An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Chile

Executive Summary

As the seventh largest economy in the Western Hemisphere, Chile enjoys levels of stability and prosperity that are among the highest in the region.  Chile’s solid macroeconomic policy framework has smoothed adjustment to economic cycles, contributing to relatively low unemployment, resilient household consumption, and a stable financial sector.  Due to its attractive investment climate, trade openness, and reputation for strong financial institutions and sound policies, Chile also boasts the strongest sovereign bond rating in Latin America. The country’s economy grew 4 percent in 2018, and the forecast for Chile’s economic growth in 2019 is in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent. 

Chile has successfully attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) despite its relatively small domestic market.  The country’s market-oriented policies have created significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate in the country’s economic growth.  Chile has a sound legal framework and there is general respect for private property rights. Sectors that attract significant FDI include mining, finance/insurance, chemical manufacturing, and wholesale trade.  Mineral, hydrocarbon, and fossil fuel deposits within Chilean territory are restricted from foreign ownership, but companies may enter into contracts with the government to extract these resources. Corruption exists in Chile but on a much smaller scale than in most Latin American countries, ranking of 27 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Although Chile is an attractive destination for foreign investment, challenges remain. Despite a general respect for intellectual property (IP) rights, Chile has not fully complied with its IP obligations set forth in the U.S.-Chile FTA.  Environmental permitting processes, indigenous consultation requirements, and cumbersome court proceedings have made large project approvals increasingly time consuming and unpredictable, especially in cases with political sensitivities. The current administration has prioritized attracting foreign investment and is implementing measures to streamline the process, including the creation of an investment projects management office in the Ministry of Economy.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 27 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 56 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 47 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country (USD million, stock positions) 2017 $25,884 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita (USD) 2017 $13,610 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

Chile has a successful track record of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), despite the relatively small size of its domestic market.  For nearly four decades, promoting FDI has been an essential part of the Chilean government’s national development strategy. The country’s market-oriented economic policies create significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate. Laws and practices are not discriminatory against foreign investors, who receive treatment similar to Chilean nationals. While Chile’s business climate is generally straightforward and transparent, the permitting process of infrastructure, mining and energy projects has become increasingly contentious, especially regarding politically sensitive environmental impact assessments and indigenous consultations.

InvestChile is the government agency that implements various types of initiatives aimed to foster the entry and retention of FDI into Chile. It provides services in four categories:

  1. attraction (information provision about Chile’s business climate and specific investment opportunities in both public and private projects);
  2. pre-investment (sector-specific legal advisory services and information for decision-making);
  3. landing (advice for installation of the company, foreign investor certificates, access to funds and regional support networks), and
  4. after-care (management of inquiries, assistance for exporting and information for re-investment).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have access to all productive activities, except for the internal waterways freight transportation sector, in which there is a cap on foreign equity ownership of companies of 49 percent. In 2019, Chile loosened maritime cabotage rules and began allowing large foreign cruise ships to move between Chilean ports. Some international reciprocity restrictions exist for fishing.

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

FDI is subject to pro forma screening by InvestChile.  Businesses in general do not consider these screening mechanisms as barriers to investment because approval procedures are expeditious and investments are usually approved.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

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

Business Facilitation

The Chilean government took significant steps towards business facilitation during the present decade, including introducing digital processes to start a company.  According to the World Bank, Chile has one of the smoothest and shortest processes among Latin American and Caribbean countries – 11 procedures over an average of 29 days – to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC). Drafting corporate statutes and obtaining an authorization number can be done online at the platform www.tuempresaenundia.cl  .  Electronic signature and electronic invoicing allow one to register a company, obtain a taxpayer ID number, and get legal receipts, invoices, credit and debit notes, and accountant registries.  A company typically needs to register with Chile’s Internal Revenue Service, obtain a business license from a municipality, and register either with the Institute of Occupational Safety (public) or with one of three private nonprofit entities that provide work-related accident insurance, which is mandatory for employers.  In addition to the steps required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing a subsidiary in Chile must authenticate the parent company’s documents abroad and register the incoming capital with the Central Bank. This procedure, established under Chapter XIV of the Foreign Exchange Regulations, requires a notice of conversion of foreign currency into Chilean pesos when the investment exceeds USD 10,000.00.  The registration process at the Registry of Commerce of Santiago is available online.

Outward Investment

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

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

According to ICSID, Chile has signed 50 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), 37 of which are in force to date. There are agreements in force with Argentina, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Italy, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.

Chile has 26 FTAs with 64 countries. On January 1, 2004, the United States and Chile brought into force the investment chapter in our bilateral FTA.  Chile has additional investment chapters in force under FTAs with Australia, Canada, China (Supplementary Investment Agreement to the FTA), Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Peru and the Pacific Alliance (composed of four countries: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru).  Chile also signed a new generation bilateral investment agreement with Uruguay that entered into force in 2012. FTAs with investment chapters that are signed but have not entered into force include the Investment Agreement with Hong Kong SAR (Supplementary Investment Agreement to the FTA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) –which currently awaits ratification from the Senate-, and the Chile-Argentina FTA.  Chile is currently negotiating investment chapters that are part of FTA negotiations between the Pacific Alliance and Associated States (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore), and between Chile and the European Union.

Chile and the United States signed the U.S.-Chile Treaty to Avoid Double Taxation in 2010.  In May 2012, it was submitted to the U.S. Senate and is still pending ratification. The Chilean Congress ratified the treaty in September 2015. Chile has 33 double taxation treaties in force with Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.  Apart from the U.S.-Chile Treaty to Avoid Double Taxation, Chile has signed double taxation treaties with the Pacific Alliance countries (Colombia, Mexico and Peru) and with China, which have not yet entered into force.

Chile’s 2014 tax reform increased the effective marginal income tax rate on dividends or profits earned by Chilean residents in other countries up to 44.45 percent.  This change is only applied to residents from countries without a bilateral taxation treaty in force with Chile (such as the United States), while residents from the 32 countries with such a treaty maintain a maximum marginal tax rate of 35 percent.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

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

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

In Chile, non-listed companies follow norms issued by the Accountants Professional Association, while publicly listed companies use the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  Since January 1, 2018, IFRS 9 entered into force for companies in all sectors except for banking, in which IFRS 15 will be applied. IFRS 16 entered into force in 2019.

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

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

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

Chile still lacks a comprehensive, “whole of government” regulatory reform program.  However, the National Productivity Commission, created in 2014, includes among its main functions the identification of regulatory constraints to increase productivity and recommendations to overcome them.

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

International Regulatory Considerations

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

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Chile bases its legal system on civil law.  Chile’s legal and regulatory framework provides for effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights.

Laws governing issues of interest to foreign investors are found in several statutes, including the Commercial Code of 1868, the Civil Code, the Labor Code and the General Banking Act.  Chile has specialized courts for dealing with tax and labor issues.

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

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

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

See the section on Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

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

In February 2019, the TDLC fined supermarket chains Walmart, Cencosud, and SMU USD 4.2 million, USD 5.1 million and USD 3.1 million, respectively.  The TDLC ruled in a collusion case introduced by the FNE in 2016 establishing that these retailers set up a minimum prices agreement in the market for fresh poultry meat.

In November 2018, the TDLC fined two laboratories (Biosano and Sanderson, subsidiary of Fresenius Kabi Chile) USD 25.6 million and USD 2.1 million, respectively. The TDLC ruled in a case brought by the FNE in 2012 regarding collusion by these labs in public procurement from the National Central Procurement System for Health Services (CENABAST).

In April 2019, the FNE asked the Supreme Court to overturn the TDLC’s decision in October 2018 to authorize alliances between the Chilean airline Latam and British Airways, Iberia, and American Airlines.  The FNE argued that such alliances would impermissibly reduce competition over the main air routes to Europe and North America.

In April 2018, Oracle agreed to an FNE-proposed plan to improve its information sharing practices. This was the result of an FNE investigation in 2015 into Oracle’s potential abuse of its market dominance in database management systems (DBMS software).

In 2018, the FNE approved the merger between Linde Aktiengesellschaft and Praxair Inc., and the acquisition by Turner International Latin America, Inc (Turner) of all shares in Football Channel (CDF).  On March 20, 2019, the FNE approved acquisition of all shares in Twenty- First Century Fox, Inc. by The Walt Disney Company (Disney.  On May 31, 2018, the FNE approved the acquisition of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A. (BBVA) by Scotiabank Chile.

Expropriation and Compensation

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

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

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

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

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

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

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

Over the past 10 years, there were only two investment dispute cases brought by foreign investors against the state of Chile before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunal. The first relates to a Spanish-Chilean citizen regarding the expropriation of Chilean newspaper El Clarin in 1975 by Chile’s military regime.  On September 13, 2016, ICSID issued a final ruling in favor of the Chilean state, rejecting the claimant’s request for financial compensation. However, the same person brought a new case in April 2017, related to the State’s actions following a 2008 judgment of the Santiago court in relation to the confiscation of the Goss printing press, as well as the alleged lack of remedy for the deprivation of their property rights in El Clarin.  The case is now pending resolution.

The second case was brought in 2017 by Colombian firm Alsacia, which holds concession contracts as operators of Transantiago, the public transportation system in Santiago de Chile. Claims are that the Government’s actions in relation to Transantiago allegedly created unfavorable operating conditions for the claimants’ subsidiaries and resulted in bankruptcy proceedings.  The case is pending resolution.

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

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

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

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

No Chilean state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been involved in investment disputes in recent decades.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Chilean government generally does not subsidize foreign investment, nor does it issue guarantees or joint financing for FDI projects.  There are, however, some incentives directed to isolated geographical zones and to the information technology sector. These benefits relate to co-financing of feasibility studies as well as to incentives for the purchase of land in industrial zones, the hiring of local labor, and the facilitation of project financing.  Other important incentives include accelerated depreciation accounting for tax purposes and legal guarantees for remitting profits and capital. Additionally, the Start-Up Chile program provide selected entrepreneurs with grants for USD 15,000 to USD 80,000, along with a Chilean work visa to develop a “startup” business in Chile over a period of 4 to 7 months.  Chile has other special incentive programs aimed at promoting investment and employment in remote regions, as well as other areas that suffer development lags.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Chile has two free trade zones: one in the northern port city of Iquique (Tarapaca Region) and the other in the far south port city of Punta Arenas (Magallanes Region).  Merchants and manufacturers in these zones are exempt from corporate income tax; value added tax (VAT) – on operations and services that take place inside the free trade zone – and customs duties. The same exemptions also apply to manufacturers in the Chacalluta and Las Americas Industrial Park in Arica (Arica and Parinacota Region).  Mining, fishing, and financial services are not eligible for free zone concessions. Foreign-owned firms have the same investment opportunities in these zones as Chilean firms. The process for setting up a subsidiary is the same inside as outside the zones, regardless of whether the company is domestic or foreign-owned. Zofri is the main FTZ located in Iquique.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Chile mandates that 85 percent of workforces must be local employees.  Exceptions are described in Section 11. The costs associated with migration regulations do not significantly inhibit the mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

Chile does not follow “forced localization.”  A draft bill that moved forward in Congress and is currently pending final approval could result in additional requirements (owner’s consent) for international data transfers in cases involving jurisdictions with data protection regimes below Chile’s standards.  The bill also proposes the creation of an independent Chilean Data Protection Agency that would be responsible for enforcing data protection standards. Private sector legal experts believe that this draft legislation would impose fewer restrictions on the international transfer of commercial data compared to current U.S. law.

Neither Chile’s Foreign Investment Promotion Agency nor the Central Bank applies performance requirements in their reviews of proposed investment projects.  The investment chapter in the U.S.–Chile FTA establishes rules prohibiting performance requirements that apply to all investments, whether by a third party or domestic investors.  The FTA investment chapter also regulates the use of mandatory performance requirements as a condition for receiving incentives and spells out certain exceptions. These include government procurement, qualifications for export and foreign aid programs, and non-discriminatory health, safety, and environmental requirements.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in real property are recognized and generally enforced in Chile.  Chile ranked 61 out of 190 economies in the “Registering Property” category of the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report.  There is a recognized and generally reliable system for recording mortgages and other forms of liens.

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

Unoccupied properties can always be claimed by their legal owners and, as usurpation is criminalized, several kinds of eviction procedures are allowed by the law.

Intellectual Property Rights

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

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Country Profile study, no new IP-related laws were enacted in 2018.  A draft bill submitted to Congress in October 2018 would reform Chile’s Industrial Property Law. The new IP bill aims to reduce timeframes, modernize procedures and increase legal certainty for patents and trademarks registration.  On April 9, 2019, the Lower Chamber passed the bill, and it moved to the Senate for a vote.

The Chilean Senate passed a Pharmaceutical Law (Farmacos II) bill in January 2018 “to further modernize local pharmaceutical regulations and provide greater and more informed pharmaceutical access to the Chilean population.”  In addition to problematic provisions related to labeling and prescriptions, the bill introduced for the first time the concept of “economic accessibility” as a criterion that could be used to justify importation of generic medicines despite the existence of a patented drug in the market.

On March 9, 2018, on the last working day of the Bachelet government, the outgoing Minister of Health issued a resolution that allows the government to issue compulsory licenses (CLs) for patent-protected hepatitis C drugs.  Resolution 399 stipulates a “public interest” that justifies granting one or more CLs for the exploitation of patents protecting the active ingredient Sofosbuvir, useful for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. The Ministry of Health subsequently upheld Resolution 399 through Resolution 1165.

As of April 2019, the Farmacos II bill is still pending Chamber approval.  Although the Piñera administration revised the bill to address several problematic trademark-related provisions in May 2018, members of the Chamber’s opposition-controlled Health Committee reincorporated most of these provisions through the amendment process.  The committee then took the more troubling step of introducing into Farmacos II, for the first time, amendments that stipulate the criteria and process for issuance of a compulsory license.

The Intellectual Property Brigade (BRIDEPI) of the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI) reported that in 2018 Chile seized 1,041,708 items which amounted to USD 9.4 million (a 32.6 percent increase compared to 2017), and arrested 56 individuals on charges related to IPR infringement.  The National Customs Service seized more than 7 million counterfeit products in 2018, worth a total of nearly USD 103 million. These seizures included 113.5 million cigarette boxes and 3.3 million products that violated health regulations (medicines, cosmetics, toys and food).

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

Chile has been included on the Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL) since January 8, 2007, and remains on the 2019 Priority Watch List.  In October 2018, Chile’s Congress successfully passed a law that criminalizes satellite piracy. However, other big challenges remain, related to longstanding IPR issues under the U.S.-Chile FTA: the implementation of measures against circumvention of technological protection; pending implementation of UPOV 91; the implementation of effective patent linkage in connection with applications to market pharmaceutical products; adequate protection for undisclosed data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products; and amendments to Chile’s Internet Service Provider liability regime to permit effective action against internet piracy.

Chile is not listed in the USTR’s Notorious Markets List.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Chile’s authorities are committed to developing capital markets and keeping them open to foreign portfolio investors.  Foreign firms offer services in Chile in areas such as financial information, data processing, financial advisory services, portfolio management, voluntary saving plans and pension funds.  Under the U.S.-Chile FTA, Chile opened up its insurance sectorwith very limited exceptions. The Santiago Stock Exchange is Chile’s dominant stock exchange, and the third largest in Latin America.  However, when compared to other OECD countries, it does not rank high in terms of market liquidity.

Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into Chile’s product and factor markets and adjustment to external shocks in a commodity-dependent economy.  Chile accepts the obligations of Article VIII (sections 2, 3 and 4) and maintains a free-floating exchange rate system, free of restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.  Credit is allocated on market terms and its various instruments are available to foreigners. The Central Bank does reserve the right to restrict foreign investors’ access to internal credit if a credit shortage exists.  To date, this authority has not been exercised.

Money and Banking System

Nearly a quarter of Chileans have a credit card from a bank and nearly one third have a non-bank credit card, but a lower proportion (16 percent) has a checking account.  However, financial inclusion is higher than banking penetration: a large number of lower-income Chilean residents have a CuentaRut, which is a commission-free card with an electronic account available for all, launched by the state-owned Banco Estado, also the largest provider of microcredit in Chile.

The Chilean banking system is healthy and competitive, and many Chilean banks already meet Basel III standards, which are part of a reform to the General Banking Law, enacted in January 2019 (Basel III standards will be introduced gradually over the next several years). Capital adequacy ratio of the system is slightly above 13 percent as of January 2019 and remains robust even when including discounts due to market and/or operational risks. Non-performing loans are below two percent when measured by the standard 90 days past due criterion.

The Chilean banking system’s total assets, as of February 2019, amounted to USD 371.9 billion, according to the Superintendence of Banks and Financial Institutions.  The largest four banks account for approximately 65 percent of banking assets (Banco Santander-Chile, Banco de Credito e Inversiones, Banco de Chile and Banco Estado).  Chile’s Central Bank conducts the country’s monetary policy, is constitutionally autonomous from the government, and is not subject to regulation by the Superintendence of Banks.

Foreign banks have an important presence in Chile.  Out of 18 banks currently in Chile, five are foreign-owned but legally established in Chile and four are branches of foreign banks.  Both categories are subject to the requirements set out under the Chilean banking law. There are also 21 representative offices of foreign banks in Chile.  There are no reports of correspondent banking relationships withdrawal in Chile.

In order to open a bank account in Chile, a foreigner must present his/her Chilean ID Card or passport, Chilean tax ID number, proof of address, proof of income/solvency, photo, and fingerprints.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Law 20.848, which regulates FDI (described in section 1), prohibits arbitrary discrimination against foreign investors and guarantees access to the formal foreign exchange market, as well as the free remittance of capital and profits generated by investments.  There are no other restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors for the conversion, transfer or remittance of funds associated with an investment.

Investors, importers, and others have unrestricted access to foreign exchange in the official inter-bank currency market.  The Central Bank reserves the right to deny access to the inter-bank currency market for royalty payments in excess of five percent of sales.  The same restriction applies to payments for the use of patents that exceed five percent of sales. In such cases, firms would have access to the informal market.  The Chilean tax service reserves the right to prevent royalties of over five percent of sales from being counted as expenses for domestic tax purposes.

Chile has a free-floating (flexible) exchange rate system.  Exchange rates of foreign currencies are fully determined by the market.  The Central Bank reserves the right to intervene (and seldom uses it in practice) under exceptional circumstances to correct significant deviations of the currency from its fundamentals.

Remittance Policies

Remittances of profits generated by investments are allowed at any time after tax obligations are fulfilled; remittances of capital can be made after one year since the date of entry into the country.  In practice, this permanency requirement does not constitute a restriction for productive investment, because projects normally need more than one year to mature. Under the investment chapter of the U.S.–Chile FTA, the parties must allow free and immediate transfer of covered investments into and out of its territory.  These include transfers of profits, royalties, sales proceeds, and other remittances related to the investment. However, for certain types of short-term capital flows this chapter allows Chile to impose transfer restrictions for up to 12 months as long as those restrictions do not substantially impede transfers. If restrictions are found to impede transfers substantially, damages accrue from the date of the initiation of the measure.  In practice, these restrictions have not been applied in the last two decades.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Chile has two sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) where the government deposits savings from effective fiscal surpluses.  The Economic and Social Stabilization Fund (FEES) was established in 2007 and was valued at USD 14.2 billion as of February 2019.  The FEES seeks to fund public debt payments and temporary deficit spending, in order to keep a countercyclical fiscal policy. The Pensions Reserve Fund (FRP) was built up in 2006 and amounted to USD 10 billion as of February 2019.  The purpose of the FRP is to anticipate future needs of payments to those eligible to receive pensions, but whose contributions to the private pension system fall below a minimum threshold.

Chile is a member of the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IWG) and adheres to the Santiago Principles.

Chile’s government policy is to invest SWFs abroad into instruments denominated in foreign currencies.  As of February 2019, FEES’ portfolio consisted of 55.5 percent of sovereign bonds, 3.5 percent of inflation-indexed sovereign bonds, 33.8 percent of money market instruments and 7.2 percent of stocks.  At the same date, FRP’s portfolio consisted of 38.0 percent of sovereign bonds and related instruments, 10.8 percent of inflation-indexed sovereign bonds, 21.0 percent of corporate and high-yield bonds, 5.9 percent of mortgage backed securities from U.S. agencies and 24.3 percent of stocks.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Awareness of the need to ensure corporate social responsibility has grown over the last two decades in Chile.  However, NGOs and academics who monitor this issue believe that risk mapping and management practices still do not sufficiently incorporate its importance.

The government of Chile encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) principles and uses the United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference statements as its principal reference.  Chile adhered in 1997 to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. It also recognizes the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy; the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles and the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility.  The government established a National Contact Point (NCP) for OECD MNE guidelines located at the General Directorate for International Economic Relations, and recently created the Responsible Business Conduct Department, whose chief is also the NCP. On August 21, 2017 Chile released its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights based on the UN Guiding Principles.  Separately, the Council on Social Responsibility for Sustainable Development, coordinated by Chile’s Ministry of Economy, is currently developing a National Policy on Social Responsibility.

Regarding procurement decisions, ChileCompra, the agency in charge of centralizing Chile’s public procurement, incorporates the existence of a Clean Production Certificate and an ISO 14001-2004 certificate on environmental management as part of its criteria to assign public purchases.

No high profile, controversial instances of corporate impact on human rights have occurred in Chile in recent years.

The Chilean government effectively and fairly enforces domestic labor, employment, consumer, and environmental protection laws.  There are no dispute settlement cases against Chile related to the Labor and Environment Chapters of the Free Trade Agreements signed by Chile.

Regarding the protection of shareholders, the Superintendence of Securities and Insurance (SVS) has the responsibility of regulating and supervising all listed companies in Chile.  Companies are generally required to have an audit committee, a directors committee, an anti-money laundering committee and an anti-terrorism finance committee. Laws do not require companies to have a nominating/corporate governance committee or a compensation committee.  Compensation programs are typically established by the board of directors and/or the directors committee.

Independent NGOs in Chile promote and freely monitor RBC.  Examples include NGO Accion RSE: http://www.accionrse.cl/, the Catholic University of Valparaiso’s Center for Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development VINCULAR: http://www.vincular.cl/ , ProHumana Foundation and the Andres Bello University’s Center Vitrina Ambiental.

Chile is an OECD member, but is not participating actively in the implementation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas.

Chile is not part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

9. Corruption

Chile applies, in a non-discriminatory manner, various laws to combat corruption of public officials, including the 2009 Transparency Law that mandated disclosure of public information related to all areas of government and created an autonomous Transparency Council in charge of overseeing its application.  In 2018, a new provision of law expanded the number of public trust positions required to release financial disclosure, mandated disclosure in greater detail, and allowed for stronger penalties for noncompliance.

Anti-corruption laws do extend to family members of officials, in particular mandatory asset disclosure, and a draft bill incorporating restrictions on appointments and incompatibilities for family members of public officials has been submitted to Congress.  Political parties are subject to laws that limit campaign financing and require transparency in party governance and contributions to parties and campaigns.

Regarding government procurement, the website of ChileCompra (central public procurement agency) allows users to anonymously report irregularities in procurement.  There is a decree that defines sanctions for public officials who do not adequately justify direct contracts.

The Corporate Criminal Liability Law provides that corporate entities can have their compliance programs certified.  Chile’s Securities and Insurance Superintendence (SVS) authorizes a group of local firms to review companies’ compliance programs and certify them as sufficient. Certifying firms are listed on the SVS website.

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

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

NGO’s that investigate corruption operate in a free and adequately protected manner.

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

Resources to Report Corruption

Raul Ferrada
Director General
Consejo para la Transparencia
Morande 360 piso 7
(+56)-(2)-2495-2000
rferrada@consejotransparencia.cl

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

Renata Avila
Executive Director
Ciudadania Inteligente (Founder NGO of the Anticorruption Observatory)
Holanda 895, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
(+56)-(2)-2419-2770

10. Political and Security Environment

Since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, the incidence of political violence and civil disturbance has been generally low, and has had little impact on the Chilean economy.   During the last 20 years, there have been few incidents of politically motivated attacks on investment projects or installations with the exception of the southern Araucania region and its neighboring Arauco province in the southwest of Bio-Bio region. This area, home to nearly half million indigenous inhabitants, has seen a growing trend of politically motivated violence.  Land claims and conflicts with forestry companies are the main grievances underneath the radicalization of a relatively small number of indigenous Mapuche communities, which has led to the rise of organized groups that pursue their demands by violent means. Incidents include arson attacks on churches, farms, facilities at forestry plantations, and forestry contractors’ machinery and vehicles, as well as occupation of private lands, resulting in over a half-dozen deaths (including some by police forces), injuries, and damage to property. In 2018, the government announced special measures and policies towards the Araucania region. However, the indigenous issue has been further politicized due to anger among landowners, forestry transport contractors and farmers affected by violence, as well as the illegal killing of a young Mapuche activist by special police forces in 2018 and the controversy over accusations of fraud by the police during the investigation of indigenous organized groups.

Since 2011, there have been occasional incidents of vandalism of storefronts and public transport during student and labor groups’ protests, some of which included violent incidents.  Since 2007, Chile has experienced a number of small-scale attacks with explosive and incendiary devices, targeting mostly banks, police stations and public spaces throughout Santiago, including ATM’s, metro stations, universities and churches.  Anarchist groups often claim responsibility for these acts, as they also have been involved in incidents during student and labor protests. In January 2017, an eco-terrorist group claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb that detonated at the home of the chairman of the board of Chilean state-owned mining giant CODELCO.  The same group detonated a bomb of similar characteristics on January 4, 2019 at a bus stop in downtown Santiago, causing five injuries. The investigation of both crimes is still ongoing at the time of this report.

On occasions, illegal activity by striking workers resulted in damage to corporate property or a disruption of operations. Some firms have publically expressed concern that during a contentious strike, law enforcement has appeared to be reluctant to protect private property.

Civil disturbance is not present at levels that could put investments at risk or destabilize the government.  Chilean civil society is active and demonstrations occur frequently. Although the vast majority of demonstrations are peaceful, on occasion protestors have veered off pre-approved routes.  In a few instances, criminal elements have taken advantage of civil society protests to loot stores along the protest route and have clashed with the police. Demonstrations on March 29, the Day of the Young Combatant, and September 11, the anniversary of the 1973 coup against the government of President Salvador Allende, have in the past resulted in damage to property.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Unemployment in Chile averaged 6.9 percent of the labor force during 2018, while the labor participation rate was 59.7 percent of the working age population.  Immigrants account for nearly nine percent of the labor force. Chilean workers are adequately skilled and some sectors such as mining, agriculture, and fishing employ highly skilled workers.  In general, there is an adequate availability of technicians and professionals. Data on informality are not available for Chile in the ILO databases, but recent estimations made by the National Institute of Statistics suggest informal employment in Chile constitutes 30 percent of the workforce.

Article 19 of the Labor Code stipulates that employers must hire Chileans at least for 85 percent of their staff, except in the case of firms with less than 25 employees. However, Article 20 of the Labor Code includes several provisions under which foreign employees can exceed 25 percent, independent of the size of the company. 

In general, employees who have been working for at least one year are entitled to a statutory severance pay, upon dismissal without cause, equivalent to 30 days of the last monthly remuneration earned, for each year of service.  The upper limit is 330 days (11 years of service) for workers with a contract in force for one year or more. The same amount is payable to a worker whose contract is terminated for economic reasons. Upon termination, regardless of the reason, domestic workers are entitled to an unemployment insurance benefit funded by the employee and employer contributions to an individual unemployment fund equivalent to three percent of the monthly remuneration.  The employer’s contributions shall be paid for a maximum of 11 years by the same employer. Another fund made up of employer and government contributions is used for complementary unemployment payments when needed.

Labor and environmental laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investments.

According to the Labor Directorate, 1,139,955 workers (13.9 percent of Chilean workers) belonged to a trade union in the last quarter of 2016 (latest data available), when 11,653 unions were active.  In the same period, 347,142 workers (4.2 percent of Chilean workers) were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Collective bargaining coverage rates are higher in the financial, mining, and manufacturing sectors.  Unions can form nationwide labor associations and can affiliate with international labor federations. Contracts are normally negotiated at the company level. Workers in public institutions do not have collective bargaining rights, but national public workers’ associations undertake annual negotiations with the government.

The Labor Directorate under the Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws and regulations.  Both employers and workers may request labor mediation from the Labor Directorate, which is an alternate dispute resolution model aimed at facilitating communication and agreement between both parties.

According to a report from the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES), during 2017, 128 legal strikes took place in sectors where collective bargaining is permitted (a smaller number in comparison to 2017 when there were 198 strikes).  31,799 workers were involved in total in strikes during 2016 (latest data available from the Labor Directorate). As legal strikes in Chile have a restricted scope and duration, in general they do not present a risk for foreign investment.

Chile has and generally enforces laws and regulations in accordance with internationally recognized labor rights of: freedom of association and collective bargaining; the elimination of forced labor; child labor, including the minimum age for work; discrimination with respect to employment and occupation; and acceptable conditions of work related to minimum wage, occupational safety and health, and hours of work.  The maximum number of labor hours allowed per week in Chile is 45. In September 2018, Congress approved a minimum wage increase, by which beginning March, 2019 the national minimum wage is CLP 301,000 – USD 444 – a month for all occupations, including domestic servants, more than twice the official poverty line. There is a special minimum wage of CLP 224,704 (USD 331) a month for workers age 65 and older and age 18 and younger.  There are no gaps in compliance with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors.

Collective bargaining is not allowed in companies or organizations dependent upon the Defense Ministry or whose employees are prohibited from striking, such as in health care, law enforcement, and public utilities.  Labor courts can require workers to resume work upon a determination that a strike causes serious risk to health, national security, the supply of goods or services to the population, or to the national economy.

The United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force on January 1, 2004.  The FTA requires the United States and Chile to maintain effective labor and environmental enforcement.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Since 2013, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) partnered with U.S. solar energy developers to finance five large-scale power facilities throughout the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.  Other OPIC-financed projects in the country include the run-of-river hydropower project Alto Maipo, and the toll road Vespucio Norte Express.

An OPIC Bilateral Investment Agreement between Chile and the United States took effect in 1984.  Chile is a party to the convention of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

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) (USD million) 2017 $281,452 2017 $277,076 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 (USD million, stock positions) 2017 $32,266 2017 $25,884 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States (USD million, stock positions) 2017 $10,334 2017 $2,097 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 100.3% 2017 109.6% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  

* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Chile.


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

According to the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS), total stock of FDI in Chile in 2017 amounted to USD 274.7 billion, compared to USD 248.6 billion in 2016.  The United States remains the main source of FDI to Chile with USD 31.7 billion, representing 12 percent of the total. The following top sources (Canada, Spain and the Netherlands) accounted for 25 percent of Chile’s inward FDI stock.  Cayman Islands, a tax haven, is Chile’s fifth source of FDI. Chile’s outward direct investment stock in 2017 remains concentrated in South America, where Brazil, Peru and Argentina together represented 31 percent of total Chilean outward FDI.  The United States accounted for 9 percent of the total.

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 274,653 100% Total Outward $123,643 100%
United States 31,750 12% Brazil $18,234 15%
Canada 26,647 10% Panama $15,232 12%
Spain  22,170 8% Peru $11,122 9%
Netherlands  17,899 7% United States $9,818 8%
Cayman Islands 9,179  4% Argentina $9,142 7%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

According to the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS), total stock of portfolio investment in Chile as of June 2018 amounted to USD 180.6 billion, of which USD 139 billion were equity and investment funds shares, and the rest were debt securities. The United States are the main source of portfolio investment to Chile with USD 55.6 billion, representing 31 percent of the total.  The following top source is Luxembourg (a tax haven), which is also the main source of equity investment, with 40 percent of the total. Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany are the following top sources of total portfolio investment to Chile, while Mexico and Japan are among the top five sources of debt securities investment.

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $180,621 100% All Countries $138,958 100% All Countries $41,663 100%
United States $55,613 31% Luxembourg $55,007 40% United States $15,571 37%
Luxembourg $55,214 31% United States $40,042 29% Mexico $5,450 13%
Ireland $11,459 6% Ireland $11,412 8% Japan $4,239 10%
United Kingdom $6,743 4% United Kingdom $5,120 4% Germany $2,192 5%
Germany $6,556 4% Germany $4,364 3% United Kingdom $1,623 4%

14. Contact for More Information

Alexis Gutierrez
Economic Specialist
Avenida Andres Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
(56-2) 2330 3485
gutierrezaj@state.gov

Mexico

Executive Summary

Mexico is one of the United States’ top trade and investment partners.  Bilateral trade grew 650 percent 1993-2018 and Mexico is the United States’ second largest export market and third largest trading partner.  The United States is Mexico’s top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) with USD 12.3 billion (2018 flows) or 39 percent of all inflows to Mexico.

The Mexican economy has averaged 2.6 percent economic growth (GDP) 1994-2017.  Mexico has benefited since the 1994 Tequila Crisis from credible economic management that has allowed the country to weather a period of low oil prices and significant global volatility.  The fiscally prudent 2019 budget targets a one percent primary surplus, and the new government has upheld the Central Bank’s (Bank of Mexico) independence. Inflation at end-2018 was 4.8 percent, an improvement from 6.6 percent at the end of 2017, but still above the Bank of Mexico’s target of 3 percent due to peso depreciation against the U.S. Dollar and higher retail fuel prices caused by government efforts to stimulate competition in that sector.

The United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement ratification prospects for 2019 and a historic change in the Mexican government December 1, 2018 remain key sources of investment uncertainty.  The new administration has signaled its commitment to prudent fiscal and monetary policies since taking office. Still, conflicting policies, programs, and communication from the new administration have contributed to ongoing uncertainties, especially related to energy sector reforms and the financial health of state-owned oil company Pemex.  Most financial institutions, including the Bank of Mexico, have revised downward Mexico’s GDP growth expectations for 2019 to 1.6 percent (Banxico consensus). Major credit rating agencies have downgraded or put on a negative outlook Mexico’s sovereign and some institutional ratings.

The administration followed through on its campaign promises to cancel the new airport project, cut government employees’ salaries, suspend all energy auctions, and weaken autonomous institutions.  Uncertainty about contract enforcement, insecurity, and corruption also continue to hinder Mexican economic growth. These factors raise the cost of doing business in Mexico significantly.

Table 1:  Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 138 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 54 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 56 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $109,700 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $8,610 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Mexico is open to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the vast majority of economic sectors and has consistently been one of the largest emerging market recipients of FDI.  Mexico’s macroeconomic stability, large domestic market, growing consumer base, rising skilled labor pool, welcoming business climate, and proximity to the United States all help attract foreign investors.

Historically, the United States has been one of the largest sources of FDI in Mexico.  According to Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy, FDI flows to Mexico from the United States totaled USD 12.3 billion in 2018, nearly 39 percent of all inflows to Mexico (USD 31.6 billion).  The automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, and electronics sectors typically receive large amounts of FDI. Most foreign investment flows to northern states near the U.S. border, where most maquiladoras (export-oriented manufacturing and assembly plants) are located, or to Mexico City and the nearby “El Bajio” (e.g. Guanajuato, Queretaro, etc.) region.  In the past, foreign investors have overlooked Mexico’s southern states, although that may change if the new administration’s focus on attracting investment to the region gain traction.

The 1993 Foreign Investment Law, last updated in March 2017, governs foreign investment in Mexico.  The law is consistent with the foreign investment chapter of NAFTA. It provides national treatment, eliminates performance requirements for most foreign investment projects, and liberalizes criteria for automatic approval of foreign investment.  The Foreign Investment Law provides details on which business sectors are open to foreign investors and to what extent. Mexico is also a party to several Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreements covering foreign investment, notably the Codes of Liberalization of Capital Movements and the National Treatment Instrument.

The new administration stopped funding ProMexico, the government’s investment promotion agency, and is integrating its components into other ministries and offices.  PROMTEL, the government agency charged with encouraging investment in the telecom sector, is expected to continue operations with a more limited mandate. Its first director and four other senior staff recently left the agency.  In April 2019, the government sent robust participation to the 11th CEO Dialogue and Business Summit for Investment in Mexico sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Mexican equivalent, CCE. Cabinet-level officials conveyed the Mexican government’s economic development and investment priorities to dozens of CEOs and business leaders.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Mexico reserves certain sectors, in whole or in part, for the State including:  petroleum and other hydrocarbons; control of the national electric system, radioactive materials, telegraphic and postal services; nuclear energy generation; coinage and printing of money; and control, supervision, and surveillance of ports of entry.  Certain professional and technical services, development banks, and the land transportation of passengers, tourists, and cargo (not including courier and parcel services) are reserved entirely for Mexican nationals. See section six for restrictions on foreign ownership of certain real estate.

Reforms in the energy, power generation, telecommunications, and retail fuel sales sectors have liberalized access for foreign investors.  While reforms have not led to the privatization of state-owned enterprises such as Pemex or the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), they have allowed private firms to participate.

Hydrocarbons:  Private companies participate in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction activities through contracts with the government under four categories:  competitive contracts, joint ventures, profit sharing agreements, and license contracts. All contracts must include a clause stating subsoil hydrocarbons are owned by the State.  The government has held four separate bid sessions allowing private companies to bid on exploration and development of oil and gas resources in blocks around the country. In 2017, Mexico successfully auctioned 70 land, shallow, and deep water blocks with significant interest from international oil companies.  The Lopez Obrador administration decided to suspend all future auctions until 2022.

Telecommunications:  Mexican law states telecommunications and broadcasting activities are public services and the government will at all times maintain ownership of the radio spectrum.

Aviation:  The Foreign Investment Law limited foreign ownership of national air transportation to 25 percent until March 2017, when the limit was increased to 49 percent.

Under existing NAFTA provisions, U.S. and Canadian investors receive national and most-favored-nation treatment in setting up operations or acquiring firms in Mexico.  Exceptions exist for investments restricted under NAFTA. Currently, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have the right to settle any dispute or claim under NAFTA through international arbitration.  Local Mexican governments must also accord national treatment to investors from NAFTA countries.

Approximately 95 percent of all foreign investment transactions do not require government approval.  Foreign investments that require government authorization and do not exceed USD 165 million are automatically approved, unless the proposed investment is in a legally reserved sector.

The National Foreign Investment Commission under the Secretariat of the Economy is the government authority that determines whether an investment in restricted sectors may move forward.  The Commission has 45 business days after submission of an investment request to make a decision. Criteria for approval include employment and training considerations, and contributions to technology, productivity, and competitiveness.  The Commission may reject applications to acquire Mexican companies for national security reasons. The Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE) must issue a permit for foreigners to establish or change the nature of Mexican companies.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) completed a trade policy review of Mexico in February 2017 covering the period to year-end 2016.  The review noted the positive contributions of reforms implemented 2013-2016 and cited Mexico’s development of “Digital Windows” for clearing customs procedures as a significant new development since the last review.

The full review can be accessed via:  https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp452_e.htm  .

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank, on average registering a foreign-owned company in Mexico requires 11 procedures and 31 days.  In 2016, then-President Pena Nieto signed a law creating a new category of simplified businesses called Sociedad for Acciones Simplificadas (SAS).  Owners of SASs will be able to register a new company online in 24 hours.  The Government of Mexico maintains a business registration website:  www.tuempresa.gob.mx  .  Companies operating in Mexico must register with the tax authority (Servicio de Administration y Tributaria or SAT), the Secretariat of the Economy, and the Public Registry.  Additionally, companies engaging in international trade must register with the Registry of Importers, while foreign-owned companies must register with the National Registry of Foreign Investments.

Outward Investment

In the past, ProMexico was responsible for promoting Mexican outward investment and provided assistance to Mexican firms acquiring or establishing joint ventures with foreign firms, participating in international tenders, and establishing franchise operations, among other services.  Various offices at the Secretariat of Economy and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs now handle these issues. Mexico does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Bilateral Investment Treaties

On November 30, 2018, leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed a trade agreement to replace and modernize NAFTA – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.  The agreement is now pending ratification by all three countries’ legislatures. The agreement contains an investment chapter.

Mexico has signed 13 FTAs covering 50 countries and 32 Reciprocal Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements covering 33 countries.  Mexico is a member of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which entered into force December 30, 2018.  Mexico currently has 29 Bilateral Investment Treaties in force. Mexico and the European Union signed an agreement in principle to revise its FTA.

Bilateral Taxation Treaties

The United States-Mexico Income Tax Convention, which came into effect January 1, 1994, governs bilateral taxation between the two nations.  Mexico has negotiated double taxation agreements with 55 countries. Recent reductions in U.S. corporate tax rates may drive a future change to the Mexican fiscal code, but there is no formal legislation under consideration.

3. Legal Regime

International Regulatory Considerations

Generally speaking, the Mexican government has established legal, regulatory, and accounting systems that are transparent and consistent with international norms.  Still, the Lopez Obrador administration has publicly questioned the value of specific anti-trust and energy regulators. Furthermore, corruption continues to affect equal enforcement of some regulations.  The Lopez Obrador administration has an ambitious plan to centralize government procurement in an effort to root out corruption and generate efficiencies.  The administration estimates it can save up to USD 25 billion annually by consolidating government purchases in the Mexican Secretariat of Finance (Hacienda).  Under the current decentralized process, more than 70 percent of government contracts are sole-sourced, interagency consolidated purchases are uncommon, and the entire process is susceptible to corruption.  The Mexican government’s budget is published online and readily available.  The Bank of Mexico also publishes and maintains data about the country’s finances and debt obligations.

The Federal Commission on Regulatory Improvement (COFEMER), within the Secretariat of Economy, is the agency responsible for streamlining federal and sub-national regulation and reducing the regulatory burden on business.  Mexican law requires Secretariats and regulatory agencies to conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations. Assessments are made available for public comment via COFEMER’s website: www.cofemer.gob.mx  .  The official gazette of state and federal laws currently in force in Mexico is publicly available via:  http://www.ordenjuridico.gob.mx/  .

Mexico’s antitrust agency, the Federal Commission for Economic Competition (COFECE), plays a key role protecting, promoting, and ensuring a competitive free market in Mexico.  COFECE is responsible for eliminating barriers both to competition and free market entry across the economy (except for the telecommunications sector, which is governed by its own competition authority) and for identifying and regulating access to essential production inputs.

In addition to COFECE, the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and National Hydrocarbon Commission (CNH) are both technically-oriented independent agencies that play important roles in regulating the energy and hydrocarbons sectors.  CRE regulates national electricity generation, coverage, distribution, and commercialization, as well as the transportation, distribution, and storage of oil, gas, and biofuels. CNH supervises and regulates oil and gas exploration and production and issues oil and gas upstream (exploration/production) concessions.

Investors are increasingly concerned the administration is undermining confidence in the “rules of the game,” particularly in the energy sector, by weakening the political autonomy of COFECE, CNH, and CRE.  The administration appointed four of seven CRE commissioners over the Senate’s objections, which voted twice to reject the nominees in part due to concerns their appointments would erode the CRE’s political autonomy.  The administration’s budget cuts resulted in significant layoffs, which has reportedly hampered the agencies’ ability to carry out its work, a key factor in investment decisions.

The Secretariat of Public Administration has made considerable strides in improving transparency in government, including government contracting and involvement of the private sector in enhancing transparency and fighting corruption.  The Mexican government has established four internet sites to increase transparency of government processes and to establish guidelines for the conduct of government officials: (1) Normateca (http://normatecainterna.sep.gob.mx  ) provides information on government regulations; (2) Compranet (https://compranet.funcionpublica.gob.mx  ) displays federal government procurement actions on-line; (3) Tramitanet (www.tramitanetmexico.com  ) permits electronic processing of transactions within the bureaucracy; and (4) Declaranet (https://declaranet.gob.mx/  ) allows federal employees to file income taxes online.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Since the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Mexico has had an inquisitorial system adopted from Europe in which proceedings were largely carried out in writing and sealed from public view.  Mexico amended its Constitution in 2008 to facilitate change to an oral accusatorial criminal justice system to better combat corruption, encourage transparency and efficiency, while ensuring respect for the fundamental rights of both the victim and the accused.  An ensuing National Code of Criminal Procedure passed in 2014, and is applicable to all 32 states. The national procedural code is coupled with each state’s criminal code to provide the legal framework for the new accusatorial system, which allows for oral, public trials with the right of the defendant to face his/her accuser and challenge evidence presented against him/her, right to counsel, due process and other guarantees.  Mexico fully adopted the new accusatorial criminal justice system at the state and federal levels in June 2016.

Mexico’s Commercial Code, which dates back to 1889, was most recently updated in 2014.  All commercial activities must abide by this code and other applicable mercantile laws, including commercial contracts and commercial dispute settlement measures.  Mexico has multiple specialized courts regarding fiscal, labor, economic competition, broadcasting, telecommunications, and agrarian law.

The judicial branch is nominally independent from the executive.  Following a reform passed in February 2014, the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduria General de la Republica or PGR) became autonomous of the executive branch, as the Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalia General de la Republica or FGR).  The Mexican Senate confirmed Mexico’s first Fiscal on January 18, 2019.  The Fiscal will serve a nine-year term, intended to insulate his office from the executive branch, whose members serve six-year terms.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Mexico’s Foreign Investment Law sets the rules governing foreign investment into the country.  The National Commission for Foreign Investments, formed by several cabinet-level ministries including Interior (SEGOB), Foreign Relations (SRE), Finance (Hacienda), Economy (SE), and Social Development (SEDESOL), establishes the criteria for administering investment rules.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Mexico has two constitutionally autonomous regulators to govern matters of competition – the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) and the Federal Commission for Economic Competition (COFECE).  IFT governs broadcasting and telecommunications, while COFECE regulates all other sectors. For more information on competition issues in Mexico, please visit COFECE’s bilingual website at: www.cofece.mx  .

Expropriation and Compensation

Mexico may not expropriate property under NAFTA, except for public purpose and on a non-discriminatory basis.  Expropriations are governed by international law and require rapid fair market value compensation, including accrued interest.  Investors have the right to international arbitration for violations of this or any other rights included in the investment chapter of NAFTA.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Mexico ratified the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention) in 1971 and has codified this into domestic law.  Mexico is also a signatory to the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (1975 Panama Convention) and the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States.  Mexico is not a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (ICSID Convention), even though many of the investment agreements signed by Mexico include ICSID arbitration as a dispute settlement option.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Chapters 11, 19, and 20 of the existing NAFTA cover international dispute resolution.  Chapter 11 allows a NAFTA Party investor to seek monetary damages for violations of its provisions.  Investors may initiate arbitration against the NAFTA Party under the rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law) or through the ICSID Convention.  A NAFTA investor may also choose to use the domestic court system to litigate their case. The USMCA contains revisions to these chapters, but will not enter into force until all three countries have ratified the agreement.

Since NAFTA’s inception, there have been 17 cases filed against Mexico by U.S. and Canadian investors who allege expropriation and/or other violations of Mexico’s NAFTA obligations.  Details of the cases can be found at: https://www.state.gov/s/l/c3742.htm.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Arbitration Center of Mexico (CAM) is a specialized, private institution administering commercial arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.  The average duration of an arbitration process conducted by CAM is 14 months. The Commercial Code dictates an arbitral award, regardless of the country where it originated, must be recognized as binding.  The award must be enforced after a formal written petition is presented to a judge.

The internal laws of both Pemex and CFE state all national disputes of any nature will have to be resolved by federal courts.  State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) and their productive subsidiaries may opt for alternative dispute settlement mechanisms under applicable commercial legislation and international treaties of which Mexico is a signatory.  When contracts are executed in a foreign country, Pemex and CFE have the option to follow procedures governed by non-Mexican law, to use foreign courts, or to participate in arbitration.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Mexico’s Reorganization and Bankruptcy Law (Ley de Concursos Mercantiles) governs bankruptcy and insolvency.  Congress approved modifications in 2014 in order to shorten procedural filing times and convey greater juridical certainty to all parties, including creditors.  Declaring bankruptcy is legal in Mexico and it may be granted to a private citizen, a business, or an individual business partner. Debtors, creditors, or the Attorney General can file a bankruptcy claim.  Mexico ranked 32 out of 190 countries for resolving insolvency in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report. The average bankruptcy filing takes 1.8 years to be resolved and recovers 64.7 cents per USD, which compares favorably to average recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean of just 30.9 cents per USD.  “Buró de Crédito” is Mexico’s main credit bureau.  More information on credit reports and ratings can be found at:  http://www.burodecredito.com.mx/  .

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Land grants or discounts, tax deductions, and technology, innovation, and workforce development funding are commonly used incentives.  Additional federal foreign trade incentives include: (1) IMMEX: a promotion which allows manufacturing sector companies to temporarily import inputs without paying general import tax and value added tax; (2) Import tax rebates on goods incorporated into products destined for export; and (3) Sectoral promotion programs allowing for preferential ad-valorem tariffs on imports of selected inputs.  Industries typically receiving sectoral promotion benefits are footwear, mining, chemicals, steel, textiles, apparel, and electronics.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The new administration launched a two-year program in January 2019 that established a border economic zone (BEZ) in 43 municipalities in six northern border states within 15.5 miles from the U.S. border.  The BEZ program entails: 1) a fiscal stimulus decree reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 16 percent to 8 percent and the Income Tax (ISR) from 30 percent to 20 percent, 2) a minimum wage increase to MXN 176.72 (USD 8.75) per day, and 3) the gradual harmonization of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and electricity rates with neighboring U.S. states.  The purpose of the BEZ program is to boost investment, promote productivity, and create more jobs in the region.  Interested businesses or individuals must apply to the government’s “Beneficiary Registry” by March 31 demonstrating income from border business activities comprise at least 90 percent of total income.  The company headquarters or branch must be located in the border region for at least 18 months prior to the application.  Sectors excluded from the preferential ISR rate include financial institutions, the agricultural sector, and export manufacturing companies (maquilas).

Separately, the administration announced plans to review and possibly end the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) program throughout the country.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Mexican labor law requires at least 90 percent of a company’s employees be Mexican nationals.  Employers can hire foreign workers in specialized positions as long as foreigners do not exceed 10 percent of all workers in that specialized category.  Mexico does not follow a “forced localization” policy—foreign investors are not required by law to use domestic content in goods or technology. However, investors intending to produce goods in Mexico for export to the United States should take note of the rules of origin prescriptions contained within NAFTA if they wish to benefit from NAFTA treatment.

Mexico does not have any policy of forced localization for data storage, nor must foreign information technology (IT) providers turn over source code or provide backdoors into hardware or software.  Within the constraints of the Federal Law on the Protection of Personal Data, Mexico does not impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Mexico ranked 103 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, falling four places from its 2018 report.  Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution guarantees the inviolable right to private property. Expropriation can only occur for public use and with due compensation.  Mexico has four categories of land tenure: private ownership, communal tenure (ejido), publicly owned, and ineligible for sale or transfer.

Mexico prohibits foreigners from acquiring title to residential real estate in so-called “restricted zones” within 50 kilometers (approximately 30 miles) of the nation’s coast and 100 kilometers (approximately 60 miles) of the borders.  “Restricted zones” cover roughly 40 percent of Mexico’s territory. Foreigners may acquire the effective use of residential property in “restricted zones” through the establishment of an extendable trust (fideicomiso) arranged through a Mexican financial institution.  Under this trust, the foreign investor obtains all property use rights, including the right to develop, sell, and transfer the property.  Real estate investors should be careful in performing due diligence to ensure that there are no other claimants to the property being purchased.  In some cases, fideicomiso arrangements have led to legal challenges.  U.S.-issued title insurance is available in Mexico and U.S. title insurers operate here.

Additionally, U.S. lending institutions have begun issuing mortgages to U.S. citizens purchasing real estate in Mexico.  The Public Register for Business and Property (Registro Publico de la Propiedad y de Comercio) maintains publicly available information online regarding land ownership, liens, mortgages, restrictions, etc.

Tenants and squatters are protected under Mexican law.  Property owners who encounter problems with tenants or squatters are advised to seek professional legal advice, as the legal process of eviction is complex.

Mexico has a nascent but growing financial securitization market for real estate and infrastructure investments, which investors can access via the purchase/sale of Fideocomisos de Infraestructura y Bienes Raíces (FIBRAs) and Certificates of Capital Development (CKDs) listed on Mexico’s BMV stock exchange.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property Rights in Mexico are covered by the Industrial Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial) and the Federal Copyright Law (Ley Federal del Derecho de Autor).  Responsibility for the protection of IPR is spread across several government authorities.  The Office of the Attorney General (PGR) oversees a specialized unit that prosecutes IPR crimes.  The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), the equivalent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, administers patent and trademark registrations, and handles administrative enforcement cases of IPR infringement.  The National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR) handles copyright registrations and mediates certain types of copyright disputes, while the Federal Commission for the Prevention from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) regulates pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and processed foods.  The Mexican Customs Service’s mandate includes ensuring illegal goods do not cross Mexico’s borders.

The process for trademark registration in Mexico normally takes six to eight months.  The registration process begins by filing an application with IMPI, which is published in the Official Gazette.  IMPI first undertakes a formalities examination, followed by a substantive examination to determine if the application and supporting documentation fulfills the requirements established by law and regulation to grant the trademark registration.  Once the determination is made, IMPI then publishes the registration in the Official Gazette. A trademark registration in Mexico is valid for 10 years from the filing date, and is renewable for 10-year periods. Any party can challenge a trademark registration through the new opposition system, or post-grant through a cancellation proceeding.  IMPI employs the following administrative procedures: nullity, expiration, opposition, cancellation, trademark, patent and copyright (trade-based) infringement. Once IMPI issues a decision, the affected party may challenge it through an internal reconsideration process or go directly to the Specialized IP Court for a nullity trial. An aggrieved party can then file an appeal with a Federal Appeal Court based on the Specialized IP Court’s decision.  In cases with an identifiable constitutional challenge, the plaintiff may file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice.

The USPTO has a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement with IMPI.  Under the PPH, an applicant receiving a ruling from either IMPI or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office expedite examination of the corresponding application.  The PPH leverages fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. The PPH permits USPTO and IMPI to benefit from work previously done by the other office, which reduces the examination workload and improves patent quality.

Mexico is plagued by widespread commercial-scale infringement that results in significant losses to Mexican, U.S., and other IPR owners.  There are many issues that have made it difficult to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico, including legislative loopholes; lack of coordination between federal, state, and municipal authorities; a cumbersome and lengthy judicial process; and widespread cultural acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting.  In addition, the involvement of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), which control the piracy and counterfeiting markets in parts of Mexico, continue to impede federal government efforts to improve IPR enforcement. TCO involvement has further illustrated the link between IPR crimes and illicit trafficking of other contraband, including arms and drugs.

Mexico remained on the Watch List in the 2019 Special 301 report.  Obstacles to U.S. trade include the wide availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in both physical and virtual notorious markets.  The 2018 USTR Out-Of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets listed two Mexican markets: Tepito in Mexico City and San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara.

Mexico is a signatory to numerous international IP treaties, including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

Resources for Rights Holders

  • Intellectual Property Rights Attaché for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

U.S. Trade Center
Liverpool No. 31 Col. Juárez
C.P. 06600 Mexico City
Tel: (52) 55 5080 2189

  • National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR)

Puebla No. 143
Col. Roma, Del. Cuauhtémoc
06700 México, D.F.
Tel: (52) 55 3601 8270
Fax: (52) 55 3601 8214
Web: http://www.indautor.gob.mx/  

  • Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI)

Periférico Sur No. 3106
Piso 9, Col. Jardines del Pedregal
Mexico, D.F., C.P. 01900
Tel: (52 55) 56 24 04 01 / 04
(52 55) 53 34 07 00
Fax: (52 55) 56 24 04 06
Web: http://www.impi.gob.mx/  

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Mexican government is generally open to foreign portfolio investments, and foreign investors trade actively in various public and private asset classes.  Foreign entities may freely invest in federal government securities. The Foreign Investment Law establishes foreign investors may hold 100 percent of the capital stock of any Mexican corporation or partnership, except in those few areas expressly subject to limitations under that law.  Foreign investors may also purchase non-voting shares through mutual funds, trusts, offshore funds, and American Depositary Receipts. They also have the right to buy directly limited or nonvoting shares as well as free subscription shares, or “B” shares, which carry voting rights. Foreigners may purchase an interest in “A” shares, which are normally reserved for Mexican citizens, through a neutral fund operated by one of Mexico’s six development banks.  Finally, Mexico offers federal, state, and local governments bonds that are rated by international credit rating agencies. The market for these securities has expanded rapidly in past years and foreign investors hold a significant stake of total federal issuances. However, foreigners are limited in their ability to purchase sub-sovereign state and municipal debt. Liquidity across asset classes is relatively deep.

Mexico established a fiscally transparent trust structure known as a FICAP in 2006 to allow venture and private equity funds to incorporate locally.  The Securities Market Law (Ley de Mercado de Valores) established the creation of three special investment vehicles which can provide more corporate and economic rights to shareholders than a normal corporation.  These categories are: (1) Investment Promotion Corporation (Sociedad Anonima de Promotora de Inversion or SAPI); (2) Stock Exchange Investment Promotion Corporation (Sociedad Anonima Promotora de Inversion Bursatil or SAPIB); and (3) Stock Exchange Corporation (Sociedad Anonima Bursatil or SAB).  Mexico also has a growing real estate investment trust market, locally referred to as Fideicomisos de Infraestructura y Bienes Raíces (FIBRAS) as well as FIBRAS-E, which allow for investment in non-real estate investment projects.  FIBRAS are regulated under Articles 187 and 188 of Mexican Federal Income Tax Law.

Money and Banking System

Financial sector reforms signed into law in 2014 have improved regulation and supervision of financial intermediaries and have fostered greater competition between financial services providers.  While access to financial services – particularly personal credit for formal sector workers – has expanded in the past four years, bank and credit penetration in Mexico remains low compared to OECD and emerging market peers.  Coupled with sound macroeconomic fundamentals, reforms have created a positive environment for the financial sector and capital markets. According to the National Banking Commission (CNBV), the banking system remains healthy and well capitalized.  Non-performing loans have fallen sixty percent since 2001 and now account for 2.1 percent of all loans.

Mexico’s banking sector is heavily concentrated and majority foreign-owned:  the seven largest banks control 85 percent of system assets and foreign-owned institutions control 70 percent of total assets.  Under NAFTA’s national treatment guarantee, U.S. securities firms and investment funds, acting through local subsidiaries, have the right to engage in the full range of activities permitted in Mexico.

Banco de Mexico (Banxico), Mexico’s central bank, maintains independence in operations and management by constitutional mandate.  Its main function is to provide domestic currency to the Mexican economy and to safeguard the Mexican Peso’s purchasing power by gearing monetary policy toward meeting a 3 percent inflation target over the medium term.

Mexico’s Financial Technology (FinTech) law came into effect in March 2018, creating a broad rubric for the development and regulation of innovative financial technologies.  Although investors await important secondary regulations that will fully define the rules of the game for FinTech firms, the law covers both cryptocurrencies and a regulatory “sandbox” for start-ups to test the viability of products, placing Mexico among the FinTech policy vanguard.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Government of Mexico maintains a free-floating exchange rate.

Mexico maintains open conversion and transfer policies.  In general, capital and investment transactions, remittance of profits, dividends, royalties, technical service fees, and travel expenses are handled at market-determined exchange rates.  Mexican Peso (MXN)/USD exchange is available on same day, 24- and 48-hour settlement bases. In order to prevent money-laundering transactions, Mexico imposes limits on USD cash deposits. Border- and tourist-area businesses may deposit more than USD 14,000 per month subject to reporting rules and providing justification for their need to conduct USD cash transactions.  Individuals are subject to a USD 4,000 per month USD cash deposit limit. In 2016, Banxico launched a central clearing house to allow for USD clearing services wholly within Mexico, which should improve clearing services significantly for domestic companies with USD income.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes in Mexico’s remittance policies.  Mexico continues to maintain open conversion and transfer policies.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Mexican Petroleum Fund for Stability and Development (FMP) was created as part of 2013 budgetary reforms.  Housed in Banxico, the fund distributes oil revenues to the national budget and a long-term savings account. The FMP incorporates the Santiago Principles for transparency, placing it among the most transparent Sovereign Wealth Funds in the world.  Both Banxico and Mexico’s Supreme Federal Auditor regularly audit the fund. Mexico is also a member of the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds. The Fund is expected to receive MXN 520.6 billion (approximately USD 26 billion) in income in 2019.  The FMP is required to publish quarterly and annual reports, which can be found at www.fmped.org.mx  .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Mexico’s private and public sectors have worked to promote and develop corporate social responsibility (CSR) during the past decade.  CSR in Mexico began as a philanthropic effort. It has evolved gradually to a more holistic approach, trying to match international standards such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Global Compact.

Responsible business conduct reporting has made progress in the last few years with more companies developing a corporate responsibility strategy.  The government has also made an effort to implement CSR in state owned companies such as Pemex, which has published corporate responsibility reports since 1999.  Recognizing the importance of CSR issues, the Mexican Stock Exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores) launched a sustainable companies index, which allows investors to specifically invest in those companies deemed to meet internationally accepted criteria for good corporate governance.

In October 2017, Mexico became the 53rd member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which represents an important milestone in its effort to establish transparency and public trust in its energy sector.

9. Corruption

Corruption exists in many forms in Mexican government and society, including corruption in the public sector (e.g., demand for bribes or kickbacks by government officials) and private sector (e.g., fraud, falsifying claims, etc.), as well as conflict of interest issues, which are not well defined in the Mexican legal framework.  A key pillar of President Lopez Obrador’s presidential campaign was combatting corruption at all levels of government.

Still, a significant concern is the complicity of government and law enforcement officials with criminal elements.  While public and private sector corruption is found in many countries, the collaboration of government actors (often due to intimidation and threats) with criminal organizations poses serious challenges for the rule of law in Mexico.  Some of the most common reports of official corruption involve government officials stealing from public coffers or demanding bribes in exchange for awarding public contracts. The current administration supported anti-corruption reforms (detailed below) and judicial proceedings in several high-profile corruption cases, including former governors.  However, Mexican civil society assert that the government must take more effective and frequent action to address corruption.

As described in Section 4, Mexico adopted a constitutional reform in 2014 to transform the current Office of the Attorney General into an Independent Prosecutor General’s office in order to shore up its independence.  President Lopez Obrador’s choice for Prosecutor General was confirmed by the Mexican Senate January 18, 2019. In 2015, Mexico passed a constitutional reform creating the National Anti-Corruption System (SNA) with an anti-corruption prosecutor and a citizens’ participation committee to oversee efforts.  The system is designed to provide a comprehensive framework for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of corruption cases, including delineating acts of corruption considered criminal acts under the law. The legal framework establishes a basis for holding private actors and private firms legally liable for acts of corruption involving public officials and encourages private firms to develop internal codes of conduct.  Implementation of the mandatory state-level anti-corruption legislation varies. .

The new laws mandate a redesign of the Secretariat of Public Administration to give it additional auditing and investigative functions and capacities in combatting public sector corruption.  The Mexican Congress approved legislation to change economic institutions, assigning new responsibilities and in some instances creating new entities.  Reforms to the federal government’s structure included the creation of a General Coordination of Development Programs to manage the newly created federal state coordinators (“superdelegates”) in charge of federal programs in each state.  The law also created the Secretariat of Public Security and Citizen Protection, and significantly expanded the power of the president’s Legal Advisory Office (Consejería Jurídica) to name and remove each federal agency’s legal advisor and clear all executive branch legal reforms before their submission to Congress.  The law eliminated financial units from ministries, with the exception of the Secretariat of Finance (SHCP), the army (SEDENA), and the navy (SEMAR), and transferred control of contracting offices in other ministries to the SHCP.  Separately, the law replaced the previous Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) with a Welfare Secretariat in charge of coordinating social policies, including those developed by other agencies such as health, education, and culture.  The Labor Secretariat gained additional tools to foster collective bargaining, union democracy, and to meet International Labor Organization (ILO) obligations.

Four opposition parties filed a legal challenge with the Supreme Court, which agreed January 18 to hear constitutional challenges to the law.  The legal challenge contends the reforms infringe on state powers and violate the balance of powers stipulated in the constitution.

Mexico ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery and passed its implementing legislation in May 1999.  The legislation includes provisions making it a criminal offense to bribe foreign officials. Mexico is also a party to the Organization of American States (OAS) Convention against Corruption and has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  The government has enacted or proposed strict laws attacking corruption and bribery, with average penalties of five to 10 years in prison.

Mexico is a member of the Open Government Partnership and enacted a Transparency and Access to Public Information Act in 2015, which revised the existing legal framework to expand national access to information.  Transparency in public administration at the federal level has noticeably improved, but access to information at the state and local level has been slow. According to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 138 of 180 nations, and has fallen every year since 2012.  Civil society organizations focused on fighting corruption are increasingly influential at the federal level, but are few in number and less powerful at the state and local levels.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2016-2017 found corruption is “the most problematic factor for doing business” in Mexico.  For example, the WEF notes bribes to facilitate procurement of necessary permits or government contracts can increase business costs by 10 percent. Business representatives, including from U.S. firms believe public funds are often diverted to private companies and individuals due to corruption and perceive favoritism to be widespread among government procurement officials.  The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal states compliance with procurement regulations by state bodies in Mexico is unreliable and that corruption is extensive, despite laws covering conflicts of interest, competitive bidding, and company blacklisting procedures.

The U.S. Embassy has engaged in a broad-based effort to work with Mexican agencies and civil society organizations in developing mechanisms to fight corruption and increase transparency and fair play in government procurement.  Efforts with specific business impact include government procurement best practices training and technical assistance under the U.S. Trade and Development Agency’s Global Procurement Initiative. In addition, USAID is working with SFP and Transparency International to drive adoption of the internationally accepted Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), as well as technical assistance to upgrade the Mexican government procurement system, CompraNet, to be based on OCDS and international best practices.  (CompraNet is also described in the regulatory transparency portion of Section 3, above.)

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Mexico ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2004.  It ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency:

Secretariat of Public Administration
Miguel Laurent 235, Mexico City
52-55-2000-1060

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Transparencia Mexicana
Dulce Olivia 73, Mexico City
52-55-5659-4714
Email: info@tm.org.mx

10. Political and Security Environment

Mass demonstrations are common in the larger metropolitan areas and in the southern Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca.  While political violence is rare, drug and organized crime-related violence has increased significantly in recent years.

The USD 2.7 billion Merida Initiative, launched by Presidents Calderon and Bush in 2008 and supported by bipartisan leaders in Congress, remains our primary mechanism to support Mexico in addressing significant security challenges at an institutional level.  Merida Initiative programs aim to strengthen Mexico’s security and judicial institutions by applying international standards of certification and accreditation to personnel and institutions across the criminal justice system, from the accreditation of police academies and corrections facilities to advanced training for judges, prosecutors, criminal analysts, and forensic lab technicians.  In addition, Merida Initiative programs have expanded over the past year in the areas of border security and counternarcotics, in line with new priorities set out by the Trump administration.

Companies have reported general security concerns remain an issue for companies looking to invest in the country.  The American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico estimates in a biannual report that security costs business as much as 5 percent of operating budgets.  Many companies choose to take extra precautions for the protection of their executives. They also report increasing security costs for shipments of goods.  The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) monitors and reports on regional security for U.S. businesses operating overseas. OSAC constituency is available to any U.S.-owned, not-for-profit organization, or any enterprise incorporated in the United States (parent company, not subsidiaries or divisions) doing business overseas (https://www.osac.gov/  ).

The Department of State maintains a Travel Advisory for U.S. citizens traveling and living in Mexico, available at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/mexico-travel-advisory.html

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Mexico’s 57.4 percent rate of informality remains higher than countries with similar GDP per capita levels.  High informality, defined as those working in unregistered firms or without social security protection, distorts labor market dynamics, contributes to persistent wage depression, drags overall productivity, and slows economic growth.  Mexico’s efforts to increase formality over the past four years reduced the rate by 2.4 percentage points, a modest decrease given the scope of the problem. In the formal economy, there is a general surplus of labor but a shortage of technically skilled workers and engineers.  Manufacturing companies, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border and in the states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Querétaro, report labor shortages and an inability to retain staff.

Mexico’s labor relations system has been widely criticized as skewed to represent the interests of employers and the government at the expense of workers.  Mexico’s legal framework governing collective bargaining created the possibility of negotiation and registration of initial collective bargaining agreements without the support or knowledge of the covered workers.  These agreements are commonly known as protection contracts and constitute a gap in practice with international labor standards regarding freedom of association. The percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements is between five and 10 percent.

The first element of a labor justice reform package was passed into law February 24, 2017, replacing biased tripartite dispute resolution entities (Conciliation and Arbitration Boards) with independent judicial bodies.  In terms of labor dispute resolution mechanisms, the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (CABs) previously adjudicated all individual and collective labor conflicts. The constitutional labor reform requires complementary revisions to the existing labor law.  The lower house of the Mexican Congress approved a bill with the requisite revisions in April 2019. Full congressional approval is expected once the Senate has also considered the bill.

Labor experts predict approval and implementation of the labor reform legislation, as required under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), will likely result in a greater level of labor actionas well as inter-union and intra-union competition.  Employer association and organized labor representatives agree, but differ on how much and how quickly labor actions will spread. The increasingly friendly political and legal environment for independent unions is already changing the way established unions manage disputes with employers, prompting more authentic collective bargaining.  As independent unions compete with corporatist unions to represent worker interests, workers are likely to be further emboldened in demanding higher wages.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), government enforcement was reasonably effective in enforcing labor laws in large and medium-sized companies, especially in factories run by U.S. companies and in other industries under federal jurisdiction.  Enforcement was inadequate in many small companies and in the agriculture and construction sectors, and it was nearly absent in the informal sector. Workers organizations have made numerous complaints of poor working conditions in maquiladoras and in the agricultural production industry.  Low wages, poor labor conditions, long work hours, unjustified dismissals, lack of social security benefits and safety in the workplace, and lack of freedom of association were among the most common complaints.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Mexico and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) finalized in 2004 the agreement enabling OPIC programs and services within the country.  Since then, OPIC has provided over USD 1 billion in financing and political risk insurance to support to more than 22 projects in Mexico. OPIC has announced a drive to catalyze an additional USD 1 billion in investments in Mexico and Central America by 2021.  In December 2018 OPIC announced the possibility of expanding its funding opportunities in Mexico to upwards of USD 5 billion. For more information on OPIC’s projects in Mexico, please consult OPIC’s website at https://www.opic.gov .

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

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

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 $1,220,000 2017 $1,150,000 www.worldbank.org/en/country  

https://inegi.org.mx/  

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 N/A* 2017 $109,600 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 N/A* 2017 $18,000 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 N/A* 2017 49.5% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  

*Mexico does not report total FDI stock, only flows of FDI.  https://datos.gob.mx/busca/organization/se  


Table 3:  Sources and Destination of FDI

The data included in the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey is consistent with Mexican government data.

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data, 2017
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $490,574 100% Total Outward $172,919 100%
United States $215,899 44% United States $73,199 42%
Netherlands $83,214 17% Netherlands $36,498 21%
Spain $53,483 11% United Kingdom $10,362 6%
United Kingdom $23,845 4.9% Brazil $9,532 5.5%
Canada $18,034 3.7% Spain $9,475 5.47%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4:  Sources of Portfolio Investment

The data included in the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) is consistent with Mexican government data.

Portfolio Investment Assets, June 2018
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $62,148 100% All Countries $39,738 100% All Countries $22,410 100%
United States $28,487 45.8% Not specified $21,340 54% United States $17,441 78%
Not specified $24,204 39% United States $11,046 28% Not specified $2,864 13%
Ireland $2,631 4.2% Ireland $2,631 6.7% Brazil $1,617 7%
Luxembourg $2,376 3.8% Luxembourg $2,376 6% Colombia $70 .3%
Brazil $1,655 2.7% United Kingdom $601 1.5% Netherlands $52 .2%

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section
Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, D.F.  06500
Mexico City
Email: EconDL@state.gov
+52 55 5080 2000

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future