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Bahrain

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOB has a liberal approach to foreign investment and actively seeks to attract foreign investors and businesses. Increasing FDI is a top GOB priority. The GOB permits 100 percent foreign ownership of a business or branch office, without the need for a sponsor or local business partner. The GOB does not tax corporate income, personal income, wealth, capital gains, withholding or death/inheritance. There are no restrictions on repatriation of capital, profits or dividends, aside from income generated by companies in the oil and gas sector, where profits are taxable at the rate of 46 percent. Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), charged with promoting FDI in Bahrain, places particular emphasis on attracting FDI to the manufacturing, logistics, ICT, financial services and tourism and leisure sectors. As a reflection of Bahrain’s openness to FDI, the EDB won the 2019 United Nations Top Investment Promotion Agency in the Middle East award for its role in attracting large-scale investments.

The United States and Bahrain signed an MOU in 2021 to establish a U.S Trade Zone in Bahrain, which aims to facilitate U.S. trade to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market.

To date, U.S. investors have not alleged any legal or practical discrimination against them based on nationality.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GOB permits foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. The GOB imposes only minimal limits on foreign control, and the right of ownership and establishment of a business. The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism (MoICT) maintains a small list of business activities that are restricted to Bahraini ownership, including press and publications, Islamic pilgrimage, clearance offices, and workforce agencies. The U.S.-Bahrain FTA outlines all activities in which the two countries restrict foreign ownership.

U.S citizens may own and operate companies in Bahrain, though many such individuals choose to integrate influential local partners into the ownership structure to facilitate quicker resolution of bureaucratic issues such as labor permits, issuance of foreign visas, and access to industrial zones. The most common challenges faced by U.S firms are those related to bureaucratic government processes, lack of market information, and customs clearance.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducts a formal Trade Policy Review of Bahrain every seven years. Its last formal review  was in 2014. Bahrain is on the WTO’s Provisional Programme of Reviews for December 2021.

Business Facilitation

Bahrain ranked 43 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s overall Ease of Doing Business Indicator in 2020.

The CBB’s regulatory sandbox allows local and international FinTech firms and digitally focused financial institutions to test innovative solutions in a regulated environment, allowing successful firms to obtain licensing upon successful product application.

The MoICT operates the online commercial registration portal “Sijilat” ( www.sijilat.bh ) to facilitate the commercial registration process. Through Sijilat, local and foreign business owners can obtain a business license and requisite approvals from relevant ministries. The business registration process normally takes two to three weeks but can take longer if a business requires specialized approvals. In practice, some business owners retain an attorney or clearing agent to assist them through the commercial registration process.

In addition to obtaining primary approval to register a company, most business owners must also obtain licenses from the following entities to operate their businesses:

  • MoICT
  • Electricity and Water Authority
  • The Municipality in which their business will be located
  • Labour Market Regulatory Authority
  • General Organization for Social Insurance
  • National Bureau for Revenue (Mandatory if the business revenue exceeds BD 37,500)

To incentivize foreign investment in Bahrain’s targeted sectors and investment zones, the GOB provides industrial lands at reduced rental rates; customs duty exemptions for industrial and manufacturing projects, including imports of raw material, plant machinery equipment, and spare parts; and a five-year exemption of the “Bahrainization” recruitment restriction.

Outward Investment

The GOB neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment. The GOB does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Colombia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Colombian government actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI). The economic liberalization reforms of the early 1990s provided for national treatment of foreign investors, lifted controls on remittance of profits and capital, and allowed foreign investment in most sectors. Colombia imposes the same investment restrictions on foreign investors that it does on national investors. Generally, foreign investors may participate in the privatization of state-owned enterprises without restrictions. All FDI involving the establishment of a commercial presence in Colombia requires registration with the Superintendence of Corporations and the local chamber of commerce. All conditions being equal during tender processes, national offers are preferred over foreign offers. Assuming equal conditions among foreign bidders, those with major Colombian national workforce resources, significant national capital, and/or better conditions to facilitate technology transfers are preferred.

ProColombia is the Colombian government entity that promotes international tourism, foreign investment, and non-traditional exports. ProColombia assists foreign companies that wish to enter the Colombian market by addressing specific needs, such as identifying contacts in the public and private sectors, organizing visit agendas, and accompanying companies during visits to Colombia. All services are free of charge and confidential. Priority sectors include business process outsourcing, software and IT services, cosmetics, health services, automotive manufacturing, textiles, graphic communications, and electric energy. ProColombia’s “Invest in Colombia” web portal offers detailed information about opportunities in agribusiness, manufacturing, and services in Colombia (www.investincolombia.com.co/sectors ). The Duque administration – including senior leaders at the Presidency, ProColombia, and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade – continue to stress Colombia’s openness to foreign investors and aggressively market Colombia as an investment destination.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investment in the financial, hydrocarbon, and mining sectors is subject to special regimes, such as investment registration and concession agreements with the Colombian government, but is not restricted in the amount of foreign capital. The following sectors require that foreign investors have a legal local representative and/or commercial presence in Colombia: travel and tourism agency services; money order operators; customs brokerage; postal and courier services; merchandise warehousing; merchandise transportation under customs control; international cargo agents; public service companies, including sewage and water works, waste disposal, electricity, gas and fuel distribution, and public telephone services; insurance firms; legal services; and special air services, including aerial fire-fighting, sightseeing, and surveying.

According to the Colombian constitution and foreign investment regulations, foreign investment in Colombia receives the same treatment as an investment made by Colombian nationals. Foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, except in activities related to defense, national security, and toxic waste handling and disposal. There are no performance requirements explicitly applicable to the entry and establishment of foreign investment in Colombia.

Foreign investors face specific exceptions and restrictions in the following sectors:

Media: Only Colombian nationals or legally constituted entities may provide radio or subscription-based television services. For National Open Television and Nationwide Private Television Operators, only Colombian nationals or legal entities may be granted concessions to provide television services. Foreign investment in national television is limited to a maximum of 40 percent ownership of an operator.

Accounting, Auditing, and Data Processing: To practice in Colombia, providers of accounting services must register with the Central Accountants Board and have uninterrupted domicile in Colombia for at least three years prior to registry. A legal commercial presence is required to provide data processing and information services in Colombia.

Banking: Foreign investors may own 100 percent of financial institutions in Colombia, but are required to obtain approval from the Financial Superintendent before making a direct investment of ten percent or more in any one entity. Foreign banks must establish a local commercial presence and comply with the same capital and other requirements as local financial institutions. Every investment of foreign capital in portfolios must be through a Colombian administrator company, including brokerage firms, trust companies, and investment management companies.

Fishing: A foreign vessel may engage in fishing activities in Colombian territorial waters only through association with a Colombian company holding a valid fishing permit. If a ship’s flag corresponds to a country with which Colombia has a complementary bilateral agreement, this agreement shall determine whether the association requirement applies for the process required to obtain a fishing license. The costs of fishing permits are greater for foreign flag vessels.

Private Security and Surveillance Companies: Companies constituted with foreign capital prior to February 11, 1994 cannot increase the share of foreign capital. Those constituted after that date can only have Colombian nationals as shareholders.

Transportation: Foreign companies can only provide multimodal freight services within or from Colombian territory if they have a domiciled agent or representative legally responsible for its activities in Colombia. International cabotage companies can provide cabotage services (i.e. between two points within Colombia) “only when there is no national capacity to provide the service.” Colombia prohibits foreign ownership of commercial ships licensed in Colombia. The owners of a concession providing port services must be legally constituted in Colombia, and only Colombian ships may provide port services within Colombian maritime jurisdiction, unless there are no capable Colombian-flag vessels.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The WTO most recently reviewed Colombia’s trade policy in June 2018. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp472_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

New businesses must register with the chamber of commerce of the city in which the company will reside. Applicants also register using the Colombian tax authority’s (DIAN) portal at: www.dian.gov.co  to obtain a taxpayer ID (RUT). Business founders must visit DIAN offices to obtain an electronic signature for company legal representatives, and obtain – in-person or online – an authorization for company invoices from DIAN. In 2019, Colombia made starting a business a step easier by lifting a requirement of opening a local bank account to obtain invoice authorization. Companies must submit a unified electronic form to self-assess and pay social security and payroll contributions to the Governmental Learning Service (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje, or SENA), the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar, or ICBF), and the Family Compensation Fund (Caja de Compensación Familiar). After that, companies must register employees for public health coverage, affiliate the company to a public or private pension fund, affiliate the company and employees to an administrator of professional risks, and affiliate employees with a severance fund.

According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, recent reforms simplified starting a business, trading across borders, and resolving insolvency. According to the report, starting a company in Colombia requires seven procedures and takes an average of 10 days. Information on starting a company can be found at http://www.ccb.org.co/en/Creating-a-company/Company-start-up/Step-by-step-company-creation ; https://investincolombia.com.co/how-to-invest.html ; and http://www.dian.gov.co .

Outward Investment

Colombia does not incentivize outward investment nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Iceland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Iceland maintains an open investment climate.  The Act on Incentives for Initial Investments, which came into force in 2015, is intended to “promote initial investment in commercial operations, the competitiveness of Iceland and regional development by specifying what incentives are permitted in respect of initial investments in Iceland, and how they should be used.”  The Act does not apply to investments in airports, energy production, financial institutions, insurance operations, or securities.  For more information, see the English translation of the Act: (https://www.stjornarradid.is/leit/$LisasticSearch/Search/?SearchQuery=Act+on+incentives+for+initial+investments+in+Iceland).

As part of its investment promotion strategy, the Icelandic government operates a public-private agency called “Invest in Iceland” that facilitates foreign investment by providing information to potential investors and promotes investment incentives.  There is a debate, however, within Iceland over balancing energy-intensive FDI with the environmental impact associated with certain projects.  That said, energy-intensive industries, long dominated by aluminum smelting, have expanded to include silicon production plants and data centers.  For further resources see: (http://www.invest.is/doing-business/incentives-and-support).

Tourism has been a growing force behind Iceland’s economy in the past decade, with opportunities for investors in high-end tourism, including luxury resorts and hotels.  The number of tourists in Iceland grew by more than 400 percent between 2010 and 2018, reaching more than 2.3 million in 2018.  However, tourism in Iceland contracted in 2019 with visitors falling just below 2 million, which can be largely attributed to the bankruptcy of Icelandic budget airline WOW Air.  The COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic effects on tourism, as well as on Iceland’s overall economy, which contracted by 6.6 percent in 2020, according to Statistics Iceland.  The sector is facing numerous bankruptcies due to COVID-19 closures and travel bans.  The government has implemented measures to bolster the tourism economy and has committed to building out tourism-related infrastructure.

Isavia, a public company that handles the operation and development of Keflavik International Airport, is embarking on a $1-2 billion capital works project to expand the airport.  Projects include extension of buildings, baggage screening and baggage handling systems, self-check in stations, waiting areas and retail/dining areas, check-in areas, bag-drop off areas, security areas, airbridges/gates for remote stands, re-modelling of existing terminal, de-icing platforms, new runway, new taxiway, and a new ATC tower.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most tenders have been postponed.

The startup and innovation communities in Iceland are flourishing, with IT and biotech startups seeking investors.  Foreign investment in the fisheries sector is restricted, as well as in the energy sector (hydropower and geothermal exploitation rights other than for personal use and energy processing and transportation are limited to Icelandic citizens and legal persons, and individuals and legal persons who reside in the European Economic Area).  The wind energy sector is growing in Iceland, and the legal framework is still being developed for that sector.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The 1991 Act on “foreign investments for commercial purposes” limits foreign ownership of fishing rights and fish processing companies (only Icelandic citizens or companies that are controlled by Icelandic citizens and have less than 25 percent foreign shareholders can own or control fishing companies); of hydropower and geothermal exploitation rights other than for personal use and energy processing and transportation (only Icelandic citizens and legal persons, and individuals and legal persons who reside in the European Economic Area (EEA) can hold those rights); and of aviation operators (Icelandic ownership of aviation companies needs to be at least 51 percent, and this does not apply to individuals and legal persons that have EEA citizenship).  The law further stipulates that foreign states, sub-national governments, or other foreign authorities are prohibited from investing in Iceland for commercial purposes, although the Minister of Tourism, Industries, and Innovation may grant exemptions.  The responsibility to inform the relevant ministry of both new investments and investments in companies that the party in question has already invested in lies with the investor, or with the Icelandic company that the foreign individual or entity invested in (this does not apply to EEA citizens or residents).

However, the 1991 Act does not stipulate how foreign investment is screened or monitored by relevant authorities, only that the Minister of Tourism, Industries, and Innovation handles permits and monitors the execution of this legislation.  The Minister can block foreign investment if he/she considers it a “threat to national security or goes against public policy, public safety or public health or if there are serious economic, societal or environmental complications in specific industries or in specific areas, that is likely to persist…”  The law further states that the “Minister has the authority to stop foreign investment in systematically important companies if such investment entails systematic risk.”  If an investment has already taken place, the Minister of Tourism, Industries, and Innovation has the authority to compel the foreign person or entity in question to sell.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Iceland has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and a member of GATT since 1968.  The WTO conducted its fifth Trade Policy Review of Iceland in 2017 (https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=((%20@Title=%20iceland)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20iceland))%20and%20(%20(%20@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*%20)%20or%20(%20@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/g/*%20))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true#).

The review notes that “with a small population and limited natural resources, apart from energy and fish, trade remains important but the range of exports is limited to tourism, fish and fish products, and aluminum and products thereof.  Therefore, the country remains vulnerable to shocks, including the appreciation of the ISK, overheating of the economy, and Brexit.  Furthermore, despite uncertainties relating to Brexit, as growth picks up in the EU, Iceland’s main trading partner, opportunities for trade in goods and services should continue to improve.”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UN Cooperation for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have not conducted Investment Policy Reviews for Iceland.

Business Facilitation

Businesses are registered with Iceland Revenue and Customs (Skatturinn) (http://www.rsk.is/english/).  Applications for the registration of businesses can be filled in online, however some forms are in Icelandic only and it is therefore necessary for foreign businesses to contract a local representative to complete the paperwork.  The website of the Business Registry in Iceland is (http://www.rsk.is/fyrirtaekjaskra) (Icelandic only).  More information on establishing a business in Iceland can be found here (https://www.government.is/topics/business-and-industry/establishing-a-business-in-iceland/).

Services offered by Invest in Iceland, a public-private agency that promotes and facilitates foreign investment in Iceland (http://www.invest.is), are free of charge to all potential foreign investors.  Invest in Iceland can provide information on investment opportunities in Iceland; collect data on the business environment, arrange site visits and plan contacts with local authorities; arrange meetings with local business partner and professional consultants; influence legislation and lobby on behalf of foreign investors (https://www.invest.is/at-your-service/what-we-do).  Invest in Iceland offers detailed information on how to establish a company on its website (http://www.invest.is/doing-business/establishing-a-company). Its sister agencies, Business Iceland (formerly Promote Iceland) (https://www.businessiceland.is/) and Film in Iceland (http://www.filminiceland.com), aim to enhance Iceland’s reputation as a tourist destination and as a destination for filming movies and television productions.

According to the World Bank, Iceland’s GDP was $24.2 billion in 2019 (https://data.worldbank.org/country/iceland).  Iceland is currently ranked number 64 out of 190 economies on the World Bank’s starting a business list, and number 26 on the ease of doing business list (https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploretopics/starting-a-business#close).

Outward Investment

The Icelandic Government along with other stakeholders promote exports of Icelandic goods and services through the public-private agency Islandsstofa, also known as Business Iceland (https://www.businessiceland.is/).  Business Iceland assists Icelandic businesses in the main industry sectors export products and services, including fisheries (seafood and technology), agricultural produce (including organic lamb meat), high-tech products and solutions (software, prosthetics, etc.), and services (tourism).  Business Iceland has been increasingly active in the United States and Canada in recent years.  A trade commissioner represents the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York, facilitating exports to the United States and promoting business relations between the two countries.  Business Iceland also promotes exports to the U.K., Northern and Southern Europe, and more recently to Asia (China and Japan).

Iceland imposed capital controls following the economic collapse in late 2008, which largely prevented Icelandic investors and pensions funds from investing outside of Iceland.  The government lifted capital controls on March 14, 2017.

Kazakhstan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward FDI

Kazakhstan has attracted significant foreign investment since independence. As of January 1, 2021, the total stock of foreign direct investment (by the directional principle) in Kazakhstan totaled USD 166.4 billion, primarily in the oil and gas sector. International financial institutions consider Kazakhstan to be a relatively attractive destination for their operations, and international firms have established regional headquarters in Kazakhstan.

In 2017, Kazakhstan adhered to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, meaning it committed to certain investment standards, including the promotion of responsible business conduct..

In its Strategic Plan of Development to 2025, the government stated that bringing up the living standards of Kazakhstan’s citizens to the level of OECD countries is one of its strategic goals.

In addition to earlier approved program documents, the President adopted a National Development Plan to 2025 in February 2021. The Plan outlines objectives and parameters of a New Economic Course announced by President Tokayev in September 2020. The Course included seven priorities: a fair distribution of benefits and responsibilities, the leading role of private entrepreneurship, fair competition, productivity growth and the development of a more technologically advanced economy, human capital development, development of a green economy, and state accountability to the society. A favorable investment climate is a part of this course. To implement his program, the President established the Supreme Council for Reforms and the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms. The President chairs the Supreme Council for Reforms, while Sir Suma Chakrabarti, a former President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will serve as Deputy Chairman.

In January 2021, the Prime Minister announced the government’s commitment to increase the share of annual FDI in GDP from 13.2 percent of GDP in 2018 to 19 percent of GDP in 2022.

The government of Kazakhstan has incrementally improved the business climate for foreign investors. Corruption, lack of rule of law and excessive bureaucracy, however, do remain serious obstacles to foreign investment.

Over the last few 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 created the Coordination Council for Attracting Foreign Investment. The Prime Minister acts as the Chair and Investment Ombudsman. In December 2018, the Investment Committee was transferred to the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which took charge of attracting and facilitating the activities of foreign investors. In January 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs received an additional title of Deputy Prime Minister due to the expanded portfolio of the Ministry. 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 and the Ministry of Trade and Integration interact 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. 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, ) operates as a regional investment hub regarding tax, legal, and other benefits. In 2019, the government founded Kazakhstan’s Direct Investment Fund which became resident at the AIFC and aims to attract private investments for diversifying Kazakhstan’s economy. The state company KazakhInvest, located in this hub, offers investors a single window for government services.

In 2020-2021, the government attempted to improve the regulatory and institutional environment for investors. However, these changes have sometimes been associated with an over-structured system of preferences and an enhanced government role. For example, in January 2021 the Foreign Minister suggested for consideration establishment of an additional group, the Investment Command Staff (ICS) that would make decisions on granting special conditions and extending preferences for investors signing investment agreements. This Investment Command Staff is expected to consider project proposals after their verification by KazakhInvest and the Astana International Financial Center. The government maintains its 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 caused the government to amend the country’s mid-term economic development plans. In March 2020, the government approved a stimulus package of $13.7 billion, mostly oriented at maintaining the income of the population, 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 certain business enterprises. While no sectors of the economy are completely closed to foreign 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. Article 16 in the December 2017 Code on Subsoil and Subsoil Use (the Code) mandates that share of the national company KazAtomProm be no less than 50% in new uranium producing joint ventures.

As a result of its WTO accession, Kazakhstan formally removed the limits on foreign ownership 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 in December 2020, the restriction on opening branches of foreign banks and insurance companies was lifted in compliance with the country’s OECD commitments. However, the law limits the participation of offshore companies in banks and insurance companies and prohibits foreign ownership of pension funds and agricultural land. In addition, foreign citizens and companies are restricted from participating in private security businesses.

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 litigation as pressure tactics.

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.  In 2020, developments ranged from a major reduction to a full annulment of work permits for some categories of foreign workforce (see Performance and Data Localization Requirements.)   During a March 2021 virtual meeting with international oil companies, Kazakhstan’s President urged the government to ensure legal protection and stability of investments and investment preferences. He also tasked the recently established Front Office for Investors to address investor challenges and bring them to the attention of the Prime Minister’s Council.  Moreover, Kazakhstan supported the request of oil companies to remove a discriminatory approach to fines imposed on them for gas flaring.  Under the current legislation, oil companies pay gas flaring fines several times higher than those paid by other non-oil companies.

In April 2008, Kazakhstan introduced a customs duty on crude oil and gas condensate exports, this revenue goes to the government’s budget and does not reach the National Fund.  The National Fund 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 disposal of agricultural land.  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 – if the global oil price drops below $25 per barrel, the duty zeros.

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 latest approved list is dated June 28, 2018: https://www.primeminister.kz/ru/decisions/28062018-389.

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 streamline 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.

Kazakhstan is committed under the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce GHG emissions 15 percent from the level of base year 1990 down to 328.3 million metric tons (mmt) by 2030.  In the meantime, Kazakhstan increased emissions 27.8 percent to 401.9 mmt in the five years from 2013 to 2018. The energy sector accounted for 82.4 percent of GHG emissions, agriculture for 9 percent, and others for 5.6 percent.  The successor of the Energy Ministry for environmental issues, Ministry of Ecology, Geology, and Natural Resources, started drafting the 2050 National Low Carbon Development Strategy in October 2019. The Concept is scheduled for submission to the government in June 2021.

In November 2020, the government adopted a National Plan for Allocation of Quotas for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions for 2021. The emissions cap (a total number of emissions allowed) is set for 159.9 million. The power sector received the highest number of allowances, or 91.4 million, for 90 power plants.  The cap for the oil and gas sector is 22.2 million for 61 installations, while 24 mining installations get 7.3 million allowances, and 21 metallurgical facilities have 29.6 million.  The combined caps for the chemical and processing sectors are 9.3 million. In February 2018, the Ministry of Energy announced the creation of an online GHG emissions reporting and monitoring system.  The system is not operational, and it is likely to be launched after the Environmental Code comes into effect in July 2021.  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.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD Investment Committee 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 Investment Committee 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. The OECD Investment Committee is 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 Index 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 must have Kazakhstan’s visa for a business immigrant and submit electronic copies of their IDs, as well as any certification of their companies from their country of origin. 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 ‘Doing Business’ Index, it takes 4 procedures and 5 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) in Kazakhstan. 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.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered new measures for easing the doing business process. In 2021, the government introduced a special three-percent retail tax for 114 types of small and medium-sized businesses. Companies can switch to the new regime voluntarily. The government also introduced an investment tax credit allowing entrepreneurs to receive tax deferrals for up to three years. As a part of his new economic policy, President Tokayev stated that prosecution or tax audits against entrepreneurs should be possible only after a respective tax court ruling.

In 2020, the government approved new measures aimed to facilitate the business operations of investors and to help Kazakhstan attract up to $30 billion in additional FDI by 2025. For example, the government introduced a new notional an investment agreement (see details in Section 4) and removed a solicitation of local regional authorities for obtaining a visa for a business-immigrant.

In order to facilitate the work of foreign investors, the government has recommended to use the law of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) as applicable law for investment contracts with Kazakhstan and has planned some steps, including a harmonization of tax preferences of the AIFC, the International IT park Astana Hub, Astana Expo 2017 company and Nazarbayev University. Plans on the further liberalization of a visa and migration regime, and the development of international air communication with international financial centers were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utilizing the advantages of the Astana International Financial Center may bring positive results in attracting foreign investments. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement in business facilitation in the rest of Kazakhstan’s territory. For example, foreign investors often complain about problems finalizing contracts, delays, and burdensome practices in licensing. The problems associated with the decriminalization of tax errors still await full resolution, despite an order to this effect issued by the General Prosecutor’s Office in January 2020. The controversial taxation of dividends of non-residents that came into force in January 2021, has additionally raised concerns of foreign investors.

Outward Investment

The government neither incentivizes nor restricts outward investment.

Morocco

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Morocco actively encourages foreign investment through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, structural reforms, infrastructure improvements, and incentives for investors. Law 18-95 of October 1995, constituting the Investment Charter , is the foundational Moroccan text governing investment and applies to both domestic and foreign investment (direct and portfolio). The Ministry of Industry recently announced the second Industrial Acceleration Plan (PAI) to run from 2021-2025, which aims to build on the progress made in the previous 2014-2020 PAI and expand industrial development throughout all Moroccan regions. The PAI is based on establishing “ecosystems” that integrate value chains and supplier relationships between large companies and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Moroccan legislation governing FDI applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities, with the exception of certain protected sectors.

Morocco’s Investment and Export Development Agency (AMDIE) is the national agency responsible for the development and promotion of investments and exports. Following the reform to the law  governing the country’s Regional Investment Centers (CRIs) in 2019, each of the 12 regions is empowered to lead their own investment promotion efforts. The CRI websites  aggregate relevant information for interested investors and include investment maps, procedures for creating a business, production costs, applicable laws and regulations, and general business climate information, among other investment services. The websites vary by region, with some functioning better than others. AMDIE and the 12 CRIs work together throughout the phases of investment at the national and regional level. For example, AMDIE and the CRIs coordinate contact between investors and partners. Regional investment commissions examine investment applications and send recommendations to AMDIE. The inter-ministerial investment committee, for which AMDIE acts as the secretariat, approves any investment agreement or contract which requires financial contribution from the government. AMDIE also provides an “after care” service to support investments and assist in resolving issues that may arise.

Further information about Morocco’s investment laws and procedures is available on AMDIE’s newly launched website  or through the individual websites of each of the CRIs. For information on agricultural investments, visit the Agricultural Development Agency website  or the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture website .

When Morocco acceded to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in November 2009, Morocco guaranteed national treatment of foreign investors. The only exception to this national treatment of foreign investors is in those sectors closed to foreign investment (noted below), which Morocco delineated upon accession to the Declaration. The National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct ( NCP ), whose presidency and secretariat are held by AMDIE, is the lead agency responsible for the adherence to this declaration.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises, barring certain restrictions by sector. While the U.S. Mission is unaware of any economy-wide limits on foreign ownership, Morocco places a 49 percent cap on foreign investment in air and maritime transport companies and maritime fisheries. Morocco currently prohibits foreigners from owning agricultural land, though they can lease it for up to 99 years; however, new regulation to open agricultural land to foreign ownership is forthcoming. The Moroccan government holds a monopoly on phosphate extraction through the 95 percent state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP). The Moroccan state also has a discretionary right to limit all foreign majority stakes in the capital of large national banks but apparently has never exercised that right. The Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) may use regulatory discretion in issuing authorizations for the establishment of domestic and foreign-owned banks. In the oil and gas sector, the National Agency for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) retains a compulsory share of 25 percent of any exploration license or development permit. As established in the 1995 Investment Charter, there is no requirement for prior approval of FDI, and formalities related to investing in Morocco do not pose a meaningful barrier to investment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of instances in which the Moroccan government refused foreign investors for national security, economic, or other national policy reasons, nor is it aware of any U.S. investors disadvantaged or singled out by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms, relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The last third-party investment policy review of Morocco was the World Trade Organization (WTO) 2016 Trade Policy Review  (TPR), which found that the trade reforms implemented since the prior TPR in 2009 contributed to the economy’s continued growth by stimulating competition in domestic markets, encouraging innovation, creating new jobs, and contributing to growth diversification.

Business Facilitation

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report , Morocco ranks 53 out of 190 economies, rising seven places since the 2019 report. Since 2012, Morocco has implemented reforms that facilitate business registration, such as eliminating the need to file a declaration of business incorporation with the Ministry of Labor, reducing company registration fees, and eliminating minimum capital requirements for limited liability companies. Morocco maintains a business registration website that is accessible through the various Regional Investment Centers (CRI ).

Foreign companies may utilize the online business registration mechanism. Foreign companies, with the exception of French companies, are required to provide an apostilled Arabic translated copy of their articles of association and an extract of the registry of commerce in its country of origin. Moreover, foreign companies must report the incorporation of the subsidiary a posteriori to the Foreign Exchange Office (Office de Changes) to facilitate repatriation of funds abroad such as profits and dividends. According to the World Bank, the process of registering a business in Morocco takes an average of nine days, significantly less than the Middle East and North Africa regional average of 20 days. Morocco does not require that the business owner deposit any paid-in minimum capital.

In January 2019, the electronic creation of businesses law 18-17 was published, but as of April 2021 the new process is not yet operational. The new system will allow for the creation of businesses online via an electronic platform managed by the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC). All procedures related to the creation, registration, and publication of company data will be carried out via this platform, which is expected to launch by the end of 2021. A new national commission will monitor the implementation of the procedures. The Simplification of Administrative Procedures Law 55-19, passed in 2020, aims to streamline administrative processes by identifying and standardizing document requirements, eliminating unnecessary steps, and making the process fully digital via the National Administration Portal, which is expected to launch in Spring 2021.

The business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy. Notably, according to the World Bank, the procedure, length of time, and cost to register a new business is equal for men and women in Morocco. The U.S. Mission is unaware of any official assistance provided to women and underrepresented minorities through the business registration mechanisms. In cooperation with the Moroccan government, civil society, and the private sector, there have been several initiatives aimed at improving gender quality in the workplace and access to the workplace for foreign migrants, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa.

Outward Investment

The Government of Morocco prioritizes investment in Africa. The African Development Bank ranks Morocco as the second biggest African investor in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa, and the largest African investor in West Africa. According to the Department of Studies and Financial Forecasts, under the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Administration Reform, $640 million, or 47 percent of Morocco’s total outward FDI, was invested in the African continent in 2019. The U.S. Mission is not aware of a standalone outward investment promotion agency, although AMDIE’s mission includes supporting Moroccans seeking to invest outside of the country for the purpose of boosting Moroccan exports. Nor is the U.S. Mission aware of any restrictions for domestic investors attempting to invest abroad. However, under the Moroccan investment code, repatriation of funds is limited to “convertible” Moroccan Dirham accounts. Morocco’s Foreign Exchange Office (“Office des Changes,” OC) implemented several changes for 2020 that slightly liberalize the country’s foreign exchange regulations. Moroccans going abroad for tourism can now exchange up to $4,700 in foreign currency per year, with the possibility to attain further allowances indexed to their income tax filings. Business travelers can also obtain larger amounts of foreign currency, provided their company has properly filed and paid corporate income taxes. Another new provision permits banks to use foreign currency accounts to finance investments in Morocco’s Industrial Acceleration Zones.

Peru

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Peru seeks to attract investment – both foreign and domestic – in nearly all sectors.. Peru reported $2 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2020 and seeks increased investment for 2021. It has prioritized $6 billion in public-private partnership projects in transportation infrastructure, electricity, education, broadband expansion, gas distribution, health, and sanitation.

Peru’s Constitution of 1993grants national treatment for foreign investors and permits foreign investment in almost all economic sectors. Under the Peruvian Constitution, foreign investors have the same rights as national investors to benefit from investment incentives, such as tax exemptions. In addition to the Constitution of 1993, Peru has several laws governing FDI including the Foreign Investment Promotion Law (Legislative Decree (DL) 662 of September 1991) and the Framework Law for Private Investment Growth (DL 757 of November 1991). Other important laws include the Private Investment in State-Owned Enterprises Promotion Law (DL 674) and the Private Investment in Public Services Infrastructure Promotion Law (DL 758). Article 6 of Supreme Decree No. 162-92-EF (the implementing regulations of DLs 662 and 757) authorized private investment in all industries except within natural protected areas and weapons manufacturing.

Peru and the United States benefit from the United States-Peru Free Trade Agreement (PTPA), which entered into force on February 1, 2009. The PTPA established a secure, predictable legal framework for U.S. investors in Peru. The PTPA protects all forms of investment. U.S. investors enjoy the right to establish, acquire, and operate investments in Peru on an equal footing with local investors in almost all circumstances. https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/peru-tpa

The GOP created the investment promotion agency ProInversion in 2002 to manage privatizations and concessions of state-owned enterprises and natural resource-based industries. The agency currently manages private concession processes in the energy, education, transportation, health, sanitation, and telecommunication sectors, and organizes international roadshow events to attract investors. Major recent and upcoming concessions include ports, water treatment plants, power generation facilities, mining projects, electrical transmission lines, oil and gas distribution, and telecommunications. Project opportunities are available on ProInversion’s website: https://www.proyectosapp.pe/default.aspx?ARE=1&PFL=0&sec=30. Companies are required to register all foreign investments with ProInversion.

The National Competitiveness Plan 2019 – 2030 outlines Peru’s economic growth strategy for the next decade and seeks to close the country’s $110 billion infrastructure gap. The plan was supplemented by a National Infrastructure Plan in July 2019, which identified 52 infrastructure projects keyed to critical sectors. Priority projects include two Lima metro lines, an expansion of Jorge Chavez International Airport, and multiple energy projects including electricity transmission lines. Peru reported in February 2021 that the energy projects had advanced significantly while many transport and agricultural projects suffered significant delays. Of note, the Ministry of Transportation prioritized the Fourth Metro Line and Central Highway, each multi-billion dollar projects, which were not included in the National Infrastructure Plan. Peru maintains an investment research portal to promote these infrastructure investment opportunities: https://www.mef.gob.pe/es/aplicativos-invierte-pe?id=5455

Although Peruvian administrations since the 1990s have supported private investments, Peru occasionally passes measures that some observers regard as a contravention of its open, free market orientation. In December 2011, Peru signed into law a 10-year moratorium on the entry of live genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for cultivation. In December 2020, the moratorium was extended an additional 15 years and will now remain enforced until 2035. Peru also implemented two sets of rules for importing pesticides, one for commercial importers, which requires importers to file a full dossier with technical information, and another for end-user farmers, which only requires a written affidavit.

Peru reformed its agricultural labor laws in 2020 impacting labor costs and tax incentives that could adversely affect investors in Peru’s agricultural sector. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated U.S. direct investment in the agriculture sector to reach $1.3 billion in 2021.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Peru’s Constitution (Article 6 under Supreme Decree No. 162-92-EF) authorizes foreign investors to carry out economic activity provided that investors comply with all constitutional precepts, laws, and treaties. Exceptions exist, including exclusion of foreign investment activities in natural protected reserves and military weapons manufacturing. Peruvian law requires majority Peruvian ownership in media; air, land and maritime transportation infrastructure; and private security surveillance services. Foreign interests cannot “acquire or possess under any title, mines, lands, forests, waters, or fuel or energy sources” within 50 kilometers of Peru’s international borders. However, foreigners can obtain concessions in these areas and in certain cases the GOP may grant a waiver. The GOP does not screen, review, or approve foreign direct investment outside of those sectors that require a governmental waiver.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a Trade Policy Review (HYPERLINK “https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp493_e.htm” https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp493_e.htm) on Peru in October 2019. The WTO commented that foreign investors received the same legal treatment as local investors in general, although Peru restricted foreign investment on property at the country’s borders, and in air transport and broadcasting. The report highlighted the government’s ongoing efforts to promote public-private partnerships (PPPs) and strengthen the PPP legal framework with Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) principles. The report noted that Peru maintained a regime open to domestic and foreign investment that fostered competition and equal treatment.

Peru aspires to become a member of the OECD and launched an OECD Country Program in 2014, comprising policy reviews and capacity building projects. The OECD published the Initial Assessment of its Multi-Dimensional Review in 2015 (https://www.oecd.org/countries/peru/multi-dimensional-review-of-peru-9789264243279-en.htm), finding that, in spite of economic growth, Peru “still faces structural challenges to escape the middle-income trap and consolidate its emerging middle class.” In every year since this study was published, Peru has enacted and implemented dozens of reforms to modernize its governance practices in line with OECD recommendations. Recent OECD studies on Peru include: Investing in Youth (April 2019), Digital Government (June 2019), Pension Systems (September 2019), Transport Regulation (February 2020), and Tax Transparency (April 2020). Peru has adhered to 45 of OECD’s 248 existing legal instruments, but its accession roadmap remains unclear.

Peru has not had a third-party investment policy review through the OECD or UNCTAD in the past three years.

Business Facilitation

The GOP does not have a regulatory system to facilitate business operations but the Institute for the Protection of Intellectual Property, Consumer Protection, and Competition (INDECOPI) reviews the enactment of new regulations by government entities that can place burdens on business operations. INDECOPI has the authority to block any new business regulation. INDECOPI also has a Commission for Elimination of Bureaucratic Barriers : https://www.indecopi.gob.pe/web/eliminacion-de-barreras-burocraticas/presentacion.

Peru allows foreign business ownership, provided that a company has at least two shareholders and that its legal representative is a Peruvian resident. Businesses must reserve a company name through the national registry, SUNARP, and prepare a deed of incorporation through a Citizen and Business Services Portal (https://www.serviciosalciudadano.gob.pe/). After a deed is signed, businesses must file with a public notary, pay notary fees of up to one percent of a company’s capital, and submit the deed to the Public Registry. The company’s legal representative must obtain a certificate of registration and tax identification number from the national tax authority SUNAT (www.sunat.gob.pe). Finally, the company must obtain a license from the municipality of the jurisdiction in which it is located. Depending on the core business, companies might need to obtain further government approvals such as: sanitary, environmental, or educational authorizations.

Outward Investment

The GOP promotes outward investment by Peruvian entities through the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR). Trade Commission Offices of Peru (OCEX), under the supervision of Peru’s export promotion agency (PromPeru), are located in numerous countries, including the United States, and promote the export of Peruvian goods and services and inward foreign investment. The GOP does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Philippines

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Philippines seeks foreign investment to generate employment, promote economic development, and contribute to inclusive and sustained growth.  The Board of Investments (BOI) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) are the country’s lead investment promotion agencies (IPAs).  They provide incentives and special investment packages to investors. Noteworthy advantages of the Philippine investment landscape include free trade zones, including economic zones, and a large, educated, English-speaking, and relatively low-cost Filipino workforce.  Philippine law treats foreign investors the same as their domestic counterparts, except in sectors reserved for Filipinos by the Philippine Constitution and the Foreign Investment Act (see details under Limits on Foreign Control section).  Additional information regarding investment policies and incentives are available on the BOI (http://boi.gov.ph) and PEZA (http://www.peza.gov.ph) websites.

Restrictions on foreign ownership, inadequate public investment in infrastructure, and lack of transparency in procurement tenders hinder foreign investment.  The Philippines’ regulatory regime remains ambiguous in many sectors of the economy, and corruption is a significant problem.  Large, family-owned conglomerates, including San Miguel, Ayala, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, and SM Investments, dominate the economic landscape, crowding out other smaller businesses.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreigners are prohibited from fully owning land under the 1987 Constitution, although the 1993 Investors’ Lease Act allows foreign investors to lease a contiguous parcel of up to 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) for a maximum of 75 years.  Dual citizens are permitted to own land.

The 1991 Foreign Investment Act (FIA) requires the publishing every two years of the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), which outlines sectors in which foreign investment is restricted.  The latest FINL was released in October 2018 and will be updated once the Strategic Investment Priorities Plan (SIPP) is drafted.  The FINL bans foreign ownership/participation in the following investment activities:  mass media (except recording and internet businesses); small-scale mining; private security agencies; utilization of marine resources; cockpits; manufacturing of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices; and manufacturing and distribution of nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons, and anti-personnel mines.  With the exception of the practices of law, radiologic and x-ray technology, and marine deck and marine engine officers, other laws and regulations on professions allow foreigners to practice in the Philippines if their country permits reciprocity for Philippine citizens, these include medicine, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, accountancy, architecture, engineering, criminology, teaching, chemistry, environmental planning, geology, forestry, interior design, landscape architecture, and customs brokerage.  In practice, however, language exams, onerous registration processes, and other barriers prevent this from taking place.

The Philippines limits foreign ownership to 40 percent in the manufacturing of explosives, firearms, and military hardware; private radio communication networks; natural resource exploration, development, and utilization (with exceptions); educational institutions (with some exceptions); operation and management of public utilities; operation of commercial deep sea fishing vessels; Philippine government procurement contracts (40 percent for supply of goods and commodities); contracts for the construction and repair of locally funded public works (with some exceptions); ownership of private lands; and rice and corn production and processing (with some exceptions).  Other areas that carry varying foreign ownership ceilings include the following: private employee recruitment firms (25 percent) and advertising agencies (30 percent).

Retail trade enterprises with capital of less than USD 2.5 million, or less than USD 250,000, for retailers of luxury goods, are reserved for Filipinos.  The Philippines allows up to full foreign ownership of insurance adjustment, lending, financing, or investment companies; however, foreign investors are prohibited from owning stock in such enterprises, unless the investor’s home country affords the same reciprocal rights to Filipino investors.

Foreign banks are allowed to establish branches or own up to 100 percent of the voting stock of locally incorporated subsidiaries if they can meet certain requirements.  However, a foreign bank cannot open more than six branches in the Philippines.  A minimum of 60 percent of the total assets of the Philippine banking system should, at all times, remain controlled by majority Philippine-owned banks.  Ownership caps apply to foreign non-bank investors, whose aggregate share should not exceed 40 percent of the total voting stock in a domestic commercial bank and 60 percent of the voting stock in a thrift/rural bank.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducted a Trade Policy Review of the Philippines in March 2018 and an Investment Policy Review of the Philippines in 2016, respectively.  The reviews are available online at the WTO website (https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp468_e.htm) and OECD website (http://www.oecd.org/daf/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-philippines-2016-9789264254510-en.htm).

Business Facilitation

Business registration in the Philippines is cumbersome due to multiple agencies involved in the process.  It takes an average of 33 days to start a business in Quezon City in Metro Manila, according to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report.  The Duterte Administrations’ landmark law, Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 sought to address the issues through the amendment of the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 (https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2018/05/28/republic-act-no-11032/).  It legislates standardized deadlines for government transactions, a single business application form, a one-stop-shop, automation of business permits processing, a zero-contact policy, and a central business databank.  Implementing rules and regulations for the Act was signed in 2019 (http://arta.gov.ph/pages/IRR.html).  It created an Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) under the Office of the President that oversees national policy on anti-red tape issues and implements reforms to improve competitiveness rankings.  It also monitors compliance of agencies and issue notices to erring and non-compliant government employees and officials.  ARTA is governed by a council that includes the Secretaries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Interior and Local Governments, and Information and Communications Technology.  The Department of Trade and Industry serves as interim Secretariat for ARTA.  Since this landmark legislation, the Philippines jumped 29 notches in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranking 95th from its previous 124th rank with the ARTA pushing for the full adoption of an online application system as an efficient alternative to on-site application procedures, issue online permits, and use e-signatures in the processing of government transactions.

The Revised Corporation Code, a business-friendly amendment that encourages entrepreneurship, improves the ease of business and promotes good corporate governance.  This new law amends part of the four-decade-old Corporation Code and allows for existing and future companies to hold a perpetual status of incorporation, compared to the previous 50-year term limit which required renewal.  More importantly, the amendments allow for the formation of one-person corporations, providing more flexibility to conduct business; the old code required all incorporation to have at least five stockholders and provided less protection from liabilities.

Outward Investment

There are no restrictions on outward portfolio investments for Philippine residents, defined to include non-Filipino citizens who have been residing in the country for at least one year; foreign-controlled entities organized under Philippine laws; and branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates of foreign enterprises organized under foreign laws operating in the country.  However, outward investments funded by foreign exchange purchases above USD 60 million or its equivalent per investor per year, require prior notification to the Central Bank.

Vietnam

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, recognizing it 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 281 billion in goods in 2020, of which 72 percent came from projects utilizing FDI.

The Politburo issued Resolution 55 in 2019 to increase Vietnam’s attractiveness to foreign investment. This Resolution aims to attract USD 50 billion in new foreign investment by 2030. In 2020, the government revised laws on investment and enterprise, in addition to passing the Public Private Partnership Law, to further the goals of this Resolution. The revisions encourage high-quality investments, use and development of advanced technologies, and environmental protection mechanisms.

While Vietnam’s revised Investment Law says the government must treat foreign and domestic investors equally, foreign investors have complained about having to cross extra hurdles to get ordinary government approvals. 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 reformed electronic payments procedures for foreign firms. Some U.S. investors report that these changes have provided more regulatory certainty, which has, in turn, instilled greater confidence as they consider long-term investments in Vietnam.U.S. investors continue to cite concerns about confusing tax regulations and retroactive changes to laws – including tax rates, tax policies, and preferential treatment of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In 2020, 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.

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. They also 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 regulations that are unclear.

The Prime Minister, along with other senior leaders, has stated that Vietnam prioritizes both investment retention and ongoing dialogue with foreign investors. Vietnam’s senior leaders often meet with foreign governments 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 in non-regulated sectors.

Vietnam has some statutory restrictions on foreign investment, including FOLs or requirements for joint partnerships, projects in 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 rather than for a specific investment.

MPI plays a key role with respect to investment screening. All FDI projects require approval by the provincial People’s Committee in which the project would be located. By law, large-scale FDI projects must also obtain the approval of the National Assembly before investment can proceed. MPI’s approval process includes an assessment of 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 government can, and sometimes does, stop certain foreign investments if it deems the investment harmful to Vietnam’s national security.

The following FDI projects also require the Prime Minister’s approval: airports; grade 1 seaports (seaports the government classifies as strategic); casinos; oil and gas exploration, production, and refining; telecommunications/network infrastructure; forestry projects; publishing; and projects that need approval from more than one province. In the period between this year’s Investment Climate Statement and last year’s, the government removed the requirement that the Prime Minister needs to approve investments over USD 271 million or investments in the tobacco industry.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Recent third-party investment policy reviews include the World Bank’s Review from 2020: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/33598 

https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/33598 

And OECD’s 2018 Review: https://www.oecd.org/countries/vietnam/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-viet-nam-2017-9789264282957-en.htm 

https://www.oecd.org/countries/vietnam/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-viet-nam-2017-9789264282957-en.htm 

UNCTAD released a report in 2009: https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-viet-nam 

https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-viet-nam 

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.

In May 2021, USAID and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) released the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) 2020 Report, which examined trends 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 and the quality of infrastructure, as well as 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 periodical statistics on outward investment, but reported that by the end of 2019 total outward FDI investment from Vietnam was USD 21 billion in more than 1,300 projects in 78 countries. Laos received the most outward FDI, with USD 5 billion, followed by Russia and Cambodia with USD 2.8 billion and USD 2.7 billion, respectively. SOEs like PetroVietnam, Viettel, and SOCB are Vietnam’s largest sources of outward FDI, and have invested more than USD 13 billion in outward FDI, per media reports.

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