC. The new Labor Code passed in December 2019 recognizes the right of employees to establish their own representative organizations. For a detailed description of regulations on worker/labor rights in Vietnam, see the Department of State’s Human Rights Report (https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/vietnam/).

9. Corruption

Vietnam has laws to combat corruption by public officials, and they extend to all citizens. Corruption is due, in large part, to low levels of transparency, accountability, and media freedom, as well as poor remuneration for government officials and inadequate systems for holding officials accountable. Competition among agencies for control over businesses and investments has created overlapping jurisdictions and bureaucratic procedures that, in turn, create opportunities for corruption.

The government has tasked various agencies to deal with corruption, including the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption (chaired by the Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen), the Government Inspectorate, and line ministries and agencies. Formed in 2007, the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption has been under the purview of the CPV Central Commission of Internal Affairs since February 2013. The National Assembly provides oversight on the operations of government ministries. Civil society organizations have encouraged the government to establish a single independent agency with oversight and enforcement authority to ensure enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

Resource to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency responsible for combating corruption:

Mr. Phan Dinh Trac
Chairman, Communist Party Central Committee Internal Affairs
4 Nguyen Canh Chan; +84 0804-3557
Contact at NGO:
Ms. Nguyen Thi Kieu Vien
Executive Director, Towards Transparency
Transparency International National Contact in Vietnam
Floor 4, No 37 Lane 35, Cat Linh street, Dong Da, Hanoi, Vietnam; +84-24-37153532
Fax: +84-24-37153443;
kieuvien@towardstransparency.vn

10. Political and Security Environment

Vietnam is a unitary single-party state, and its political and security environment is largely stable. Protests and civil unrest are rare, though there are occasional demonstrations against perceived or real social, environmental, labor, and political injustices.

In August 2019, online commentators expressed outrage over the slow government response to an industrial fire in Hanoi that released unknown amounts of mercury. Other localized protests in 2019 and early 2020 broke out over alleged illegal dumping in waterways and on public land, and the perceived government attempts to cover up potential risks to local communities.

Citizens sometimes protest actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), usually online. For example, they did so in June 2019, when China Coast Guard vessels harassed the operations of Russian oil company Rosneft in Block 06-01, Vietnam’s highest-producing natural gas field.

In April 2016, after the Formosa Steel plant discharged toxic pollutants into the ocean and caused a large number of fish deaths, the affected fishermen and residents in central Vietnam began a series of regular protests against the company and the government’s lack of response to the disaster. Protests continued into 2017 in multiple cities until security forces largely suppressed the unrest. Many activists who helped organize or document these protests were subsequently arrested and imprisoned.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Labor Code passed in December 2019 will come into effect on January 1, 2021. The CPTPP and the EVFTA helped advance labor reform in Vietnam. In particular, the EVFTA requires Vietnam to publish a timeline for ratifying the two remaining core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions: Convention 105 (abolition of forced labor) in 2020; and Convention 87 (freedom of association and protection of the right to organize) in 2023. Convention 87, together with Convention 98, would allow trade unions, which are currently dominated by the sole national trade union, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, to better represent workers’ interests. Even with new momentum on labor issues, enactment of legal and regulatory changes to improve working conditions in Vietnam will still take years to fully develop and implement.

According to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office (GSO), in the first quarter of 2019 there were 55 million people participating in the formal labor force in Vietnam out of over 72 million people aged 15 and above. The labor force is relatively young, with workers 15-39 years of age accounting for half of the total labor force.

Estimates on the size of the informal economy differ widely. The IMF states 40 percent of Vietnam’s laborers work on the informal economy; the World Bank puts the figure at 55 percent; the ILO puts the figure as high as 79 percent if agricultural households are included.

An employer is permitted to lay off employees due to technological changes, organizational changes (in cases of a merger, consolidation, or cessation of operation of one or more departments), or when the employer faces economic difficulties. There are no waivers on labor requirements to attract foreign investment. COVID-19 has increased the number of layoffs in the Vietnamese economy. In March and April 2020, the Vietnamese government passed measures, including cash payments and supplemental cash for companies, to help pay salaries for workers and offer unemployment insurance.

The constitution affords the right of association and the right to demonstrate. The 2019 Labor Code, that will come into effect on January 1, 2021, allows workers to establish and join independent unions of their choice. However, the relevant governmental agencies are still drafting the implementing decrees on procedures to establish and join independent unions, and to determine the level of autonomy independent unions will have in administering their affairs.

Vietnam has been a member of the ILO since 1992, and has ratified six of the core ILO labor conventions (Conventions 100 and 111 on discrimination, Conventions 138 and 182 on child labor, Convention 29 on forced labor, and Convention 98 on rights to organize and collective bargaining). While the constitution and law prohibit forced or compulsory labor, Vietnam has not ratified Convention 105 on forced labor as a means of political coercion and discrimination and Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the rights to organize, although the government states it is currently taking steps toward ratification.

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

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the predecessor of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), signed a bilateral agreement with Vietnam in 1998, and Vietnam joined the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 1995.

On January 8, 2020, DFC CEO Adam Boehler made his first visit to Vietnam and met with the Prime Minister. CEO Boehler noted that the DFC hopes to make a multibillion-dollar commitment to Vietnam in the coming years, with investments in energy, healthcare, education, and small businesses.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (millions USD) 2019 USD 262 2019 USD 261 General Statistics Office (GSO) for Host Country and IMF for International Source
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 USD 9.382 N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 N/A N/A N/A UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
ountry-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

* General Statistics Office (GSO)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars) (From MPI)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries Amount 100% N/A N/A
Hong Kong 4,450 29%
Singapore 2,691 17%
South Korea 2,667 17%
Japan 1,246 8%
China 1,039 7%

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section
U.S. Embassy
7 Lang Ha, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam +84-24-3850-5000
+84-24-3850-5000
InvestmentClimateVN@state.gov