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Albania

Executive Summary

Albania is an upper middle-income country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of USD 5,286 (2020 IMF estimate) and a population of approximately 2.9 million people. The IMF estimates that Albania’s economy contracted by 3.5% in 2020, due to the combined effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the November 2019 earthquake. The contraction is smaller than initial forecasts due in large part to the positive net growth in construction, real estate, and agriculture sectors fueled by large government spending and private investments in real estate. Albania’s economy maintained its macroeconomic and fiscal stability during 2020, thanks to prudent macro and fiscal policies. Budgetary and COVID-19 related support provided by the international financial institutions and the EU helped the country meet urgent payment needs, and respond efficiently to two consecutive shocks, the earthquake and pandemic. During 2020, the IMF disbursed USD190 million under the Rapid Financing Instrument, the World Bank approved USD 80 million under its Fiscal Sustainability and Growth Development Policy Financing (DPF) program, and the EU approved around USD 205 million for Albania under its 3-Billion-Euro Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) package for ten enlargement and neighborhood partners.

The IMF projects the economy will grow by 5 percent in 2021. The rebound is expected to be fueled mostly by increased consumption, better performance of tourism sector, and continued post-earthquake reconstruction program financed by the government and close to USD 330 million in grants raised from the post-earthquake International Donors Conference in February 2020.

However, uncertainties related to the pandemic, elevated fiscal deficits and public debt, and a relatively high level of non-performing loans (NPLs) present challenges for the projected recovery. In 2020, the fiscal deficit expanded from 1.9% to 6.7% year-on-year and public debt increased from 66.6% to almost 80% of GDP.

Albania received EU candidate status in June 2014, and in March 2020, the European Council endorsed the recommendation of the European Commission to open accession talks with Albania.  Albania awaits its first Intergovernmental Conference, which would mark the start of accession negotiations.

The Albanian legal system ostensibly does not discriminate against foreign investors.  The U.S.-Albanian Bilateral Investment Treaty, which entered into force in 1998, ensures that U.S. investors receive national treatment and most-favored-nation treatment.  The Law on Foreign Investment outlines specific protections for foreign investors and allows 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in all but a few sectors. Albania has been able to attract increasing levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the last decade.

According to the UNCTAD data, during 2016-2019, the flow of FDI has averaged USD 1.2 billion and stock FDI reached USD 8.8 billion at the end of 2019. Despite the pandemic, according to preliminary data of the Bank of Albania the FDI flow in 2020 was relatively stable at USD 1 billion. Investments are concentrated in extractive industries, the energy sector, banking and insurance, information and communication technology, and real estate. Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Austria, Bulgaria, and Greece are the largest sources of FDI.

To attract FDI and promote domestic investment, Albania approved a Law on Strategic Investments in 2015.  The law outlines investment incentives and offers fast-track administrative procedures to strategic foreign and domestic investors through December 31, 2021 depending on the size of the investment and number of jobs created. In 2015, to promote FDI, the government also passed legislation creating Technical Economic Development Areas (TEDAs) similar to free trade zones. The development of the first TEDA has yet to begin but the Government of Albania (GoA) announced a new tender on March 2021 for the development of the first TEDA after previous unsuccessful attempts.

As of March 2021, 95 percent of all public services to citizens and businesses were available online through the  E-Albania Portal . The platform offered more than 1,200 types of services to citizens and businesses. Increased digitalization of services is expected to curb corruption by limiting direct contacts with public administration officials.

Despite a sound legal framework and progress on e-reform, foreign investors perceive Albania as a difficult place to do business. They cite corruption, particularly in the judiciary, a lack of transparency in public procurement, unfair competition, informal economy, frequent changes of the fiscal legislation, and poor enforcement of contracts as continuing problems in Albania. Reports of corruption in government procurement are commonplace. The increasing use of public private partnership (PPP) contracts has reduced opportunities for competition, including by foreign investors, in infrastructure and other sectors.  Poor cost-benefit analyses and a lack of technical expertise in drafting and monitoring PPP contracts are ongoing concerns. U.S. investors are challenged by corruption and the perpetuation of informal business practices. Several U.S. investors have faced contentious commercial disputes with both public and private entities, including some that went to international arbitration. In 2019 and 2020, a U.S. company’s attempted investment was allegedly thwarted by several judicial decisions and questionable actions of stakeholders involved in a dispute over the investment. The case is now in international arbitration.

Property rights continue to be a challenge in Albania because clear title is difficult to obtain.  There have been instances of individuals allegedly manipulating the court system to obtain illegal land titles.  Overlapping property titles is a serious and common issue. The compensation process for land confiscated by the former communist regime continues to be cumbersome, inefficient, and inadequate. Nevertheless, parliament passed a law on registering property claims on April 16, 2020 which will provide some relief for title holders.

Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Albania 104th out of 180 countries, an improvement by two places from 2019. Albania fell 19 spots in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business survey, ranking 82nd falling from 63rd in 2019. Although this change can be partially attributed to the implementation of a new methodology, the country continues to score poorly in the areas of granting construction permits, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, registering property, obtaining electricity, and protecting minority investors.

To address endemic corruption, the GoA passed sweeping constitutional amendments to reform the country’s judicial system and improve the rule of law in 2016. The implementation of judicial reform is underway, including the vetting of judges and prosecutors for unexplained wealth.  More than half the judges and prosecutors who have undergone vetting have been dismissed for unexplained wealth or ties to organized crime. The EU expects Albania to show progress on prosecuting judges and prosecutors whose vetting revealed possible criminal conduct. The implementation of judicial reform is ongoing, and its completion is expected to improve the investment climate in the country.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 104 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 82 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 83 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 $35 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $5,200 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoA understands that private sector development and increased levels of foreign investment are critical to supporting sustainable economic development. Albania maintains a liberal foreign investment regime designed to attract FDI. The Law on Foreign Investment outlines specific protections for foreign investors and allows 100 percent foreign ownership of companies, except in the areas of domestic and international air passenger transport and television broadcasting. Albanian legislation does not distinguish between domestic and foreign investments.

The Law on Strategic Investments approved in 2015 offers incentives and fast-track administrative procedures, depending on the size of the investment and number of jobs created, to both foreign and domestic investors who apply before December 31, 2021.

The Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA) is the entity responsible for promoting foreign investments in Albania. Potential U.S. investors in Albania should contact AIDA to learn more about services AIDA offers to foreign investors ( http://aida.gov.al/ ). The Law on Strategic Investments stipulates that AIDA, as the Secretariat of the Strategic Investment Council, serves as a one-stop-shop for foreign investors, from filing the application form to granting the status of strategic investment/investor. Despite supporting legislation, only a few foreign investors have benefited from the “Strategic Investor” status.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic investors have equal rights of ownership of local companies, based on the principle of “national treatment.” There are only a few exemptions regarding ownership restrictions:

  • Domestic and international air passenger transport: foreign interest in airline companies is limited to 49 percent ownership by investors outside the Common European Aviation Zone, for both domestic and international air transportation.
  • Audio and audio-visual broadcasting: An entity, foreign or domestic, that has a national audio or audio-visual broadcasting license cannot hold more than 20 percent of shares in another audio or audio-visual broadcasting company. Additional restrictions apply to the regional or local audio and audio-visual licenses.
  • Agriculture: No foreign individual or foreign incorporated company may purchase agricultural land, though land may be leased for up to 99 years.

Albania currently lacks an investment-review mechanism for inbound FDI. However, in 2017, the government introduced a new provision in the Petroleum Law, which allows the government to reject a petroleum-sharing agreement or the sale of shares in a petroleum-sharing agreement to any prospective investor due to national security concerns. Albanian law permits private ownership and establishment of enterprises and property. Foreign investors do not require additional permission or authorization beyond that required of domestic investors. Commercial property may be purchased, but only if the proposed investment is worth three times the price of the land. There are no restrictions on the purchase of private residential property. Foreigners can acquire concession rights on natural resources and resources of the common interest, as defined by the Law on Concessions and Public Private Partnerships.

Foreign and domestic investors have numerous options available for organizing business operations in Albania. The 2008 Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies and Law Establishing the National Registration Center (NRC) allow for the following legal types of business entities to be established through the NRC: sole proprietorship; unlimited partnership; limited partnership; limited liability company; joint stock company; branches and representative offices; and joint ventures.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) completed a Trade Policy Review of Albania in May 2016 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp437_e.htm  ). In November 2017, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) completed the first Investment Policy Review of South-East European (SEE) countries, including Albania ( http://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=1884  ).

Business Facilitation

The National Business Center (NBC) serves as a one-stop shop for business registration. All required procedures and documents are published online ( http://www.qkb.gov.al/information-on-procedure/business-registration/ ). Registration may be done in person or online via the e-Albania portal. Many companies choose to complete the registration process in person, as the online portal requires an authentication process and electronic signature and is only available in the Albanian language. When a business registers in the NBC it is also automatically registered with the Tax Office, Labor Inspectorate, Customs, and the respective municipality. According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, it takes 4.5 days and five procedures to register a business in Albania.

Outward Investment

Albania neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Albania’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems have improved in recent years, but there are still many serious challenges. Endemic corruption, uneven enforcement of legislation, cumbersome bureaucracy, distortion of competition, and a lack of transparency all hinder the business community.

Albanian legislation includes rules on disclosure requirements, formation, maintenance, and alteration of firms’ capitalization structures, mergers and divisions, takeover bids, shareholders’ rights, and corporate governance principles. The Competition Authority ( http://caa.gov.al  ) is an independent agency tasked with ensuring fair and efficient competition in the market. However, business groups have raised concerns about unfair competition and monopolies, rating the issue as one of the most concerning items damaging the business climate.

The Law on Accounting and Financial Statements includes reporting provisions related to international financial reporting standards (IFRS) for large companies, and national financial reporting standards for small and medium enterprises. Albania meets minimum standards on fiscal transparency, and debt obligations are published by the Ministry of Finance and Economy. Albania’s budgets are publicly available, substantially complete, and reliable.

The rulemaking process in Albania meets the minimum requirements of transparency.

In August 2020, Albania approved the law for the establishment of the register of the Ultimate Beneficiary Owners. The law aims to ensure transparency on the ultimate beneficiary owners, who directly and indirectly own more than 25% of shares, voting rights, or ownership interests in all entities registered to do business in Albania, and was adopted following the recommendations of MONEYVAL.

Ministries and regulatory agencies develop forward regulatory plans that include changes or proposals intended to be adopted within a set timeframe. The law on notification and public consultation requires the GoA to publish draft laws and regulations for public consultation or notification and sets clear timeframes for these processes. Such draft laws and regulations are published at the following page:  http://www.konsultimipublik.gov.al/  . The business community frequently complains that final versions of laws and regulations fail to address their comments and concerns and that comment periods are frequently not respected.

All laws, by-laws, regulations, decisions by the Council of Ministers (the government), decrees, and any other regulatory acts are published at the National Publication Center at the following site:  https://qbz.gov.al/.  

Independent agencies and bodies, including but not limited to, the Energy Regulatory Entity (ERE), Agency for Electronic and Postal Communication (AKEP), Financial Supervising Authority (FSA), Competition Authority (CA), National Agency of Natural Resources (NARN), and Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), oversee transparency and competition in specific sectors.

International Regulatory Considerations

Albania acceded to the WTO in 2000 and the country notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of all draft technical regulations.

Albania signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in 2006. The EU agreed to open accession talks on March 25, 2020 and the country is awaiting to hold the first Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), which would mark the official opening of accession talks. Albania has long been involved in the gradual process of legislation approximation with the EU acquis. This process is expected to accelerate with the opening of accession negotiations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Albanian legal system is a civil law system. The Albanian constitution provides for the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial branches, thereby supporting the independence of the judiciary. The Civil Procedure Code, enacted in 1996, governs civil procedures in Albania. The civil court system consists of district courts, appellate courts, and the High Court (the supreme court). The district courts are organized in specialized sections according to the subject of the claim, including civil, family, and commercial disputes.

The administrative courts of first instance, the Administrative Court of Appeal, and the Administrative College of the High Court adjudicate administrative disputes. The Constitutional Court, reviews cases related to the constitutionality of legislation and, in limited instances, protects and enforces the constitutional rights of citizens and legal entities.

Parties may appeal the judgment of the first-instance courts within 15 days of a decision, while appellate court judgments must be appealed to the High Court within 30 days. A lawsuit against an administrative action is submitted to the administrative court within 45 days from notification and the law stipulates short procedural timeframes, enabling faster adjudication of administrative disputes.

Investors in Albania are entitled to judicial protection of legal rights related to their investments. Foreign investors have the right to submit disputes to an Albanian court. In addition, parties to a dispute may agree to arbitration. Many foreign investors complain that endemic judicial corruption and inefficient court procedures undermine judicial protection in Albania and seek international arbitration to resolve disputes. It is beneficial to U.S. investors to include binding international arbitration clauses in any agreements with Albanian counterparts. Albania is a signatory to the New York Arbitration Convention and foreign arbitration awards are typically recognized by Albania. However, the government initially refused to recognize an injunction from a foreign arbitration court in one high-profile case in 2016. The Albanian Civil Procedure Code outlines provisions regarding domestic and international commercial arbitration.

Albania does not have a specific commercial code but has a series of relevant commercial laws, including the Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies Law, Bankruptcy Law, Public Private Partnership and Concession Law, Competition Law, Foreign Investment Law, Environmental Law, Law on Corporate and Municipal Bonds, Transport Law, Maritime Code, Secured Transactions Law, Employment Law, Taxation Procedures Law, Banking Law, Insurance and Reinsurance Law, Concessions Law, Mining Law, Energy Law, Water Resources Law, Waste Management Law, Excise Law, Oil and Gas Law, Gambling Law, Telecommunications Law, and Value-Added Law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

There is no one-stop-shop that lists all legislation, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. However, foreign investors should visit the Albania Investment Development Agency webpage ( www.aida.gov.al  ), which offers broad information for foreign investors.

Major laws pertaining to foreign investments include:

  • Law on Foreign Investments
  • Law on Strategic Investments: Defines procedures and rules to be observed by government authorities when reviewing, approving, and supporting strategic domestic and foreign investments in Albania
  • Law on Foreigners
  • Law on Concessions and Public Private Partnerships: Establishes the framework for promoting and facilitating the implementation of privately financed concessionary projects
  • Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies: Outlines general guidelines on the activities of companies and the legal structure under which they may operate
  • Law on Cross-Border Mergers: Determines rules on mergers when one of the companies involved in the process is a foreign company
  • Law on Protection of Competition: Stipulates provisions for the protection of competition, and the concentration of commercial companies; and
  • Law on Collective Investment Undertakings: Regulates conditions and criteria for the establishment, constitution, and operation of collective investment undertakings and of management companies.

The Law on Foreign Investments seeks to create a hospitable legal climate for foreign investors and stipulates the following:

  • No prior government authorization is needed for an initial investment.
  • Foreign investments may not be expropriated or nationalized directly or indirectly, except for designated special cases, in the interest of public use and as defined by law.
  • Foreign investors enjoy the right to expatriate all funds and contributions in kind from their investments.
  • Foreign investors receive most favored nation treatment according to international agreements and Albanian law.

There are limited exceptions to this liberal investment regime, most of which apply to the purchase of real estate. Agricultural land cannot be purchased by foreigners and foreign entities but may be leased for up to 99 years. Investors can buy agricultural land if registered as a commercial entity in Albania. Commercial property may be purchased, but only if the proposed investment is worth three times the price of the land. There are no restrictions on the purchase of private residential property.

To boost investments in strategic sectors, the government approved a new law on strategic investments in May 2015. Under the new law, a “strategic investment” may benefit from either “assisted procedure” or “special procedure” assistance from the government to help navigate the permitting and regulatory process. To date, no major foreign investors have taken advantage of the law. Several projects proposed by domestic companies have been designated as strategic investments, mostly in the tourism sector.

Authorities responsible for mergers, change of control, and transfer of shares include the Albanian Competition Authority (ACA:  http://www.caa.gov.al/laws/list/category/1/page/1  ), which monitors the implementation of the competition law and approves mergers and acquisitions when required by the law; and the Albanian Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA:  http://www.amf.gov.al/ligje.asp  ), which regulates and supervises the securities market and approves the transfer of shares and change of control of companies operating in this sector.

Albania’s tax system does not distinguish between foreign and domestic investors. Informality in the economy, which may be as large as 40 percent of the total economy, presents challenges for tax administration.

Visa requirements to obtain residence or work permits are straightforward and do not pose an undue burden on potential investors. The government amended the Law on Foreigners in February 2020. The amendments remove restrictions on foreign employees and streamline the visa and work permit processes for foreigners and foreign workers by introducing online visa application process, simplifying and accelerating the working permit process, and providing the same access to the labor market for citizens of Western Balkan countries as the United States, EU, and Schengen-country citizens have.

The Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies sets guidelines on the activities of companies and the legal structure under which they may operate. The government adopted the law in 2008 to conform Albanian legislation to the EU’s Acquis Communitaire. The most common type of organization for foreign investors is a limited liability company.

The Law on Public Private Partnerships and Concessions establishes the framework for promoting and facilitating the implementation of privately financed concessionary projects. According to the law, concession projects may be identified by central or local governments or through third party unsolicited proposals. To limit opportunities for corruption, the 2019 amendments prohibited unsolicited bids, beginning in July 2019, on all sectors except for works or services in ports, airports, generation and distribution of electricity, energy for heating, and production and distribution of natural gas. In addition, the 2019 amendments removed the zero to 10 percent bonus points for unsolicited proposals, which gave companies submitting unsolicited bids a competitive advantage over other contenders. Instead, if the party submitting the unsolicited proposal does not win the bid, it will be compensated by the winning company for the cost of the feasibility study, which in no case shall exceed 1 percent of the total cost of the project.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Albanian Competition Authority ( http://www.caa.gov.al/?lng=en  ) is the agency that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns. The Law on Protection of Competition governs incoming foreign investment whether through mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, or green-field investments, irrespective of industry or sector. In the case of share transfers in insurance, banking and non-banking financial industries, the Financial Supervisory Authority ( http://amf.gov.al/  ) and the Bank of Albania ( https://www.bankofalbania.org/  ) may require additional regulatory approvals. Transactions between parties outside Albania, including foreign-to-foreign transactions, are covered by the competition law, which states that its provisions apply to all activities, domestic or foreign, that directly or indirectly affect the Albanian market. Parties can appeal the decision of the CA to the Tirana First Instance Court within 30 days of receiving the notification. The appeal does not suspend the enforcement of the decision that authorize concentrations and the temporary measures.

Expropriation and Compensation

The constitution guarantees the right of private property. According to Article 41, expropriation or limitation on the exercise of a property right can occur only if it serves the public interest and with fair compensation. During the post-communist period, expropriation has been limited to land for public interest, mainly infrastructure projects such as roads, energy infrastructure, water works, airports, and other facilities. Compensation has generally been reported as being below market value and owners have complained that the compensation process is slow, and unfair. Civil courts are responsible for resolving such complaints.

Changes in government can also affect foreign investments. Following the 2013 elections and peaceful transition of power, the new government revoked, or renegotiated numerous concession agreements, licenses, and contracts signed by the previous government with both domestic and international investors. This practice has occurred in other years as well.

There are many ongoing disputes regarding property confiscated during the communist regime. Identifying ownership is a longstanding problem in Albania that makes restitution for expropriated properties difficult. The restitution and compensation process started in 1993 but has been slow and marred by corruption. Many U.S. citizens of Albanian origin have been in engaged in long-running restitution disputes. Court cases go on for years without a final decision, causing many to refer their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France. A significant number of applications are pending for consideration before the ECHR. Even after settlement in Strasbourg, enforcement remains slow.

To address the situation, the GoA approved new property compensation legislation in 2018 that aims to resolve pending claims for restitution and compensation. The 2018 law reduces the burden on the state budget by changing the cash compensation formula. The legislation presents three methods of compensation for confiscation claims: restitution; compensation of property with similarly valued land in a different location; or financial compensation. It also set a ten-year timeframe for completion of the process. In February 2020, the Albanian parliament approved a law “On the Finalization of the Transitory Process of Property Deeds in the Republic of Albania,” which aims to finalize land allocation and privatization processes contained in 14 various laws issued between 1991 and 2018.

The GoA has generally not engaged in expropriation actions against U.S. investments, companies, or representatives. There have been limited cases in which the government has revoked licenses, specifically in the mining and energy sectors, based on contract violation claims.

The Law on Strategic Investments, approved in 2015, empowers the government to expropriate private property for the development of private projects deemed special strategic projects. Despite the provision that the government would act when parties fail to reach an agreement, the clause is a source of controversy because it entitles the government to expropriate private property in the interest of another private party. The expropriation procedures are consistent with the law on the expropriation, and the cost for expropriation would be incurred by the strategic investor. The provision has yet to be exercised.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Albania is a member state to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and is a signatory to the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). In addition, Albania ratified the 1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Geneva Convention).

Under the Albanian Constitution, ratified international agreements prevail over domestic legislation. The country has no specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.  Recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards are regulated by provisions stipulated in the Code of Civil Procedure.

For an international arbitration award to be recognized locally, the claimant must bring the award before the Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court will not adjudicate the merits of the case and can strike down the award only for the reasons listed in Article V of the New York Convention.

The possibility of bringing an action before the local court to avoid arbitration proceedings is remote. According to provisions in the Albanian Code of Civil Procedure, if a party brings actions before local courts despite the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, the court would, upon motion of the other party, dismiss the case without entertaining its merits. The decision of the court to dismiss the case can be appealed to the Supreme Court, which has 30 days to consider the appeal. There is no legal precedent to date, of local courts refusing to recognize or enforce binding international arbitral awards.

The Albanian Code of Civil Procedure requires the courts to reach a judgment in a reasonable amount of time but does not provide a specific timeline for adjudicating commercial disputes. Reaching a final judgment in commercial litigation can take several years.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Albania signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty with United States in 1995, and it entered into force in 1998. Foreign investors opt to include international arbitration clauses in their contracts with Albanian parties because the court system is not responsive, and the judiciary is marked by endemic corruption.

Over the past ten years, there have been three investment disputes between the GoA and U.S. companies, two of which resulted in international arbitration. Despite the GoA’s stated desire to attract and support foreign investors, U.S. investors in disputes with the GoA reported a lack of productive dialogue with government officials, who frequently displayed a reluctance to settle the disputes before they were escalated to the level of international arbitration, or before the international community exerted pressure on the government to resolve the issue. U.S. investors in Albania should strongly consider including binding arbitration clauses in any agreements with Albanian counterparts.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

An alternative to dispute settlement via the courts is private arbitration or mediation. Parties can engage in arbitration when they have agreed to such a provision in the original agreement, when there is a separate arbitration agreement, or by agreement at any time when a dispute arises.

Albania does not have a separate law on domestic arbitration. In 2017, Albania repealed all domestic arbitration provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, leaving the country without provisions to govern domestic arbitration. In 2020, the GoA drafted a new law on arbitration that aims to regulate domestic and international arbitration. The draft is going through consultation process.

Parties may currently engage in domestic arbitration because the Code of Civil Procedure guarantees the enforcement of domestic arbitral awards. Mediation is also available for resolving all civil, commercial, and family disputes and is regulated by the law On Dispute Resolution through Mediation. Arbitral awards are final and enforceable and can be appealed only in cases foreseen in the Code of Civil Procedure. Mediation is final and enforceable in the same way.

The provisions for international arbitration procedures and the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards are stipulated in the Albanian Code of Civil Procedure. Albania does not have a separate law on international arbitration. The country is signatory to the 1958 New York Convention and therefore recognizes the validity of written arbitration agreements and arbitral awards in a contracting state.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Albania maintains adequate bankruptcy legislation, though corrupt and inefficient bankruptcy court proceedings make it difficult for companies to reorganize or discharge debts through bankruptcy.

A 2017 law on bankruptcy aimed to close loopholes in the insolvency regime, decrease unnecessary market exit procedures, reduce fraud, and ease collateral recovery procedures. The Bankruptcy Law governs the reorganization or liquidation of insolvent businesses. It sets out non-discriminatory and mandatory rules for the repayment of the obligations by a debtor in a bankruptcy procedure. The law establishes statutory time limits for insolvency procedures, professional qualifications for insolvency administrators, and an Agency of Insolvency Supervision to regulate the profession of insolvency administrators.

Debtors and creditors can initiate a bankruptcy procedure and can file for either liquidation or reorganization. Bankruptcy proceedings may be invoked when the debtor is unable to pay the obligations at the maturity date or the value of its liabilities exceeds the value of the assets.

According to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Law, the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings suspends the enforcement of claims by all creditors against the debtor subject to bankruptcy. Creditors of all categories must submit their claims to the bankruptcy administrator. The Bankruptcy Law provides specific treatment for different categories, including secured creditors, preferred creditors, unsecured creditors, and final creditors whose claims would be paid after all other creditors were satisfied. The claims of the secured creditors are to be satisfied by the assets of the debtor, which secure such claims under security agreements. The claims of the unsecured creditors are to be paid out of the bankruptcy estate, excluding the assets used for payment of the secured creditors, following the priority ranking as outlined in the Albanian Civil Code.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Law, creditors have the right to establish a creditors committee. The creditors committee is appointed by the Commercial Section Courts before the first meeting of the creditor assembly. The creditors committee represents the secured creditors, preferred creditors, and the unsecured creditors. The committee has the right (a) to support and supervise the activities of the insolvency administrator; (b) to request and receive information about the insolvency proceedings; c) to inspect the books and records; and d) to order an examination of the revenues and cash balances.

If the creditors and administrator agree that reorganization is the company’s best option, the bankruptcy administrator prepares a reorganization plan and submits it to the court for authorizing implementation.

According to the insolvency procedures, only creditors whose rights are affected by the proposed reorganization plan enjoy the right to vote, and the dissenting creditors in reorganization receive at least as much as what they would have obtained in a liquidation. Creditors are divided into classes for the purposes of voting on the reorganization plan and each class votes separately. Creditors of the same class are treated equally. The insolvency framework allows for the continuation of contracts supplying essential goods and services to the debtor, the rejection by the debtor of overly burdensome contracts, the avoidance of preferential or undervalued transactions, and the possibility of the debtor obtaining credit after commencement of insolvency proceedings. No priority is assigned to post-commencement over secured creditors. Post-commencement credit is assigned over ordinary unsecured creditors.

The creditor has the right to object to decisions accepting or rejecting creditors’ claims and to request information from the insolvency representative. The selection and appointment of insolvency representative does not require the approval of the creditor. In addition, the sale of substantial assets of the debtor does not required the approval of the creditor. According to the law on bankruptcy, foreign creditors have the same rights as domestic creditors with respect to the commencement of, and participation in, a bankruptcy proceeding. The claim is valued as of the date the insolvency proceeding is opened. Claims expressed in foreign currency are converted into Albanian currency according to the official exchange rate applicable to the place of payment at the time of the opening of the proceeding.

The Albanian Criminal Code contains several criminal offenses in bankruptcy, including (i) whether the bankruptcy was provoked intentionally; (ii) concealment of bankruptcy status; (iii) concealment of assets after bankruptcy; and (iv) failure to comply with the obligations arising under bankruptcy proceeding.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Albania ranked 39th out of 190 countries in the insolvency index. A referenced analysis of resolving insolvency can be found at the following link:   http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/255991574747242507/Doing-Business-2020-Comparing-Business-Regulation-in-190-Economies-Economy-Profile-of-Albania  

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government has adopted policies to promote the free flow of financial resources and foreign investment in Albania. The Law on “Strategic Investments” is based on the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, and protection of foreign investments. Foreign investors have the right to expatriate all funds and contributions of their investment.  In accordance with IMF Article VIII, the government and Central Bank do not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers for international transactions. Despite Albania’s shallow foreign exchange market, banks enjoy enough liquidity to support sizeable positions.  Portfolio investments continue to be a challenge because they remain limited mostly to company shares, government bonds, and real estate.

In recent years, the high percentage of non-performing loans and the economic slowdown forced commercial banks to tighten lending standards.  However, following a continuing decrease in non-performing loans (NPL) which at the end of 2020 reached 8.1 percent, lending increased by 6.5 percent year-over-year in 2020.  The credit market is competitive, but interest rates in domestic currency can be high, ranging from 5 percent to 6.5 percent. Most mortgage and commercial loans are denominated in euros because rate differentials between local and foreign currency average 1.5 percent. Commercial banks operating in Albania have improved the quality and quantity of services they provide, including a large variety of credit instruments, traditional lines of credit, and bank drafts, etc.

Money and Banking System

In the absence of an effective stock market, the country’s banking sector is the main channel for business financing.  The sector is sound, profitable, and well capitalized. The Bank of Albania, the country’s Central Bank, is responsible for the licensing and supervision of the banking sector in Albania. The banking sector is 100 percent privately owned and its total assets have steadily increased over the years reaching $15 billion mostly based on customers deposits.   The banking sector has consolidated recently as the number of banks decreased from 16 in 2018 to 12 in 2020. As of December 2020, the Turkish owned National Commercial Bank (BKT) was the largest bank in the market with 26.4 percent market share, followed by Albanian Credins Bank with 15.5 percent, and Austrian Raiffeisen Bank third with 14.9 percent.  The American Investment Bank is the only bank with U.S. shareholders and ranks sixth with 5.5% percent of the banking sector’s total assets.

The number of bank outlets has also decreased over the recent years also due to the consolidation. In December 2020, Albania had 416 bank outlets, down from 446 from 2019 and the peak of 552 in 2016. Capital adequacy, at 18.23 percent, remains above Basel requirements and indicates sufficient assets.  At the end of 2020, the return on assets was just 1.2 percent. The share of NPLs continued to fall, reaching 8.1 percent at the end of the 2020, down from 11.1 percent in 2018, and significantly below the 2014 level when NPLs peaked at 25 percent. As part of its strategy to stimulate business activity, the Bank of Albania has adopted a plan to ease monetary policy by continuing to persistently keep low interest rates. The most recent reduction was in March 2020, when the interest rate was reduced to the historic low of 0.5 percent, down from a rate of 1 percent in place since June 2018.

Many of the banks operating in Albania are subsidiaries of foreign banks. Only three banks have an ownership structure whose majority shareholders are Albanian. However, the share of total assets of the banks with majority Albanian shareholders has increased because of the sector’s ongoing consolidation. There are no restrictions for foreigners who wish to establish a bank account. They are not required to prove residency status. However, U.S. citizens must complete a form allowing for the disclosure of their banking data to the IRS as required under the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Bank of Albania (BoA) formulates, adopts, and implements foreign exchange policies and maintains a supervisory role in foreign exchange activities in accordance with the Law on the Bank of Albania No. 8269 and the Banking Law No. 9662.  Foreign exchange is regulated by the 2009 Regulation on Foreign Exchange Activities no. 70 (FX Regulation).

BoA maintains a free float exchange rate regime for the domestic currency, the Lek. Albanian authorities do not engage in currency arbitrage, nor do they view it as an efficient instrument to achieve competitive advantage.  BoA does not intervene to manipulate the exchange rate unless required to control domestic inflation, in accordance with the Bank’s official mandate of inflation targeting.

Foreign exchange is readily available at banks and exchange bureaus. Preliminary notification is necessary if the currency exchange is several million dollars or more – the law does not specify an amount but provides factors for determining the threshold for large exchanges – as the exchange market in Albania is shallow.  A 2018 campaign launched by the BoA to reduce the domestic use of the euro to improve the effectiveness of domestic economic policies has produced tangible results. The share of foreign currency loans in total loans fell from 60 percent in 2015 to 47 percent in 2020. Foreign currency deposits, which to some extent reflect relatively high remittances, reached to 53.4 percent of total deposits.

Remittance Policies

The Banking Law does not impose restrictions on the purchase, sale, holding, or transfer of monetary foreign exchange.  However, local law authorizes the BoA to temporarily restrict the purchase, sale, holding, or transfer of foreign exchange to preserve the foreign exchange rate or official reserves.  In practice, BoA rarely employs such measures. Faced with the unprecedented economic disruption following the COVID-19 pandemic, on July 1, 2020 Bank of Albania ordered banks to halt distribution of dividends and use dividends to cover potential losses and increase loans to the economy. The decision, initially in force till the end of 2020, was extended till the end of 2021.

The Law on Foreign Investment guarantees the right to transfer and repatriate funds associated with an investment in Albania into a freely usable currency at a market-clearing rate.  Only licensed entities (banks) may conduct foreign exchange transfers and waiting periods depend on office procedures adopted by the banks. Both Albanian and foreign citizens entering or leaving the country must declare assets in excess of 1,000,000 lek (USD 9,000) in hard currency and/or precious items.  Failure to declare such assets is considered a criminal act, punishable by confiscation of the assets and possible imprisonment.

Although the Foreign Exchange (FX) Regulation provides that residents and non-residents may transfer capital within and into Albania without restriction, capital transfers out of Albania are subject to certain documentation requirements.  Persons must submit a request indicating the reasons for the capital transfer, a certificate of registration from the National Registration Center, and the address to which the capital will be transferred. Such persons must also submit a declaration on the source of the funds to be transferred.  In January 2015, the FX Regulation was amended and the requirement to present the documentation showing the preliminary payment of taxes related to the transaction was removed.

Albania is a member of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body.  In February 2020, Albania was included in the category of jurisdictions under increased monitoring, also referred to as the Grey List. Albania had previously been on this list and was taken off in 2015. The 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) keeps Albania in the “Major Money Laundering Jurisdictions” category following its inclusion for the first time in 2017. The category implies that financial institutions of the country engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.  Albania and the United States do not have a bilateral MLAT, but cooperation is possible through multilateral conventions.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Parliament approved a law in October 2019 to establish the Albanian Investment Corporation (AIC). The law entered in force in January 2020. The AIC would develop, manage, and administer state-owned property and assets, invest across all sectors by mobilizing state owned and private domestic and foreign capital, and promote economic and social development by investing in line with government-approved development policies.

The GoA plans to transfer state-owned assets, including state-owned land, to the AIC and provide initial capital to launch the corporation. The IMF  Staff Concluding Statement   of November 26, 2019, warned that the law would allow the government to direct individual investment decisions, which could make the AIC an off-budget spending tool that risks eroding fiscal discipline and circumventing public investment management processes. There were no activities by the AIC in 2020.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are defined as legal entities that are entirely state-owned or state-controlled and operate as commercial companies in compliance with the Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies. SOEs operate mostly in the generation, distribution, and transmission of electricity, oil and gas, railways, postal services, ports, and water supply. There is no published list of SOEs.

The law does not discriminate between public and private companies operating in the same sector. The government requires SOEs to submit annual reports and undergo independent audits. SOEs are subject to the same tax levels and procedures and the same domestic accounting and international financial reporting standards as other commercial companies. The High State Audit audits SOE activities. SOEs are also subject to public procurement law.

Albania is yet to become party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the WTO but has obtained observer status and is negotiating full accession (see https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/gproc_e/memobs_e.htm ).  Private companies can compete openly and under the same terms and conditions with respect to market share, products and services, and incentives.

SOE operation in Albania is regulated by the Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies, the Law on State Owned Enterprises, and the Law on the Transformation of State-Owned Enterprises into Commercial Companies. The Ministry of Economy and Finance and other relevant ministries, depending on the sector, represent the state as the owner of the SOEs. SOEs are not obligated by law to adhere to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines explicitly. However, basic principles of corporate governance are stipulated in the relevant laws and generally accord with OECD guidelines. The corporate governance structure of SOEs includes the supervisory board and the general director (administrator) in the case of joint stock companies. The supervisory board comprises three to nine members, who are not employed by the SOE. Two-thirds of board members are appointed by the representative of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and one-third by the line ministry, local government unit, or institution to which the company reports. The Supervisory Board is the highest decision-making authority and appoints and dismisses the administrator of the SOE through a two-thirds vote.

Privatization Program

The privatization process in Albania is nearing conclusion, with just a few major privatizations remaining. Entities to be privatized include OSHEE, the state-run electricity distributor; 16 percent of ALBtelecom, the fixed-line telephone company; and state-owned oil company Albpetrol. O ther sectors might provide opportunities for privatization in the future.

The bidding process for privatizations is public, and relevant information is published by the Public Procurement Agency at  www.app.gov.al . Foreign investors may participate in the privatization program. The Agency has not published timelines for future privatizations.

10. Political and Security Environment

Political violence is rare, the most recent being political protests in 2019 that included instances of civil disobedience, low-level violence and damage to property, and the use of tear gas by police. Albania’s June 2017 elections and transition to a new government were peaceful, as were its June 2019 local elections. On January 21, 2011, security forces shot and killed four protesters during a violent political demonstration. In its external relations, Albania has usually encouraged stability in the region and maintains generally friendly relations with neighboring countries.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy 
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $15,279 2019 $15.279 www.worldbank.org/en/country

https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/weo-database/2021/April

Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $82 2018 $35 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 $0 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 59.5% 2019 57.6% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/topic/investment/
world-investment-report
 

*Source for Host Country Data: Bank of Albania (http://www.bankofalbania.org/)

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 8,364 100% Total Outward 680 100%
Switzerland 1,672 20% Kosovo 358 52.6%
The Netherlands 1,358 16.2% Italy 185 27.2%
Canada 1,243 14.9% United States 34 5%
Italy 728 8.7% North Macedonia 34 5%
Bulgaria 599 7.2% Greece 17 2.5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $1,388 100% All Countries $43 100% All Countries $1,345 100%
Turkey $243 17% Turkey $18 41.5% Turkey $225 17%
Germany $145 10% Canada $17 40.5% Germany $145 11%
Greece $130 9% Netherlands $8 18% Greece $130 10%
Italy $101 7% N/A France $101 8%
France $83 6% N/A Italy $83 6%

Algeria

Executive Summary

Algeria’s state enterprise-dominated economy is challenging for U.S. businesses, but multiple sectors offer opportunities for long-term growth. The government is prioritizing investment in agriculture, information and communications technology, mining, hydrocarbons (both upstream and downstream), renewable energy, and healthcare.

Following his December 2019 election, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has promised economic and political reforms, though progress has been slow due to COVID-19, his own extended absences for medical reasons, and a lack of popular support. Algeria adopted a new Constitution in December 2020 and after dissolving parliament in February 2021, President Tebboune announced legislative elections will take place in June 2021.

In 2020, the government eliminated the so-called “51/49” restriction that required majority Algerian ownership of all new businesses, though it retained the requirement for “strategic sectors,” identified as energy, mining, defense, transportation infrastructure, and pharmaceuticals manufacturing (with the exception of innovative products). In the 2021 Finance Law, the government reinstated the 51/49 ownership requirement – with retroactive application – for any company importing items into Algeria with an intent to resell. The government passed a new hydrocarbons law in 2019, improving fiscal terms and contract flexibility in order to attract new international investors. The new law encouraged major international oil companies to sign memorandums of understanding with the national hydrocarbons company, Sonatrach. The government did not meet its goal of issuing all 43 regulatory texts enacting the legislation by March 31, 2021; thus far only 10 have been released. The Algerian government took several steps, including establishing a standalone ministry dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry and issuing regulations to resolve several long-standing issues, to improve market access for U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

Algeria’s economy is driven by hydrocarbons production, which historically accounts for 95 percent of export revenues and approximately 60 percent of government income. Following the significant drop in oil prices in March 2020, the government cut budgeted expenditures by 50 percent and significantly reduced investment in the energy sector. Though the 2021 budget boosted state spending by 10 percent amidst a modest recovery in global hydrocarbon prices, Algeria continues to run a persistent budget deficit. Despite a significant reduction in revenues, the historically debt-averse government continued to resist seeking foreign financing, preferring to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost employment and replace imports with local production. Traditionally, Algeria has pursued protectionist policies to encourage the development of local industries. The import substitution policies it employs tend to generate regulatory uncertainty, supply shortages, increased prices, and limited selection for consumer goods. The government depreciated the Algerian dinar approximately 15% over the last year in an effort to conserve its foreign exchange reserves, resulting in significant food inflation.

The government has taken measures to minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including delaying tax payments for small businesses, extending credit and restructuring loan payments, and decreasing banks’ reserve requirements.

Economic operators deal with a range of challenges, including complicated customs procedures, cumbersome bureaucracy, difficulties in monetary transfers, and price competition from international rivals particularly China, France, and Turkey. International firms operate in Algeria complain that laws and regulations are constantly shifting and applied unevenly, raising commercial risk for foreign investors. An ongoing anti-corruption campaign has increased weariness regarding large-scale investment projects. Business contracts are subject to changing interpretation and revision of regulations, which has proved challenging to U.S. and international firms. Other drawbacks include limited regional integration, which hampers opportunities to rely on international supply chains.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 104 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 157 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 121 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $2.7 billion https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $4,010 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Algerian economy is both challenging and potentially highly rewarding. While the Algerian government publicly welcomes FDI, a difficult business climate, an inconsistent regulatory environment, and sometimes contradictory government policies complicate foreign investment. There are business opportunities in nearly every sector, including agribusiness, consumer goods, energy, healthcare, mining, pharmaceuticals, power, recycling, telecommunications, and transportation.

The urgency for Algeria to diversify its economy away from reliance on hydrocarbons has increased amid low and fluctuating oil prices since mid-2014, a youth population bulge, and increased domestic consumption of energy resources. The government reiterated its intention to diversify in its August 2020 plan to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The government has sought to reduce the country’s persistent trade deficit through import substitution policies, currency depreciation, and import tariffs as it attempts to preserve rapidly diminishing foreign exchange reserves. On January 29, 2019, the government implemented tariffs between 30-200 percent on over one-thousand goods it assessed were destined for direct sale to consumers. Companies that set up local manufacturing operations can receive permission to import materials the government would not otherwise approve for import if the importer can show materials will be used in local production. Certain regulations explicitly favor local firms at the expense of foreign competitors, most prominently in the pharmaceutical sector, where an import ban the government implemented in 2009 remains in place on more than 360 medicines and medical devices. Frequent, unpredictable changes to business regulations have added to the uncertainty in the market.

Algeria eliminated state enterprises’ “right of first refusal” on most transfers of foreign holdings to foreign shareholders, with the exception of identified “strategic” sectors. Though the 2020 Complementary Finance Law eliminated the 51/49 domestic ownership requirement with the exception of “strategic sectors,” the 2021 Finance Law restored the requirement for importers of products for domestic resale, and regulations governing the auto industry released in September 2020 required automobile importers to be wholly domestically owned.

There are two main agencies responsible for attracting foreign investment, the National Agency of Investment Development (ANDI) and the National Agency for the Valorization of Hydrocarbons (ALNAFT).

ANDI is the primary Algerian government agency tasked with recruiting and retaining foreign investment. ANDI runs branches in Algeria’s 58 states (wilayas) which are tasked with facilitating business registration, tax payments, and other administrative procedures for both domestic and foreign investors. U.S. companies report that the agency is understaffed and ineffective. Its “one-stop shops” only operate out of physical offices and do not maintain dialogue with investors after they have initiated an investment. The agency’s effectiveness is undercut by its lack of decision-making authority, particularly for industrial projects, which is exercised by the Ministry of Industry, the Minister of Industry themself, and in many cases the Prime Minister.

ALNAFT is charged with attracting foreign investment to Algeria’s upstream oil and gas sector. In addition to organizing events marketing upstream opportunities to potential investors, the agency maintains a paid-access digital database with extensive technical information about Algeria’s hydrocarbons resources.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Establishing a presence in Algeria can take any of three basic forms: 1) a liaison office with no local partner requirement and no authority to perform commercial operations, 2) a branch office to execute a specific contract, with no obligation to have a local partner, allowing the parent company to conduct commercial activity (considered a resident Algerian entity without full legal authority), or 3) a local company with 51 percent of capital held by a local company or shareholders. A business can be incorporated as a joint stock company (JSC), a limited liability company (LLC), a limited partnership (LP), a limited partnership with shares (LPS), or an undeclared partnership. Groups and consortia are also used by foreign companies when partnering with other foreign companies or with local firms.

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. However, the 51/49 rule requires majority Algerian ownership in all projects involving foreign investments in the “strategic sectors” of energy, mining, defense, transportation infrastructure, and pharmaceuticals (with the exception of innovative products), as well as for importers of goods for resale in Algeria.

The 51/49 investment rule poses challenges for various types of investors. For example, the requirement hampers market access for foreign small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as they often do not have the human resources or financial capital to navigate complex legal and regulatory requirements. Large companies can find creative ways to work within the law, sometimes with the cooperation of local authorities who are more flexible with large investments that promise significant job creation and technology and equipment transfers. SMEs usually do not receive this same consideration. There are also allegations that Algerian partners sometimes refuse to invest the required funds in the company’s business, require non-contract funds to win contracts, and send unqualified workers to job sites. Manufacturers are also concerned about intellectual property rights (IPR), as foreign companies do not want to surrender control of their designs and patents. Several U.S. companies have reported they have policies that preclude them from investing overseas without maintaining a majority share, out of concerns for both IPR and financial control of the local venture, which thus prevent them from establishing businesses in Algeria.

Algerian government officials defended the 51/49 requirement as necessary to prevent capital flight, protect Algerian businesses, and provide foreign businesses with local expertise. For sectors where the requirement remains, officials contend a range of tailored measures can mitigate the effect of the 51/49 rule and allow the minority foreign shareholder to exercise other means of control. Some foreign investors use multiple local partners in the same venture, effectively reducing ownership of each individual local partner to enable the foreign partner to own the largest share.

The Algerian government does not officially screen FDI, though Algerian state enterprises have a “right of first refusal” on transfers of foreign holdings to foreign shareholders in identified strategic industries. Companies must notify the Council for State Participation (CPE) of these transfers. In addition, initial foreign investments remain subject to approvals from a host of ministries that cover the proposed project, most often the Ministries of Commerce, Health, Pharmaceutical Industry, Energy, Telecommunications and Post, Industry, and Mines. U.S. companies have reported that certain high-profile industrial proposals, such as for automotive assembly, are subject to informal approval by the Prime Minister. In 2017, the government instituted an Investments Review Council chaired by the Prime Minister for the purpose of “following up” on investments; in practice, the establishment of the council means FDI proposals are subject to additional government scrutiny. According to the 2016 Investment Law, projects registered through the ANDI deemed to have special interest for the national economy or high employment generating potential may be eligible for extensive investment advantages. For any project over 5 billion dinars (approximately USD 38 million) to benefit from these advantages, it must be approved by the Prime Minister-chaired National Investments Council (CNI). The CNI previously met regularly, though it is not clear how the agenda of projects considered at each meeting is determined. Critics allege the CNI is a non-transparent mechanism which could be subject to capture by vested interests. In 2020 the operations of the CNI and the CPE were temporarily suspended pending review by the former Ministry of Industry, but a final decision as to their status has not been made.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Algeria has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). The last investment policy review by a third party was conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2003 and published in 2004.

Business Facilitation

Algeria’s online information portal dedicated to business creation www.jecreemonentreprise.dz and the business registration website www.cnrc.org.dz are under maintenance and have been so for more than a year. The Ministry of Commerce is currently developing a new electronic portal at https://cnrcinfo.cnrc.dz/qui-somme-nous/ . The websites provide information about several business registration steps applicable for registering certain kinds of businesses. Entrepreneurs report that additional information about requirements or regulation updates for business registration are available only in person at the various offices involved in the creation and registration process. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also recently established an Information Bureau for the Promotion of Investments and Exports (BIPIE) to support Algerian diplomats working on economic issues abroad, as well as provide local points of contact for Algerian companies operating overseas.

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report, Algeria’s ranking for starting a business was unchanged at 157 out of 190 countries ( http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/algeria ).

This year’s improvements were modest and concerned only three of the ten indicator categories. The World Bank report lists 12 procedures that cumulatively take an average of 18 days to complete to register a new business. New business owners seeking to establish their enterprises have sometimes reported the process takes longer, noting that the most updated version of regulations and required forms are only available in person at multiple offices, therefore requiring multiple visits.

Outward Investment

Algeria does not restrict domestic investors from investing overseas, provided they can access foreign currency for such investments. The exchange of Algerian dinars outside of Algerian territory is illegal, as is the carrying abroad of more than 10,000 dinars in cash at a time (approximately USD 76; see section 7 for more details on currency exchange restrictions).

Algeria’s National Agency to Promote External Trade (ALGEX), housed in the Ministry of Commerce, is the agency responsible for supporting Algerian businesses outside the hydrocarbons sector that want to export abroad. ALGEX controls a special promotion fund to promote exports, but the funds can only be accessed for limited purposes. For example, funds might be provided to pay for construction of a booth at a trade fair, but travel costs associated with getting to the fair – which can be expensive for overseas shows – would not be covered. The Algerian Company of Insurance and Guarantees to Exporters (CAGEX), also housed under the Ministry of Commerce, provides insurance to exporters. In 2003, Algeria established a National Consultative Council for Promotion of Exports (CCNCPE) that is supposed to meet annually. Algerian exporters claim difficulties working with ALGEX including long delays in obtaining support funds, and the lack of ALGEX offices overseas despite a 2003 law for their creation. The Bank of Algeria’s 2002 Money and Credit law allows Algerians to request the conversion of dinars to foreign currency in order to finance their export activities, but exporters must repatriate an equivalent amount to any funds spent abroad, for example money spent on marketing or other business costs incurred.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The national government manages all regulatory processes. Legal and regulatory procedures, as written, are considered consistent with international norms, although the decision-making process is at times opaque.

Algeria implemented the Financial Accounting System (FAS) in 2010. Though legislation does not make explicit references, FAS appears to be based on International Accounting Standards Board and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Operators generally find accounting standards follow international norms, though they note that some particularly complex processes in IFRS have detailed explanations and instructions but are explained relatively briefly in FAS.

There is no mechanism for public comment on draft laws, regulations, or regulatory procedures. Copies of draft laws are generally not made publicly accessible before enactment, although the Ministry of Finance published a draft of the 2021 Finance Law in October before its consideration by Parliament. Government officials often give testimony to Parliament on draft legislation, and that testimony typically receives press coverage. Occasionally, copies of bills are leaked to the media. All laws and some regulations are published in the Official Gazette (www.joradp.dz ) in Arabic and French, but the database has only limited online search features and no summaries are published. Secondary legislation and/or administrative acts (known as “circulaires” or “directives”) often provide important details on how to implement laws and procedures. Administrative acts are generally written at the ministry level and not made public, though may be available if requested in person at a particular agency or ministry. Public tenders are often accompanied by a book of specifications only provided upon payment.

In some cases, authority over a matter may rest among multiple ministries, which may impose additional bureaucratic steps and the likelihood of either inaction or the issuance of conflicting regulations. The development of regulations occurs largely away from public view; internal discussions at or between ministries are not usually made public. In some instances, the only public interaction on regulations development is a press release from the official state press service at the conclusion of the process; in other cases, a press release is issued earlier. Regulatory enforcement mechanisms and agencies exist at some ministries, but they are usually understaffed, and enforcement remains weak.

The National Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CNESE) studies the effects of Algerian government policies and regulations in economic, social, and environmental spheres. CNESE provides feedback on proposed legislation, but neither the feedback nor legislation are necessarily made public.

Information on external debt obligations up to fiscal year 2019 is publicly available online via the Central Bank’s quarterly statistical bulletin. The statistical bulletin describes external debt and not public debt, but the Ministry of Finance’s budget execution summaries reflect amalgamated debt totals. The Ministry of Finance is planning to create an electronic, consolidated database of internal and external debt information, and in 2019 published additional public debt information on its website. A 2017 amendment to the 2003 law on currency and credit covering non-conventional financing authorizes the Central Bank to purchase bonds directly from the Treasury for a period of up to five years. The Ministry of Finance indicated this would include purchasing debt from state enterprises, allowing the Central Bank to transfer money to the treasury, which would then provide the cash to, for example, state owned enterprises in exchange for their debt. In September 2019, the Prime Minister announced Algeria would no longer use non-conventional financing, although the Ministry of Finance stressed the program remains available until 2022.

International Regulatory Considerations

Algeria is not a member of any regional economic bloc or of the WTO. The structure of Algerian regulations largely follows European – specifically French – standards.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Algeria’s legal system is based on the French civil law tradition. The commercial law was established in 1975 and most recently updated in 2007 ( www.joradp.dz/TRV/FCom.pdf ). The judiciary is nominally independent from the executive branch, but U.S. companies have reported allegations of political pressure exerted on the courts by the executive. Organizations representing lawyers and judges have protested during the past year against alleged executive branch interference in judicial independence. Regulation enforcement actions are adjudicated in the national courts system and are appealable. Algeria has a system of administrative tribunals for adjudicating disputes with the government, distinct from the courts that handle civil disputes and criminal cases. Decisions made under treaties or conventions to which Algeria is a signatory are binding and enforceable under Algerian law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 51/49 investment rule requires a majority Algerian ownership in “strategic sectors” as prescribed in the 2020 Complementary Finance Law (see section 2). There are few other laws restricting foreign investment. In practice, the many regulatory and bureaucratic requirements for business operations provide officials avenues to informally advance political or protectionist policies. The investment law enacted in 2016 charged ANDI with creating four new branches to assist with business establishment and the management of investment incentives. ANDI’s website (www.andi.dz/index.php/en/investir-en-algerie ) lists the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. Much of the information lacks detail – particularly for the new incentives elaborated in the 2016 investments law – and refers prospective investors to ANDI’s physical “one-stop shops” located throughout the country. The website has been nonfunctional for several months.

There is an ongoing effort by the customs service, under the Ministry of Finance, to establish a new digital platform featuring one-stop shops for importers and exports to streamline bureaucratic processes. The Ministry expects the service to begin in 2021.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Algiers Stock Exchange has five stocks listed – each at no more than 35 percent equity. There is a small and medium enterprise exchange with one listed company. The exchange has a total market capitalization representing less than 0.1 percent of Algeria’s GDP. Daily trading volume on the exchange averages around USD 2,000. Despite its small size, the market is regulated by an independent oversight commission that enforces compliance requirements on listed companies and traders.

Government officials have expressed their desire to reach a capitalization of USD 7.8 billion and enlist up to 50 new companies. Attempts to list additional companies have been stymied by a lack both of public awareness and appetite for portfolio investment, as well as by private and public companies’ unpreparedness to satisfy due diligence requirements that would attract investors. Proposed privatizations of state-owned companies have also been opposed by the public. Algerian society generally prefers material investment vehicles for savings, namely cash. Public banks, which dominate the banking sector (see below), are required to purchase government securities when offered, meaning they have little leftover liquidity to make other investments. Foreign portfolio investment is prohibited – the purchase of any investment product in Algeria, whether a government or corporate bond or equity stock, is limited to Algerian residents only.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is roughly 85 percent public and 15 percent private as measured by value of assets held and is regulated by an independent central bank. Publicly available data from private institutions and U.S. Federal Reserve Economic Data show estimated total assets in the commercial banking sector in 2017 were roughly 13.9 trillion dinars (USD 116.7 billion) against 9.2 trillion dinars (USD 77.2 billion) in liabilities. The central bank had mandated a 12 percent reserve requirement until mid-2016, when in response to a drop in liquidity the bank lowered the threshold to eight percent. In August 2017, the ratio was further reduced to 4 percent in an effort to inject further liquidity into the banking system. The decrease in liquidity was a result of all public banks buying government bonds in the first public bond issuance in more than 10 years; buying at least five percent of the offered bonds is required for banks to participate as primary dealers in the government securities market. The bond issuance essentially returned funds to the state that it had deposited at local banks during years of high hydrocarbons profits. In January 2018, the bank increased the retention ratio from 4 percent to 8 percent, followed by a further increase in February 2019 to a 12 percent ratio in anticipation of a rise in bank liquidity due to the government’s non-conventional financing policy, which allows the Treasury to borrow directly from the central bank to pay state debts. In response to liquidity concerns caused by the oil price decline and COVID-19 crisis, the bank progressively decreased the reserve requirement from 12 percent to 3 percent between March and September 2020.

The IMF and Bank of Algeria have noted moderate growth in non-performing assets since 2015, currently estimated between 12 and 13 percent of total assets. The quality of service in public banks is generally considered low as generations of public banking executives and workers trained to operate in a statist economy lack familiarity with modern banking practices. Most transactions are materialized (non-electronic). Many areas of the country suffer from a dearth of branches, leaving large amounts of the population without access to banking services. ATMs are not widespread, especially outside the major cities, and few accept foreign bankcards. Outside of major hotels with international clientele, hardly any retail establishments accept credit cards. Algerian banks do issue debit cards, but the system is distinct from any international payment system. The Minister of Commerce announced a plan to require businesses to use electronic payments for all commercial and service transactions, though a government deadline for all stores to deploy electronic payment terminals was delayed for the third time to the end of 2021. In addition, approximately 6.1 trillion dinars (USD 46 billion), or one-third, of the money supply is estimated to circulate in the informal economy.

Foreigners can open foreign currency accounts without restriction, but proof of a work permit or residency is required to open an account in Algerian dinars. Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in the country, but they must be legally distinct entities from their overseas home offices.

In 2015, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Algeria from its Public Statement, and in 2016 it removed Algeria from the “gray list.” The FATF recognized Algeria’s significant progress and the improvement in its anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime. The FATF also indicated Algeria has substantially addressed its action plan since strategic deficiencies were identified in 2011.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are few statutory restrictions on foreign investors converting, transferring, or repatriating funds, according to banking executives. Monies cannot be expatriated to pay royalties or to pay for services provided by resident foreign companies. The difficultly with conversions and transfers results mostly from the procedures of the transfers rather than the statutory limitations: the process is bureaucratic and requires almost 30 different steps from start to finish. Missteps at any stage can slow down or completely halt the process. Transfers should take roughly one month to complete, but often take three to six months. Also, the Algerian government has been known to delay the process as leverage in commercial and financial disputes with foreign companies.

Expatriated funds can be converted to any world currency. The IMF classifies the exchange rate regime as an “other managed arrangement,” with the central bank pegging the value of the Algerian dinar (DZD) to a “basket” composed of 64 percent of the value of the U.S. dollar and 36 percent of the value of the euro. The currency’s value is not controlled by any market mechanism and is set solely by the central bank. As the Central Bank controls the official exchange rate of the dinar, any change in its value could be considered currency manipulation. When dollar-denominated hydrocarbons profits fell starting in mid-2014, the central bank allowed a slow depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over 24 months, culminating in about a 30 percent fall in its value before stabilizing around 110 dinars to the U.S. dollar in late 2016. The 2020 Finance Law forecast a 10 percent depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over three years. However, the government allowed the dinar to depreciate eleven percent against the dollar in 2020 and has forecasted an 18 percent depreciation through 2023 in the 2021 Finance Law. Despite devaluation in the official rate, imbalances in foreign exchange supply and demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and travel restrictions beginning in March 2020 led to a steep decline in the value of the euro and dollar on the foreign exchange black market.

The 2021 Finance Law includes provisions to curb import activity, requiring importers of most products to make payment 30 days after the date of shipment of goods, with exceptions for strategic products, food items, or other items of “emergency character.”  As importers are required to request import approvals well in advance of the shipment of the goods, the new measure exposes importers to significant exchange rate uncertainty.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to remittance policies. Algerian exchange control law remains strict and complex. There are no specific time limitations, although the bureaucracy involved in remittances can often slow the process to as long as six months. Personal transfers of foreign currency into the country must be justified and declared as not for business purpose. There is no legal parallel market through which investors can remit; however, there is a substantial black market for foreign currency, where the dollar and euro trade at a significant premium above official rates, although economic disruptions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 led to interruptions in the functioning of the black market. With the more favorable informal rates, local sources report that most remittances occur via foreign currency hand-carried into the country. Under central bank regulations revised in September 2016, travelers to Algeria are permitted to enter the country with up to 1,000 euros or equivalent without declaring the funds to customs. However, any non-resident can only exchange dinars back to a foreign currency with proof of initial conversion from the foreign currency. The same regulations prohibit the transfer of more than 10,000 dinars (USD 75) outside Algeria.

Private citizens may convert up to 15,000 dinars (USD 118) per year for travel abroad, and must demonstrate proof of their intention to travel abroad through plane tickets or other official documents.

In April 2019, the Finance Ministry announced the creation of a vigilance committee to monitor and control financial transactions to foreign countries. It divided operations into three categories relating to 1) imports, 2) investments abroad, and 3) transfer abroad of profits.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Algeria’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is the “Fonds de Regulation des Recettes (FRR).” The Finance Ministry’s website shows the fund decreased from 4408.2 billion dinars (USD 37.36 billion) in 2014 to 784.5 billion dinars (USD 6.65 billion) in 2016. The data has not been updated since 2016. Algerian media reported the FRR was spent down to zero as of February 2017. Algeria is not known to have participated in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWFs.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) comprise more than half of the formal Algerian economy. SOEs are amalgamated into a single line of the state budget and are listed in the official business registry. To be defined as an SOE, a company must be at least 51 percent owned by the state.

Algerian SOEs are bureaucratic and may be subject to political influence. There are competing lines of authority at the mid-levels, and contacts report mid- and upper-level managers are reluctant to make decisions because internal accusations of favoritism or corruption are often used to settle political and personal scores. Senior management teams at SOEs report to their relevant ministry; CEOs of the larger companies such as national hydrocarbons company Sonatrach, national electric utility Sonelgaz, and airline Air Algerie report directly to ministers. Boards of directors are appointed by the state, and the allocation of these seats is considered political. SOEs are not known to adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance.

Legally, public and private companies compete under the same terms with respect to market share, products and services, and incentives. In reality, private enterprises assert that public companies sometimes receive more favorable treatment. Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, but they work with private banks and they are less bureaucratic than their public counterparts. Public companies generally refrain from doing business with private banks and a 2008 government directive ordered public companies to work only with public banks. The directive was later officially rescinded, but public companies continued the practice. However, the heads of Algeria’s two largest state enterprises, Sonatrach and Sonelgaz, both indicated in 2020 that given current budget pressures they are investigating recourse to foreign financing, including from private banks. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors, but business contacts report that the government favors SOEs over private sector companies in terms of access to land.

SOEs are subject to budget constraints. Audits of public companies can be conducted by the Court of Auditors, a financially autonomous institution. The constitution explicitly charges it with “ex post inspection of the finances of the state, collectivities, public services, and commercial capital of the state,” as well as preparing and submitting an annual report to the President, heads of both chambers of Parliament, and Prime Minister. The Court makes its audits public on its website, for free, but with a time delay, which does not conform to international norms.

The Court conducts audits simultaneously but independently from the Ministry of Finance’s year-end reports. The Court makes its reports available online once finalized and delivered to the Parliament, whereas the Ministry withholds publishing year-end reports until after the Parliament and President have approved them. The Court’s audit reports cover the entire implemented national budget by fiscal year and examine each annual planning budget that is passed by Parliament.

The General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF), the public auditing body under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, can conduct “no-notice” audits of public companies. The results of these audits are sent directly to the Minister of Finance, and the offices of the President and Prime Minister. They are not made available publicly. The Court of Auditors and IGF previously had joint responsibility for auditing certain accounts, but they are in the process of eliminating this redundancy. Further legislation clarifying whether the delineation of responsibility for particular accounts which could rest with the Court of Auditors or the Ministry of Finance’s General Inspection of Finance (IGF) unit has yet to be issued.

Privatization Program

There has been limited privatization of certain projects previously managed by SOEs, and so far restricted to the water sector and possibly a few other sectors. However, the privatization of SOEs remains publicly sensitive and has been largely halted.

10. Political and Security Environment

Following nearly two months of massive protests, known as the hirak, former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned on April 2, 2019, after 20 years in power. His resignation launched an eight-month transition, resulting in the election of Abdelmadjid Tebboune as president in December 2019. Voter turnout was approximately 40 percent and the new administration continues to focus on restoring government authority and legitimacy. Following historically low turnout of 24 percent in the November 2020 constitutional referendum and President Tebboune’s lengthy medical absences in late 2020 and early 2021, hirak protests resumed in February 2021. Demonstrations have taken place in Algeria’s major wilayas (states) and have focused largely on political reform, as protestors continue to call for an overhaul of the Algerian government. President Tebboune dissolved parliament in February and Algeria will hold new parliamentary elections in June.

Prior to the hirak, which began in 2019, demonstrations in Algeria tended to concern housing and other social programs and were generally smaller than a few hundred participants. While most protests were peaceful, there were occasional outbreaks of violence that resulted in injuries, sometimes resulting from efforts of security forces to disperse the protests. Hirak protests remain relatively peaceful, though security forces occasionally use heavy-handed tactics to suppress protesters. Smaller protests due to socioeconomic conditions still occur sporadically throughout the country, but mostly in the largely marginalized areas of the south.

Government reactions to public unrest typically include tighter security control on movement between and within cities to prevent further clashes, significant security presence in anticipated protest zones, and promises of either greater public expenditures on local infrastructure or increased local hiring for state-owned companies. During the first few months of 2015, there were a series of protests in several cities in southern Algeria against the government’s program to drill test wells for shale gas. These protests were largely peaceful but sometimes resulted in clashes, injury, and rarely, property damage. Government pronouncements in 2017 that shale gas exploration would recommence did not generate protests.

On April 27, 2020, an Algerian court sentenced an expatriate manager and an Algerian employee of a large hotel to six months in prison on charges of “undermining the integrity of the national territory” for allegedly sharing publicly available security information with corporate headquarters outside of Algeria.

The Algerian government requires all foreign employees of foreign companies or organizations based in Algeria to contact the Foreigners Office of the Ministry of the Interior before traveling in the country’s interior so that the government can evaluate security conditions. The Algerian government also requires U.S. Embassy employees to request permission and a police escort to visit the Casbah in Algiers and to coordinate travel with the government on any trip outside of the Algiers wilaya (state). In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Algerian government imposed ongoing lockdowns or curfews throughout the country, cancelled events and gatherings, suspended public transportation and domestic and international flights, and required 50 percent of all non-essential employees to stay at home. Though restrictions on domestic travel have been lifted, restrictions on international travel persisted into 2021. These restrictions may impact where and when certain U.S. consular services can be provided.

In February 2020, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber who attacked a military barrack in southern Algeria, killing a soldier. This was met with a swift response by Algerian security services against the militants responsible for the attacks, and the Algerian army continues to carry out counterterrorism operations throughout the country.

According to official Defense Ministry announcements, Algerian security forces “neutralized” 37 terrorists (21 killed, 9 arrested, and 7 surrendered) and arrested an additional 108 “supporters” of terrorism in 2020.  Army detachments also destroyed 251 terrorist hideouts and seized a large quantity of ammunition and explosives during the year

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Algeria are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) via the State Department’s travel registration website, https://step.state.gov/step, to receive security messages and make it easier to be located in an emergency. 11. Labor Policies and Practices

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2020 $144.9 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $2,749 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 18.9% UNCTAD data available athttps://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report

* Source for Host Country Data: No Host Country data available.

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 20,743 100% Total Outward 2,511 100%
United States 5,609 27% Italy 999 40%
France 2,215 11% Spain 368 15%
Italy 2,143 10% Switzerland 278 11%
Spain 1,458 7% Peru 234 9%
United Kingdom 1,377 7% Libya 126 5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

The latest data available for Algeria is from 2019.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available. 14. Contact for More Information

Andorra

Executive Summary

Andorra is an independent principality with a population of about 78,000 and area of 181 square miles situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. Although not a member of the European Union, Andorra is part of the EU Customs Union and, due to a monetary agreement with the EU, uses the euro as its national currency. Andorra is a popular tourist destination visited by over 8 million people each year who are drawn by its winter sports, summer climate, and duty-free shopping. Tourism and its related services sector account for over 80 percent of Andorra’s GDP. Andorra has also become a wealthy international commercial center because of its integrated banking sector and low taxes. As part of its effort to modernize its economy, Andorra has opened to foreign investment, and engaged in other reforms, including advancing tax initiatives. Andorra is actively seeking to attract foreign investment and to become a center for entrepreneurs, talent, innovation, and knowledge. In doing so, Andorra has fostered a large project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on innovation and big data, employing Andorra’s unique economy as a test market ( www.actua.ad/en/innovationhubandorra ).

The Andorran economy is undergoing a process of diversification centered largely on tourism, trade, property, and finance.  To provide incentives for growth and diversification in the economy, the Government began sweeping economic reforms in 2006. The Parliament approved three main regulations to complement the first phase of economic openness:  the law of Companies (October 2007), the Law of Business Accounting (December 2007), and the Law of Foreign Investment (April 2008 and June 2012). From 2011 to 2017, the Parliament approved direct taxes in the form of a corporate tax, tax on economic activities, tax on income of non-residents, tax on capital gains, and personal income tax. These regulations aim to establish a transparent, modern, and internationally comparable regulatory framework.

These reforms aim to attract investment and businesses that have the potential to boost Andorra’s economic development and diversification. Prior to 2008, Andorra limited foreign investment, worried that large foreign firms would have an oversized impact on its small economy.  For example, previous regulations allowed non-citizens with less than 20 years residence in Andorra to own no more than 33 percent of a company. While foreigners may now own 100 percent of a trading enterprise or a holding company, the Government must approve the establishment of any private enterprise. The approval can take up to one month, which can be rejected if the proposal is found to threaten the environment, the public order, or the general interests of the principality.

Andorra has per capita income above the European average and above the level of its neighbors, Spain and France. The country has developed a sophisticated infrastructure including a one-of-a-kind micro-fiber-optic network for the entire country that provides universal access to all households and companies. Andorra’s retail tradition is well known around Europe, thanks to more than 1,400 shops, the quality of their products, and competitive prices. Products taken out of the Principality are tax-free up to certain limits; the purchaser must declare those that exceed the allowance.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Data not available

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Andorra has established an open framework for foreign investments, allowing non-residents to create companies in the country, open businesses, and invest in all kinds of assets.

The Foreign Investment Law came into force in July 2012, completely opening the economy to foreign investors. Since then, foreigners, whether resident or not, may own up to 100 percent of any Andorra-based company. The law also liberalizes restrictions on foreign professionals seeking to work in Andorra. Previously, a foreigner could only begin to practice in Andorra after twenty years of residency. Under the current regulations, any Andorran legal resident from a country that has a reciprocal standard can work in Andorra, although special working permits are required for specific professions.

The Government of Andorra created the ACTUA-Invest program ( www.actua.ad ) as Andorra’s economic development and promotion office in order to provide counseling services to both Andorran companies looking to grow and foreign investors wanting to start new businesses in Andorra. ACTUA’s mission is to increase competitiveness, innovation, and the sustainability of the economy.

ACTUA’s three key priorities are:

  • Economic diversification through the development of priority industries such as blockchain, fintech, health, wellness, biotechnology, education, and sports, among others.
  • Attracting direct foreign investment and supporting national companies throughout their internationalization process.
  • Supporting entrepreneurs: promoting collaboration between the public and private sectors and giving support to the development of new business initiatives.

The Andorran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Services of Andorra ( www.ccis.ad ) is a public body that aims to promote and strengthen Andorra’s financial and business activity as well as provide services to foreign companies. The Chamber’s activities include organizing a census of commercial, industrial, and service activities; the protection of the general interests of commerce, industry, and services; promoting fair competition; and issuing certificates of origin and other commercial documents.

The Andorran Business Confederation (CEA) provides support to national companies to navigate within Andorra’s new legal, labor, and fiscal framework and facilitates companies’ international expansion projects. CEA also works to foster international investment into the country through its Iwand project, which provides information about Andorra’s economic and fiscal environment ( www.cea.ad ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Andorran legal framework has also adapted to international standards. The most relevant laws passed by Parliament to accompany the economic openness include the law of Companies (October 2007), the Law of Business Accounting (December 2007), and the Law of Foreign Investment (April 2008 and June 2012).

The OECD removed Andorra from its “tax haven list” in 2009 after the country signed the Paris Declaration, formally committing to sharing fiscal information outlined by the agreement. With the approval of the Law 19/2016, of November the 30th, on automatic exchange of information on tax matters, Andorra will exchange financial information with signatories of the “Common Reporting Standard” (CRS), developed by the G20 and approved by the OECD Council on July 2014.

From 2011 to 2019, the Parliament approved direct corporate, non-resident, capital gains, and personal income taxes. These regulations aim at establishing a transparent, modern, and internationally comparable regulatory framework. At 10 percent, well below the European average, Andorra’s corporate tax is more competitive than rates in neighboring Spain or France.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years neither the Government nor any international organization has conducted an investment policy review, be it the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); World Trade Organization (WTO); or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

Andorra established the ACTUA program as a public/private agency, made up of several ministries, government agencies, associations, and organizations from the private sector. It aims to increase competitiveness, innovation, and sustainability. It provides counseling services, to Andorran companies and potential foreign investors to facilitate investment and economic diversification.

Andorran regulations allow for two types of commercial companies: Limited Liability Company (Societat de Responsabilitat Limitada – SL), which has a minimum capital requirement of 3,000 euros; and Joint Stock Company (Societat Anonima – SA) which is normally required for multiple shareholders and has a minimum capital requirement of 60,000 euros.

The business establishment procedures and for share acquisitions or transfers are quite similar to those of other countries, requiring the filling of a simple application form, with the additional unique condition of the presentation of any prior investment authorization received in the country. This same procedure is applicable for incorporation, establishment, extension, branching, or other form of business expansion. Once the company is registered, the foreign investment is established, and the investor is required to deposit the share capital with an Andorran banking entity and proceed to public deed of incorporation before a notary.

Outward Investment

The Government’s ACTUA programs provide grants, counseling, and online resourced to small and medium size companies to foster competitiveness and facilitate internationalization.

The Andorran Chamber of Commerce ( www.ccis.ad ) helps companies search for business opportunities abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Government set out transparent policies and laws, which have significantly liberalized all economic sectors in Andorra. New, foreign-owned businesses have to be approved by the government, and the process can take up to a month. The Government is committed to a transparent process. Andorra has begun to relax labor and immigration standards; previously, foreign professionals had to establish 20 years of residency before being eligible to own 100 percent of their business in Andorra. This restriction has been lifted for nationals coming from countries that have reciprocal standards for Andorran citizens.

Following approval of the new Accounting Law in 2007, individuals carrying out business or professional activities, trading companies, and legal persons or entities with a profit purpose must file financial statements with the administration.

International Regulatory Considerations

Although not a member of the European Union (EU), Andorra, as a member of the European Customs Union, is subject to all EU free trade regulations and arrangements with regard to industrial products. Concerning agriculture, the EU allows duty free importation of products originating in Andorra.

Andorra is negotiating a new association agreement with the European Union that will allow Andorrans to establish themselves in Europe and Andorran companies will be able to trade in the EU market.

Although the Government took some steps in the past to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO); Andorra currently holds observer status in the WTO. Andorra became the 190th member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in October 2020.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Andorra has a mixed legal system of civil and customary law with the influence of canon law. The judiciary is independent from the executive branch. The Supreme Court consists of a court president and eight judges, organized into civil, criminal, and administrative chambers; four magistrates make up the Constitutional Court. The Tribunal of Judges and the Tribunal of the Courts are lower courts. Regulations and enforcement actions can be appealed in the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Law on Foreign Investment (10/2012) entered into force in 2012, opening the country’s economy by removing the sectorial restrictions stipulated in the prior legislation. In this way, Andorra has positioned itself on equal terms with neighboring economies, enabling it to become more competitive for new sectors and enterprises.

ACTUA is responsible for economic promotion and provides information on relevant laws, rules, procedures to set up a business in Andorra, as well as reporting requirements to investors. The organization also provides other services to facilitate foreign and local investments in strategic sectors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Law on Effective Competence and Consumer Protection (13/2013) protects investors against unfair practices. The Ministry of Economy is responsible for administering anti-trust laws and reviews transactions for competition-related concerns (whether domestic or international in nature).

Expropriation and Compensation

The Law of Expropriation (1993) allows the Government to expropriate private property for public purposes in accordance with international norms, including appropriate compensation. We know of no incidents of expropriation involving the U.S. entities in Andorra.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Andorra became a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in September 2015, requiring Andorran courts to enforce financial awards. Andorra is not a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Andorran legislation establishes mechanisms to resolve disputes if they arise and its judicial system is transparent. The Constitution guarantees an independent judiciary branch, overseen by a High Council of Justice. The prosecution system allows for successive appeals to higher courts. The European Court of Justice is the ultimate arbiter of unsettled appeals.

Contractual disputes between U.S. individuals or companies and Andorran entities are rare, but when they arise are handled appropriately. There have been no reported cases of U.S. investment disputes.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Parties to a dispute can also resolve disputes contractually through arbitration. The Arbitration Court of the Principality of Andorra (TAPA) was established in July 2020 by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services and the Andorran Bar Association in accordance with Law 16/2018. The main goal of this new organization is to mediate business disputes, both national and international, in order to reach a fair settlement for both parties without having to go to court.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Andorra’s Bankruptcy decree dates to 1969. Other laws from 2008 and 2014 complement the initial text and further protect workers’ rights to fair salaries as well set up mechanisms to monitor the implementation of judicial resolutions. Additionally, Law 8/2015 outlines urgent measures allowing Government intervention of the banking sector in a crisis.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Andorran financial sector is efficient and is one of the main pillars of the Andorran economy, representing 20 percent of the country’s GDP and over 5 percent of the workforce.

Created in 1989, and redefined with more responsibilities in 2003, the Andorran Financial Authority (AFA; www.afa.ad ) is the supervisory and regulatory body of the Andorran financial system and the insurance sector. The AFA is a public entity with its own legal status, functionally independent from the Government. AFA has the power to carry out all necessary actions to ensure the correct development of its supervision and control functions, disciplinary and punitive powers, treasury and public debt management services, financial agency, international relations, advice, and studies.

financial system and the insurance sector. The AFA is a public entity with its own legal status, functionally independent from the Government. AFA has the power to carry out all necessary actions to ensure the correct development of its supervision and control functions, disciplinary and punitive powers, treasury and public debt management services, financial agency, international relations, advice, and studies.

The Andorran Financial Intelligence Unit (UIFAND) was created in 2000 as an independent organ to deal with the tasks of promoting and coordinating measures to combat money laundering and terror financing ( www.uifand.ad ).

The State Agency for the Resolution of Banking Institutions (AREB); is a public-legal institution created by Law 8/2015 to take urgent measures to introduce mechanisms for the recovery and resolution of banking institutions ( www.areb.ad ).

Money and Banking System

Andorra adopted the use of the Euro in 2002 and in 2011 signed a Monetary Agreement with the European Union (EU) making the Euro the official currency. Since July 1, 2013, Andorra has had the right to coin Euros.

The Andorra banking system is sound and considered the most important part of the financial sector. The Andorran banks offer a variety of services at market rates. The country also has a sizeable and growing market for portfolio investments. The country does not have a central bank.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has certified all the Andorran banks as qualified intermediaries.

Founded in 1960, the Association of Andorran Banks (ABA; https://www.andorranbanking.ad/ ) represents all Andorran banks. Among its tasks are representing and defending interests of its members, watching over the development and competitiveness of Andorran banking at national and international levels, improving sector technical standards, co-operation with public administrations, and promoting professional training, particularly dealing with money laundering prevention. At present, all five Andorran banking groups are ABA members, totaling an estimated 49 billion Euros in combined assets for 2019.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Andorra adopted the Euro in 2002 and in 2011 signed a Monetary Agreement with the EU making the Euro the official currency. Since 2013, Andorra has the right to coin Euros.

Remittance Policies

There are no limits or restrictions on remittances provided that they correspond to a company’s official earning records.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Andorra has no Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Andorra has thirty-five state-owned enterprises (SOEs) associated with health, social services, and energy and telecommunication, which are generally allowed to compete with private, enterprises without restriction. The only exception is the government-owned Andorra Telecom, which has enjoyed a monopoly on the telecommunications industry since 2015.

The Andorran public sector is made up of the central Administration and seven local administrations, one for each of the country’s seven parishes. The public sector employs 11.6 percent of Andorra’s workforce, or approximately 4,451 employees.

Privatization Program

Andorra has no current plans to privatize any of its SOEs.

10. Political and Security Environment

Andorra has not experienced any politically motivated damage to projects or installations, or destruction of private property. There are no nascent insurrections, belligerent neighbors, or other politically motivated activities. The likelihood of widespread civil disturbances is very low. Civil unrest is generally not a problem in Andorra. No anti-American sentiment is evident in the country.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Data unavailable.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data unavailable.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data unavailable. Due to foreign investment limitations up until 2012, FDI statistics are too negligible to be available through the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. However, Andorra’s Investment Promotion Agency, ACTUA, has compiled available data on foreign direct investment at: http://www.actua.ad/en/foreign-direct-investment-data-andorra.

Angola

Executive Summary

Angola is a lower middle-income country located in southern Africa with a population of 32.9 million, a per capita income of USD 2,021. It saw its GDP drop to USD 62.72 billion in 2020 from USD 89 billion in 2019, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. Angola was scheduled to graduate from lower middle-income country to middle income country status in February but secured a three-year extension on the eve of its graduation. Angola is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and maintains second position in oil production in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria with 1.2 million barrels per day. However, Angola has also experienced five years of consecutive economic recession since 2016, during which time it fell from the region’s third-largest economy to eighth in 2020.

In 2020, Angola saw its macroeconomic situation deteriorate with the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic and the plunge in crude oil prices compounding the country’s ongoing economic crisis and giving President Lourenço’s economic reforms a serious blow. This further diminished the country’s ability to reverse consecutive recessions and underscored the need to diversify the economy away from oil and gas. In response, the Angolan government (GRA) implemented a stimulus plan including social assistance measures and increased spending on health. Angola shut down international travel and carried out other strict countermeasures by June 2020, and to date, Angola has had relatively low numbers of both confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, raising hopes that the country will be able to avoid the impact of widespread cases.

Public debt soared to an estimated 120.3% of GDP in 2020, fueled by the depreciation of the kwanza and falling oil prices, but the implementation of debt reprofiling agreements and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative should help reduce the risk of over-indebtedness. Inflation increased from 17.1% in 2019 to 21% in 2020. The Central Bank (BNA) has attempted to sustain the liberalization of the local currency, guarantee its stability, and control inflation while signaling more restrictive monetary policy to fight inflationary pressures.

The banking sector remains fragile with a credit appetite that prioritizes government over private sector led economic growth. The restructuring of two troubled banks is still ongoing. The Angolan authorities remain committed to implementing the three-year reform program supported by the IMF. The authorities also affirmed their commitment to improve governance and fight corruption.

Foreign direct investment increased by USD 2.59 billion in 2020 according to Angola’s Central Bank (BNA). The GRA did not engage in any significant activities that undermined U.S. investment. Due to the pressure to create jobs and spur economic growth, the GRA pursued structural reforms in 2020 aimed at assuring investors of a clean and transparent environment for investment. Recently a law permitting public-private partnership initiatives was passed and a revised Public Procurement Law and Portal were also introduced.

However, to curb the fast depletion of international foreign exchange reserves, the GRA introduced the local production Program to Support the Production, Diversification of Exports, and Substitution of Imports (PRODESI) in July 2020. PRODESI may constitute a non-tariff barrier to trade with American companies (the largest exporters of chicken quarters into Angola). In addition to PRODESI is a new local content law that passed in October 2020 which prioritizes Angolan human resources over expatriate labor, as well as the sourcing of raw materials and services from local companies for companies operating in Angola’s oil and gas sector.

Angola ranked 177 out of 190 in the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business rankings. The business environment remains challenging for investors, particularly for carrying out overseas transfer of remuneration, payment for imports of goods and services, and payment of dividends. Angola is transitioning services provided by public institutions to the digital environment and working to reduce waiting periods and costs. The time required to obtain a building permit decreased from 373 days to 184 and the GRA has ended the public deed and tax obligations to start a business. The government also introduced a “one stop shop,” the Guiche Online Portal, in 2020, to improve the procedures for opening a business and the ASYCUDA platform to make customs clearances more efficient.

The fight against corruption and impunity provided investors a sense of security after several top government officials and the former President’s son were tried and sentenced to years in prison. The new penal code approved in February 2021 also increased the penalties for economic crimes to a maximum of 14 years to discourage corruption.

Energy and power, construction, and oil and gas are key sectors that have historically attracted significant investment in the country. However, as the country seeks to diversify the economy beyond the oil sector, public transportation, tourism, alternative energy, extractives, agriculture, fisheries, telecoms, and ports rehabilitation and management all hold potential as sectors for new investment.

Key Issues to Watch:

  • Angola is undergoing a process of privatizing over 195 state-owned assets, including those recovered from the fight against corruption. Foreign investors are encouraged to participate in the tenders.
  • Increased openness to competition in the private sector as well as due diligence in the acquisition of state-owned assets and assets previously belonging to PEPs listed in the privatization program.
  • Angola continues to benefit from a relatively stable and predictable political environment compared to its neighbors. However, mounting economic hardship and social discontent could cause the wave of demonstrations to continue.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 142 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2020/index/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 177 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 Not listed of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 254million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 2960 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Although the GRA demonstrated political will to significantly increase foreign direct investment (FDI), Angola remains a difficult operating environment for investment to thrive. FDI remains low, volatile, and largely concentrated in the extractives sector. The GRA continues to pursue an ambitious plan to reform the business and investment environment. The Private Investment Law (“PIL”) introduced in 2018 has proven to be slow to promote FDI and retain investment. At the end of May 2020, the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers gathered to discuss some changes to the PIL, with a particular focus on attracting foreign investment through a mechanism to negotiate benefits and special conditions depending on the specific project. There have been, however, no legislative changes related to foreign direct investment since the enactment of the 2018 PIL and the Competition Law of 2018.

President João Lourenço implemented economic reform policies that provide a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors and leveraged efforts to combat and deter corruption and money laundering. Foreign investors were also encouraged to participate in the ongoing Privatization Program designed to privatize over 195 State-Owned Enterprises (SOES) by 2022. AIPEX, the country’s Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency is billed as the investors ‘one stop shop’ for business establishment. AIPEX is tasked with facilitating investment and is also supposed to manage the state’s investment portfolio to ensure the equitable implementation of the PIL and distribution of private investment, especially foreign investment. Theoretically the country prioritizes investment retention, but it does not appear to have institutional capacity to pursue and advocate for investment retention.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The 2018 PIL establishes the general principles and basis of private investment in Angola, determining the benefits and concessions that the GRA grants private investors and the criteria for accessing them, as well as establishing rights, duties and guarantees of private investors. The PIL is applied to private investments of any value, whether it is carried out by domestic or foreign investors, although waivers may exist under a bilateral agreement framework. Companies incorporated in conformity with the Angolan law, even with capital from abroad are, for all legal purposes, subject to the existing Angolan legislation. After the completion of a private investment project, foreign investors have the right, after approval by the GRA and settlement of taxes, to transfer abroad:

  1. Values corresponding to dividends;
  2. Values corresponding to the proceeds of the liquidation of their enterprises;
  3. Values corresponding to due compensations;
  4. Values corresponding to royalties or other earnings of remuneration from indirect investments, associated with the transfer of technology.

These processes are very bureaucratic and tedious. Foreign investors and companies with majority foreign ownership are only eligible for domestic credit after having fully implemented their respective investment projects.

On October 20, 2020 Presidential Decree No. 271/20, revoking Order No. 127/03, of 25 November 2003, was published, approving the new Legal Framework on Local Content in the Oil Sector. The statute aims to promote economic diversification, the participation of local businesses in the oil sector, the increase of domestic production and reduction of imports of goods for the sector, as well as the creation of employment and increased training of Angolans in the oil industry workforce. The statute establishes new rules on ‘Angolanization’ and procurement of goods and services for the sector, which will have a significant impact on company activities. For example, priority will be given to procurement of nationally produced goods and services, especially the obligation to contract Angolan companies included in the database approved by the National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG). In addition, all companies operating in any segment of the petroleum-sector value chain will be required to present an annual local content plan to the ANPG. Failure to comply with the rules established in the new statute will result in fines in local currency to the equivalent of between USD 50,000 and USD 300,000. Additional penalties may also be applied, such as barring companies from entering new contracts or operating altogether.

Although the GRA eliminated the 35 percent local content requirement in foreign investment and encourages foreign companies to invest in the domestic economy, some FDI screening processes continue. Foreign ownership remains limited to 49 percent in the oil and gas sector, 50 percent in insurance, and 10 percent in the banking and telecommunications sectors, though there have been some exceptions recently in which the foreign investment goes beyond the limit. There are several objectives that the GRA seeks to accomplish through its FDI screening processes: 1) create jobs for Angolans or transfer expertise to Angolan companies as part of an “Angolanization” plan; 2) protect sensitive industries such as defense and finance; 3) prevent capital flight or other behavior that could threaten the stability of the Angolan economy; and 4) diversify the economy and increase competitiveness of local industries.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Angola has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996. The WTO performed a policy review of Angola in September 2015. At the government’s request, the last Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Angola’s business and economic environments was completed on September 30, 2019 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD of Angola’s The IPR was part of a broader EU funded technical assistance project aimed to assist Angola in attracting and benefitting from FDI beyond the extractives industry and to support the GRA’s objective of increasing economic diversification and sustainable development. The full report and policy recommendations are accessible at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2019d4_en.pdf

The review identified remaining policy gaps and bottlenecks, including the complex system for FDI entry and establishment, burdensome operational regulations, the persistence of restrictive business practices and a lack of institutional capacity and coordination. These affect the country’s ability to fully take advantage of its strategic location, abundant natural resources, and preferential access to external markets.

The Review also devoted special attention to investment in agribusiness and its contribution to sustainable development. It calls for measures to foster responsible investment and promote inclusive modes of production in agriculture. The recommendations emphasize the need to strike a policy balance between food security and export development objectives, improve access to land and infrastructure, and promote entrepreneurship and skills development.

Business Facilitation

The World Bank Doing Business 2020 report ranked Angola 177 out of 190 countries and recorded an improvement in Angola’s monitoring and regulation of power outages, and in facilitating trade through the implementation of an automated customs data management system, ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) World, and by upgrading its port community system to allow for electronic information exchange between different parties involved in the import/export process. To commence a business, investors typically register with the General Tax Administration (AGT) Social Security Institute (INSS), National Press, and a local bank Launching a business typically requires 36 days, compared with a regional average of 27 days, with Angola ranked 146 out of the 190 economies evaluated.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency of trade facilitation reform to improve competitiveness in non-oil business sectors. With this, export procedures in the country cost USD 240 and take 98 hours, compared to an average of USD 173 and 72 hours for sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the reforms necessary to improve conditions for Angolan businesses, such as automating customs procedures or creating a single window, are addressed by the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which Angola ratified in April 2019. To facilitate opening, changing, or closing a company, the Guiche Único de Empresas one stop shop for investors (GUE) was folded into the Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX) in 2019. It combines the main public services for constitution of companies, GUE and AIPEX, allowing the investor to open and register companies and be able to access the tax benefits and other incentives resulting from the Private Investment Law.

On October 19, 2020, to facilitate the establishment of businesses and as a COVID-19 imposed biosafety measure, the GRA simplified procedures by creating an online registration portal for companies (www.gue.gov.ao). The online portal will allow for faster registry of companies (taking only 30-60 minutes) and replace the publication of the company registry in the Gazette (Diário da República), a procedure that took more than five days. There is still the option to set up a company in person, which is estimated to also take as little as 30 minutes to an hour. The cost to establish a sole proprietorship is USD 16 dollars and USD 54 for partnerships, corporations, and other entities. Payments are also made electronically.

In April 2020, to simplify bureaucracy and in anticipation of the economic slowdown eventually caused by COVID-19, the GRA proposed revoking the procedure for issuing business licenses for all economic activities and requiring companies to carry out statistical registration in the act of incorporation. With the abolition of the Company License Document (a commercial permit) and Statistical Registration, to begin business activities, companies need to register their activity with the local administration office. The office will issue an electronic operating license. Some exclusions from this regime are foreseen, such as those related to the trade in foodstuffs, live plant species, animals, birds and fisheries, medicines, car sales, lubricants and chemicals. For these sectors, a physical license is still required as they are considered high risk economic activities which may affect human, animal, environmental and state safety.

The state-run private investment and export promotion agency’s website is http://www.aipex.gov.ao/PortalAIPEX/#!/  . Contact Information: Departamento de Promoção e Captação do Investimento; Agencia de Investimento Privado e Promoção de Investimentos e Exportações de Angola (AIPEX). Rua Kwamme Nkrumah No.8, Maianga, Luanda, Angola Tel: (+244) 995 28 95 92| 222 33 12 52 Fax: (+244) 222 39 33 81.

Outward Investment

The Angolan Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict Angolans from investing abroad. Investors are free to invest in any foreign jurisdiction. According to data from the BNA, in 2018, the government did not invest abroad but received returns on previous investments abroad.

Domestic investors prefer to invest in Portuguese-speaking countries, with few investing in neighboring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The bulk of investment is in real estate, fashion, fashion accessories, and domestic goods. Due to foreign exchange constraints, there has been very little or no investment abroad by domestic investors. Although investing in real estate is cheaper abroad, a few invest in real estate domestically. The average Angolan invests in affordable investments with quick returns.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Angola’s regulatory system is complex, vague, and inconsistently enforced. In many sectors, no effective regulatory system exists due to a lack of institutional and human capacity. The banking system is slowly beginning to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). SOEs are still far from practicing IFRS. The public does not participate in draft bills or regulations formulation, nor does a public online location exist where the public can access this information for comment or hold government representatives accountable for their actions. The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM) sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have permitted some purchase power agreements (PPA) participation.

Overall, Angola’s national regulatory system does not conform to other international regulatory systems. However, Angola is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the SADC, among other organizations. Angola has yet to join the SADC Free Trade Zone of Africa as a full member. On March 21, 2018 together with 44 African countries, Angola joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across Africa. Angola is also a member of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA), which seeks to maintain relations with other national port authorities or associations, regional and international organizations and governments of the region to hold discussions on matters of common interest.

Angola became a member of the WTO on November 23, 1996. However, it is not party to the Plurilateral Agreements on Government Procurement, the Trade in Civil Aircraft Agreement and has not yet notified the WTO of its state-trading enterprises within the meaning of Article XVII of the GATT. A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade regimes are not coordinated. There have been no investment policy reviews for Angola from either the OECD or UNCTAD in the last four years. Angola conducts several bilateral negotiations with Portuguese Speaking countries (PALOPS), Cuba and Russia and extends trade preferences to China due to credit facilitation terms, while attempting to encourage and protect local content.

Regulatory reviews are based on scientific, or data driven assessments or baseline surveys. Evaluations are based on data, but not made available for public comment.

The National Assembly is Angola’s main legislative body with the power to approve laws on all matters (except those reserved by the constitution to the government) by simple majority (except if otherwise provided in the constitution). Each legislature comprises four legislative sessions of twelve months starting annually on October 15. National Assembly members, parliamentary groups, and the government hold the power to put forward all draft-legislation. However, no single entity can present draft laws that involve an increase in the expenditure or decrease in the State revenue established in the annual budget.

The president promulgates laws approved by the assembly and signs government decrees for enforcement. The state reserves the right to have the final say in all regulatory matters and relies on sectorial regulatory bodies for supervision of institutional regulatory matters concerning investment. The Economic Commission of the Council of Ministers oversees investment regulations that affect the country’s economy including the ministries in charge. Other major regulatory bodies responsible for getting deals through include:

  • The National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) is the government regulatory and oversight body responsible for regulating oil exploration and production activities. On February 6, 2019, the parastatal oil company Sonangol launched the National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) through the Presidential decree 49/19. The ANPG is the national concessionaire of hydrocarbons in Angola, authorized to conduct, execute and ensure oil, gas and biofuel operations run smoothly, a role previously held by Sonangol. The ANPG must also ensure adherence to international standards and establish relationships with other international agencies and sector relevant organizations.
  • The Regulatory Institute of Electricity and Water Services (IRSEA) is the regulatory authority for renewable energies and enforcing powers of the electricity regulatory authority.
  • The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM): The institute sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have improved legal protection for investors to attract more private investment in electrical infrastructure, such as dams and hydro distribution stations.
  • As of October 1, 2019, a 14 percent VAT regime came into force, replacing the existing 10 percent Consumption Tax. The General Tax Administration (AGT) is the office that oversees tax operations and ensures taxpayer compliance. The new VAT tax regime aims to boost domestic production and consumption and reduce the incidence of compound tax created for businesses unable to recover consumption tax incurred. VAT may be reclaimed on purchases and imports made by taxpayers, making it neutral for business.

Angola acceded to the New York Convention on August 24, 2016, paving the way for effective recognition and enforcement in Angola of awards rendered outside of Angola and subject to reciprocity. Angola participates in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which includes a peer review mechanism on good governance and transparency. Enforcement and protection of investors is under development in terms of regulatory, supervisory, and sanctioning powers. Investor protection mechanisms are weak or almost non-existent.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, and the government does not allow the public to engage in the formulation of legislation or to comment on draft bills. Procurement laws and regulations are unclear, little publicized, and not consistently enforced. Oversight mechanisms are weak, and no audits are required or performed to ensure internal controls are in place or administrative procedures are followed. Inefficient bureaucracy and possible corruption frequently lead to payment delays for goods delivered, resulting in an increase in the price the government must pay.

No regulatory reform enforcement mechanisms have been implemented since the last ICS report, in particular those relevant to foreign investors. The Diário da República (the Federal Register equivalent), is a legal document where key regulatory actions are officially published.

International Regulatory Considerations

On September 14, 2020 the GRA officially announced its intention to join the 54 countries that already apply the Standard Initiative for Extractive Industries Transparency (EITI).

In a letter to the Chairman of the EITI Board, dated September 14, 2020, the Minister of Mineral, Oil and Gas Resources, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, described the steps already taken for the implementation of the EITI. These include the signing of Presidential Decree 117/20, appointing the Minister as chair of the National EITI Coordinating Committee, and a public statement announcing the government’s commitment to join the EITI initiative.

Angola’s overall national regulatory system does not conform to other international regulatory systems and is overseen by its constitution. Angola is not a full member of the International Standards Organization (ISO), but has been a corresponding member since 2002. The Angolan Institute for Standardization and Quality (IANORQ) within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce coordinates the country’s establishment and implementation of standards. Angola is an affiliate country of the International Electro-technical Commission that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services.

A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) regimes are not coordinated. Angola acceded to the Kyoto Convention on February 23, 2017.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Angola’s legal system is primarily based on the Portuguese legal system and can be considered civil law based, with legislation as the primary source of law. Courts base their judgments on legislation and there is no binding precedent as understood in common law systems. The constitution is considered the supreme law of Angola (article 6(1)) and all laws and conduct are valid only if they conform to the constitution (article 6(3.))

The Angolan justice system is slow, arduous, and often partial. Legal fees are high, and most businesses avoid taking commercial disputes to court in the country. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey ranks Angola 186 out of 190 countries on contract enforcement, and estimates that commercial contract enforcement, measured by time elapsed between filing a complaint and receiving restitution, takes an average of 1,296 days, at an average cost of 44.4 percent of the claim.

Angola has commercial legislation that governs all contracts and commercial activities but no specialized court. On August 5, 2020, the Economic Council of Ministers approved the opening of the Court for Litigation on Commercial, Intellectual, and Industrial Property Matters, at the Luanda First Instance Court. With the introduction of this commercial court, the GRA hopes the business environment and trust in public institutions will improve. Prior to this arrangement, trade disputes were resolved by judges in the Courts of Common Pleas. The commercial legislation provides that before going to court, investors can challenge the decision under the terms of the administrative procedural rules, either through a complaint (to the entity responsible for the decision) or through an appeal (to the next level above the entity responsible for the decision). In the new system, investors will be able, in general, to appeal to civil and administrative courts. Both administrative procedures and lawsuits are extremely bureaucratic and time-consuming. Investors exercising their right to appeal should expect decisions to take months, or even years, in the case of court decisions. In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.

In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.

The judicial system is administered by the Ministry of Justice at trial level for provincial and municipal courts and the supreme court nominates provincial court judges. In 1991, the constitution was amended to guarantee judicial independence. However, per the 2010 constitution, the president appoints supreme court judges for life upon recommendation of an association of magistrates and appoints the attorney general. Confirmation by the General Assembly is not required. Angola enacted a new Criminal Code and a new Criminal Procedure Code in November 2020 which entered into force on February 9, 2021 to better align the legal framework with internationally accepted principles and standards, with an emphasis on white-collar crimes and corruption. The system lacks resources and independence to play an effective role though the legal reforms extend criminal liability for corruption offenses and other crimes to legal entities; provide for private sector corruption offenses to face similar fines and imprisonment to the punishments applicable to the public sector and modernize and broaden the list of criminal offenses against the financial system.

There is a general right of appeal to the court of first instance against decisions from the primary courts. To enforce judgments/orders, a party must commence further proceedings called executive proceedings with the civil court. The main methods of enforcing judgments are:

  • Execution orders (to pay a sum of money by selling the debtor’s assets).
  • Delivery of assets; and
  • Provision of information on the whereabouts of assets.

The Civil Procedure Code also provides ordinary and extraordinary appeals. Ordinary appeals consist of first appeals, review appeals, interlocutory appeals, and full court appeals, while extraordinary appeals consist of further appeals and third-party interventions. Generally, an appeal does not operate as a stay of the decision of the lower court unless expressly provided for as much in the Civil Procedure Code.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The GRA is favorable to FDI and offers freedom of establishment in all sectors with exception a few that have been traditionally been closed to FDI: military aircraft and security equipment, the activities of the Central Bank, ports, and airports. However, in 2020, the GRA encouraged foreign investors to take over management of ports and airports under the Privatization Program (PROPRIV). The acquisition of holdings is also possible. A special investment regime applies to the oil, gas, diamond, and financial sectors. Investment values exceeding USD 10m, require an investment contract with the Angolan Government and must be authorized by the Council of Ministers and finally approved by the President.

Investment values exceeding USD 10m, require an investment contract with the Angolan Government and must be authorized by the Council of Ministers and finally approved by the President.

Investors, foreigners or not, theoretically have the same right of access to incentives, even if the policy of “Angolanization” aims to promote the employment of nationals. Regarding capital repatriations, the law guarantees foreign investors the right to transfer dividends or other income from direct investment out of the country. Starting in 2020, importing capital from foreign investors willing to invest in Angolan companies is immune from licensing by the Angolan central bank.

AIPEX is the investment and export promotion regulation center tasked with promoting Angola’s export potential, legal framework, environment, and investment opportunities in the country and abroad. Housed within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, AIPEX is also responsible for ensuring the application of the 2018 NPIL on foreign direct investments, entered into force on June 26, 2018.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

On May 17, 2018 Angola’s National Assembly approved the nation’s first anti-trust law. The law set up the creation of the Competition Regulatory Authority, which prevents and cracks down on actions of economic agents that fail to comply with the rules and principles of competition. The Competition Regulatory Authority of Angola (Autoridade Reguladora da Concorrência – ARC) was created by Presidential Decree no. 313/18, of December 21, 2018, and it succeeds the now defunct Instituto da Concorrência e Preços. It has administrative, financial, patrimonial and regulatory autonomy, and is endowed with broad supervisory and sanctioning powers, including the power to summon and question persons, request documents, carry out searches and seizures, and seal business premises.

The ARC is responsible, in particular, for the enforcement of the new Competition Act of Angola, approved by Law no. 5/18, of May 10, 2018 and subsequently implemented by Presidential Decree no. 240/18, of October 12. The Act has a wide scope of application, pertaining to both private and state-owned undertakings, and covers all economic activities with a nexus to Angola. The Competition Act prohibits agreements and anti-competitive practices, both between competitors (“horizontal” practices, the most serious example of which are cartels), as well as between companies and its suppliers or customers, within the context of “vertical” relations.

Equally prohibited is abusive conduct practiced by companies in a dominant position, such as the refusal to provide access to essential infrastructures, the unjustified rupture of commercial relations and the practice of predatory pricing, as well as the abusive exploitation, by one or more companies, of economically dependent suppliers or clients. Prohibited practices are punishable by heavy fines that range from one to ten percent of the annual turnover of the companies involved. Offending companies that collaborate with the ARC, by disclosing conduct until then unknown or producing evidence on a voluntary basis, may benefit from significant fine reductions, under a leniency program yet to be developed and implemented by the ARC. Considering the ample powers and potentially heavy sanctions at the disposal of the ARC, companies present in (or planning to enter) Angola are well advised to consider carefully the impact of the new law on their activities, in order to mitigate any risk that its market conduct may be found contrary to the Competition Act.

With the surge of the privatization agenda in 2019 and ongoing anti-corruption and asset recovery strategy and privatization of SOEs program, the Institute of Assets and State Equity (IGAPE) also emerged in providing oversight for acquisitions and mergers

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Tenure Act of November 9, 2004 and the General Regulation on the Concession of Land (Decree no 58/07 of July 13, 2007), all land belongs to the state and the state reserves the right to expropriate land from any settlers. The state is only allowed to transfer ownership of urban real estate to Angolan nationals and may not grant ownership over rural land to any private entity (regardless of nationality), corporate entities or foreign entities. The state may allow for land usage through a 60-year lease to either Angolan or foreign persons (individuals or corporate), after which the state reserves legal right to take over ownership.

On January 24, 2020 Parliament approved the revised Law of Expropriations by Public Utility putting into practice the general principles contained in articles 15, no. 3 and 37, of the Angolan Constitution, which recognize the right to private property and establish that expropriations are only allowed when based on reasons of public interest and upon payment of fair and prompt compensation. The National Assembly also approved Law No. 1/21 on January 7, 2020, which approves the Expropriation Law and revokes legislation that governed this matter since before Angola’s independence. Despite the reforms, expropriation without compensation remains a common practice with idle or underdeveloped areas frequently reverting to the state with little or no compensation to the claimants who paid for the land, who in most cases allege unfair treatment.

In order to implement these fundamental principles, the Expropriation Law establishes the specific procedure that governs expropriation. The new law justifies expropriation for public utility and for other purposes such as defense and national security, the creation of new housing clusters, development of Special Economic Zones and Free Trade Zones, industrial use of mines and mineral deposits, water resources, operation of public services, operation of public transport systems, construction and assembly of power plants, substations and transmission lines integrated in the linked electrical system, as well as any other cases of public utility that may be established in special legislation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Angola is not a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) but has ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. On March 6, 2017, the Government of Angola deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention with the UN Secretary General. The Convention entered into force on June 4, 2017. Its ratification was endorsed domestically via resolution No. 38/2016, published in the Official Gazette of Angola on August 12, 2016.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Angolan Arbitration Law (Law 16/2003 of July 25) (Voluntary Arbitration Law — VAL) provides for domestic and international arbitration. Substantially inspired by Portuguese 1986 arbitration law, it cannot be said to strictly follow the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. The VAL contains no provisions on definitions, rules on interpretation, adopts the disposable rights criterion in regard to arbitration, does not address preliminary decisions or distinguish between different types of awards, and permits appeal on the merits in domestic arbitrations, unless the parties have otherwise agreed.

Angola is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which can provide dispute settlement assistance as part of its political risk insurance products and eligibility for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth Opportunity Act. The United States and Angola have signed a TIFA, which seeks to promote greater trade and investment between the two nations.

There have not been any judicial proceedings or claims under the TIFA. Angola has no FTA agreement with the United States.

U.S. Embassy Luanda is aware of one ongoing formal investment dispute involving an American company since 2017. To date, the U.S. investor’s complaints against the GRA remain unsettled. The GRA denies being party to the investor dispute and advised the plaintiff to file a case in Angolan courts against its business partner. The GRA recognizes this case as being an investor-to-investor and not investor-to-state dispute.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Other means of alternative dispute resolution are not mandatory by law and, therefore not commonly used in commercial disputes. Under the Public Procurement Law, in the case of a dispute related to the termination of a public works contract, before the judicial proceeding takes place it is mandatory that an extrajudicial conciliation attempt be made. The extrajudicial conciliation attempt takes place before a committee composed of one representative of each of the parties and chaired by the President of the Superior Council of Public Works or a member designated by him for this purpose, within 30 days after the written application and answer of the parties. If the attempt to conciliate is successful, the written terms and conditions must be submitted to the approval of the Minister of Public Works and are then valid as enforceable title.

Angola recognizes and enforces foreign arbitration rulings against its government. However, extra-judicial cases against foreign investors are rare. Although not widely implemented, the Government of Angola and public sector companies recognize the use of arbitration to settle disputes with foreign arbitration awards issued in foreign courts.

Commercial contracts usually include arbitration clauses if foreign companies are involved. Arbitration proceedings are more flexible than litigation through the courts and less time is required to obtain a resolution. Additionally, appointed arbitrators are often experts in the matters in dispute and, as such, the decisions are of higher quality. However, arbitration proceedings are sometimes more expensive than judicial proceedings.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Angola ranks 168 out of 190 on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report on resolving insolvency. Banks are bound to comply with prudential rules aimed at ensuring that they always maintain a minimum amount of funds not less than the minimal stock capital to ensure adequate levels of liquidity and solvability. The Bankruptcy Regime is summarized in the antiquated Code of Civil Procedure. The Ministry of Justice has begun to conduct studies to identify the most appropriate mechanisms for insolvency resolution, as well as to deepen its general legal and regulatory framework, taking as references the best international practices.

Banking insolvency is regulated by the Law on Financial Institutions No. 12/2015 of June 17, 2015. Based on this law, the BNA increases the social capital requirement for banks operating in the country to guard against possible damages to clients and the financial system. All monetary deposits up to 12.5 million Kwanzas (USD 27,000 equivalent) are also to be deposited into the BNA’s Deposit Guarantee Funds account (Presidential Decree 195/18 of 2018) so that clients (both local and foreign) are guaranteed a refund in case of bankruptcy by their respective bank. Article 69 of the law expressly states that it is the responsibility of the President of the Republic to create the fund, but it is silent on the rules governing its operation or the amounts guaranteed by the fund.

While Angola’s arbitration law (Arbitration Law No. 16/03) for insolvency adopted in 2013 introduced the concept of domestic and international arbitration, the practice of arbitration law is still not widely implemented. The law criminalizes bankruptcy under the following classification: condemnation in Angola or abroad for crimes of fraudulent bankruptcy, i.e., involvement of shareholders or managers in fraudulent activities that result in the bankruptcy, negligence bankruptcy, forgery, robbery, or involvement in other crimes of an economic nature. The Ministry of Finance, the BNA and the Capital Markets Commission (CMC) oversee credit monitoring and regulation.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

There is a visible effort by the government to create more attractive conditions for foreign investment as reflected in the attempt to create a more favorable social and political climate, the new legislation on private investment and in a greater liberalization of capital movements. The dangers of absorption by the local partner or the impossibility of transferring profits are thus mitigated. The BNA abolished the licensing previously required on importing capital from foreign investors allocated to the private sector and exporting income associated with such investments. This measure compliments the need to improve the capture of FDI and portfolio investment and it is in line with the privatization program for public companies (PROPRIV) announced through Presidential Decree No. 250/19 of August 5, 2019 which encourages foreign companies to participate. In addition to the operations, BNA is also exempt from licensing, the export of capital resulting from the sale of investments in securities traded on a regulated market and the sale of any investment, in which the buyer is also not – foreign exchange resident, pursuant to Notice No. 15/2019.

BODIVA is Angola’s Debt and Securities Stock Exchange. The Stock Exchange (BODIVA) allows through a platform the trading of different types of financial instruments available to investors with rules (self-regulation), systems (platforms) and procedures that assure market fairness and integrity to facilitate portfolio investment. However, there is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment which is poorly explored. At the moment, only local commercial banks have the ability to potentially list on the nascent stock exchange.

The central bank (BNA) partially observes IMF Article VIII on refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Foreign exchange crises and the loss of correspondent banking relationships since 2015 have prompted the BNA to adopt restrictive monetary policies that negatively affect Angola’s payment system, seen in the delay in foreign exchange denominated international transfers.

Credit is not allocated on market terms. Foreign investors do not normally access credit locally. For Angolan investors, credit access is very limited, and if available, comes with a collateral requirement of 125 percent, so most either self-finance, or seek financing from non-Angolan banks and investment funds such as the “Angola Invest” government-subsidized funding program for micro, small and medium private enterprises (SMEs). The fund, sourced from the Annual State Budget, ended on September 25, 2018, further reducing funding opportunities for many SMEs. Banks credit issue appetite also lies more on government than the private sector as credit to government is more profitable for these commercial banks.

Money and Banking System

Angola is over-banked. Although four banks have been closed since 2018, 26 banks still operate in Angola. The top seven banks control nearly 80% of sector deposits, but the rest of the sector includes a large number of banks with minimal scale and weak franchises. 47% of income-earners utilize banking services, with 80% being from the urban areas. Angolan banks focus on profit generating activities including transactional banking, short-term trade financing, foreign exchange, and investments in high-interest government bonds.

The banking sector largely depends on monetary policies established by Angola’s central bank, the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA). Thanks to the ongoing IMF economic and financial reform agenda, the BNA is adopting international best practices and slowly becoming autonomous. On February 13, 2021 President Joao Lourenco issued an edict granting autonomy to the BNA, a decision taken after IMF recommendations. The reforms taken under the Lourenco administration have lessened the political influence over the BNA and allowed it to more freely adopt strategies to build resilience from external shocks on the economy. As Angola’s economy depends heavily on oil to fuel its economy, so does the banking sector. The BNA periodically monitors minimum capital requirements for all banks and orders the closure of non-compliant banks.

Although the RECREDIT Agency purchased non-performing loans (NPLs) of the state’s parastatal BPC bank, NPLs remain high at 32%, a decrease of 5% since 2016. Credit availability is minimal and often supports government-supported programs. The GRA obliged banks to grant credit more liberally in the economy, notably by implementing a Credit Support Program (PAC). For instance, the BNA has issued a notice obliging Angolan commercial banks to grant credit to national production in the minimum amount equivalent to 2.5% of their net assets until the end of 2020.

The country has not lost any additional correspondent banking relationships since 2015. The BNA is currently working on reforms to convince international banks to reestablish correspondent banking relationships. The majority of transactions go via third party correspondent banking services in Portugal banks, a costly option for all commercial banks. At the time of issuing this report no correspondent banking relationships were at jeopardy.

Foreign banking institutions are allowed to operate in Angola and are subject to BNA oversight.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the BNA met in March 2020, to consider recent changes to the main economic indicators, and taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the domestic economy. The MPC paid particular attention to the external accounts, and their implications for the conduct of monetary and exchange rate policies. The MPC has accordingly decided to:

  • Maintain the base interest rate, BNA rate, at 15.5%;
  • Maintain the interest rate on the liquidity absorption facility with an overnight maturity, at 0%;
  • Reduce the interest rate on the liquidity absorption facility with a seven-day maturity, from 10% to 7%;
  • Maintain reserve requirement coefficients for national and foreign currencies at 22% and 15%, respectively;
  • Establish a liquidity facility with a maximum value of Kz 100 billion for the acquisition of government securities held by non-financial corporations:
  • Extend to the 54 products defined in PRODESI the credit granted with recourse to the reserve requirements, and establish a minimum number of loans to be granted per bank;
  • Exempt from the limits established per type of payment instrument, the import of products included in the basic food basket, and of and these continue to cripple lending appetite of commercial banks to the private sector medicines;
  • Set April 1 as the start date for the use of the Bloomberg platform by the oil companies and by the National Agency of Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, for the sale of foreign currency to commercial banks.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Angolan National Bank (Banco Nacional de Angola –BNA) published Notice no. 15/2019, of December 30, 2019, which establishes the rules and procedures applicable to foreign exchange operations conducted by non-resident entities related to: (a) foreign direct investment; (b) investment in securities (portfolio investment); (c) divestment operations; and (d) income earned by non-residents from direct investment or portfolio investment (the “Notice”). The notice also applies to all foreign exchange transactions relating to “foreign investment projects that were registered with BNA prior to its publication.” Investments made by non-resident foreign exchange entities in the oil sector are excluded from the scope of the Notice.

The notice distinguishes foreign direct investment and portfolio investment. Direct investment is investment made in the “creation of new companies or other legal entities” or through the acquisition of shareholdings in non-listed Angolan companies or, if listed in a regulated market when the investment gives the external investor a right of control equal to 10% or more. In turn, portfolio investment represents the investment in securities. In the case of the purchase of securities representing the capital of a listed company, portfolio investment will be considered only when the voting rights associated with the investment are less than 10% of the listed company’s capital stock.

Since dropping the peg on the dollar in 2018, the local currency fluctuates freely. In October 2019, the BNA fully liberalized the foreign exchange regime, abandoning the trading band that had been in place since January 2018. Its previous policy of controlled exchange rate adjustment prevented the kwanza from depreciating by more than 2.0% at currency auctions. The BNA also has allowed oil companies to directly sell foreign currency to commercial banks. The BNA said the move is expected to normalize the foreign exchange market through the reduction of its direct intervention with oil firms, increase the number of foreign currency suppliers, and revive the country’s foreign exchange market. The exchange rate is determined by the rate on the day of sale of forex to commercial banks. On June 22, 2020, the BNA adopted Bloomberg’s foreign exchange electronic trading system (FXGO) and its electronic auction system to bring greater efficiency and transparency to Angola’s forex market.

Remittance Policies

Based on the notice issued on December 23, 2019 as per above, as long as adequate supporting documentation is submitted to the commercial bank, foreign investors can freely transfer within 5 days abroad:

  1. dividends, interest and other income resulting from their investments;
  2. shareholder loan repayments;
  3. proceeds of the sale of securities listed on the stock exchange;
  4. when the participated entity is not listed on the stock exchange, the proceeds of the sale, when the purchaser is also a foreign investor and the amount to be transferred abroad by the seller is equal to the amount to be transferred from abroad by the purchaser, in foreign currency;

The transfer abroad of capital, requiring the purchase of foreign currency, when the participated entity is not listed on the stock exchange, requires prior exchange control approval when it relates to the following:

  1. The sale of the whole or a part of an investment;
  2. The dissolution of the participated entity;
  3. Any other corporate action that would reduce the capital of the participated entity.

There may be delays greater than 60 days if the documentation submitted to the BNA is not complete such as a tax due statement from the General Tax Agency and companies’ balance sheet statements.

The BNA has facilitated remittances of international supplies by introducing payment by letters of credit. Also, the 2018 NPIL grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all taxes due. The government continues to prioritize foreign exchange for essential goods and services including the food, health, defense, and petroleum industries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In October 2012, former President Eduardo dos Santos established a petroleum funded USD 5 billion sovereign wealth fund called the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA). The FSDEA was established in accordance with international governance standards and best practices as outlined in the Santiago Principles.

In February 2015, the FSDEA was recognized as transparent by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The FSDEA has the express purpose of profit maximization with a special emphasis on investing in domestic projects that have a social component ( http://www.fundosoberano.ao/investments/  ). Jose Filomeno dos Santos (Zenu), son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed chairman of FSDEA in June 2013, but was removed by President Lourenco in 2017, and is appealing a five-year jail term pronounced in August 2020, following his trial for money laundering, embezzlement and fraud. Former Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes was named new head of the FSDEA that same year.

Half of the initial endowment of FSDEA was invested in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and real estate in Angola and other African markets, and the other half was supposedly allocated to cash and fixed-income instruments, global and emerging-market equities, and other alternative investments. The FSDEA is in possession of approximately USD 3.35 billion of its private equity assets previously under the control of QG and given to economic and financial hardship, the fund’s equity was reduced by USD 2 billion to finance the Program for Intervention in the Municipalities in 2019 and USD 1.5 billion for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The FSDEA also announced that the government will use the remainder, USD 1.5 billion of the fund’s assets to support social programs on condition of future repayment through increased tax on the BNA’s rolling debts.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In Angola, certain SOEs exercise delegated governmental powers, especially in the mining sector where the government is the sole concessionaire. Foreign investors may sometimes find demands made by SOEs excessive, and under such conditions, SOEs have easier access to credit and government contracts. There is no law mandating preferential treatment to SOEs, but in practice they have access to inside information and credit. Currently, SOEs are not subject to budgetary constraints and quite often exceed their capital limits.

SOEs, often benefitting from a government mandate, operate mostly in the extractive; transportation; commerce; banking; and construction, building, and heavy equipment sectors. All SOEs in Angola are required to have boards of directors, and most board members are affiliated with the government. SOEs are not explicitly required to consult with government officials before making decisions. By law, SOEs must publish annual financial reports for the previous year in the national daily newspaper Jornal de Angola by April 1. Such reports are not always subject to publicly released external audits (though the audit of state oil firm Sonangol is publicly released). The standards used are often questioned. Not all SOEs fulfill their legal obligations, and few are sanctioned.

Angola’s supreme audit institution, Tribunal de Contas, is responsible for auditing SOEs. However, reports from the Tribunal de Contas are only made public after a few years. The most recently published report, for 2017, was published in 2019. Angola’s fiscal transparency would be improved by ensuring its supreme audit institution’s audits of SOEs and the government’s annual financial accounts are made public within a reasonable period. Publicly available audit reports would also improve the transparency of contracts between private companies and SOEs.

In November 2016, the Angolan Government revised Law 1/14 “Legal Regime on Issuance and Management of Direct and Indirect Debt,” which now differentiates between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ public debt. The GRA considers SOE debt as indirect public debt, and only accounts in its state budget for direct government debt, thus effectively not reflecting some substantial obligations in fact owed by the government. President Lourenço has launched various reforms to improve financial sector transparency, enhance efficiency in the country’s SOEs as part of the National Development plan 2018-2022 and Macroeconomic Stability Plan. The strategy included the prospective privatization of 195 SOE assets that are deemed not profitable to the state. The privatization will possibly include the restructuring of the national air carrier TAAG, as well as Sonangol and its subsidiaries. The latter intends to sell off its non-core businesses as part of its restructuring strategy to make the parastatal more efficient.

Angola is not a party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Angola does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate governance for SOEs.

Privatization Program

In 2020 the GRA increased the number of assets to be privatized by 2022 from 90 to 195 through the Angola Debt and Securities Exchange market (BODIVA) and under the supervision of the Institute of Management of Assets and State Holdings (IGAPE). The privatization program “PROPRIV,” implements the Government’s Interim Macroeconomic Stabilization Program (PEM), which aims to rid the government of unprofitable public institutions. The GRA plans to privatize part of state-owned Angola Telecommunications Company, companies in the oil and energy sector, as well as several textile and beverages industries. The GRA has stated that the privatization process will be open to interested foreign investors and has guaranteed a transparent bidding process. The tenders are open to local and foreign investors. In 2020 PROPRIV helped the government raise over USD 500 million through the privatization of 33 assets following public tenders.

The oil company Sonangol, the State’s largest SOE, sold 14 of the 20 companies it planned to privatize in 2019. It also sold 19 out of 26 planned to be sold in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed privatization efforts, and the rest of the total 70 assets to be privatized will likely be sold in 2021 and 2022. The list includes divestments in the subsidiaries and assets of Sonangol Cabo Verde – Sociedade e Investimentos and Óleos de São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as stakes in Founton (Gibraltar), Sonatide Marine (Cayman Islands), Solo Properties Knightbridge (United Kingdom), Societé Ivoiriense de Raffinage (Cote d’Ivoire), Puma Energy Holdings (Singapore) and Sonandiets Services (Panama), by 2021.

Sonangol will sell its stake in WTA-Houston Express and French company WTA, as well as assets in Portuguese real estate companies Puaça, Diraniproject III and Diraniproject V, in Sonacergy – Serviços e Construções, Sonafurt International Shipping and Atlantis Viagens e Turismo. Sonangol also holds assets to be privatized in Angolan companies in the Health, Education, Transport, Telecommunications, Energy, Civil Construction, Mineral Resources and Oil and Banking sectors.

The sale of more than 60 non-core assets will make the company “financially more robust,” and allow it to focus on its core business.

The GRA created a privatization commission on February 27, 2018 and a website https://igape.minfin.gov.ao/PortalIGAPE/#!/sala-de-imprensa/noticias/5413/anuncio-de-concurso-tender-announcement   for submission of tenders. Full tender documents can be obtained by visiting the below link: http://www.ucm.minfin.gov.ao/cs/groups/public/documents/document/zmlu/mdu4/~edisp/minfin058842.zip

Alternatively, contact igape@minfin.gov.ao .

10. Political and Security Environment

Angola maintains a politically stable environment. Politically motivated violence is not a high risk, and incidents are rare. The last significant incident of political violence happened in 2010 during an attack against the Togolese national soccer team by FLEC-PM (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda—Military Position) in the northern province of Cabinda. FLEC threatened Chinese workers in Cabinda in 2015 and claimed in 2016 that they would return to active armed struggle against the Angolan government forces. No attacks have since ensued and the FLEC has remained relatively inactive.

President Lourenco has pledged to govern for all Angolans and to combat two of the country’s major problems: corruption and mismanagement of public funds. President Lourenco’s government seeks reform of the state and national cohesion. Local elections – “Autarquias” –were anticipated to take place in 2020 but have not yet occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of key legislation governing the elections.

Angola is also becoming more assertive and demonstrating a more steadfast commitment to peace and stability in Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region. In 2019 and 2020 it facilitated an agreement to end mounting tensions between the Rwanda and Uganda. Angola maintains the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and has played an important convening role on the situation in the Central African Republic.

With Angola’s economy continuing to struggle, social dissatisfaction is on the rise and is triggering reactions particularly among Angolan young adults who take to the streets occasionally to protest against overall economic hardship and unrealized political pledges. Large pockets of the population live in poverty without adequate access to basic services, and the country could benefit from more inclusive development policies. According to the 2018/2019 Expenditure and Income Survey from the National Institute of Statistics, the poverty index was at 40.6%. A social protection scheme program has been launched with a pilot cash transfer project which will benefit over 1.6 million vulnerable families until 2022 around the country.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2020 $62.72 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $-254 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 -4.8% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

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

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Antigua and Barbuda

Executive Summary

Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) statistics, Antigua and Barbuda’s 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.38 billion (3.73 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars). This represents an approximate 18 percent drop from 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s tourism-dependent economy. Short-term forecasts project a sluggish recovery throughout 2021, with the country not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and tourism until 2024. The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 3.4 percent in 2021, and in fact may contract by an additional 10 percent.

Unanticipated spending on pandemic response measures, coupled with sharp declines in government revenues, forced the government to increase borrowing in 2020. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 67 percent at the end of 2019 to 89 percent at the end of 2020. Unlike other Eastern Caribbean (EC) countries, Antigua and Barbuda has not significantly increased spending on social support payments to vulnerable populations. The government became the sole source of financing for regional airline Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) in mid-2020. Based in Antigua and Barbuda, LIAT was a major employer but is now under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee.

Antigua and Barbuda ranks 113th out of 190 countries rated in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. The scores remain relatively unchanged from the 2019 report, though some improvements in the ease of starting a business were highlighted.

The government encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange. Through the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services.

While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy have been identified by the government as priority investment areas. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.

There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.

Antigua and Barbuda’s legal system is based on British common law. There is currently an unresolved dispute regarding the alleged expropriation of an American-owned property. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.

In 2017, the government signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index N/A N/A http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 113 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index N/A N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 7.0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 16,600 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Antigua and Barbuda encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, enhance economic activity, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Diversification of the economy remains a priority.

Through the ABIA, the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services. ABIA offers complementary support services to investors exploring business opportunities, including facilitation of incentives and concessions, project monitoring, and general assistance. ABIA’s website is http://investantiguabarbuda.org . The government launched an additional website in early 2021 to serve as a “business hub for potential investors,” http://antiguabarbuda.com .

While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, it has identified tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy as priority investment areas. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment, and a local or foreign entrepreneur needs about 40 days from start to finish to transfer the title on a piece of property. In 1995, the government established a permanent residency program to encourage high-net-worth individuals to establish residency in Antigua and Barbuda for up to three years. As residents, their income is free of local taxation. In 2020, the government established the Nomad Digital Residence Visa program in which eligible remote workers can apply for a two-year special resident authorization. These programs are separate from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.

The ABIA evaluates all foreign direct investment proposals applying for government incentives and provides intelligence, business facilitation, and investment promotion to establish and expand profitable business enterprises. The ABIA also advises the government on issues that are important to the private sector and potential investors to increase the international competitiveness of the local economy.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda treats foreign and local investors equally with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECS, of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Established in 2006, the ABIA facilitates foreign direct investment in priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment. The ABIA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors. Its website is http://investantiguabarbuda.org . It also offers an online guide that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors. The guide is available at http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/antiguabarbuda .

All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the ABIA to ensure the project is consistent with national interests and provides economic benefits to the country.

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranked 130th out of 190 in the ease of starting a business. The establishment of a new business takes nine procedures and 19 days to complete. This time was reduced by three days because the government made improvements to the exchange of information between public entities involved in company incorporation. The general practice is to retain a local attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents. A business must register with the Intellectual Property and Commercial Office (IPCO), the Inland Revenue Department, the Medical Benefits Scheme, the Social Security Scheme, and the Board of Education.

The Antigua and Barbuda Science Innovation Park (ABSIP) launched in 2019 to support and create business startup opportunities that will generate sustainable business enterprises. ABSIP provides business incubation and financing, access to business financing, branding, training, partnership establishment, and other services. ABSIP’s website is http://absip.gov.ag .

The Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP) supports the creation of micro and small businesses with the intent of increasing the Antiguan and Barbudan ownership share of the country’s economy. Priority sectors in which EDP grants loans are agriculture and agroprocessing, manufacturing, information technology, e-business, and tourism.

Outward Investment

Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda prioritizes investment return as a key component of its overall economic strategy, there are no formal mechanisms in place to achieve this. To sustain future economic growth, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy depends on significant foreign direct investment.

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad. Local companies in Antigua and Barbuda are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME).

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The government of Antigua and Barbuda publishes laws, regulations, administrative practices, and procedures of general application and judicial decisions that affect or pertain to investments or investors in the country. Where the government establishes policies that affect or pertain to investments or investors that are not expressed in laws and regulation or by other means, the national government has committed to make them publicly available.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority lie with the bicameral parliament of the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The House of Representatives has 19 members, 17 of whom are elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies, one of whom is an ex-officio member, and one of whom is Speaker. The Senate has 17 appointed members.

Respective line ministries develop relevant national laws and regulations, which are then drafted by the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Laws relating to the ABIA and the CBI program are the main laws relevant to foreign direct investment. The laws of Antigua and Barbuda are available online at http://laws.gov.ag/new/ . This website contains the full text of laws already in force, as well as those Parliament is currently considering.

While some draft bills are not subject to public consideration, input from stakeholder groups may be considered. The government encourages stakeholder organizations to support and contribute to the legal development process by participating in technical committees and providing comments on drafts.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. The International Financial Accounting Standards, which stem from the General Accepted Accounting Principles, govern the accounting profession.

The constitution provides for the independent Office of the Ombudsman to guard against abuses of power by government officials. The Ombudsman is responsible for investigating complaints about acts or omissions by government officials that violate the rights of members of the public.

The ABIA has primary responsibility for investment supervision, and the Ministry of Finance, Corporate Governance and Public-Private Partnerships monitors investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes. The ABIA can revoke an issued Investment Certificate if the holder fails to comply with certain stipulations detailed in the Investment Authority Act and its regulations.

Antigua and Barbuda’s membership in regional organizations, particularly the OECS and its Economic Union, commits the state to implement all appropriate measures to fulfill its various treaty obligations. The eight member states and territories of the ECCU tend to enact laws uniformly, though minor differences in implementation may exist. The enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include penalties and other sanctions.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda has stated its commitment to achieving better development outcomes through improved transparency and accountability in the management of public finances. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Antigua and Barbuda committed to reaching a debt ratio target of 60 percent by 2030. This commitment has been challenged by economic constraints imposed by the pandemic, as the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 67 percent to 89 percent over the course of 2020. The government has stated its commitment to make timely debt repayments, but it is not possible to accurately assess the government’s financial condition because it provides minimal transparency into its budget.

The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found Antigua and Barbuda to be largely compliant.

The ECCB is the supervisory authority over financial institutions registered under the Banking Act of 2015.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the OECS and the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda subscribes to principles and policies outlined in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre. The relationship between national and regional systems is such that each participating member state is expected to coordinate and adopt, where possible, common national policies aimed at the progressive harmonization of relevant policies and systems across the region. Thus, Antigua and Barbuda is obligated to implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under the authority of the OECS, unless it seeks specific concessions to do otherwise.

The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards is a statutory body that prepares and promulgates standards in relation to goods, services, processes, and practices. Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade and is obligated to notify the Committee of any draft new and updated technical regulations.

Antigua and Barbuda ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2017. The TFA is intended to improve the speed and efficiency of border procedures, facilitate trade costs reduction, and enhance participation in the global value chain. Antigua and Barbuda has implemented a number of TFA requirements, but it has also missed two implementation deadlines. A full list is available at https://tfadatabase.org/members/antigua-and-barbuda .

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Antigua and Barbuda bases its legal system on the British common law system. The Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, junior judges, and magistrates administer justice. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act establishes the Supreme Court of Judicature, which consists of the High Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. The High Court hears criminal and civil matters and rules on constitutional law issues. Parties may appeal first to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, an itinerant court that hears appeals from all OECS members. The final appellate authority is the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Antigua and Barbuda is only subject to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

Antigua and Barbuda is a party to the WTO. The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel and Appellate Body resolves disputes over WTO agreements, while courts of appropriate jurisdiction in both countries resolve private disputes. Antigua and Barbuda brought a case before the WTO against the United States concerning the cross-border supply of online gambling and betting services. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and Barbuda, but agreement on settlement terms remains outstanding.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The ABIA provides guidance on the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. These are available at http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/antiguabarbuda  and http://investantiguabarbuda.org .

The ABIA may grant concessions as specified in the Investment Authority Act Amended 2019. These concessions are listed on Antigua and Barbuda’s iGuide website. Investors must apply to ABIA to take advantage of these incentives.

Citizenship by Investment

Under the CBI program, foreign individuals can obtain citizenship in accordance with the Citizenship by Investment Act of 2013, which grants citizenship (without voting rights) to qualified investors. Applicants are required to undergo a due diligence process before citizenship can be granted. The minimum contribution for investors under the CBI is $100,000 (270,225 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the National Development Fund for a family of up to four people and $125,000 (337,818 Eastern Caribbean dollars) for a family of five, with additional contributions of $15,000 (40,538 Eastern Caribbean dollars) per person for up to four additional family members. Individual applicants can also qualify for the program by buying real estate valued at $400,000 (1,081,020 Eastern Caribbean dollars) or more or making a business investment of $1.5 million (4,053,825 Eastern Caribbean dollars). Alternatively, at least two applicants can propose to make a joint investment in an approved business with a total investment of at least $5 million (13.5 million Eastern Caribbean dollars). Each investor must contribute at least $400,000 (1,081,020 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the joint investment. CBI investors must own real estate for a minimum of five years before selling it. A fourth CBI option involves a contribution of $150,000 (405,383 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Fund for a family of four people, which entitles one member of the family to a one-year tuition-only scholarship at UWI’s Five Islands campus. All applicants must also pay relevant government and due diligence fees, and provide a full medical certificate, police certificate, and evidence of the source of funds. Further information is available at https://www.cip.gov.ag/ .

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Chapter 8 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas outlines the competition policy applicable to CARICOM states. Member states are required to establish and maintain a national competition authority for implementing the rules of competition. CARICOM established a Caribbean Competition Commission (CCC) to rule on complaints of anti-competitive cross-border business conduct. CARICOM competition policy addresses anti-competitive business conduct such as collusion between enterprises, decisions by associations of enterprises, and concerted practices by enterprises that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition within the Community, and actions by which an enterprise abuses its dominant position within the Community. Antigua and Barbuda does not have any legislation regulating competition. The OECS agreed to establish a regional competition body to handle competition matters within its single market. The draft OECS bill has been submitted to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for review.

Expropriation and Compensation

According to the Investment Authority Act of 2006, investments in Antigua and Barbuda will not be nationalized, expropriated, or subject to indirect measures having an equivalent effect, except as necessary for the public good, in accordance with the due process of law, on a non-discriminatory basis, and accompanied by prompt, adequate, and effective compensation. Compensation in such cases is the fair market value of the expropriated investment immediately before the expropriation or the impending expropriation became public knowledge, whichever is earlier. Compensation includes interest from the date of dispossession of the expropriated property until the date of payment and is required to be paid without delay.

There is an unresolved dispute regarding the alleged expropriation of an American-owned property. Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda paid the former property owner a total of $39.8 million (107.56 million Eastern Caribbean dollars) in compensation, it still owes interest payments of $20 million (54 million Eastern Caribbean dollars). In 2019, a judge dismissed a case brought by former property owners against the government for payment of the outstanding balance. However, the owners intend to appeal. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Antigua and Barbuda is not a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States. However, it is a member of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Arbitration Convention. Private parties may use international or national arbitration if specified in contracts. The Arbitration Act Cap. 33 (1975) is the main legislation which governs arbitration in Antigua and Barbuda.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investors may use national or international arbitration to resolve contractual disputes with the state. Antigua and Barbuda also has bilateral investment treaties with Germany and the UK that recognize binding international arbitration of investment disputes. Antigua and Barbuda does not have a bilateral investment treaty or a free trade agreement with an investment chapter with the United States. U.S. Embassy Bridgetown is not aware of any current investment disputes with Antigua and Barbuda.

Antigua and Barbuda ranked 36th out of 190 countries in enforcing contracts in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. According to the report, dispute resolution in Antigua and Barbuda generally takes an average of 476 days. The slow court system and bureaucracy are widely seen as the main hindrances to timely resolutions to commercial disputes. Through the Arbitration Act, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

As mandated by the Arbitration Act, alternative dispute mechanisms are available as a means of settling disputes between two private parties. Parties may use voluntary mediation or conciliation. The Arbitration Act mandates the legal recognition and enforcement of judgments of foreign courts by local courts. Thus, the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda recognizes and enforces foreign arbitral awards. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeals provides meditation on commercial contracts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Under the Bankruptcy Act (1975), Antigua and Barbuda has a bankruptcy framework that grants certain rights to debtors and creditors. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report addresses the strength of the framework and its limitations in resolving insolvency in Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda ranked 132nd out of 190 countries in this area.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

As a member of the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the Eastern Caribbean Stock Exchange (ECSE) and the Regional Government Securities Market. The ECSE is a regional securities market established by the ECCB and licensed under the Securities Act of 2001, a uniform regional body of legislation governing securities market activities. As of March 31, 2020, there were 154 securities listed on the ECSE, comprising 134 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate bonds. Market capitalization stood at $666 million (1.8 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars), representing a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous year. Antigua and Barbuda is open to portfolio investment.

Antigua and Barbuda accepted the obligations of Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund Agreement Sections 2, 3, and 4, and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on making international payments and transfers. The government normally does not grant foreign tax credits except in cases where taxes are paid in a Commonwealth country that grants similar relief for Antigua and Barbuda taxes, or where an applicable tax treaty provides a credit. The private sector has access to credit on the local market through loans, purchases of non-equity services, and trade credits, as well as other accounts receivable that establish a claim for repayment.

Money and Banking System

Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the 1983 agreement establishing the ECCB. The ECCB controls Antigua and Barbuda’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.

The Banking Act 2015 is a harmonized piece of legislation across the ECCU member states. The ECCB and the Ministers of Finance of member states jointly carry out banking supervision under the Act. The Minsters of Finance usually act in consultation with the ECCB with respect to those areas of responsibility within the Minister of Finance’s portfolio.

Domestic and foreign banks can establish operations in Antigua and Barbuda. The Banking Act requires all commercial banks and other institutions to be licensed. The ECCB regulates financial institutions. As part of supervision, licensed financial institutions are required to submit monthly, quarterly, and annual performance reports to the ECCB. In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector as stable. Assessments including effects of the pandemic are not yet available. Assets of commercial banks totaled $2.07 billion (5.6 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) at the end of December 2019 and remained relatively consistent during the previous year. The reserve requirement for commercial banks was six percent of deposit liabilities.

Antigua and Barbuda is well-served by bank and non-bank financial institutions. There are minimal alternative financial services offered. Some people still participate in informal community group lending, but the practice is declining.

The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by U.S., Canadian, and European banks due to risk management concerns. CARICOM remains committed to engaging with key stakeholders on the issue and appointed a Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking to continue to monitor the issue.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Digital Assets Business Bill 2020 created a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital asset businesses, clients, and customers. The bill states that all digital asset businesses in the country must obtain a license for issuing, selling, or redeeming virtual coins, operating as a payment service or electronic exchange, providing custodial wallet services, among other activities. The government aspires to develop Antigua and Barbuda into a regional center for blockchain and cryptocurrency. At the end of 2020, over 40 major businesses accepted bitcoin cash.

Bitt, a Barbadian company, developed digital currency DCash in partnership with the ECCB. The first successful DCash retail central bank digital currency (CDBC) consumer-to-merchant transaction took place in Grenada in February 2021 following a multi-year development process. The CBB and the FSC established a regulatory sandbox in 2018 where financial technology entities can do live testing of their products and services. This allowed regulators to gain a better understanding of the product or service and to determine what, if any, regulation is necessary to protect consumers. Bitt completed its participation and formally exited the sandbox in 2019. Bitt launched DCash in Antigua and Barbuda in March 2021.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB. The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD). As a member of the OECS, Antigua and Barbuda has a foreign exchange system that is fully liberalized. The Eastern Caribbean dollar has been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of XCD 2.70 to USD 1.00 since 1976. As a result, the Eastern Caribbean dollar does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment in Antigua and Barbuda.

Remittance Policies

Companies registered in Antigua and Barbuda have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits free of all taxes or any other charges on foreign exchange transactions. The government levies withholding taxes on non-resident corporations and individuals receiving income in the form of dividends, preferred share dividends, interest and rentals, management fees, and royalties, as well as on interest on bank deposits to non-resident corporations. A person must be present on the island for no less than four years without interruption to be considered a resident. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the CFATF.

In 2017, the government of Antigua and Barbuda signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the FATCA, making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Neither the government of Antigua and Barbuda nor the ECCB, of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Antigua and Barbuda are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they are not designed for competition. The government established many SOEs to create economic activity in areas where the private sector is perceived to have little interest. A list of SOEs can be found at: https://ab.gov.ag/detail_page.php?page=1 .

SOEs are headed by boards of directors to which senior managers report. In 2016, Parliament passed the Statutory Corporations (General Provisions) Act, which specifies the ministerial responsibilities in the appointment and termination of board members, decisions of the board, and employment in these SOEs. To promote diversity and independence on SOE boards, professional associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society may nominate directors for boards.

Privatization Program

Antigua and Barbuda does not have a targeted privatization program.

10. Political and Security Environment

Antigua and Barbuda does not have a recent history of politically-motivated violence or civil disturbance. Elections are peaceful and regarded as being free and fair. The next general elections are constitutionally due by May 2023.

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) 2019 $1,660 2019 1,662 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 7 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 3 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 8 UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html
* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/ 

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

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Argentina

Executive Summary

Argentina presents investment and trade opportunities, particularly in agriculture, energy, health, infrastructure, information technology, and mining. However, economic uncertainty, interventionist policies, high inflation, and persistent economic stagnation have prevented the country from maximizing its potential. Argentina fell into recession in 2018, the same year then-President Mauricio Macri signed a three-year $57 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Efforts to rationalize spending contributed to Macri’s defeat by the Peronist ticket of Alberto Fernandez and former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) in 2019. The new administration took office on December 10, 2019 and reversed fiscal austerity measures, suspended the IMF program, and declared public debt levels unsustainable. The COVID-19 pandemic deepened the country´s multi-year economic recession. This led the government to intensify price, capital, and foreign trade controls, rolling back some of the market driven polices of the previous administration. After recording its ninth sovereign default in May 2020, the government of Argentina restructured international law bonds for $65 billion and domestic law bonds for $42 billion. The debt restructuring provides financial relief of $37.7 billion during the period 2020-2030, lowering average interest payments from 7 percent to 3 percent. In August 2020, the government formally notified the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of its intent to renegotiate $45 billion due to the Fund from the 2018 Stand-by Arrangement. In 2020, the Argentine peso (official rate) depreciated 29 percent, inflation reached 36 percent, the poverty rate reached 42 percent, and the economy contracted 10 percent.

The Fernandez administration’s economic agenda during 2020 focused on restructuring the country’s sovereign debt and addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government increased taxes on foreign trade, further tightened capital controls, and initiated or renewed price control programs. The administration also expanded fiscal expenditures, which were primarily directed at mitigating the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing a need to preserve Argentina’s diminishing foreign exchange reserves and raise government revenues for social programs, the Fernandez administration passed a sweeping “economic emergency” law in December 2019, that included a 35 percent advance income tax plus a 30 percent tax on purchases of foreign currency and all individual expenses incurred abroad, whether in person or online.

After the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Argentina on March 3, 2020, the country imposed a strict nationwide quarantine on March 20, which became one of the longest in the world. The confinement measures were relaxed starting in the second semester of 2020, although multiple restrictions remained in place. Hotel and lodging, travel and tourism, and entertainment activities were deeply affected and were still not fully operational as of March 2021. According to estimates from the Argentine Small and Medium-Sized Confederation´s (CAME), 90,700 retail stores and 41,200 businesses permanently closed in Argentina during 2020, accounting for more than 185,300 jobs losses. As a result of the confinement measures, economic activity dropped 10 percent during 2020 compared to 2019, reaching levels similar to the 2002 economic crisis.

The Argentine government issued a series of economic relief measures, primarily focusing on the informal workers that account for 40 percent of the labor force as well as small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). The government prohibited employers from terminating employment until April 2021 and mandated a double severance payment until December 31, 2021. The government also prohibited the suspension of utility services (water, natural gas, electricity, mobile and land line services, and internet and cable TV) for failure to pay. The government’s ninth sovereign default and self-declared insolvency has limited its access to international credit, obligating it to finance pandemic-related stimulus measures and COVID-19 vaccine purchases via money printing, which may hamper its efforts to restrain inflation and maintain a stable exchange rate in the near term. The government is expected to further expand fiscal expenditures ahead of mid-term elections in October 2021.

Both domestic and foreign companies frequently point to a high and unpredictable tax burden and rigid labor laws, which make responding to changing macroeconomic conditions more difficult, as obstacles to further investment in Argentina. In July 2020, the government passed a teleworking law which imposed restrictive regulations on remote work. The law discourages companies from granting workplace flexibility and lowering labor costs via telework. In 2019, Argentina ranked 36 out of 41 countries evaluated in the Competitiveness Ranking of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which measures how productively a country uses its available resources.

As a MERCOSUR member, Argentina signed a free trade and investment agreement with the European Union (EU) in June 2019. Argentina has not ratified the agreement yet. In May 2020, Argentina proposed slowing the pace and adjusting the negotiating parameters of MERCOSUR’s ongoing trade liberalization talks with South Korea, Canada, and other partners to help protect vulnerable populations and account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Argentina previously ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on January 22, 2018. Argentina and the United States continue to expand bilateral commercial and economic cooperation, specifically through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), the Commercial Dialogue, and under the Growth in the Americas initiative, in order to improve and facilitate public-private ties and communication on trade, investment, energy, and infrastructure issues, including market access and intellectual property rights. More than 300 U.S. companies operate in Argentina, and the United States continues to be the top investor in Argentina with more than USD $10.7 billion (stock) of foreign direct investment as of 2019.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 78 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 126 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 80 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 10.7 billion https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 11,130 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Argentina has identified its top economic priorities for 2021 as resolving its debt situation with the IMF, controlling inflation, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing financial aid to the most vulnerable sectors of society. When the Fernandez administration took office in late 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Worship became the lead governmental entity for investment promotion.  The Fernandez administration does not have a formal business roundtable or other dialogue established with international investors, although it does engage with domestic and international companies.

Market regulations such as capital controls, trade restrictions, and price controls enhance economic distortion that hinders the investment climate in the country.

Foreign and domestic investors generally compete under the same conditions in Argentina. The amount of foreign investment is restricted in specific sectors such as aviation and media. Foreign ownership of rural productive lands, bodies of water, and areas along borders is also restricted.

Argentina has a National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency that provides information and consultation services to investors and traders on economic and financial conditions, investment opportunities, and Argentine laws and regulations. The agency also provides matchmaking services and organizes roadshows and trade delegations. Upon the change of administration, the government placed the Agency under the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to improve coordination between the Agency and Argentina´s foreign policy. The Under Secretary for Trade and Investment Promotion of the MFA works as a liaison between the Agency and provincial governments and regional organizations. The new administration also created the National Directorate for Investment Promotion under the Under Secretary for Trade and Investment Promotion, making the Directorate responsible for promoting Argentina as an investment destination. The Directorate´s mission also includes determining priority sectors and projects and helping Argentine companies expand internationally and/or attract international investment.

The agency’s web portal provides information on available services ( https://www.inversionycomercio.org.ar/ ). The 23 provinces and the City of Buenos Aires also have their own provincial investment and trade promotion offices.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic commercial entities in Argentina are regulated by the Commercial Partnerships Law (Law 19,550), the Argentina Civil and Commercial Code, and rules issued by the regulatory agencies. Foreign private entities can establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity in nearly all sectors.

Full foreign equity ownership of Argentine businesses is not restricted, for the most part, with exception in the air transportation and media industries. The share of foreign capital in companies that provide commercial passenger transportation within the Argentine territory is limited to 49 percent per the Aeronautic Code Law 17,285. The company must be incorporated according to Argentine law and domiciled in Buenos Aires. In the media sector, Law 25,750 establishes a limit on foreign ownership in television, radio, newspapers, journals, magazines, and publishing companies to 30 percent.

Law 26,737 (Regime for Protection of National Domain over Ownership, Possession or Tenure of Rural Land) establishes that a foreigner cannot own land that allows for the extension of existing bodies of water or that are located near a Border Security Zone. In February 2012, the government issued Decree 274/2012 further restricting foreign ownership to a maximum of 30 percent of national land and 15 percent of productive land. Foreign individuals or foreign company ownership is limited to 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) in the most productive farming areas. In June 2016, the Government of Argentina issued Decree 820 easing the requirements for foreign land ownership by changing the percentage that defines foreign ownership of a person or company, raising it from 25 percent to 51 percent of the social capital of a legal entity. Waivers are not available.

Argentina does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment. U.S. investors are not at a disadvantage to other foreign investors or singled out for discriminatory treatment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Argentina was last subject to an investment policy review by the OECD in 1997 and a trade policy review by the WTO in 2013. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has not done an investment policy review of Argentina.

Business Facilitation

In 2019, stemming from the country’s deteriorating financial and economic situation, the Argentine government re-imposed capital controls on business and consumers, limiting their access to foreign exchange.  Strict capital controls and increases in taxes on exports and imports the Argentine government instituted at the end of 2019 have generated uncertainty in the business climate.

With the stated aim of keeping inflation under control and avoiding production shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government increased market interventions in 2020, creating further market distortions that may deter investment. Argentina currently has two consumer goods price control programs, “Precios Cuidados, a voluntary program established in 2014, and “Precios Máximos, an emergency program established in March 2020. The Argentine Congress also passed the Shelves Law (No. 27,545), which regulates the supply, display, and distribution of products on supermarket shelves and virtual stores. Key articles of the Law are still pending implementing regulations. Private companies expressed concern over the final regulatory framework of the Law, which could affect their production, distribution, and marketing business model.

In August 2020, the government issued an edict freezing prices for telecommunication services (mobile and land), cable and satellite TV, and internet services until December 2020, later extending the measure into 2021. In Argentina’s high inflation environment, companies sought a 20 to 25 percent increase, however, the regulator allowed the telecom sector a five percent rate increase as of January 2021. The health sector was also subject to limits on price increases. In February 2021, the Secretary of Trade took administrative action against major consumer firms and food producers for purportedly causing supermarket shortages by withholding production and limiting distribution. Companies are currently contesting this decision. In March 2021, the Secretary of Domestic Trade issued Resolution 237/2021 establishing a national registry to monitor the production levels, distribution, and sales of private companies. If companies fail to comply, they could be subject to fines or closure. Tighter import controls imposed by the Fernandez administration have affected the business plans of private companies that need imported inputs for production. The private sector noted increased discretion on the part of trade authorities responsible for approving import licenses.

The Ministry of Production eased bureaucratic hurdles for foreign trade through the creation of a Single Window for Foreign Trade (“VUCE” for its Spanish acronym) in 2016. The VUCE centralizes the administration of all required paperwork for the import, export, and transit of goods (e.g., certificates, permits, licenses, and other authorizations and documents). The Argentine government has not fully implemented the VUCE for use across the country. Argentina subjects imports to automatic or non-automatic licenses that are managed through the Comprehensive Import Monitoring System (SIMI, or Sistema Integral de Monitoreo de Importaciones), established in December 2015 by the National Tax Agency (AFIP by its Spanish acronym) through Resolutions 5/2015 and 3823/2015. The SIMI system requires importers to submit detailed information electronically about goods to be imported into Argentina. Once the information is submitted, the relevant Argentine government agencies can review the application through the VUCE and make any observations or request additional information. The list of products subject to non-automatic licensing has been modified several times since the beginning of the SIMI system. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government reclassified goods needed to combat the health emergency previously subject to non-automatic import licenses to automatic import licenses. Approximately 1,500 tariff lines are currently subject to non-automatic licenses.

The Argentine Congress approved an Entrepreneurs’ Law in March 2017, which allows for the creation of a simplified joint-stock company (SAS, or Sociedad por Acciones Simplificada) online within 24 hours of registration. However, in March 2020, the Fernandez administration annulled the 24-hour registration system. Industry groups said this hindered the entrepreneurship ecosystem by revoking one of the pillars of the Entrepreneurs´ Law.

In December 2020, the government issued the regulatory framework for the Knowledge Based-Economy Law, which was passed in October 2020. The Law establishes tax benefits for entrepreneurs until December 2029. The complete list of activities included in the tax benefit can be found at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do;jsessionid=56625A2FC5152F34ECE583158D581896?id=346218 .

Foreign investors seeking to set up business operations in Argentina follow the same procedures as domestic entities without prior approval and under the same conditions as local investors. To open a local branch of a foreign company in Argentina, the parent company must be legally registered in Argentina. Argentine law requires at least two equity holders, with the minority equity holder maintaining at least a five percent interest. In addition to the procedures required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing itself in Argentina must legalize the parent company’s documents, register the incoming foreign capital with the Argentine Central Bank, and obtain a trading license.

A company must register its name with the Office of Corporations (IGJ, or Inspección General de Justicia). The IGJ website describes the registration process and some portions can be completed online ( https://www.argentina.gob.ar/justicia/igj/guia-de-tramites ). Once the IGJ registers the company, the company must request that the College of Public Notaries submit the company’s accounting books to be certified with the IGJ. The company’s legal representative must obtain a tax identification number from AFIP, register for social security, and obtain blank receipts from another agency. Companies can register with AFIP online at www.afip.gob.ar or by submitting the sworn affidavit form No. 885 to AFIP.

Details on how to register a company can be found at the Ministry of Productive Development’s website: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/produccion/crear-una-empresa . Instructions on how to obtain a tax identification code can be found at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/obtener-el-cuit-por-internet .

The enterprise must also provide workers’ compensation insurance for its employees through the Workers’ Compensation Agency (ART, or Aseguradora de Riesgos del Trabajo). The company must register and certify its accounting of wages and salaries with the Secretariat of Labor, within the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security.

In April 2016, the Small Business Administration of the United States and the Ministry of Production of Argentina signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to set up small and medium sized business development centers (SBDCs) in Argentina.  Under the MOU, in June 2017, Argentina set up a SBDC in the province of Neuquén to provide small businesses with tools to improve their productivity and increase their growth.

The Ministry of Productive Development offers attendance-based courses and online training for businesses. The training menu can be viewed at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/produccion/capacitacion .

Outward Investment

The National Directorate for Investment Promotion under the Under Secretary for Trade and Investment Promotion at the MFA assists Argentine companies in expanding their business overseas, in coordination with the National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency. Argentina does not have any restrictions regarding domestic entities investing overseas, nor does it incentivize outward investment.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Secretary of Strategic Affairs under the Cabinet is in charge of transparency policies and the digitalization of bureaucratic processes as of December 2019.

Argentine government authorities and a number of quasi-independent regulatory entities can issue regulations and norms within their mandates. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations. Rulemaking has traditionally been a top-down process in Argentina, unlike in the United States where industry organizations often lead in the development of standards and technical regulations.  The Constitution establishes a procedure that allows for citizens to draft or propose legislation, which is subject to Congressional and Executive approval before being passed into law.

Ministries, regulatory agencies, and Congress are not obligated to provide a list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals, share draft regulations with the public, or establish a timeline for public comment. They are also not required to conduct impact assessments of the proposed legislation and regulations.

All final texts of laws, regulations, resolutions, dispositions, and administrative decisions must be published in the Official Gazette ( https://www.boletinoficial.gob.ar ), as well as in the newspapers and the websites of the Ministries and agencies. These texts can also be accessed through the official website Infoleg ( http://www.infoleg.gob.ar/ ), overseen by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Interested stakeholders can pursue judicial review of regulatory decisions.

In September 2016, Argentina enacted a Right to Access Public Information Law (27,275) that mandates all three governmental branches (legislative, judicial, and executive), political parties, universities, and unions that receive public funding are to provide non-classified information at the request of any citizen. The law also created the Agency for the Right to Access Public Information to oversee compliance.

During 2017, the government introduced new procurement standards including electronic procurement, formalization of procedures for costing-out projects, and transparent processes to renegotiate debts to suppliers. The government also introduced OECD recommendations on corporate governance for state-owned enterprises to promote transparency and accountability during the procurement process. The regulation may be viewed at:   http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do?id=306769 .

http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do?id=306769 .

In April 2018, Argentina passed the Business Criminal Responsibility Law (27,041) through Decree 277. The decree establishes an Anti-Corruption Office in charge of outlining and monitoring the transparency policies with which companies must comply to be eligible for public procurement.

Under the bilateral Commercial Dialogue, Argentina and the United States discuss good regulatory practices, conducting regulatory impact analyses, and improving the incorporation of public consultations in the regulatory process. Similarly, under the bilateral Digital Economy Working Group, Argentina and the United States shared best practices on promoting competition, spectrum management policy, and broadband investment and wireless infrastructure development.

The Argentine government has sought to increase public consultation in the rulemaking process; however, public consultation is non-binding and has been done in an ad-hoc fashion. In 2017, the Government of Argentina issued a series of legal instruments that seek to promote the use of tools to improve the quality of the regulatory framework. Amongst them, Decree 891/2017 for Good Practices in Simplification establishes a series of tools to improve the rulemaking process. The decree introduces tools on ex-ante and ex-post evaluation of regulation, stakeholder engagement, and administrative simplification, amongst others. Nevertheless, no formal oversight mechanism has been established to supervise the use of these tools across the line of ministries and government agencies, which make implementation difficult and severely limit the potential to adopt a whole-of-government approach to regulatory policy, according to a 2019 OECD publication on Regulatory Policy in Argentina.

Some ministries and agencies developed their own processes for public consultation by publishing drafts on their websites, directly distributing the draft to interested stakeholders for feedback, or holding public hearings.

In November 2017, the Government of Argentina launched a new website to communicate how the government spends public funds in a user-friendly format ( https://www.argentina.gob.ar/economia/transparencia/presupuesto ).

The Argentine government also made an effort to improve citizens’ understanding of the budget, through the citizen’s budget “Presupuesto Ciudadano” website: https://www.economia.gob.ar/onp/presupuesto_ciudadano/seccion6.php . The initiative aligns with the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) and UN Resolution 67/218 on promoting transparency, participation, and accountability in fiscal policy.

Argentina requires public companies to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Argentina is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.

International Regulatory Considerations

Argentina is a founding member of MERCOSUR and has been a member of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI for Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración) since 1980.  Once any of the decision-making bodies within MERCOSUR agrees on applying a certain regulation, each of the member countries has to incorporate it into its legislation according to its own legislative procedures. Once a regulation is incorporated in a MERCOSUR member’s legislation, the country has to notify MERCOSUR headquarters.

Argentina has been a member of the WTO since 1995, and it ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in January 2018. Argentina notifies technical regulations, but not proposed drafts, to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.  Argentina submitted itself to an OECD regulatory policy review in March 2018, which was released in March 2019.  The Fernandez administration has not actively pursued OECD accession.  Argentina participates in all 23 OECD committees.

Additionally, the Argentine Institute for Standards and Certifications (IRAM) is a member of international and regional standards bodies including the International Standardization Organization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the Pan-American Commission on Technical Standards (COPAM), the MERCOSUR Association of Standardization (AMN), the International Certification Network (i-Qnet), the System of Conformity Assessment for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components (IECEE), and the Global Good Agricultural Practice network (GLOBALG.A.P.).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Argentina follows a Civil Law system. In 2014, the Argentine government passed a new Civil and Commercial Code that has been in effect since August 2015. The Civil and Commercial Code provides regulations for civil and commercial liability, including ownership of real and intangible property claims. The current judicial process is lengthy and suffers from significant backlogs. In the Argentine legal system, appeals may be brought from many rulings of the lower court, including evidentiary decisions, not just final orders, which significantly slows all aspects of the system. The Justice Ministry reported in December 2018 that the expanded use of oral processes had reduced the duration of 68 percent of all civil matters to less than two years.

According to the Argentine constitution, the judiciary is a separate and equal branch of government. In practice, there are continuous instances of political interference in the judicial process. Companies have complained that courts lack transparency and reliability, and that the Argentine government has used the judicial system to pressure the private sector. Media revelations of judicial impropriety and corruption feed public perception and undermine confidence in the judiciary.

Many foreign investors prefer to rely on private or international arbitration when those options are available. Claims regarding labor practices are processed through a labor court, regulated by Law 18,345 and its subsequent amendments and implementing regulations by Decree 106/98. Contracts often include clauses designating specific judicial or arbitral recourse for dispute settlement.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

According to the Foreign Direct Investment Law 21,382 and Decree 1853/93, foreign investors may invest in Argentina without prior governmental approval, under the same conditions as investors domiciled within the country. Foreign investors are free to enter into mergers, acquisitions, greenfield investments, or joint ventures. Foreign firms may also participate in publicly-financed research and development programs on a national treatment basis. Incoming foreign currency must be identified by the participating bank to the Central Bank of Argentina (www.bcra.gob.ar).

All foreign and domestic commercial entities in Argentina are regulated by the Commercial Partnerships Law (Law No. 19,550) and the rules issued by the commercial regulatory agencies. Decree 27/2018 amended Law 19,550 to eliminate regulatory barriers and reduce bureaucratic burdens, expedite and simplify processes in the public domain, and deploy existing technological tools to better focus on transparency. Full text of the decree can be found at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/305000-309999/305736/norma.htm All other laws and norms concerning commercial entities are established in the Argentina Civil and Commercial Code, which can be found at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/235000-239999/235975/norma.htm 

Further information about Argentina’s investment policies can be found at the following websites:

Ministry of Productive Development ( https://www.argentina.gob.ar/produccion )

Ministry of Economy ( https://www.argentina.gob.ar/economia )

The Central Bank of the Argentine Republic ( http://www.bcra.gob.ar/ )

The National Securities Exchange Commission (https://www.argentina.gob.ar/cnv)

The National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (https://www.inversionycomercio.org.ar/)

Investors can download Argentina’s investor guide through this link: ( https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-086VB27JBjN0x0NmM4Y09GODA/view )

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The National Commission for the Defense of Competition and the Secretariat of Domestic Trade, both within the Ministry of Productive Development, have enforcement authority of the Competition Law (Law 25,156). The law aims to promote a culture of competition in all sectors of the national economy. In May 2018, the Argentine Congress approved a new Defense of Competition Law (Law 27,442), which would have, among other things, established an independent competition agency and tribunal. The new law incorporates anti-competitive conduct regulations and a leniency program to facilitate cartel investigation. The full text of the law can be viewed at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do?id=310241 . The Government of Argentina, however, has thus far not taken steps to establish the independent agency or tribunal. In February 2021, a bill introducing amendments to the Defense of Competition Law was passed by the Senate and is currently under study in the Lower House. The main changes are related to the removal of the “Clemency Program,” which encourages public reports of collusive and cartel activities, and the elimination of public hearings to appoint members of the Competition Office. The private sector has expressed concern over this bill, stating these changes are contrary to transparency standards embodied in the Law.

In September 2014, Argentina amended the 1974 National Supply Law to expand the ability of the government to regulate private enterprises by setting minimum and maximum prices and profit margins for goods and services at any stage of economic activity. Private companies may be subject to fines and temporary closure if the government determines they are not complying with the law. Although the law is still in effect, the U.S. Government has not received any reports of it being applied since December 2015.  However, the Fernandez administration has expressed its potential use in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, the Government of Argentina enacted the Supermarket Shelves Law (Law 27,545) that states that any single manufacturer and its associated brands cannot occupy more than 30 percent of a retailer’s shelf space devoted to any one product category.  The law’s proponents claim it will allow more space for domestic SME-produced products, encourage competition, and reduce shortages. U.S. companies have expressed concern over the pending regulations, seeking clarification about issues such as whether display space percentages would be considered per brand or per production company, as it could potentially affect a company’s production, distribution, and marketing business model.

Expropriation and Compensation

Section 17 of the Argentine Constitution affirms the right of private property and states that any expropriation must be authorized by law and compensation must be provided. The United States-Argentina BIT states that investments shall not be expropriated or nationalized except for public purposes upon prompt payment of the fair market value in compensation.

Argentina has a history of expropriations under previous administrations. The most recent expropriation occurred in March 2015 when the Argentine Congress approved the nationalization of the train and railway system. A number of companies that were privatized during the 1990s under the Menem administration were renationalized under the Kirchner administrations. Additionally, in October 2008, Argentina nationalized its private pension funds, which amounted to approximately one-third of total GDP, and transferred the funds to the government social security agency.

In May 2012, the Fernandez de Kirchner administration nationalized oil and gas company Repsol-YPF. Most of the litigation between the Government of Argentina and Repsol was settled in 2016.  An American hedge fund still holds a claim against YPF and is in litigation in U.S. courts.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Argentina is signatory to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards, which the country ratified in 1989. Argentina is also a party to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention since 1994.

There is neither specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement under the 1958 New York Convention nor legislation for the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention. Companies that seek recourse through Argentine courts may not simultaneously pursue recourse through international arbitration.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Argentine government officially accepts the principle of international arbitration. The United States-Argentina BIT includes a chapter on Investor-State Dispute Settlement for U.S. investors.

In the past ten years, Argentina has been brought before the ICSID in 54 cases involving U.S. or other foreign investors. Argentina currently has three pending arbitration cases filed against it by U.S. investors. For more information on the cases brought by U.S. claimants against Argentina, go to: https://icsid.worldbank.org/en/Pages/cases/AdvancedSearch.aspx #.

Local courts cannot enforce arbitral awards issued against the government based on the public policy clause. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

Argentina is a member of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Argentina is also a party to several bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions for the enforcement and recognition of foreign judgments, which provide requirements for the enforcement of foreign judgments in Argentina, including:

Treaty of International Procedural Law, approved in the South-American Congress of Private International Law held in Montevideo in 1898, ratified by Argentina by law No. 3,192.

Treaty of International Procedural Law, approved in the South-American Congress of Private International Law held in Montevideo in 1939-1940, ratified by Dec. Ley 7771/56 (1956).

Panama Convention of 1975, CIDIP I: Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, adopted within the Private International Law Conferences – Organization of American States, ratified by law No. 24,322 (1995).

Montevideo Convention of 1979, CIDIP II: Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards, adopted within the Private International Law Conferences – Organization of American States, ratified by law No. 22,921 (1983).

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms can be stipulated in contracts. Argentina also has ADR mechanisms available such as the Center for Mediation and Arbitrage (CEMARC) of the Argentine Chamber of Trade. More information can be found at: http://www.intracen.org/Centro-de-Mediacion-y-Arbitraje-Comercial-de-la-Camara-Argentina-de-Comercio—CEMARC–/#sthash.RagZdv0l.dpuf .

Argentina does not have a specific law governing arbitration, but it has adopted a mediation law (Law 24.573/1995), which makes mediation mandatory prior to litigation. Some arbitration provisions are scattered throughout the Civil Code, the National Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, the Commercial Code, and three other laws. The following methods of concluding an arbitration agreement are non-binding under Argentine law: electronic communication, fax, oral agreement, and conduct on the part of one party. Generally, all commercial matters are subject to arbitration. There are no legal restrictions on the identity and professional qualifications of arbitrators. Parties must be represented in arbitration proceedings in Argentina by attorneys who are licensed to practice locally. The grounds for annulment of arbitration awards are limited to substantial procedural violations, an ultra petita award (award outside the scope of the arbitration agreement), an award rendered after the agreed-upon time limit, and a public order violation that is not yet settled by jurisprudence when related to the merits of the award. On average, it takes around 21 weeks to enforce an arbitration award rendered in Argentina, from filing an application to a writ of execution attaching assets (assuming there is no appeal). It takes roughly 18 weeks to enforce a foreign award. The requirements for the enforcement of foreign judgments are set out in section 517 of the National Procedural Code.

No information is available as to whether the domestic courts frequently rule in cases in favor of state-owned enterprises (SOE) when SOEs are party to a dispute.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Argentina’s bankruptcy law was codified in 1995 in Law 24,522. The full text can be found at: http://www.infoleg.gov.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/25000-29999/25379/texact.htm .

Under the law, debtors are generally able to begin insolvency proceedings when they are no longer able to pay their debts as they mature. Debtors may file for both liquidation and reorganization. Creditors may file for insolvency of the debtor for liquidation only. The insolvency framework does not require approval by the creditors for the selection or appointment of the insolvency representative or for the sale of substantial assets of the debtor. The insolvency framework does not provide rights to the creditor to request information from the insolvency representative, but the creditor has the right to object to decisions by the debtor to accept or reject creditors’ claims. Bankruptcy is not criminalized; however, convictions for fraudulent bankruptcy can carry two to six years of prison time.

Financial institutions regulated by the Central Bank of Argentina (BCRA) publish monthly outstanding credit balances of their debtors; the BCRA National Center of Debtors (Central de Deudores) compiles and publishes this information. The database is available for use of financial institutions that comply with legal requirements concerning protection of personal data. The credit monitoring system only includes negative information, and the information remains on file through the person’s life. At least one local NGO that makes microcredit loans is working to make the payment history of these loans publicly accessible for the purpose of demonstrating credit history, including positive information, for those without access to bank accounts and who are outside of the Central Bank’s system. Equifax, which operates under the local name “Veraz” (or “truthfully”), also provides credit information to financial institutions and other clients, such as telecommunications service providers and other retailers that operate monthly billing or credit/layaway programs.

The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranked Argentina 111 out of 190 countries for the effectiveness of its insolvency law, remaining unchanged compared to 2019 ranking. The report notes that it takes an average of 2.4 years and 16.5 percent of the estate to resolve bankruptcy in Argentina.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Argentine Constitution sets as a general principle that foreign investors have the same status and the same rights as local investors. Foreign investors have free access to domestic and international financing.

Argentina’s economic recession began in 2018 and deepened further in 2019 after the presidential primary election. To slow the outflow of dollars from its reserves, in September 2019 the Argentine Central Bank introduced tight capital controls prohibiting transfers and payments that are likely in conflict with IMF Article VIII and tightened them thereafter. The Argentine government also implemented price controls and trade restrictions. In December 2019, the Fernandez administration passed an economic emergency law that created new taxes, increased export duties, and delegated broad powers to the Executive Branch, with the objectives of increasing social spending for the most vulnerable populations and negotiating revised terms for Argentina’s sovereign debt. These measures deteriorated the investment climate for local and foreign investors.

In April 2020, the government issued a decree postponing debt payments (both interest and principal) of dollar-denominated debt issued under local law until December 31, 2020. In May 2020, Argentina recorded its ninth sovereign default.

The government of Argentina restructured international law bonds for $65 billion and domestic law bonds for $42 billion in September 2020 bringing financial relief of $37.7 billion over the period 2020-2030. In August 2020, the government of Argentina formally notified the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of its intent to renegotiate $45 billion due to the Fund from the 2018 Stand-By Arrangement starting in 2021.

The Argentine Securities and Exchange Commission (CNV or Comisión Nacional de Valores) is the federal agency that regulates securities markets offerings. Securities and accounting standards are transparent and consistent with international norms. Foreign investors have access to a variety of options on the local market to obtain credit. Nevertheless, the domestic credit market is small – credit is 16 percent of GDP, according to the World Bank. To mitigate the recessionary impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the government introduced low-cost lending credit lines (carrying negative real interest rates), and the Central Bank reduced banks’ minimum reserve requirements to encourage banks to expand credit, particularly to SMEs. The Buenos Aires Stock Exchange is the organization responsible for the operation of Argentina’s primary stock exchange, located in Buenos Aires city. The most important index of the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange is the MERVAL (Mercado de Valores).

U.S. banks, securities firms, and investment funds are well-represented in Argentina and are dynamic players in local capital markets. In 2003, the government began requiring foreign banks to disclose to the public the nature and extent to which their foreign parent banks guarantee their branches or subsidiaries in Argentina.

Money and Banking System

Argentina has a relatively sound banking sector based on diversified revenues, well-contained operating costs, and a high liquidity level. Argentina’s banking sector has been resilient in the face of a multi-year economic contraction. Supported by government measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, credit to the private sector in local currency (for both corporations and individuals) increased 10 percent in real terms in 2020. Non-performing private sector loans constitute less than four percent of banks’ portfolios. However, the performance of the financial system has largely been driven by a series of temporary counter-cyclical measures, namely subsidized government-backed loans for small businesses. The banking sector is well positioned due to macro and micro-prudential policies introduced since 2002 that have helped to reduce asset-liability mismatches. The sector is highly liquid and its exposure to the public sector is modest, while its provisions for bad debts are adequate.

Private banks have total assets of approximately ARS 6.1 billion (USD $65 billion). Total financial system assets are approximately ARS 9.9 billion (USD $105 billion). The Central Bank of Argentina acts as the country’s financial agent and is the main regulatory body for the banking system.

Foreign banks and branches can establish operations in Argentina. They are subject to the same regulation as local banks. Argentina’s Central Bank has many correspondent banking relationships, none of which are known to have been lost in the past three years.

In November 2020, the Central Bank launched a new payment system, “Transfers 3.0,” seeking to reduce the use of cash. This system will boost digital payments and further financial inclusion in Argentina, expanding the reach of instant transfers to build an open and universal digital payment ecosystem.

The Central Bank has enacted a resolution recognizing cryptocurrencies and requiring that they comply with local banking and tax laws. No implementing regulations have been adopted. Block chain developers report that several companies in the financial services sector are exploring or considering using block chain-based programs externally and are using some such programs internally.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Beginning in September 2019 and throughout 2020, the Argentine government and Central Bank issued a series of decrees and norms regulating and restricting access to foreign exchange markets.

As of October 2019, the Central Bank (Notice A6815) limits cash withdrawals made abroad with local debit cards to foreign currency bank accounts owned by the client in Argentina. Pursuant to Notice A6823, cash advances made abroad from local credit cards are limited to a maximum of USD $50 per transaction.

As of September 2020, and pursuant to Notice A7106, Argentine individuals can purchase no more than USD $200 per month on a rolling monthly basis. However, purchases abroad with credit and debit cards will be deducted from the USD $200 per month quota. While no limit on credit/debit card purchases is imposed, if the monthly expenses surpass the USD $200 limit, the deduction will be carried over to subsequent months until the amount acquired is completed. Also, the regulation prohibits individual recipients of government assistance programs and high-ranking federal government officials from purchasing foreign exchange. Purchases above the USD $200 limit require Central Bank approval. Pursuant to Public Emergency Law 27,541, issued December 23, 2019, all dollar purchases and individual expenses incurred abroad, in person or online, including international online purchases from Argentina, paid with credit or debit cards will be subject to a 30 percent tax. Pursuant to AFIP Resolution 4815 a 35 percent withholding tax in advance of the payment of income and/or wealth tax is also applied.

Non-Argentine residents are required to obtain prior Central Bank approval to purchase more than USD $100 per month, except for certain bilateral or international organizations, institutions and agencies, diplomatic representation, and foreign tribunals.

Companies and individuals need to obtain prior clearance from the Central Bank before transferring funds abroad. In the case of individuals, if transfers are made from their own foreign currency accounts in Argentina to their own accounts abroad, they do not need to obtain Central Bank approval.

Per Notice A6869 issued by the Central Bank in January 2020, companies will be able to repatriate dividends without Central Bank authorization equivalent to a maximum of 30 percent of new foreign direct investment made by the company in the country. To promote foreign direct investment the Central Bank announced in October 2020 (Notice A7123) that it will allow free access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate investments as long as the capital contribution was transferred and sold in Argentine Pesos through the foreign exchange market as of October 2, 2020 and the repatriation takes place at least two years after the transfer and settlement of those funds.

Exporters of goods are required to transfer the proceeds from exports to Argentina and settle in pesos in the foreign currency market. Exporters must settle according to the following terms: exporters with affiliates (irrespective of the type of good exported) and exporters of certain goods (including cereals, seeds, minerals, and precious metals, among others) must convert their foreign currency proceeds to pesos within 15 days (or 30 days for some products) after the issuance of the permit for shipment; other exporters have 180 days to settle in pesos. Despite these deadlines, exporters must transfer the funds to Argentina and settle in pesos within five business days from the actual collection of funds. Argentine residents are required to transfer to Argentina and settle in pesos the proceeds from services exports rendered to non-Argentine residents that are paid in foreign currency either in Argentina or abroad, within five business days from collection of funds.

Payment of imports of goods and services from third parties and affiliates require Central Bank approval if the company needs to purchase foreign currency. Since May 2020, the Central Bank requires importers to submit an affidavit stating that the total amount of payments associated with the import of goods made during the year (including the payment that is being requested). The total amount of payments for importation of goods should also include the payments for amortizations of lines of credit and/or commercial guarantees.

In September 2020, the Central Bank limited companies’ ability to purchase foreign currency to cancel any external financial debt (including other intercompany debt) and dollar denominated local securities offerings. Companies were granted access to foreign currency for up to 40 percent of the principal amount coming due from October 15, 2020 to December 31, 2020. For the remaining 60 percent of the debt, companies had to file a refinancing plan with the Central Bank. In February 2021, the Central Bank extended the regulation to include debt maturing up to December 31, 2021. Indebtedness with international organizations or their associated agencies or guaranteed by them and indebtedness granted by official credit agencies or guaranteed by them are exempted from this restriction.

The Central Bank (Notice A7001) prohibited access to the foreign exchange market to pay for external indebtedness, imports of goods and services, and saving purposes for individuals and companies that have made sales of securities with settlement in foreign currency or transfers of these to foreign depositary entities within the last 90 days. They also should not make any of these transactions for the following 90 days.

Pre-cancellation of debt coming due abroad in more than three business days requires Central Bank approval to purchase dollars.

Per Resolution 36,162 of October 2011, locally registered insurance companies are mandated to maintain all investments and cash equivalents in the country. The Central Bank limits banks’ dollar-denominated asset holdings to 5 percent of their net worth.

In January 2020, the Central Bank presented its monetary policy framework showing that monetary and financial policies will be subject to the government’s objective of addressing current social and economic challenges. In particular, the Central Bank acknowledged that it would continue to provide direct financial support to the government (in foreign and domestic currency) as external credit markets remain closed. The Central Bank determined that a managed exchange rate is a valid instrument to avoid sharp fluctuations in relative prices, international competitiveness, and income distribution. The Central Bank also noted the exchange rate policy should also facilitate the preemptive accumulation of international reserves.

Remittance Policies

In response to the economic crisis in Argentina, the government introduced capital controls in September 2019 and tightened them in 2020.  Under these restrictions, companies in Argentina (including local affiliates of foreign parent companies) must obtain prior approval from the Central Bank to access the foreign exchange market to purchase foreign currency and to transfer funds abroad for the payment of dividends and profits.  In January 2020, the Central Bank amended the regime for the payment of dividends abroad to non-residents. The new regime allows companies to access the foreign exchange market to transfer profits and dividends abroad without prior authorization of the Central Bank, provided the following conditions are met:

  1. Profits and dividends are be declared in closed and audited financial statements.
  2. The dividends in foreign currency should not exceed the dividends determined by the shareholders’ meeting in local currency.
  3. The total amount of dividends to be transferred cannot exceed 30 percent of the amount of new capital contributions made by non-residents into local companies since January 2020.
  4. The resident entity must be in compliance with filing the Central Bank Survey of External Assets and Liabilities.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Argentine government does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The Argentine government has state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or significant stakes in mixed-capital companies in the following sectors: civil commercial aviation, water and sanitation, oil and gas, electricity generation, transport, paper production, satellite, banking, railway, shipyard, and aircraft ground handling services.

By Argentine law, a company is considered a public enterprise if the state owns 100 percent of the company’s shares. The state has majority control over a company if the state owns 51 percent of the company’s shares. The state has minority participation in a company if the state owns less than 51 percent of the company’s shares. Laws regulating SOEs and enterprises with state participation can be found at http://www.saij.gob.ar/13653-nacional-regimen-empresas-estado-lns0001871-1955-03-23/123456789-0abc-defg-g17-81000scanyel .

Through the government’s social security agency (ANSES), the Argentine government owns stakes ranging from one to 31 percent in 46 publicly listed companies. U.S. investors also own shares in some of these companies. As part of the ANSES takeover of Argentina’s private pension system in 2008, the government agreed to commit itself to being a passive investor in the companies and limit the exercise of its voting rights to 5 percent, regardless of the equity stake the social security agency owned. A list of such enterprises can be found at: http://fgs.anses.gob.ar/participacion .

State-owned enterprises purchase and supply goods and services from the private sector and foreign firms. Private enterprises may compete with SOEs under the same terms and conditions with respect to market share, products/services, and incentives. Private enterprises also have access to financing terms and conditions similar to SOEs. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. SOEs are not currently subject to firm budget constraints under the law and have been subsidized by the central government in the past. Between 2016 and 2019, the Government of Argentina reduced subsidies in the energy, water, and transportation sectors. However, in 2019 the Government postponed its subsidy reduction program and redesigned it several times, citing pressing macroeconomic issues. During 2020 subsidies increased to maintain a tariff freeze on public services given the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 budget targets a reduction in subsidies in an effort to contain spending. Argentina does not have regulations that differentiate treatment of SOEs and private enterprises. Argentina has observer status under the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement and, as such, SOEs are subject to the conditions of Argentina’s observance.

Argentina does not have a specified ownership policy, guideline or governance code for how the government exercises ownership of SOEs. The country generally adheres to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs. The practices for SOEs are mainly in compliance with the policies and practices for transparency and accountability in the OECD Guidelines. In 2018, the OECD released a report evaluating the corporate governance framework for the Argentine SOE sector relative to the OECD Guidelines, which can be viewed here: http://www.oecd.org/countries/argentina/oecd-review-corporate-governance-soe-argentina.htm .

Argentina does not have a centralized ownership entity that exercises ownership rights for each of the SOEs. The general rule in Argentina is that requirements that apply to all listed companies also apply to publicly-listed SOEs.

Privatization Program

The current administration has not developed a privatization program.

10. Political and Security Environment

Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and in other major cities and rural areas. Nevertheless, political violence is not widely considered a hindrance to the investment climate in Argentina.

Protesters regularly block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. While demonstrations are usually non-violent, individuals sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy or U.S.-affiliated businesses. In February 2016, the Ministry of Security approved a National Anti-Street Pickets Protocol that provides guidelines to prevent the blockage of major streets and public facilities during demonstrations. However, this protocol did not often apply to venues within the City of Buenos Aires (CABA), which fall under the city’s jurisdiction. The CABA government often did not enforce security protocols against illegal demonstrations.

In December 2017, while Congress had called an extraordinary session to address the retirement system reforms, several demonstrations against the bill turned violent, causing structural damage to public and private property, injuries to 162 people (including 88 policemen), and arrests of 60 people. The demonstrations ultimately dissipated, and the government passed the bill.

Union disputes and politicized worker movements are common in CABA and the Provinces. In 2019 and early 2020, foreign-owned diamond mining companies in Neuquén were targeted by work stoppages and insider attacks in failed attempts to intimidate and force employers to increase salaries and benefits. These protesters were seemingly allowed to act without fear of response from local police forces, even after direct requests for assistance had been made. The companies believe the unions and protesters feel emboldened by the government’s stance towards Western companies and were forced to shut down operations for weeks in December 2019 and January 2020, in fear of the safety of their personnel at the local headquarters.

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) 2019 $361,496 2019 $445.445 www.worldbank.org/en/country

www.indec.gob.ar

Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 $10.7 billion BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 $561 million BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 N/A 2019 1.4% UNCTAD data available at

https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

* Source for Host Country Data:

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 70,458 100% Total Outward 42,671 100%
United States 17,210 24.44% Uruguay 17,319 40.59%
Spain 10,481 24.43% United States 5,041 11.81%
Netherlands 6,949 9.87% Paraguay 1,908 4.47%
Brazil 3,984 5.65% Mexico 1,273 2.98%
Germany 3,467 4.92% Brazil 801 1.88%
“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 31,304 100% All Countries 18,978 100% All Countries 12,326 100%
United States 30,654 98% United States 18,685 98% United States 11,969 97%
Brazil 85 1% Brazil 111 1% Brazil 231 2%
Luxembourg 83 0% Luxembourg 85 0% Germany 83 1%
Germany 51 0% Canada 51 0% Chile 6 0%
Canada 27 0% Russia 11 0% Ireland 3 0%

Armenia

Executive Summary

Over the past several years, Armenia has received respectable rankings in international indices that review country business environments and investment climates. Projects representing significant U.S. investment are present in Armenia, most notably ContourGlobal’s acquisition of the Vorotan Hydroelectric Cascade and Lydian’s efforts to develop a major gold mine. U.S. investors in the banking, energy, pharmaceutical, information technology, and mining sectors, among others, have entered or acquired assets in Armenia. Armenia presents a variety of opportunities for investors, and the country’s legal framework and government policy aim to attract investment, but the investment climate is not without challenges. Obstacles include Armenia’s small market size, relative geographic isolation due to closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, weaknesses in the rule of law and judiciary, and a legacy of corruption. Net foreign direct investment inflows are low. In 2020, COVID-19 and the intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict dented Armenia’s economic output and investment profile.

In May 2015, Armenia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States. This agreement establishes a United States–Armenia Council on Trade and Investment to discuss bilateral trade and investment and related issues. Since 2015, Armenia has been a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, a customs union that brings Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia together in an integrated single market. In November 2017, Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union, which aims in part to improve Armenia’s investment climate and business environment.

Armenia imposes few restrictions on foreign control and rights to private ownership and establishment. There are no restrictions on the rights of foreign nationals to acquire, establish, or dispose of business interests in Armenia. Business registration procedures are straightforward. According to foreign companies, otherwise sound regulations, policies, and laws are sometimes undermined by problems such as the lack of independence, capacity, or professionalism in key institutions, most critically the judiciary. Armenia does not limit the conversion and transfer of money or the repatriation of capital and earnings. The banking system in Armenia is sound and well-regulated, but investors note that the financial sector is not highly developed. The U.S.–Armenia Bilateral Investment Treaty provides U.S. investors with a variety of protections. Although Armenian legislation offers protection for intellectual property rights, enforcement efforts and recourse through the courts require improvement.

Armenia experienced a dramatic change of government in April/May 2018. Parliamentary elections in December 2018 led to the exit from power of numerous parliamentarians known to have significant business holdings in Armenia and exercise outsized sway over large sections of the economy. An anti-corruption campaign continues as part of efforts to eliminate systemic corruption. Overall, the competitive environment in Armenia is improving, but several businesses have reported that broader reforms across judicial, tax, customs, health, education, military, and law enforcement institutions will be necessary to shore up these gains.

Despite improvements in some areas that raise Armenia’s attractiveness as an investment destination, investors claim that numerous concerns remain and must be addressed to ensure a transparent, fair, and predictable business climate. A number of investors have raised concerns about the quality of dialogue between the private sector and government. Investors have also flagged issues regarding government officials’ ability to resolve problems they face in an expeditious manner. An investment dispute in the country’s mining sector has attracted significant international attention and remains outstanding after several years.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 60 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 47 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 61 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 6 million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 4,680 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Armenia officially welcomes foreign investment. The Ministry of Economy is the main government body responsible for the development of investment policy in Armenia. Armenia has achieved respectable rankings on some global indices measuring the country’s business climate. Armenia’s investment and trade policy is relatively open; foreign companies are entitled by law to the same treatment as Armenian companies. Armenia has strong human capital and a well-educated population, particularly in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, leading to significant investment in the high-tech and information technology sectors. Many international companies have established branches or subsidiaries in Armenia to take advantage of the country’s pool of qualified specialists and position within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). However, many businesses have identified challenges with Armenia’s investment climate in terms of the country’s small market (with a population of less than three million), limited consumer buying power, relative geographic isolation due to closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and concerns related to weaknesses in the rule of law.

Following a revolution in April/May 2018 fueled in large measure by popular frustration with endemic corruption, Armenia’s government launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign. The campaign has yielded a number of high-profile cases. Beyond these successes, the fight against corruption needs to be institutionalized in the long term, especially in critical areas such as the judiciary, tax and customs operations, and health, education, military, and law enforcement sectors. Foreign investors remain concerned about the rule of law, equal treatment, and ethical conduct by government officials. U.S companies have reported that the investment climate is tainted by a failure to enforce intellectual property rights. There have been concerns regarding the lack of an independent and strong judiciary, which undermines the government’s assurances of equal treatment and transparency and reduces access to effective recourse in instances of investment or commercial disputes. Concerns about equal treatment, particularly on the basis of nationality, are fueled by perceptions of the uneven application of laws and regulations across enterprises in specific industries. Representatives of U.S. entities have raised concerns about the quality of stakeholder consultation by the government with the private sector and government responsiveness in addressing concerns among the business community. Government officials have publicly responded to private sector concerns about perceptions of slow movement in the government bureaucracy as a function of needing to guard against corruption-related risks. The Armenian National Interests Fund and Investment Support Center are responsible for attracting and facilitating inward foreign direct investment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are very few restrictions with regard to limitations on foreign ownership or control of commercial enterprises. There are some restrictions on foreign ownership within the media and commercial aviation sectors. Local incorporation is required to obtain a license for the provision of auditing services.

The Armenian government does not maintain investment screening mechanisms for foreign direct investment in particular. Government approval is required to take advantage of certain tax and customs privileges, and foreign investors are subject to the same requirements as domestic investors where regulatory approvals may be involved.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2019, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published its first  investment policy review for Armenia . The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a  Trade Policy Review for Armenia  in 2018.

Business Facilitation

Armenia has traditionally fared well in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report.  The government has announced its commitment to addressing deficiencies that prevent Armenia from obtaining a higher ranking. Companies can register electronically here .  This single window service was launched in 2011 and allows individual entrepreneurs and companies to complete name reservation, business registration, and tax identification processes all at once.  The application can be completed in one day. An electronic signature is needed in order to be able to register online. Foreign citizens can obtain an e-signature and more detailed information from the e-signature portal .  In December 2019, the government launched a new e-regulations platform that provides a step-by-step guide for business and investment procedures. The platform is available here . According to the World Bank’s most recent Ease of Doing Business report, it takes four days to complete the company registration process in Armenia.

Outward Investment

The Armenian government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Armenian government nominally uses transparent policies and laws to foster competition.  Some report that Armenia’s new government has pursued a more consistent execution of these laws and policies in an effort to improve market competition and remove informal barriers to market entry, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises.  Armenia’s legislation on the protection of competition has been improved with a number of clarifications regarding key concepts. There have been some procedural improvements for delivering conclusions and notifications of potential anti-competitive behavior via electronic means.  However, companies regard the efforts of the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition (SCPEC) alone as insufficient to ensure a level playing field. They indicate that improvements in other state institutions and authorities that support competition, like the courts, tax and customs, public procurement, and law enforcement, are necessary.  Numerous studies observe a continuing lack of contestability in local markets, many of which are dominated by a few incumbents. Banking supervision is relatively well developed and largely consistent with the Basel Core Principles. The Central Bank of Armenia is the primary regulator of the financial sector and exercises oversight over banking, securities, insurance, and pensions. Armenia has adopted IFRS as the accounting standard for enterprises. Data on Armenia’s public finances and debt obligations are broadly transparent, and the Ministry of Finance publishes periodic reports that are available online.

Safety and health requirements, many of them holdovers from the Soviet period, generally do not impede investment activities.  Nevertheless, investors consider bureaucratic procedures to be sometimes burdensome, and discretionary decisions by individual officials may present opportunities for petty corruption.  A unified online platform for publishing draft legislation was launched in March 2017 and is available here .  Proposed legislation is available for the public to view. Registered users can submit feedback and see a summary of comments on draft legislation. However, the time period devoted to public comments is often regarded as insufficient to solicit proper feedback.  The results of consultations have not been reported by the government in the past. The government maintains other portals, including  http://www.e-gov.am  and  http://www.arlis.am , that make legislation and regulations available to the public. Some regulations that affect Armenia are developed within the Eurasian Economic Commission, the executive body for the EAEU.

International Regulatory Considerations

Armenia is a member of the EAEU and adheres to relevant technical regulations. Armenia’s entry into CEPA will lead it to pursue harmonization efforts with the EU on a range of laws, regulations, and policies relevant to economic affairs. Armenia is also a member of the WTO, and the Armenian government notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Armenia is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement and has already sent category “A”, “B,” and “C” notifications to the WTO.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Armenia has a hybrid legal system that includes elements of both civil and common law. Although Armenia is developing an international commercial code, the laws regarding commercial and contractual matters are currently set forth in the civil code. Thus, because Armenia lacks a commercial court, all disputes involving contracts, ownership of property, or other commercial matters are resolved by litigants in courts of general jurisdiction, which handle both civil and criminal cases. Courts that handle civil matters may be overwhelmed by the volume of cases before them and are frequently seen by the public as corrupt. Despite the ability of courts to use the precedential authority of the Court of Cassation and the European Court of Human Rights, many judges presiding over civil matters do not do so, increasing the unpredictability of civil court decisions in the eyes of investors.

Businesses tend to perceive that many Armenian courts suffer from low levels of efficiency, independence, and professionalism, which drives a need to strengthen the judiciary. Very often in proceedings when additional forensic expertise is requested, the court may suspend a case until the forensic opinion is received, a process that can take several months. Businesses have noted that many judges at courts of general jurisdiction may be reluctant to make decisions without getting advice from higher court judges. Thus, the public opinion is that decisions may be influenced by factors other than the law and merits of individual cases. In general, the government honors judgments from both arbitration proceedings and Armenian national courts.

Due to the nature and complexity of commercial and contractual issues and the caseload of judges presiding over civil matters, many matters involving investment or commercial disputes take months or years to work their way through the civil courts. In addition, businesses have complained of the inefficiencies and institutional corruption of the courts. Even though the Armenian constitution provides investors the tools to enforce awards and their property rights, investors claim that there is little predictability in what a court may do.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Basic legal provisions covering foreign investment are specified in the 1994 Law on Foreign Investment.  Foreign companies are entitled by law to the same treatment as Armenian companies. A Law on Public-Private Partnership (PPP), adopted in 2019, establishes a framework for the government to attract investment for projects focused on infrastructure. The secondary implementing legislation to clarify key aspects of the PPP framework, including comprehensive criteria for project selection, is being developed.

The Investment Support Center is Armenia’s national authority for investment and export promotion.  It provides information to foreign investors on Armenia’s business climate, investment opportunities, and legislation; supports investor visits; and serves as a liaison for government institutions.  More information is available via the Investment Support Center’s  website .

Competition and Antitrust Laws

SCPEC reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.  Relevant laws, regulations, commission decisions, and more information can be found on SCPEC’s  website .  Concentrations, including mergers, acquisitions of shares or assets, amalgamations, and incorporations, are subject to ex ante control by SCPEC in accordance with the law.  Whenever a concentration gives rise to concerns about harm to competition, including the creation or strengthening of a dominant position, SCPEC can prohibit such a transaction or impose certain remedies.  Armenia’s Law on Protection of Economic Competition has been amended several times in recent years to bring Armenia’s competition framework into alignment with EAEU and CEPA requirements. The law was recently changed to improve SCPEC’s capabilities to investigate anti-competitive behavior, in collaboration with Armenia’s investigative bodies, whereas before SCPEC had to rely primarily on document studies and request information from other state bodies.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under Armenian law, foreign investment cannot be confiscated or expropriated except in extreme cases of natural or state emergency upon obtaining an order from a domestic court. According to the Armenian constitution, equivalent compensation is owed prior to expropriation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Armenia is party to the ICSID Convention (Washington Convention) and Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).

Under Article 5 of the Armenian constitution, international treaties ratified by Armenia take precedence over domestic law.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

According to the Law on Foreign Investment, all disputes that arise between a foreign investor and Armenia must be settled in Armenian courts. A Law on Commercial Arbitration, enacted in 2007, provides a wider range of options for resolving commercial disputes. The U.S.–Armenia BIT provides that in the event of a dispute involving a U.S. investor and the state, the investor may take the case to international arbitration. As of March 2021, two investment disputes brought against Armenia under the U.S.–Armenia BIT were pending with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Commercial disputes may be brought before an Armenian or any other competent court, as provided by law or in accordance with party agreements. Commercial disputes are heard in courts of general jurisdiction. Specialized administrative courts adjudicate cases brought against state entities. Decisions of general and administrative courts may be appealed first to the Civil Court of Appeal and Administrative Court of Appeal, then to the Civil and Administrative Chamber of the Court of Cassation.

The Law on Arbitration Courts and Arbitration Procedures provides rules governing the settlement of disputes by arbitration. In accordance with the New York Convention and Article 5 of the Armenian constitution, domestic courts must recognize foreign arbitral awards.

Armenia intends to develop an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism that will include mediation and arbitration. ADR could be used not only in commercial matters, including those involving mobile property and secured transactions, but also in cases involving family and labor disputes. While ADR options are available to those who seek alternatives to litigation, they currently are not widely used or trusted.

Bankruptcy Regulations

According to the Law on Bankruptcy adopted in 2006, creditors and equity and contract holders (including foreign entities) have the right to participate and defend their interests in bankruptcy cases. Armenia decided with the passage of a new Judicial Code in 2018 to adopt a new, specialized bankruptcy court, which began operations in 2019. Creditors have the right to access all materials relevant to cases, submit claims to court, participate in meetings of creditors, and nominate candidates to administer cases. Monetary judgments are usually made in local currency. The Armenian Criminal Code defines penalties for false and deliberate bankruptcy, concealment of property or other assets of the bankrupt party, or other illegal activities during the bankruptcy process. UNCTAD observes that Armenia’s framework for bankruptcy procedures needs improvement, adding that insolvency cases are expensive and almost always result in liquidation. Armenia amended its bankruptcy law in December 2019 to reduce the cost of bankruptcy proceedings. In addition, premiums have been set for bankruptcy managers for submitting financial recovery plans, as well as for the recovery of a bankrupt person, with the aim of raising rates of financial recovery. In 2020, the debt threshold to launch bankruptcy proceedings was raised to grant companies a greater ability to pay off debts rather than having their assets frozen.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Index, Armenia stands at 95 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency. Resolving insolvency takes 1.9 years on average and costs 11 percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be broken up and sold. The average recovery rate is 39.2 cents on the dollar.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The banking system in Armenia is sound and well-regulated, but the financial sector is not highly developed, according to investors. Banking sector assets account for over 80 percent of total financial sector assets. Financial intermediation tends to be poor. Nearly all banks require collateral located in Armenia, and large collateral requirements often prevent potential borrowers from entering the market. U.S. businesses have noted that this creates a significant barrier for small- and medium-sized enterprises and start-up companies.

The Armenian government welcomes foreign portfolio investment and there is a supporting system and legal framework in place. Armenia’s securities market is not well developed and has only minimal trading activity through the Armenia Securities Exchange, though efforts to grow capital markets are underway. Liquidity sufficient for the entry and exit of sizeable positions is often difficult to achieve due to the small size of the Armenian market. The Armenian government hopes that as a result of pension reforms in 2014, which brought two international asset managers to Armenia, capital markets will play a more prominent role in the country’s financial sector. Armenia adheres to its IMF Article VIII commitments by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Credit is allocated on market terms and foreign investors are able to access credit locally.

Money and Banking System

Since 2020, the banking sector has withstood the twin shocks created by COVID-19 and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Indicators of financial soundness, including capital adequacy and non-performing loan ratios, have remained broadly strong, though with some deterioration more recently. The sector is well capitalized and liquid. Non-performing loans have ticked upward slightly from rates of around five percent of all loans. Dollarization, historically high for deposits and lending, has been falling in recent years. There are 17 commercial banks in Armenia and 13 universal credit organizations. There are extensive branch networks throughout Armenia. At the end of 2020, the top three Armenian banks by estimated total assets were Ameriabank (909 billion Armenian drams (AMD), or $1.7 billion), Armbusinessbank (889 billion AMD, or $1.7 billion), and Ardshinbank (880 billion AMD, or $1.7 billion). The minimum capital requirement for banks is 30 billion AMD (around $58 million). There are no restrictions on foreigners to open bank accounts. Residents and foreign nationals can hold foreign currency accounts and import, export, and exchange foreign currency relatively freely in accordance with the Law on Currency Regulation and Currency Control. Foreign banks may establish a subsidiary, branch, or representative office, and subsidiaries of foreign banks are allowed to provide the same types of services as domestically-owned banks.

The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) is responsible for the regulation and supervision of the financial sector. The authority and responsibilities of the CBA are established under the Law on the Central Bank of Armenia. Numerous other articles of legislation and supporting regulations provide for financial sector oversight and supervision.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Armenia has no limitations on the conversion and transfer of money or the repatriation of capital and earnings, including branch profits, dividends, interest, royalties, or management or technical service fees. Most banks can transfer funds internationally within two to four days. Armenia maintains the Armenian dram as a freely convertible currency under a managed float. The AMD/USD exchange rate has been generally stable in recent years, but the dram experienced a notable depreciation against the dollar following the fall 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The depreciation was stemmed in part by sales of foreign exchange reserves by the CBA. The CBA maintains levels of reserves that are broadly seen as adequate.

According to the Law on Currency Regulation and Currency Control, prices for all goods and services, property, and wages must be set in AMD. There are exceptions in the law, however, for transactions between resident and non-resident businesses and for certain transactions involving goods traded at world market prices. The law requires that interest on foreign currency accounts be calculated in that currency, but paid in AMD.

Remittance Policies

Armenia imposes no limitations on the conversion and transfer of money or the repatriation of capital and earnings, including branch profits, dividends, interest, royalties, lease payments, private foreign debt, or management or technical service fees.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Armenia does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Most of Armenia’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were privatized in the 1990s and early 2000s, but SOEs are still active in a number of sectors.  SOEs in Armenia operate as state-owned closed joint stock companies that are managed by the Department of State Property Management and state non-commercial organizations.  There are no laws or rules that ensure a primary or leading role for SOEs in any specific industry. Armenia is party to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, and SOEs are covered under that agreement.  SOEs in Armenia are subject to the same tax regime as their private competitors, and private enterprises in Armenia can compete with SOEs under the same terms and conditions. The Department of State Property Management maintains a public list of state-owned closed joint stock companies on its  website .

Privatization Program

Most of Armenia’s state owned enterprises were privatized in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Many of the privatization processes for Armenia’s large assets were reported to be neither competitive nor transparent, and political considerations in some instances prevailed over fair tender processes.  The most recent law on privatization, the fifth, is the Law on the 2017–2020 Program for State Property Privatization, which lists 47 entities for privatization. The Department of State Property Management oversees the management of the state’s shares in entities slated for privatization. Details of the privatization program are available on the Department of State Property Management  website .

10. Political and Security Environment

Armenia has a history of political demonstrations, some of which have turned into violent confrontations between the police and protesters. The last major violent protest occurred in November 2020 following the release of a tripartite ceasefire statement by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, which brought an end to the fall 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Individuals and groups displeased with the announcement stormed government buildings and destroyed property. Protestors assaulted the speaker of parliament in the streets of Yerevan and broke into the prime minister’s residence. Since the release of the tripartite statement, groups opposed to the government have organized regular marches and rallies in Yerevan that have remained largely peaceful and caused minimal disruption to ordinary business. Pro-government groups have also organized peaceful rallies, although less frequently. Throughout Armenia, protestors use road blockades as a common tactic to register discontent, most often with the government over community-level issues. The disruption created by such road blockades is usually minimal. Protests have not resulted in any damage to projects of installations of international businesses. It is unlikely that civil disturbances, should they occur, would be directed against U.S. businesses or the U.S. community.

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) 2019 $13,673 2019 $13,673 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $214 2019 $6 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $3 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 41% 2019 42% UNCTAD data available at https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html  

* Source for Host Country Data: Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia

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 $5,373 100% Total Outward $245 100%
Russia $1,978 36.8% Georgia $72 29.4%
Cyprus $510 9.5% Latvia $56 22.9%
Jersey $375 7.0% Bulgaria $36 14.7%
United Kingdom $300 5.6% United States $3 1.2%
The Netherlands $299 5.6% N/A N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Source: IMF Consolidated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) (2019) $351 million of inward direct investment is not specified by origin in the CDIS. $77 million of outward direct investment is not specified by destination in the CDIS.

$351 million of inward direct investment is not specified by origin in the CDIS. $77 million of outward direct investment is not specified by destination in the CDIS.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Australia

Executive Summary

Australia is generally welcoming to foreign investment, which is widely considered to be an essential contributor to Australia’s economic growth and productivity. The United States is by far the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Australia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the stock of U.S. FDI totaled USD 162 billion in January 2020. The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2005, establishes higher thresholds for screening U.S. investment for most classes of direct investment.

While welcoming toward FDI, Australia does apply a “national interest” test to qualifying investment through its Foreign Investment Review Board screening process. Various changes to Australia’s foreign investment rules, primarily aimed at strengthening national security, have been made in recent years. This continued in 2020 with the passage of the Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020, which broadens the classes of foreign investments that require screening, with a particular focus on defense and national security supply chains. All foreign investments in these industries will now require screening, regardless of their value or national origin. The legislation also provides the Treasurer with new powers to require certain investments to be scrutinized even if they do not fall within existing guidelines. Additionally, in March 2020 the Australian government announced all foreign direct investment would be reviewed over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, a period which ceased when the Foreign Investment Reform legislation commenced in January 2021. Despite the increased focus on foreign investment screening, the rejection rate for proposed investments has remained low and there have been no cases of investment from the United States having been rejected in recent years.

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

Australia has a strong legal system grounded in procedural fairness, judicial precedent, and the independence of the judiciary. Property rights are well established and enforceable. The establishment of government regulations typically requires consultation with impacted stakeholders and requires approval by a central regulatory oversight body before progressing to the legislative phase. Anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws exist, and Australia performs well in measures of transparency. Australia’s business environment is generally conducive to foreign companies operating in the country, and the country ranks fourteenth overall in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

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

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 11 of 179 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 14 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 23 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 162 billion http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 55,100 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

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

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

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

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

Other than the screening process described in Section 4, there are few limits or restrictions on foreign investment in Australia. Foreign purchases of agricultural land greater than AUD 15 million (USD 11 million) are subject to screening. This threshold applies to the cumulative value of agricultural land owned by the foreign investor, including the proposed purchase. However, the agricultural land screening threshold does not affect investments made under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). The current threshold remains AUD 1.216 billion (USD 940 million) for U.S. non-government investors. Investments made by U.S. non-government investors are subject to inclusion on the foreign ownership register of agricultural land and to Australian Tax Office (ATO) information gathering activities on new foreign investment.

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

Other Investment Policy Reviews

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

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

Business Facilitation

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

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

Outward Investment

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

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Regulatory Considerations

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

Legal System and Judicial Independence

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

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

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

Foreign investment in Australia is regulated by the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and Australia’s Foreign Investment Policy. The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is a non-statutory body, comprising independent board members advised by a division within the Treasury Department, established to advise the Treasurer on Australia’s foreign investment policy and its administration. The FIRB screens potential foreign investments in Australia above threshold values, and based on advice from the FIRB, the Treasurer may deny or place conditions on the approval of particular investments above that threshold on national interest grounds. In March 2020 the Treasurer announced thresholds would be reduced to zero for the period covering the COVID-19 crisis. In effect, this meant that all foreign investment would be screening over this period. This lower threshold ended with the introduction in January 2021 of new legislation, the Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020, which tightened Australia’s investment screening rules with respect to investments in sensitive national security businesses.

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

Australia has recently taken steps to increase the analysis of national security implications of foreign investment in certain sectors, particularly critical infrastructure and investments in defense or other national security supply chains. The new Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020 introduced the concept of a “national security business” and “national security land,” the acquisition of either triggering a FIRB review. The legislation also allows the Treasurer to “call in” any investment for FIRB review, meaning any investment can be screened regardless of whether it meets the criteria for a mandatory review.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

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

Expropriation and Compensation

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

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Australia is a member of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The International Arbitration Act 1974 governs international arbitration and the enforcement of awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is included in 11 of Australia’s 13 FTAs and 18 of its 21 BITs. AUSFTA establishes a dispute settlement mechanism for investment disputes arising under the Agreement. However, AUSFTA does not contain an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that would allow individual investors to bring a case against the Australian government. Regardless of the presence or absence of ISDS mechanisms, there is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors in Australia.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Australia has an established legal and court system for the conduct or supervision of litigation and arbitration, as well as alternate dispute resolutions. Australia is a leader in the development and provision of non-court dispute resolution mechanisms. It is a signatory to all the major international dispute resolution conventions and has organizations that provide international dispute resolution processes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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

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

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

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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

Money and Banking System

Australia’s banking system is robust, highly evolved, and international in focus. Bank profitability is strong and has been supported by further improvements in asset performance. Total assets of Australian banks at the end of 2020 was USD4.1 trillion and the sector has delivered an annual average return on equity of around 10 percent.

According to Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the ratio of non-performing assets to total loans was approximately one percent at the end of 2020, having remained at around that level for the last five years after falling from highs of nearly two percent following the Global Financial Crisis. The RBA is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the stability of the financial sector, while the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) monitors individual institutions. The RBA is also responsible for monitoring and regulating payments systems in Australia.

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

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

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Commonwealth Government formulates exchange control policies with the advice of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and the Treasury. The RBA, charged with protecting the national currency, has the authority to implement exchange controls, although there are currently none in place.

The Australian dollar is a fully convertible and floating currency. The Commonwealth Government does not maintain currency controls or limit remittances. Such payments are processed through standard commercial channels, without governmental interference or delay.

Remittance Policies

Australia does not limit investment remittances.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

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

The Future Fund’s investment mandate is to achieve a long-term return of at least inflation plus 4-5 percent per annum. As of December 2020, the Fund’s portfolio consists of: 29 percent global equities, 7 percent Australian equities, 28 percent private equity (including 7 percent in infrastructure), and the remaining 36 percent in debt, cash, and alternative investments.

In addition to the Future Fund, the Australian Government manages five other specific-purpose funds: the DisabilityCare Australia Fund; the Medical Research Future Fund; the Emergency Response Fund; the Future Drought Fund; and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund. In total, these five funds have assets of AUD 47 billion (USD 37 billion), while the main Future Fund has assets of AUD 171 billion (USD 132 billion) as of December 31, 2020.

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

7. State-Owned Enterprises

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

Privatization Program

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

10. Political and Security Environment

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

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 $1.50 trillion 2019 $1.39 trillion www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $158 billion 2019 $162 billion BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $112 billion 2019 $81 billion BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 53% 2019 51% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html  
 

* Source for Host Country Data: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 714,250 100% Total Outward 579,259 100%
USA 143,737 20% USA 102,160 18%
UK 89,061 12% UK 100,509 17%
Japan 81,341 11% New Zealand 58,576 10%
Netherlands 38,384 5% Canada 24,588 4%
Canada 33,007 5% Singapore 19,695 3%
“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 912,160 100% All Countries 621,379 100% All Countries 299,781 100%
United States 387,323 42% United States 298,353 48% United States 88,971 30%
United Kingdom 80,348 9% United Kingdom 44,312 7% United Kingdom 36,037 12%
Japan 50,190 5% Cayman Islands 32,567 5% Germany 20,219 7%
Cayman Islands 43,167 5% Japan 30,395 5% Japan 19,795 7%
Germany 31,475 3% France 18,586 3% Netherlands 15,307 5%

Austria

Executive Summary

Austria has a well-developed market economy that welcomes foreign direct investment, particularly in technology and R&D. The country benefits from a skilled labor force, and a high standard of living, with its capital, Vienna, consistently placing at the top of global quality-of-life rankings.

With more than 50 percent of its GDP derived from exports, Austria’s economy is closely tied to other EU economies, especially that of Germany, its largest trading partner. The United States is Austria’s third-largest trading partner. The economy features a large service sector and an advanced industrial sector specialized in high-quality component parts, especially for vehicles. The agricultural sector is small but highly developed.

The COVID-19 crisis deeply affected Austria’s economy, contributing to a forecasted GDP decrease of -7.4% in 2020 and an increase in the unemployment rate from 4.5% to 5.4% at the end of 2020. A prolonged lockdown at the start of 2021 will delay Austria’s economic recovery, with GDP growth forecast at +2.0% in 2021 and +5.1% in 2022.

The country’s location between Western European industrialized nations and growth markets in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (CESEE) has led to a high degree of economic, social, and political integration with fellow European Union (EU) member states and the CESEE.

Some 220 U.S. companies have investments in Austria, represented by around 300 subsidiaries, and many have expanded their original investment over time. U.S. Foreign Direct Investment into Austria totaled approximately EUR 12.2 billion (USD 13.7 billion) at the end of 2019, according to the Austrian National Bank, and U.S. companies support over 16,500 jobs in Austria. Austria offers a stable and attractive climate for foreign investors.

The most positive aspects of Austria’s investment climate include:

  • Relatively high political stability;
  • Harmonious labor-management relations and low incidence of labor unrest;
  • Highly skilled workforce;
  • High levels of productivity and international competitiveness;
  • Excellent quality of life for employees and high-quality health, telecommunications, and energy infrastructure.

Negative aspects of Austria’s investment climate include:

  • A large public sector and a complex regulatory system with extensive bureaucracy;
  • Relatively low levels of private venture capital;
  • Low-to-moderate innovation dynamics;
  • A relatively high overall tax burden;

Key sectors that have historically attracted significant investment in Austria:

  • Automotive;
  • Pharmaceuticals;
  • ICT and Electronics;
  • Financial.

Key issues to watch:

After a summer virtually free of COVID-19 restrictions, infection rates spiked in fall 2020 with Austria reporting the highest global rate of infections per 100,000 people in November 2020. The government mandated a full lockdown from early November 2020 to early February 2021. Hotels and restaurants remained largely closed in early 2021, with few exceptions, and the tourism sector, which accounts for 15 percent of the country’s GDP, was at a standstill. A combination of high reliance on tourism and exports, low consumption levels, and a high number of lockdown days (79 in 2020, compared to 45 in Germany), significantly hindered the economic recovery. Austria’s recovery is likely to be slower than many other EU countries.

The high degree of government assistance kept many firms afloat that may otherwise have filed for bankruptcy. The number of insolvency procedures decreased by 27% in 2020, compared to 2019. Austria may witness a significant spike in bankruptcies once the government scales back assistance measures.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 15 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 27 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 19 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 7.64 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 51,460 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Austrian government welcomes foreign direct investment, particularly when such investments have the potential to create new jobs, support advanced technology fields, promote capital-intensive industries, and enhance links to research and development.

There are limited restrictions on foreign investment. American investors have not complained of discriminatory laws against foreign investors. Austria strengthened its national security investment screening law, lowering the threshold at which government approval of the transaction is required to 10 percent foreign ownership for sensitive sectors. Please see the “Laws and Regulations on Foreign Investment” section below for further details. The corporate tax rate, a 25 percent flat tax, is above the OECD average of 21.5 percent. The government announced plans to reduce it to 21 percent in 2024 but the global pandemic may delay these plans. U.S. citizens and investors have occasionally reported that it is difficult to establish and maintain banking services since the U.S.-Austria Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) Agreement went into force in 2014, as some Austrian banks have been reluctant to take on this reporting burden.

Potential investors should also be aware of Austria’s lengthy environmental impact assessments in their investment decision-making. Some sectors also suffer from heavy regulation that may affect certain investments. For example, the requirement that over 50 percent of an energy provider must be publicly owned places a potential cap on investments in the energy sector. Strict liability and co-existence regulations in the agriculture sector restrict research and virtually outlaw the cultivation, marketing, or distribution of biotechnology crops. The mining and transportation sectors are also heavily regulated.

Austria’s national investment promotion organization, the Austrian Business Agency (ABA), is a useful first point of contact for foreign companies interested in establishing operations in Austria. It provides comprehensive information about Austria as a business location, identifies suitable sites for greenfield investments, and consults in setting up a company. ABA provides its services free of charge.

The Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Austria (Amcham) are also good resources for foreign investors. Both conduct annual polls of their members to measure their satisfaction with the business climate, thus providing early warning to the government of problems identified by investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are limited restrictions on foreign ownership of private businesses in Austria. A local managing director must be appointed to any newly established enterprise. For non-EU citizens to establish and own a business, the Austrian Foreigner’s Law mandates a residence permit that includes the right to run a business. Many Austrian trades are regulated, and the right to run a business in regulated trade sectors is only granted when certain preconditions are met, such as certificates of competence, and recognition of foreign education.

Austria’s updated national security investment screening law, strengthened in July 2020, retains an investment screening process to review potential high-risk foreign acquisitions of 25% or more of a company essential to the country’s infrastructure, lowering the threshold to 10% ownership for sensitive sectors (see the “Laws and Regulations on Foreign Investment” section below for further details). In April 2019, the EU Regulation on establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments entered into force. It creates a cooperation mechanism through which EU countries and the European Commission will exchange information and raise concerns related to specific investments which could potentially threaten the security of other EU countries.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Not applicable.

Business Facilitation

While the World Bank ranked Austria as the 27th best country in 2020 with regard to “ease of doing business” (www.doingbusiness.org ), starting a business takes time and requires many procedural steps (Austria ranked 127th in this category in 2020). The average time to set up a company is 21 days, while the average time in OECD high income countries is 9.2 days.

In order to register a new company or open a subsidiary in Austria, a company must first be listed on the Austrian Companies Register at a local court. The next step is to seek confirmation of registration from the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO) establishing that the company is really a new business. The investor must then notarize the “declaration of establishment,” deposit a minimum capital requirement with an Austrian bank, register with the tax office, register with the district trade authority, register employees for social security, and register with the municipality where the business will be located. Finally, membership in the WKO is mandatory for all businesses in Austria.

For sole proprietorships, it is possible under certain conditions to use an online registration process via government websites in the German language to either found or register a company: https://www.usp.gv.at/Portal.Node/usp/public/content/gruendung/egruendung/269403.html : or www.gisa.gv.at/online-gewerbeanmeldung . It is advisable to seek information from ABA or the WKO before applying to register a firm.

The website of the ABA contains further details and contact information and is intended to serve as a first point of contact for foreign investors in Austria: https://investinaustria.at/en/starting-business/ .

Outward Investment

The Austrian government encourages outward investment. Advantage Austria, the “Austrian Foreign Trade Service” is a special section of the WKO that promotes Austrian exports and also supports Austrian companies establishing an overseas presence. Advantage Austria operates six offices in the United States (Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Francisco). Overall, it has about 100 trade offices in 70 countries across the world, reflecting Austria’s strong export focus and the important role the WKO plays. (https://www.wko.at/service/aussenwirtschaft/aussenwirtschaftscenter.html#heading_aussenwirtschaftscenter ) The Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and the WKO run a joint program called “Go International,” providing services to Austrian companies that are considering investing for the first time in foreign countries. The program provides grants for market access costs and provides “soft subsidies,” such as counseling, legal advice, and marketing support.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Austria’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms.

Federal ministries generally publish draft laws and regulations, including investment laws, for public comment prior to their adoption by Austria’s cabinet and/or Parliament. Relevant stakeholders such as the “Social Partners” (Economic Chamber, Agricultural Chamber, Labor Chamber, and Trade Union Association), the Federation of Industries, and research institutions are invited to provide comments and suggestions for improvement, which may be taken into account before adoption of laws. These comments are publicly available. Austria’s nine provinces can also adopt laws relevant to investments; their review processes are generally less extensive, but local laws are less important for investments than federal laws. The judicial system is independent from the executive branch, helping ensure the government follows administrative processes. The government is required to follow administrative processes and its compliance is monitored by the courts, primarily the Court of Auditors. Individuals can file proceedings against the government in Austria’s courts, if the government did not act in accordance with the law. Similarly, the public prosecution service can file cases against the government.

Draft legislation by ministries (“Ministerialentwürfe”) and resulting government draft laws and parliamentary initiatives (“Regierungsvorlagen und Gesetzesinitiativen”) can be accessed through the website of the Austrian Parliament: https://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/  (all in German). The parliament also publishes a history of all law-making processes. All final Austrian laws can be accessed through a government database, partly in English: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/defaultEn.aspx .

The effectiveness of regulations is not reviewed as a regular process, only on an as-needed basis. Austrian regulations governing accounting provide U.S. investors with internationally standardized financial information. In line with EU regulations, listed companies must prepare their consolidated financial statements according to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IAS/IFRS) system.

Public finances are transparent and easily accessible, through the Finance Ministry’s website, Austria’s Central Bank, and various economic research institutes. Overall, Austria has no legal restrictions, formally or informally, that discriminate against foreign investors.

International Regulatory Considerations

Austria is a member of the EU. As such, its laws must comply with EU legislation and the country is therefore subject to European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction. Austria is a member of the WTO and largely follows WTO requirements. Austria has ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) but has not taken specific actions to implement it.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Austrian legal system is based on Roman law. The constitution establishes a hierarchy, according to which each legislative act (law, regulation, decision, and fines) must have its legal basis in a higher legislative instrument. The full text of each legislative act is available online for reference. All final Austrian laws can be accessed through a government database, partly in English: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/defaultEn.aspx .

Commercial matters fall within the competence of ordinary regional courts except in Vienna, which has a specialized Commercial Court. The Commercial Court also has nationwide competence for trademark, design, model, and patent matters. There is no special treatment of foreign investors, and the executive branch does not interfere in judicial matters.

The legal system provides an effective means for protecting property and contractual rights of nationals and foreigners. Sensitive cases must be reported to the Ministry of Justice, which can issue instructions for addressing them. Austria’s civil courts enforce property and contractual rights and do not discriminate against foreign investors. Austria allows for court decisions to be appealed, first to a Regional Court and in the last instance, to the Supreme Court.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Austria has national security restrictions on investments in industries designated as critical infrastructure, technology, resources, and industries with access to sensitive information and involved in freedom and plurality of the media. The government must approve any foreign acquisition of a 25% or higher stake in any companies that generally fall within these areas. The threshold is 10% for sensitive sectors, defined as military goods and technology, operators of critical energy or digital infrastructure and water, system operators charged with guarding Austria’s data sovereignty and R&D in medicine and pharmaceutical products. Additional screenings are required when an investor in the above categories plans to increase the stake above the thresholds of 25% or 50%. The investment screening review period generally takes 1-2 months. The Austrian government has reported an increase in filed applications since the law was implemented but has not reported any rejected applications under the new law.

There is no discrimination against foreign investors, but businesses are required to follow numerous local regulations. Although there is no requirement for participation by Austrian citizens in ownership or management of a foreign firm, at least one manager must meet Austrian residency and other legal requirements. Expatriates may deduct certain expenses (costs associated with moving, maintaining a double residence, education of children) from Austrian-earned income.

The “Law to Support Investments in Municipalities” (published in the Federal Law Gazette, 74/2017, available online in German only on the federal legal information system www.ris.bka.gv.at ), allows federal funding of up to 25 percent of the total investment amount of a project to “modernize” a municipality. The Austrian government also introduced several investment incentives, due to COVID-19 (see the “Investment Incentives” section for details). The Austrian Business Agency serves as a central contact point for companies looking to invest in Austria. It does not serve as a one-stop-shop but can help answer any questions potential investors may have (https://investinaustria.at/en/ )

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Austria’s Anti-Trust Act (ATA) is in line with EU anti-trust regulations, which take precedence over national regulations in cases concerning Austria and other EU member states. The Austrian Anti-Trust Act prohibits cartels, anticompetitive practices, and the abuse of a dominant market position. The independent Federal Competition Authority (FCA) and the Federal Anti-trust Prosecutor (FAP) are responsible for administering anti-trust laws. The FCA can conduct investigations and request information from firms. The FAP is subject to instructions issued by the Justice Ministry and can bring actions before Austria’s Cartel Court. Additionally, the Commission on Competition may issue expert opinions on competition policy and give recommendations on notified mergers. The most recent amendment to the ATA was in 2017. This amendment facilitated enforcing private damage claims, strengthened merger control, and enabled appeals against verdicts from the Cartel Court.

Companies must inform the FCA of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Special M&A regulations apply to media enterprises, such as a lower threshold above which the ATA applies, and the requirement that media diversity must be maintained. A cartel court is competent to rule on referrals from the FCA or the FCP. For violations of anti-trust regulations, the cartel court can impose fines of up to the equivalent of 10 percent of a company’s annual worldwide sales. The independent energy regulator E-Control separately examines antitrust concerns in the energy sector but must also submit cases to the cartel court.

Austria’s Takeover Law applies to friendly and hostile takeovers of corporations headquartered in Austria and listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The law protects investors against unfair practices, since any shareholder obtaining a controlling stake in a corporation (30 percent or more in direct or indirect control of a company’s voting shares) must offer to buy out smaller shareholders at a defined fair market price. The law also includes provisions for shareholders who passively obtain a controlling stake in a company. The law prohibits defensive action to frustrate bids. The Shareholder Exclusion Act allows a primary shareholder with at least 90 percent of capital stock to force out minority shareholders. An independent takeover commission at the Vienna Stock Exchange oversees compliance with these laws. Austrian courts have also held that shareholders owe a duty of loyalty to each other and must consider the interests of fellow shareholders in good faith.

Expropriation and Compensation

According to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Austrian Civil Code, property ownership is guaranteed in Austria. Expropriation of private property in Austria is rare and may be undertaken by federal or provincial government authorities only based on special legal authorization “in the public interest” such as land use planning, and infrastructure project preparations. The government can initiate such a procedure only in the absence of any other alternatives for satisfying the public interest; when the action is exclusively in the public interest; and when the owner receives just compensation. For example, in 2017-18, the government expropriated Hitler’s birth house in order to prevent it from becoming a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, paying the former owner €1.5 million (USD 1.8 million) in compensation. The expropriation process is non-discriminatory toward foreigners, including U.S. firms. There is no indication that further expropriations will take place in the foreseeable future.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Austria is a member of both the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) and the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, meaning local courts must enforce foreign arbitration awards in Austria. There is no specific domestic legislation in this regard, but local courts must enforce arbitration decisions where the affected companies have their business locations.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Austria is a member of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Its arbitration law largely conforms to the UNCITRAL model law. The main divergence is that an award may only be set aside if the arbitral procedure is not in accordance with Austrian public policy.

Austria does not have a BIT or FTA with the United States. There is no special domestic arbitration body.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Vienna International Arbitral Center of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber acts as Austria’s main arbitration institution, handling both national and international cases. Legislation is modeled after the UNCITRAL model law (see above). The New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (NYC) overrides most of Austria’s domestic provisions, where applicable, and Austrian courts are consistent in applying it.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Austrian Insolvency Act contains provisions for business reorganization and bankruptcy proceedings. Reorganization requires a restructuring plan and the debtor to be able to cover costs or advance some of the costs up to a maximum of EUR 4,000 (USD 4,480). The plan must offer creditors at least 20 percent of what is owed, payable within two years of the date the debtor’s obligation is determined. The plan must be approved by a majority of all creditors and a majority of creditors holding at least 50 percent of all claims.

If the restructuring plan is not accepted, a bankruptcy proceeding is begun. Bankruptcy proceedings take place in court upon application of the debtor or a creditor; the court appoints a receiver for winding down the business and distributing proceeds to the creditors. Bankruptcy is not criminalized, provided the affected person performed all his documentation and reporting obligations on time and in accordance with the law.

Due to COVID-19, Austria provided an extension for initiating bankruptcy proceedings for companies becoming technically bankrupt between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. The court may, upon application of any of the parties involved, extend procedural deadlines by 90 days. For applications filed by December 31, 2020, the deadline for paying the 20 percent owed to creditors has been extended to three years, instead of two.

Austria’s major commercial association for the protection of creditors in cases of bankruptcy is the “KSV 1870 Group”, www.ksv.at , which also carries out credit assessments of all companies located in Austria. Other European-wide credit bureaus, particularly “CRIF” and “Bisnode”, also monitor the Austrian market.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Austria has sophisticated financial markets that allow foreign investors access without restrictions. The government welcomes foreign portfolio investment. The Austrian National Bank (OeNB) regulates portfolio investments effectively.

Austria has a national stock exchange that currently includes 61 companies on its regulated market and several others on its multilateral trading facility (MTF). The Austrian Traded Index (ATX) is a price index consisting of the 20 largest stocks on the market and forms the most important index of Austria’s stock market. The size of the companies listed on the ATX is roughly equivalent to those listed on the MDAX in Germany. The market capitalization of Austrian listed companies is small compared to the country’s western European counterparts, accounting for 30% of Austria’s GDP, compared to 54% in Germany or 148% in the United States.

Unlike the other market segments in the stock exchange, the Direct Market and Direct Market Plus segments, targeted at SMEs and young, developing companies, are subject only to the Vienna Stock Exchange’s general terms of business, not more stringent EU regulations. These segments have lower reporting requirements but also greater risk for investors, as prices are more likely to fluctuate, due to the respective companies’ low level of market capitalization and lower trading volumes.

Austria has robust financing for product markets, but the free flow of resources into factor markets (capital, raw materials) could be improved. Overall, financing is primarily available through banks and government-sponsored funding organizations with relatively little private venture capital available. The Austrian government is aware of this but has taken few tangible steps to improve the availability of private venture capital.

Austria is fully compliant with IMF Article VIII, all financial instruments are available, and there are no restrictions on payments. Credit is available to foreign investors at market-determined rates. Austria’s financial system ranked 30th in the 2019 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, out of 141 countries examined, compared to 28th place in 2018 and 30th in 2017.

Money and Banking System

Austria has one of the most fragmented banking networks in Europe, with more than 3,500 branch offices registered in 2020, yet is considered to be one of the most stable in the world. The banking system is highly developed, with worldwide correspondent banks and representative offices and branches in the United States and other major financial centers. Large Austrian banks also have extensive networks in Central and Southeast European (CESEE) countries and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Total assets of the banking sector amounted to EUR 1.02 trillion (USD 1.1 trillion) in 2019 (approximately 2.5 times the country’s GDP). Approximately EUR 400 million of banking sector assets are held by Austria’s two largest banks, Erste Group and Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI). Austria’s banking sector is managed and overseen by the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) and the Financial Market Authority (FMA). Four Austrian banks with assets in excess of EUR 30 billion (USD 34 billion) are subject to the Eurozone’s Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), as is Sberbank Europe AG, a Russian bank subsidiary headquartered in Austria, and Addiko Bank AG due to their significant cross-border assets, as well as Volksbank Wien AG, due to its importance for the economy. All other Austrian banks continue to be subject to the country’s dual-oversight banking supervisory system with roles for the OeNB and the FMA, both of which are also responsible for policing irregularities on the stock exchange and for supervising insurance companies, securities markets, and pension funds. Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in the country with no legal restrictions that place them at a disadvantage compared to local banks.

Due to U.S. financial reporting requirements, Austrian banks are very cautious in committing the time and expense required to accept U.S. clients and U.S. investors without clearly established U.S. corporate headquarters.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Austria has no restrictions on cross-border capital transactions, including the repatriation of profits and proceeds from the sale of an investment, for non-residents and residents. The Euro, a freely convertible currency and the only legal tender in Austria and 18 other Euro-zone member states, shields investors from exchange rate risks within the Euro-zone.

Remittance Policies

Not applicable

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Austria has no sovereign wealth funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Austria has two major wholly state-owned enterprises (SOEs): The OeBB (Austrian Federal Railways) and Asfinag (highway financing, building, maintenance, and administration). Other government industry holding companies are bundled in the government holding company OeBAG (http://www.oebag.gv.at )

The government has direct representation in the supervisory boards of its companies (commensurate with its ownership stake), and OeBAG has the authority to buy and sell company shares, as well as purchase minority stakes in strategically relevant companies. Such purchases are subject to approval from an audit committee consisting of government-nominated independent economic experts.

OeBAG holds a 53 percent stake in the Post Office, 51 percent in energy company Verbund, 33 percent in the gambling group Casinos Austria, 31.5 percent in the energy company OMV, 28 percent in the Telekom Austria Group, and a few other minor ventures. Local governments own the majority of utilities, Vienna International Airport, and more than half of Austria’s 264 hospitals and clinics.

Private enterprises in Austria can generally compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to market access, credit, and other such business operations as licenses and supplies. While most SOEs must finance themselves under terms similar to private enterprises, some large SOEs (such as OeBB) benefit from state-subsidized pension systems. As a member of the EU, Austria is also a party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the WTO, which indirectly also covers the SOEs (since they are entities monitored by the Austrian Court of Auditors).

The five major OeBAG-controlled companies (Postal Service, Verbund AG, Casinos Austria, OMV, Telekom Austria), are listed on the Vienna stock exchange. Senior managers in these companies do not directly report to a minister, but to an oversight board. That being said, the government often appoints management and board members who have strong political affiliations.

Privatization Program

The government has not privatized any public enterprises since 2007. Austrian public opinion is skeptical regarding further privatization and there are no indications of any government privatizations on the horizon. In prior privatizations, foreign and domestic investors received equal treatment. Despite a historical government preference for maintaining blocking minority rights for domestic shareholders, foreign investors have successfully gained full control of enterprises in several strategic sectors of the Austrian economy, including in telecommunications, banking, steel, and infrastructure. In March 2020, the government chose not to intervene when the Czech Sazka group increased its stake in the partially state-owned gambling group Casinos Austria to a majority share.

10. Political and Security Environment

Generally, civil disturbances are rare and the overall security environment in the country is considered to be safe. There have been no incidents of politically motivated damage to foreign businesses. Austria suffered a terrorist attack on November 2, 2020, when a lone gunman shot and killed four civilians and injured 23 in the center of Vienna.

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 $428 billion 2020 $445 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($B USD, stock positions) 2019 $13.70 2019 $7.64 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($B USD, stock positions) 2019 $13.76 2019 $6.25 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 45.8 2019 1.0% (flow) UNCTAD data available at https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html  

* Source for Host Country Data: Austrian Statistics Office (GDP); Austrian National Bank (FDI, published March 2020)

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 201,287 100% Total Outward 248,978 100%
Germany 54,040 27% The Netherlands 41,145 16%
The Netherlands 30,585 15% Germany 34,448 14%
Russia 26,061 13% Czech Republic 15,073 6%
Luxembourg 21,876 11% United States 13,773 5%
Switzerland 12,002 6i% Romania 10,090 4%
“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 368,776 100% All Countries 157,873 100% All Countries 210,904 100%
Luxembourg 64,898 18% Luxembourg 56,101 36% Germany 25,193 12%
Germany 54,439 15% Germany 29,235 19% France 23,440 11%
United States 35,558 10% United States 18,338 6% United States 17,249 8%
France 30.312 8% Ireland 18,335 6% Spain 16,099 8%
Ireland 23,850 6% France 6,872 4% The Netherlands 15,248 7%

Azerbaijan

Executive Summary

The overall investment climate in Azerbaijan continues to improve, although significant challenges remain. Azerbaijan’s government has sought to attract foreign investment, undertake reforms to diversify its economy, and stimulate private sector-led growth. The Azerbaijani economy, however, remains heavily dependent on oil and gas output, which account for roughly 86 percent of export revenue and over half of the state budget. Real GDP contracted 4.3 percent in 2020 for the first time since 2016 due to pandemic-related lockdown measures and a decrease in global crude oil prices. While the oil and gas sector has historically attracted the largest share of foreign investment, the Azerbaijani government has targeted four non-oil sectors to diversify the economy: agriculture, tourism, information and communications technology (ICT), and transportation/logistics. Measures taken in recent years to improve the business climate and reform the overall economy include eliminating redundant business license categories, empowering the popular “Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network (ASAN)” government service centers with licensing authority, simplifying customs procedures, suspending certain business inspections, and reforming the tax regime.

Azerbaijan was in 28th place out of 191 countries on the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report with a score of 78.5. Despite substantial efforts to open the business environment, progress remains slow on structural reforms required to create a diversified and competitive private sector, corruption remains a major challenge for firms operating in Azerbaijan. A small group of government-connected holding companies dominate the economy, intellectual property rights enforcement is improving but remains insufficient, and judicial transparency is lacking.

Under Azerbaijani law, foreign investments enjoy complete and unreserved legal protection and may not be nationalized or appropriated, except under specific circumstances. Private entities may freely establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises. Foreign citizens, organizations, and enterprises may lease, but not own, land. Azerbaijan’s government has not shown any pattern of discriminating against U.S. persons or entities through illegal expropriation. The Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the United States and Azerbaijan provides U.S. investors with recourse to settle investment disputes using the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The average time needed to resolve international business disputes through domestic courts or alternative dispute resolution varies widely.

Following the release in November of a tripartite ceasefire declaration by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, which brought an end to the fall 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijani government is seeking new investments in the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh that were previously under the control of Armenian-backed separatists. Azerbaijan’s 2021 budget includes an allocation of AZN 2.2 billion (USD 1.3 billion) for the restoration and reconstruction of these territories. These funds will be reportedly used to restore road infrastructure, electricity, gas, water, communications infrastructure, and the education and healthcare sectors, along with the restoration of cultural and historical monuments. Reconstruction is expected to continue over the coming years, along with continued special budget allocations provided for rebuilding and resettling these territories. Demining these territories as part of reconstruction efforts remains a priority of the Azerbaijani government.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 129 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 28 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 82 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 N/A http://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $4,480 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Azerbaijani government actively seeks foreign direct investment. Flows of foreign direct investment to Azerbaijan have risen steadily in recent years, primarily in the energy sector. Foreign investment in the government’s priority sectors for economic diversification (agriculture, transportation, tourism, and ICT) has thus far been limited.

Foreign investments enjoy complete and unreserved legal protection under the Law on the Protection of Foreign Investment, the Law on Investment Activity, and guarantees contained within international agreements and treaties. In accordance with these laws, Azerbaijan will treat foreign investors, including foreign partners in joint ventures, in a manner no less favorable than the treatment accorded to national investors. Azerbaijan’s Law on the Protection of Foreign Investments protects foreign investors against nationalization and requisition, except under specific circumstances. The Azerbaijani government has not shown any pattern of discriminating against U.S. persons or entities through illegal expropriation.

Azerbaijan’s primary body responsible for investment promotion is the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Agency (AzPromo). AzPromo is a joint public-private initiative, established by the Ministry of Economy and Industry in 2003 to foster the country’s economic development and diversification by attracting foreign investment into the non-oil sector and stimulating non-oil exports. A January 2018 decree called for new legislation, which has not yet been introduced, to ensure Azerbaijan conforms to international standards to protect foreign investor rights. The Azerbaijani government meets regularly with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) to solicit the input from the business community, particularly as part of AmCham’s biennial white paper process. In 2018, AmCham reported the government accepted around 50 percent of the proposals put forth in their white paper. The next white paper, planned for 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreigners are allowed to register business entities by opening a fully owned subsidiary, acquiring shares of an existing company, or by creating a joint venture with a local partner. Foreign companies are also permitted to operate in Azerbaijan without creating a local legal entity by registering a representative or branch office with the tax authorities.

Foreigners are not permitted to own land in Azerbaijan but are permitted to lease land and own real estate. Under Azerbaijani laws, the state must retain a controlling stake in companies operating in the mining, oil and gas, satellite communication, and military arms sectors, limiting foreign or domestic private ownership to a 49 percent share of companies in these industries. Foreign ownership in the media sector is also strictly limited. Furthermore, a special license to conduct business is required for foreign or domestic companies operating in telecommunications, sea and air transportation, insurance, and other regulated industries. Azerbaijan does not screen inbound foreign investment, and U.S. investors are not specifically disadvantaged by any existing control mechanisms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Azerbaijan has not conducted an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) investment policy review, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) investment policy review, or a WTO Trade Policy Review.

Business Facilitation

Azerbaijani law requires all companies operating in the country to register. Without formal registration, a company may not maintain a bank account or clear goods through customs. As part of the ongoing business law reforms, a “Single Window” principle was introduced January 1, 2008, significantly streamlining the registration process. Businesses must now only register with the tax authorities, which takes approximately three days for commercial organizations. Since 2011, companies have also been able to e-register at http://taxes.gov.az .

In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, Azerbaijan’s final published score was 78.5, ranking 28 out of 190 countries worldwide. This rank placed Azerbaijan as a “top ten reformer” country per the report.

Outward Investment

Azerbaijan does not actively promote or incentivize outward investment, though Azerbaijani entities, particularly the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), have invested in various countries, including the United States. SOFAZ investment is typically limited to real estate, precious metals, and low-yield government securities. SOCAR has invested heavily in oil and gas infrastructure and petrochemicals processing in Turkey and Georgia, as well as gas pipeline networks in Greece, Albania, and Italy as part of the Southern Gas Corridor that transports Azerbaijani gas to European markets. The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing overseas.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Azerbaijan’s central government is the primary source of regulations relevant to foreign businesses. Azerbaijan’s regulatory system has improved in recent years, although enforcement is inconsistent, and decision-making remains opaque. Private sector associations do not play a significant role in regulatory processes. Draft legislation is neither routinely made available for public comment nor usually involves a public consultation process. The government has more regularly engaged business organizations, such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham), and consulting firms on various draft laws. The website of Azerbaijan’s National Parliament, http://meclis.gov.az/  lists all the country’s laws, but only in the Azerbaijani language.

Legal entities in Azerbaijan must adhere to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). These are only obligatory for large companies. Medium-sized companies can choose between reporting based on IFRS or IFRS-SME standards, which are specially designed for large and medium enterprises. Small and micro enterprises can choose between reporting based on IFRS, IFRS-SME, or simplified accounting procedures established by the Finance Ministry.

Several U.S. companies with operations and investments in Azerbaijan previously reported they had been subjected to repeated tax audits, requests for prepayment of taxes, and court-imposed fines for violations of the tax code. These allegations have markedly decreased since 2017.

On October 19, 2015, Azerbaijan suspended inspections of entrepreneurs for two years, but inspections still may occur if a complaint is lodged. This suspension was subsequently extended through January 1, 2022. Food and pharmaceutical products are not subject to this suspension order and are inspected for quality and safety.

The government has also simplified its licensing regime. All licenses are now issued with indefinite validity through ASAN service centers and must be issued within 10 days of application. The Economy Ministry also reduced the number of activities requiring a license from 60 to 32. Over the 2020 calendar year, the Economy Ministry continued work to improve the operation of the “Licenses and Permits” portal and the integration of information systems into ASAN systems. In 2020, 358 electronic licenses were issued to entrepreneurs through the portal. 1,790 electronic licenses have been issued from the launch of the portal on March 1, 2018 to January 1, 2021.

International Regulatory Considerations

Azerbaijan has held observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1997 but has not made significant progress toward joining the WTO for the past several years. A working party on Azerbaijan’s succession to the WTO was established on July 16, 1997 and Azerbaijan began negotiations with WTO members in 2004. The WTO Secretariat reports Azerbaijan is less than a quarter of the way to full membership. In 2016, Azerbaijan imposed higher tariffs on a number of imported goods, including agricultural products, to promote domestic production and reduce imports. In February 2020, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev made public remarks outlining Azerbaijan’s “cautious” approach to the WTO, saying that “the time [had] not come” for Azerbaijan’s membership. Currently, Azerbaijan is negotiating bilateral market access with 19 economies.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Azerbaijan’s legal system is based on civil law. Disputes or disagreements arising between foreign investors and enterprises with foreign investment, Azerbaijani state bodies and/or enterprises, and other Azerbaijani legal entities, are to be settled in the Azerbaijani court system or, upon agreement between the parties, in a court of arbitration, including international arbitration bodies. The judiciary consists of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the appellate courts of the Republic of Azerbaijan, trial courts, and other specialized courts. Trial court judgments may be appealed in appellate courts and the judgments of appellate courts can be appealed in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. Under the Civil Procedure Code of Azerbaijan, appellate court judgments are published within three days of issuance or within ten days in exceptional circumstances. The Constitutional Court has the authority to review laws and court judgments for compliance with the constitution.

Businesses report problems with the reliability and independence of judicial processes in Azerbaijan. While the government promotes foreign investment and the law guarantees national treatment, in practice investment disputes can arise when a foreign investor or trader’s success threatens well-connected or favored local interests. According to Freedom House’s 2020 flagship report, Azerbaijan’s court system is “subservient to the executive.” The U.S. business community has complained about inconsistent application of regulations and non-transparent decision-making.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign investment in Azerbaijan is regulated by a number of international treaties and agreements, as well as domestic legislation. These include the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the United States and Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan-European Commission Cooperation Agreement, the Law on Protection of Foreign Investment, the Law on Investment Activity, the Law on Investment Funds, the Law on Privatization of State Property, the Second Program for Privatization of State Property, and sector-specific legislation. Azerbaijani law permits foreign direct investment in any activity in which a national investor may also invest, unless otherwise prohibited (see “Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment” for further information).

A January 2018 Presidential decree called for drafting a new law on investment activities to conform to international standards. The decree also established mechanisms to protect investor rights and regulate damages, including lost profit caused to investors. The details of the proposed new law have not been publicized as of April 2021.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The State Service for Antimonopoly Policy and Consumer Protection under the Economy Ministry is responsible for implementing competition-related policy. The law on Antimonopoly Activity was amended in April 2016 to introduce regulations on price fixing and other anti-competitive behavior. Parliament began revising a new version of the Competition Code in late 2014, but it has not yet been adopted. Azerbaijan’s antimonopoly legislation does not constrain the size or scope of the handful of large holding companies that dominate the non-oil economy.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Law on the Protection of Foreign Investments forbids nationalization and requisition of foreign investment, except under certain circumstances. Nationalization of property can occur when authorized by parliamentary resolution, although there have been no known cases of official nationalization or requisition against foreign firms in Azerbaijan. By a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, requisition is possible in the event of natural disaster, an epidemic, or other extraordinary situation. In the event of nationalization or requisition, foreign investors are legally entitled to prompt, effective, and adequate compensation. Amendments made to Azerbaijan’s Constitution in September 2016 enabled authorities to expropriate private property when necessary for social justice and effective use of land. According to Freedom House’s 2020 report, “[property] rights and free choice of residence are affected by government-backed development projects that often entail forced evictions, unlawful expropriations, and demolitions with little or no notice.” The Azerbaijani government has not shown any pattern of discriminating against U.S. persons by way of direct expropriations.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Azerbaijan is a member of the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID convention) as well as the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan is responsible for recognizing and enforcing arbitral awards rendered pursuant to the Conventions. For the time being, as a method of resolving disputes in Azerbaijan, international arbitration is unpopular and underdeveloped. Domestic parties still prefer litigation as the main method of dispute settlement. Arbitration practice in Azerbaijan is limited to the recognition of foreign arbitral awards by the Supreme Court and their enforcement by the Ministry of Justice. Although there is an Azerbaijan International Commercial Arbitration Court, at present its activity is limited. Azerbaijan adopted a Law on Mediation on March 29, 2019 which requires attendance at an initial mediation session before bringing an action concerning family, labor, and business disputes. New laws amending the Civil Procedural Code and the Law on Courts and Judges were published in July 2019. Per the amendments, administrative-economic courts charged with administrative and economic disputes are divided into administrative courts and commercial courts. The newly established commercial courts are authorized to hear all commercial disputes and some other disputes affecting entrepreneurial activities. Legal experts anticipate commercial courts and administrative courts will grow to specialize respectively in commercial matters and administrative disputes, with such specialization increasing the quality of justice.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Azerbaijan is party to the European Convention on Foreign Commercial Arbitration dated April 21, 1961. The Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the United States and Azerbaijan, which went into force in 2001, provides U.S. investors recourse to settle any investment dispute using the ICSID convention. Azerbaijan has been a party to three ICSID cases, two of which (Barmek v. Azerbaijan and Fondel Metal Participations and B.V. v. Azerbaijan) were settled and one of which (Azpetrol v. Azerbaijan) was decided in favor of the State. Thus far, the ICSID has not issued arbitral awards against the government of Azerbaijan. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. Embassy in Baku has been notified of three investment dispute cases regarding U.S. citizens. None of these cases, however, have been resolved.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

International arbitration in Azerbaijan is regulated by the Law on International Commercial Arbitration, based on the UNCITRAL model law. Parties may select arbitrators of any nationality, the language of the proceedings, the national law to be applied, and the arbitration procedure to be used. In cases in which parties did not stipulate the terms of the proceedings, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan will resolve the omission. In 1999 Azerbaijan acceded to the New York Convention on the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. Azerbaijan also passed a Law “On International Arbitration.” Accession to the New York Convention has greatly increased the utility of overseas arbitrations, while the Law “On International Arbitration” provides for international arbitrations with the place of arbitration in Baku. This law aimed to resolve difficulties in instances where it is impractical or inadvisable to arbitrate abroad (for example, for reasons of cost, language, or law). However, as no procedural mechanism has been established in Azerbaijan for the enforcement of a local arbitral award, arbitration proceedings inside Azerbaijan are fraught with difficulties. Though both the Law “On International Arbitration” and the New York Convention have been in force in Azerbaijan for several years, foreign arbitration is not necessarily effective and attempts to enforce foreign arbitral awards have been largely untested.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Azerbaijan’s Bankruptcy Law applies only to legal entities and entrepreneurs, not to private individuals. Either a debtor facing insolvency or any creditor may initiate bankruptcy proceedings. In general, the legislation focuses on liquidation procedures. The bankruptcy law in Azerbaijan is underdeveloped, which restricts private sector economic development by deterring entrepreneurship. Amendments to Azerbaijan’s bankruptcy law adopted in 2017 extended the obligations of bankruptcy administrators and defined new rights for creditors. In the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report’s section on resolving insolvency, Azerbaijan’s ranking decreased from 45 in 2019 to 47 in 2020 out of 190 countries.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Access to capital is a critical impediment to business development in Azerbaijan. An effective regulatory system that encourages and facilitates portfolio investment, foreign or domestic, is not fully in place. Though the Baku Stock Exchange opened in 2000, there is insufficient liquidity in the market to enter or exit sizeable positions. The Central Bank assumed control over all financial regulation in January 2020, following disbandment of a formerly independent regulator. Non-bank financial sector staples such as capital markets, insurance, and private equity are in the early stages of development. The Capital Market Modernization Project is an attempt by the government to build the foundation for a modern financial capital market, including developing market infrastructure and automation systems, and strengthening the legal and market frameworks for capital transactions. One major hindrance to the stock market’s growth is the difficulty in encouraging established Azerbaijani businesses to adapt to standard investor-friendly disclosure practices, which are generally required for publicly listed companies.

Azerbaijan’s government and Central Bank do not restrict payments and transfers for international transactions. Foreign investors are permitted to obtain credit on the local market, but smaller companies and firms without an established credit history often struggle to obtain loans on reasonable commercial terms. Limited access to capital remains a barrier to development, particularly for small and medium enterprises.

Money and Banking System

The country’s financial services sector – of which banking comprises more than 90 percent – is underdeveloped, which constrains economic growth and diversification. The drop in world oil prices in 2014/2015 and the resulting strain on Azerbaijan’s foreign currency earnings and the state budget exacerbated existing problems in the country’s banking sector and led to rising non-performing loans (NPLs) and high dollarization. Subsequent reforms have improved overall sector stability. President Aliyev signed a decree in February 2019 to provide partial relief to retail borrowers on foreign-currency denominated loans that meet certain criteria.

As of January 1, 2021, 26 banks were registered in Azerbaijan, including 12 banks with foreign capital and two state-owned banks. These banks employ 18,708 people and have a combined 455 branches and 2,715 ATMs nationwide. Total banking sector assets stood at approximately USD 18.5 billion as of January 2021, with the top five banks holding almost 60 percent of this amount.

In December 2019, Azerbaijan carried out a banking management reform that gave the Central Bank of Azerbaijan control over banks and credit institutions, closing the Chamber for Control over Financial Markets, which had held regulatory powers following Azerbaijan’s 2014/2015 economic crisis and resulting currency devaluations. Concurrently, the Central Bank announced “recovery of the banking sector” would be one of the main challenges it would tackle in 2020. The Central Bank closed four insolvent banks (Attabank, AGBank, NBCBank, and Amrah Bank) in April/May 2020, bringing the number of banks in the country down from 30 to 26. Only a limited number of banks are able to conduct correspondent banking transactions with the United States.

Foreign banks are permitted in Azerbaijan and may take the form of representative offices, branches, joint ventures, and wholly owned subsidiaries. These banks are subject to the same regulations as domestic banks, with certain additional restrictions. Foreign individuals and entities are also permitted to open accounts with domestic or foreign banks in Azerbaijan.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Azerbaijan’s Central Bank officially adopted a floating exchange rate in 2016 but continues to operate under an “interim regime” that effectively pegs the exchange rate at AZN 1.7 per USD. Azerbaijan’s foreign currency reserves are based on the reserves of the Central Bank, those of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), and the assets of the State Treasury Agency under the Finance Ministry. Foreign currency reserves of the Central Bank increased by 2 percent during 2020 and totaled USD 6.36 billion in January 2021. Between January 2020 and January 2021, SOFAZ assets increased by 0.5 percent to reach USD 43.5 billion.

Foreign exchange transactions are governed by the Law on Currency Regulation. The Central Bank administers the overall enforcement of currency regulation. Currency conversion is carried out through the Baku Interbank Currency Exchange Market and the Organized Interbank Currency Market.

There are no statutory restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with an investment into freely usable currency at a legal, market-clearing rate. The average time for remitting investment returns is two to three business days. Some requirements on disclosure of the source of currency transfers have been imposed to reduce illicit transactions.

Remittance Policies

Corporate branches of foreign investors are subject to a remittance tax of 10 percent on all profits derived from its business activities in Azerbaijan. There have not been any recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. There do not appear to be time limitations on remittances, including dividends, returns on investment, interest and principal on private foreign debt, lease payments, royalties, and management fees. Nor does there appear to be limits on the inflow or outflow of funds for remittances of profits or revenue.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Azerbaijan’s sovereign wealth fund is the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ). Its mission is to transform hydrocarbon reserves into financial assets generating perpetual income for current and future generations and to finance strategically important infrastructure and social projects of national scale. While its main statutory focus is investing in assets outside of the country, since it was established in 1999 SOFAZ has financed several socially beneficial projects in Azerbaijan related to infrastructure, housing, energy, and education. The government’s newly adopted fiscal rule places limits on pro-cyclical spending, with the aim of increasing hydrocarbon revenue savings. SOFAZ publishes an annual report which it submits for independent audit. The fund’s assets totaled USD 43.5 billion as of January 1, 2021. More information is available at oilfund.az .

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In Azerbaijan, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are active in the oil and gas, power generation, communications, water supply, railway, and air passenger and cargo sectors, among others. There is no published list of SOEs. While there are no SOEs that officially have been delegated governmental powers, companies such as the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Azerenerji (the national electricity utility), and Azersu (the national water utility) – all of which are closed joint-stock companies with majority state ownership and limited private investment – enjoy quasi-governmental or near-monopoly status in their respective sectors.

SOCAR is wholly owned by the government of Azerbaijan and takes part in all oil and gas activities in the country. It publishes regular reports on production volumes, the value of its exports, estimates of investments in exploration and development, production costs, the names of foreign companies operating in the country, production data by company, quasi-fiscal activities, and the government’s portion of production-sharing contracts. SOCAR is also responsible for negotiating Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) with all foreign partners for hydrocarbon development. SOCAR’s annual financial reports are audited by an independent external auditor and include the consolidated accounts of all SOCAR’s subsidiaries, although revenue data is incomplete.

There have been instances where state-owned enterprises have used their regulatory authority to block new entrants into the market. SOEs are, in principle, subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. However, in sectors that are open to both private and foreign competition, SOEs generally receive a larger percentage of government contracts or business than their private sector competitors. While SOEs regularly purchase or supply goods or services from private sector firms, domestic and foreign private enterprises have reported problems competing with SOEs under the same terms and conditions with respect to market share, information, products and services, and incentives. Private enterprises do not have the same access (including terms) to financing as SOEs. SOEs are also afforded material advantages such as preferential access to land and raw materials – advantages that are not available to private enterprises. There is little information available on Azerbaijani SOEs’ budget constraints, due to the limited transparency in their financial accounts.

Privatization Program

A renewed privatization process started with the May 2016 presidential decree implementing additional measures to improve the process of state property privatization and the July 2016 decree on measures to accelerate privatization and improve the management efficiency of state property. The State Committee on Property Issues launched a portal to provide privatization information, privatization.az, in July 2016. The portal contains information about the properties, their addresses, location, and initial costs with the aim of facilitating privatization. Azerbaijan’s current privatization efforts focus on smaller state-owned properties. While there are no immediate plans to privatize large SOEs, Azerbaijan is moving 21 major government-owned companies to a new state holding company tasked to improve efficiency and corporate governance as well as prepare them for possible privatization. However, the government has no plans to sell stakes in state companies in 2021, including in state oil company SOCAR.

10. Political and Security Environment

On multiple occasions in 2019 and 2020, authorities selectively blocked mobile and fixed-line internet access, temporarily restricted access to foreign media and social networking sites, and imposed blocks on virtual private network (VPN) services, apparently in response to political protests and as part of national restrictions during and after Azerbaijan’s armed conflict with Armenian forces in September-November 2020. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are among the sites permanently blocked in Azerbaijan. The increase in frequency and lack of transparency regarding internet disruptions raise serious concerns about future Azerbaijani government efforts to control access to information in ways that impede foreign business interests.

There have been no known acts of political violence against U.S. businesses or assets, nor against any foreign owned entity. It is unlikely that civil disturbances, should they occur, would be directed against U.S. businesses or the U.S. community.

During 44 days of intensive fighting from September 27 to November 10 involving Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Armenia-supported separatists, significant casualties and atrocities were reported by all sides. After Azerbaijan, with Turkish support, reestablished control over four surrounding territories controlled by separatists since 1994, a Russian-brokered ceasefire arrangement announced by Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 9 resulted in the peaceful transfer of control over three additional territories to Azerbaijan, as well as the introduction of Russian peacekeepers to the region. The ceasefire has largely held, but tensions remain high, particularly along the international border, which has not been fully demarcated.

Russian forces have played a role in controlling access along highways near the border and into the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani government has suspended or threatened to suspend the operations of U.S. companies in Azerbaijan whose products or services are provided in the area of Nagorno-Karabakh currently under the administration of the Russian peacekeepers and has banned the entry into Azerbaijan of some persons who have visited Nagorno-Karabakh. The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in and around Nagorno-Karabakh as access is restricted.

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 $42,607 2019 $48,048 https://data.worldbank.org/country/azerbaijan 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP No reliable data 2017 76.6% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx 
* Source for Host Country Data: Azerbaijan State Statistical Committee
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 $29,314 100% Total Outward $20,461 100%
United Kingdom $6,317 22% Turkey $10,761 53%
Turkey $5,797 20% Georgia $2,984 15%
Norway $3,063 10% Switzerland $1,237 6%
Iran $2,523 9% United Kingdom $1,013 5%
Cyprus $1,907 7% United States $594 3%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.