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North Macedonia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Attracting FDI remains one of the government’s main pillars of economic growth and job creation, although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented government officials from engaging with potential investors in person in 2020. There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors. In March 2018, the government passed its “Plan for Economic Growth” (https://vicepremier-ekonomija.gov.mk/?q=node/275), which provides substantial incentives to foreign companies operating in the 15 free economic zones. The incentives include a variety of measures such as job creation subsidies, capital investment subsidies, and financial support to exporters. Also, North Macedonia is a signatory to multilateral conventions protecting foreign investors and is party to a number of bilateral investment protection treaties, though none with the United States.

The new government, ratified by parliament on August 30, 2020, removed ministerial positions specifically responsible for attracting foreign investments. Instead, the office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs (https://vicepremier-ekonomija.gov.mk) coordinates the government’s activities related to foreign investments. Invest North Macedonia – the Agency for Foreign Investments and Export Promotion, http://www.investinmacedonia.com, is the primary government institution in charge of facilitating foreign investments. It works directly with potential foreign investors, provides detailed explanations and guidance for registering a business in North Macedonia, produces analysis on potential industries and sectors for investing, shares information on business regulations, and publishes reports about the domestic market. The North Macedonia Free Zones Authority, http://fez.gov.mk/, a governmental managing body responsible for developing free economic zones throughout the country, also assists foreign investors interested in operating in the zones. It manages all administrative affairs of the free economic zones and assists foreign investors to identify appropriate investment locations and facilities. North Macedonia does not maintain a “one-stop-shop” for FDI, requiring investors to navigate through several bureaucratic institutions to implement their investments.

The government maintains contact with large foreign investors through frequent meetings and formal surveys to solicit feedback. Large foreign investors have direct and easy access to government leaders, whom they can contact for assistance to resolve issues. The Foreign Investors Council, https://www.fic.mk/Default.aspx?mId=1, advocates for foreign investors and suggests ways to improve the business environment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors can invest directly in all industry and business sectors except those limited by law. For instance, investment in the production of weapons and narcotics remains subject to government approval, while investors in sectors such as banking, financial services, insurance, and energy must meet certain licensing requirements that apply equally to domestic and foreign investors. Foreign investment may be in the form of money, equipment, or raw materials. Under the law, if assets are nationalized, foreign investors have the right to receive the full value of their investment. This provision does not apply to national investors. Invest North Macedonia conducts screening and due diligence reviews of foreign direct investments in a non-standard, non-public procedure and on an ad-hoc basis. The main purpose of the screening is to ensure economic benefit for the country and to protect national security. The process does not disadvantage foreign investors. More information about the screening process is available directly from Invest North Macedonia, at http://www.investinmacedonia.com. U.S. investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) last review of North Macedonia’s trade policy published in 2019 is available at: https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/SS/directdoc.aspx?filename=q:/WT/TPR/S390R1.pdf&Open=True. The most recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) investment policy review on North Macedonia, from March 2012, is available at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2011d3_en.pdf. A 2017 regional investment policy review of South-East Europe covering seven economies including North Macedonia is available at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2017d6_en.pdf. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has not done an investment policy review on North Macedonia to date. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have mentioned aspects of the government’s policies for attracting foreign investment in their regular country reports but have not provided specific policy recommendations.

Business Facilitation

All legal entities in the country must register with the Central Registry of the Republic of North Macedonia (Central Registry). Foreign businesses may register a limited liability company, single-member limited liability company, joint venture, or joint stock company, as well as branches and representative offices. There is a one-stop-shop system which enables investors to register their businesses within a day by visiting one office, obtaining the information from a single place, and addressing one employee. Once the company is registered with the Central Registry, the registration is valid for all other agencies. In addition to registering, some businesses must obtain additional working licenses or permits for their activities from relevant authorities. More information on business registration documentation and procedures is available at the Central Registry’s website, http://www.crm.com.mk. All investors may register a company online at http://e-submit.crm.com.mk/eFiling/en/home.aspx. Applications must be submitted by an authorized registration agent. The online business registration process is clear, complete, and available for use by foreign companies. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked North Macedonia 78th in the world for ease of starting a business, 31 spots down from 2019.

Outward Investment

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, but it does not promote or provide incentives for outward investments. The publicly reported total stock of outward investments is small, worth approximately $68 million, the majority of which is in the Balkan region, the Netherlands, Germany, and Russia, and in production facilities, pharmaceuticals, metal processing, and wholesale and retail trade.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Both the Law on Technological Industrial Development Zones (TIDZ) and the Law on Financial Support of Investments offer incentives to investors. Investors in the TIDZ are eligible for tax exemptions for a period of up to 10 years of operation in proportion to the size of investment and number of employees. Investors in the TIDZ are exempt from paying duties for equipment and machines as well as municipality tax for construction. The land lease rate is symbolic, and investors are eligible for a grant equal to 10 percent of the cost of plant construction and new machinery, as well as a grant for improving competitiveness. North Macedonia’s legislative framework for FDI is generally harmonized with EU state aid regulations.

The salaries of employees working for TIDZ employers are exempt from personal income tax for a period of up to ten years after the first month in which the employer starts paying out salaries.

The government does not issue guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects. Depending on the industry and size of the investment, the government may decide to cover up to 50 percent of eligible investment costs over a period of 10 years.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

North Macedonia currently has 15 free economic zones in various stages of development throughout the country. The Directorate for Technological Industrial Development Zones (TIDZ) (http://fez.gov.mk/  ) is responsible for establishing, developing, and supervising 14 of them, including seven fully operational TIDZ: Skopje 1 and 2, Prilep, Stip, Kicevo, Struga, and Strumica. The Tetovo TIDZ is a public-private partnership. U.S. companies operate in TIDZ throughout North Macedonia, including automotive components manufacturer ARC Automotive (Skopje 1), Adient (Stip and Strumica), Aptiv (Skopje 1), Gentherm (Prilep), Lear (Tetovo), Dura Automotive and Dura Structures & Extrusion (Skopje 2), and electronic component manufacturer Kemet (Skopje 1).

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

North Macedonia does not normally impose performance requirements, such as mandating local employment (working level or management level) or domestic content in goods or technology, as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment. Foreign investors in the TIDZ may employ staff from any country. In 2016, North Macedonia simplified the procedure for expatriates to obtain permission to live and work in the country.

North Macedonia does not impose a “forced localization” policy for data. The government does not prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country. Post is not aware of any requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption. Furthermore, there are no measures which prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country. However, based on the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018, North Macedonia’s Directorate for Personal Data Protection adopted in February 2020 amendments to the Law on Personal Data Protection (Official Gazette of the Republic of North Macedonia, No. 42/2020) to harmonize North Macedonia’s laws with the new EU regulations.

Depending on the sector and type of investment, various government authorities oversee and assess the fulfillment of investment promises made by foreign investors. Government entities include the Agency for Foreign Investments and Export Promotion (Invest North Macedonia), Directorate for Technological Industrial Development Zones (TIDZ), and the Ministry of Economy.

There is no discriminatory export or import policy affecting foreign investors. Almost 96 percent of total foreign trade is unrestricted. Current tariffs and other customs-related information are published on the website of the Customs Administration http://www.customs.gov.mk/index.php/en/  .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible business conduct (RBC) is a nascent concept in North Macedonia, and the number of enterprises which contribute to sustainable development is very limited. The government has not taken any major measures to encourage RBC and has not defined RBC or policies to actively promote or encourage it. The government has not conducted a “National Action Plan” on RBC and does not factor RBC policies into its procurement decisions.

There have not been any high-profile controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights or resolution of such cases in the recent past. Previously, the government has failed to fully enforce laws related to labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protection, and other laws and regulations intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts.

North Macedonia passed the Law on Trade Companies in 2004 and the Securities Law in 2005 which regulate corporate governance. Together these laws provide a clear distinction between the rights and duties of shareholders versus the operations and management of the company. Shareholders generally cannot be held liable for the acts or omissions of the company. The American Chamber of Commerce in North Macedonia has a committee on Community Engagement and Responsible Business Conduct, which, beginning in 2015, organizes seminars on relevant topics and maintains an online database of corporate social responsibility activities carried out by over 260 companies ( http://amcham.mk/csr/ ). The government does not take any measures to encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsibility Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. North Macedonia does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source
of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat;
UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $12,266 2019 $12,547 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source
of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat;
UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $145 2019 $15 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $0.2 2019 $-1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-
multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 $52 2019 50% UNCTAD data available at https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data: State Statistical Office (SSO) publishes data estimates on GDP; National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia (NBRNM) publishes data on FDI. Data is publicly available online and is published immediately upon processing with a lag of less than one quarter. End-year data for previous year is usually published in March of current year.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 6,382 100% Total Outward 68 100%
Austria 864 12.6% Serbia 78 114.7%
United Kingdom 738 11.6% Slovenia 33 48.2%
Greece 580 9.1% Netherlands 32 47.1%
Netherlands 446 7.0% Russia 12 17.6%
Slovenia 445 7.0% Bosnia and Herzegovina 9 13.2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 454 100% All Countries 417 100% All Countries 38 100%
United States 316 69.6% United States 316 75.8% Austria 13 34.2%
Germany 52 11.5% Germany 52 12.4% Turkey 6 15.8%
France 17 3.7% France 17 4.1% Netherlands 3 7.9%
Austria 13 2.9% Switzerland 8 1.9% Spain 3 7.9%
Switzerland 8 1.8% International Organizations 6 1.4% Italy 3 7.9%

The results from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are consistent with host country data. Sources of portfolio investments are not tax havens.

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