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Israel

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Israel is open to foreign investment and the government actively encourages and supports the inflow of foreign capital.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s ‘Invest in Israel’ office serves as the government’s investment promotion agency facilitating foreign investment. ‘Invest in Israel’ offers a wide range of services including guidance on Israeli laws, regulation, taxes, incentives, and costs, and facilitation of business connections with peer companies and industry leaders for new investors. ‘Invest in Israel’ also organizes familiarization tours for potential investors and employs a team of advisors for each region of the world.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Israeli legal system protects the rights of both foreign and domestic entities to establish and own business enterprises, as well as the right to engage in remunerative activity. Private enterprises are free to establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises. As part of ongoing privatization efforts, the Israeli government encourages foreign investment in privatizing government-owned entities.

Israel’s policies aim to equalize competition between private and public enterprises, although the existence of monopolies and oligopolies in several sectors, including communications infrastructure, food manufacturing and marketing, and some manufacturing segments, stifles competition. In the case of designated monopolies, defined as entities that supply more than 50 percent of the market, the government controls prices.

Israel established a centralized investment screening (approval) mechanism for certain inbound foreign investments in October 2019. Investments in regulated industries (e.g., banking and insurance) require approval by the relevant regulator. Investments in certain sectors may require a government license. Other regulations may apply, usually on a national treatment basis.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducted its fifth and latest trade policy review of Israel in July 2018. In the past three years, the Israeli government has not conducted any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The OECD concluded an Economic Survey of Israel in 2020.

The 2020 OECD Economic Survey of Israel can be found at https://www.gov.il/BlobFolder/news/press_23092020_b/he/PressReleases_files_press_23092020_b_file.pdf 

Business Facilitation

The Israeli government is fairly open and receptive to companies wishing to register businesses in Israel. Israel ranked 28th in the “Starting a Business” category of the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, rising seventeen places from its 2019 ranking. Israel continues to institute reforms to make it easier to do business in Israel, but some challenges remain.

The business registration process in Israel is relatively clear and straightforward. Four procedures are required to register a standard private limited company and take 12 days to complete, on average, according to the Israeli Ministry of Finance. The foreign investor must obtain company registration documents through a recognized attorney with the Israeli Ministry of Justice and obtain a tax identification number for company taxation and for value added taxes (VAT) from the Israeli Ministry of Finance. The cost to register a company averages around USD 1,000 depending on attorney and legal fees.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s “Invest in Israel” website provides useful information for companies interested in starting a business or investing in Israel. The website is http://www.investinisrael.gov.il/Pages/default.aspx .

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute is an Israeli government agency operating independently, under the Ministry of Economy, that helps facilitate trade and business opportunities between Israeli and foreign companies. More information on their activities is available at http://www.export.gov.il/eng/About/About/ .

In general, there are no restrictions on Israeli investors seeking to invest abroad. However, investing abroad may be restricted on national security grounds or in certain countries or sectors where the Israeli government deems such investment is not in the national interest.

Israel has bilateral investment treaties in force with Japan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, China, Ethiopia, Serbia, Montenegro, Uruguay, Mongolia, Thailand, Belarus, Romania, Croatia, El Salvador, Armenia, Slovakia, South Korea, Cyprus, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Moldova, Turkey, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Albania, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. Israel has signed bilateral investment treaties with the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and Germany that are not yet in force.

Israel has free trade agreements with the European Union (EU), European Free Trade Association (a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Panama, Ukraine, Colombia, the United Kingdom, and Mercosur (an economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay).

The United States and Israel signed a free trade agreement in 1985.

Israel has a bilateral tax treaty with United States. Israel signed its Income Tax Treaty with the United States in 1975.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Israel has a modern legal system based on British common law that provides effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. Courts are independent. Israeli civil procedures provide that judgments of foreign courts may be accepted and enforced by local courts. The Israeli judicial system recognizes and enforces secured interests in property. A reliable system of recording such secured interests exists. The Israeli Land Administration, which manages land in Israel on behalf of the government, registers property transactions. Registering or obtaining land rights is a cumbersome process and Israel currently ranks 75th in “Registering Property” according to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Intellectual Property Law Division and the Israel Patent Office (ILPO), both within the Ministry of Justice, are the principal government authorities overseeing the legal protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Israel. IPR protection in Israel has undergone many changes in recent decades as the Israeli economy has rapidly transformed into a knowledge-based economy.

In recent years, Israel revised its IPR legal framework several times to comply with newly signed international treaties. Israel took stronger, more comprehensive steps towards protecting IPR, and the government acknowledges that IPR theft costs rights holders millions of dollars per year, reducing tax revenues and slowing economic growth.

The United States removed Israel from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report in 2014 after Israel passed patent legislation that satisfied the remaining commitments Israel made in a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States in 2010 concerning several longstanding issues regarding Israel’s IPR regime for pharmaceutical products. Israel has not been included in the Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List since.

Israel’s Knesset approved Amendment No. 5 to Israel’s Copyright Law of 2007 on January 1, 2019. The amendment aims to establish measures to combat copyright infringement on the internet while preserving the balance among copyright owners, internet users, and the free flow of information and free speech.

In July 2017, the Israeli Knesset passed the New Designs Bill, replacing Israel’s existing but obsolete ordinance governing industrial design. The bill, which came into force in August 2018, brings Israel into compliance with The Hague System for International Registration of Industrial designs.

Nevertheless, the United States remains concerned with the limitations of Israel’s copyright legislation, particularly related to digital copyright matters and with Israel’s interpretation of its commitment to protect data derived from pharmaceutical testing conducted in anticipation of the future marketing of biological products, also known as biologics.

While Israel has instituted several legislative improvements in recent years, the United States continues to urge Israel to strengthen and improve its IPR enforcement regime. Israel lacks specialized courts, common in other countries with advanced IPR regimes. General civil or administrative courts in Israel typically adjudicate IPR cases.

IPR theft, including trade secret misappropriation, can be common and relatively sophisticated in Israel. The European Commission “closely monitors” IP enforcement in Israel. The EC cites inadequate protection of innovative pharmaceutical products and end-user software piracy as the main issues with IPR enforcement in Israel.

Israel is a member of the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

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/ 

Resources for Rights Holders

Mr. Peter Mehravari
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi
Tel: +965 2259 1455
E-mail: Peter.Mehravari@trade.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) 2020/Q4 $40,900 per capita 2019 $394.6 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $29,800 2019 $28,543 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/sites/default/files/
2020-07/dici0720_0.pdf
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $12,000 2019 $36,641 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 4.7% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html  
 

* Source for Host Country Data:

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released final 2018 FDI data on March 23, 2020.

https://www.cbs.gov.il/en/mediarelease/Pages/2020/Foreign-Direct-Investment-in-Israel-and-Direct-Investment-Abroad-by-Industries-and-Countries-2016-2018.aspx

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 164,424 100% Total Outward 112,055 100%
United States 31,881 19% The Netherlands 48,903 44%
The Netherlands 12,850 8% United States 12,911 12%
Cayman Islands 12,302 7% Switzerland 3,177 3%
Canada 5,275 3% Japan 3,032 3%
China, P.R. 4,389 3% Canada 2,253 2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Destinations (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 175,628 100% All Countries 101,968 100% All Countries 73,660 100%
United States 97,245 55% United States 60,950 60% United States 36,295 49%
United Kingdom 12,977 7% United Kingdom 10,390 10% United Kingdom 2,587 4%
Luxembourg 9,205 5% Luxembourg 8,491 8% France 1,984 3%
France 6,159 4% Ireland 4,797 5% Netherlands, The 1,571 2%
Ireland 4,942 3% France 4,175 4% Germany 1,482 2%

Jordan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Jordan is largely open to foreign investment, and the government is committed to supporting foreign investment. Foreign and local investors are treated equally under the law. The Jordan Investment Commission (JIC) is the body responsible for implementing the 2014 Investment Law and promoting new and existing investment in Jordan, through a range of measures to incentivize and facilitate investment procedures.

The Investment Law established an Investment Council, comprised of the Prime Minister, ministers with economic portfolios, and representatives from the private sector, to oversee the management and development of national investment policy and propose legislative and economic reforms to facilitate investment.

The Investment Law also identifies JIC as the focal point for investors, capable of expediting the provision of government services and providing investment incentives such as tax and customs exemptions. The President of the Commission and the administrative team supervise and approve investment-related matters within the guidelines set by the Investment Council and approved by the government.

JIC oversees an investment-dedicated “Investment Window” to provide information and technical assistance to investors, with a mandate to simplify registration and licensing procedures for investment projects that benefit from the Investment Law. In 2018, the Commission launched a “Follow-Up and After Care” section with an aim to remove obstacles facing investors and find appropriate solutions as part of the investment process.

In 2018, the government issued the “Code of Governance Practices of Policies and Legislative Instruments in Government Departments for the Year 2018.” It aims to increase legislative predictability and stability to ensure the confidence of citizens and the business sector. The government developed guidelines for a regulatory impact assessment, to be adopted and implemented across all government entities by 2021.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Investment and property laws allow domestic and foreign entities to establish businesses that engage in remunerative activities.  Foreign companies may open regional and branch offices; branch offices may carry out full business activities and regional offices may serve as liaisons between head offices and Jordanian or regional clients.  The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply’s Companies Control Department implements the government’s policy on the establishment of regional and branch offices.

Foreign nationals and firms are permitted to own or lease property in Jordan for investment purposes and are allowed one residence for personal use, provided that their home country permits reciprocal property ownership rights for Jordanians.  Depending on the size and location of the property, the Land and Survey Department, the Ministry of Finance, and/or the Cabinet may need to approve foreign ownership of land and property, which must then be developed within five years of the date of approval.

In April 2019, the government amended its bylaw governing foreign ownership, expanding ownership percentage in some economic activities, while maintaining the following restrictions:

  • Foreigners are prohibited from wholly or partially owning investigation and security services, stone quarrying operations for construction purposes, customs clearance services, and bakeries of all kinds; and are prohibited from trading in weapons and fireworks.  The Cabinet, however, may approve foreign ownership of projects in these sectors upon the recommendation of the Investment Council.  To qualify for the exemption, projects must be categorized as being highly valuable to the national economy.
  • Foreigners are prohibited from wholly or partially owning investigation and security services, stone quarrying operations for construction purposes, customs clearance services, and bakeries of all kinds; and are prohibited from trading in weapons and fireworks.  The Cabinet, however, may approve foreign ownership of projects in these sectors upon the recommendation of the Investment Council.  To qualify for the exemption, projects must be categorized as being highly valuable to the national economy.
  • Investors are limited to 50 percent ownership in certain businesses and services, including retail and wholesale trading, engineering consultancy services, exchange houses apart from banks and financial services companies, maritime, air, and land transportation services, and related services.
  • Investors are limited to 50 percent ownership in certain businesses and services, including retail and wholesale trading, engineering consultancy services, exchange houses apart from banks and financial services companies, maritime, air, and land transportation services, and related services. • Foreign firms may not import goods without appointing an agent registered in Jordan; the agent may be a branch office or a wholly owned subsidiary of the foreign firm.  The agent’s connection to the foreign company must be direct, without a sub-agent or intermediary.  The Commercial Agents and Intermediaries Law No. 28/2001 governs contractual agreements between foreign firms and commercial agents.  Private foreign entities, whether licensed under sole foreign ownership or as a joint venture, compete on an equal basis with local companies.
  • Foreign firms may not import goods without appointing an agent registered in Jordan; the agent may be a branch office or a wholly owned subsidiary of the foreign firm.  The agent’s connection to the foreign company must be direct, without a sub-agent or intermediary.  The Commercial Agents and Intermediaries Law No. 28/2001 governs contractual agreements between foreign firms and commercial agents.  Private foreign entities, whether licensed under sole foreign ownership or as a joint venture, compete on an equal basis with local companies.

The bylaw authorizes the Council of Ministers, upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister, to grant a higher percentage ownership to non-Jordanian investors in any investment based on a certain criteria.

Under the U.S.-Jordan Bilateral Investment Treaty, U.S. investors are granted several exceptions and are accorded the same treatment as Jordanian nationals, allowing U.S. investors to maintain 100 percent ownership in some restricted businesses. The most up-to-date listing of limitations on investments is available in the FTA Annex 3.1 and may be found at http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/jordan-fta/final-text.

For national security purposes, foreign investors must undergo security screening through the Ministry of Interior, which can be finalized through the Commission’s “Investment Window” located at the Investment Commission or online https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/home-new/.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Jordan has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 2000. The WTO conducted Jordan’s second  Trade Policy Review  in November 2015.

In 2012, the United States and Jordan agreed to Statements of Principles for International Investment and for Information and Communication Technology Services, and a Trade and Investment Partnership Bilateral Action Plan, each of which is designed to increase transparency, openness, and governmental and private sector cooperation. The two parties also began discussions on a Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation Agreement.  All current treaties and agreements in force between the United States and Jordan may be found here:  https://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/tif/.

As a follow-up to OECD’s Investment Policy Review of Jordan and Jordan’s adherence to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in 2013, the MENA-OECD competitiveness program issued a report in 2018 entitled “Enhancing the legal framework for sustainable investment: Lessons from Jordan”( http://www.oecd.org/mena/competitiveness/Enhancing-the-Legal-Framework-for-Sustainable-Investment-Lessons-from-Jorden.pdf ).

Business Facilitation

Businesses in Jordan need to register with the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply’s Companies Control Department, or the Chambers of Commerce or Industry depending on the type of business they conduct. Registration is required to open a bank account, obtain a tax identification number, and obtain a VAT number. New businesses also need to obtain a vocational license from the municipality, receive a health inspection, and register with the SSC.  In November 2017, the government issued a decision to cancel all non-security related pre-approvals for registering a business and only require final approvals before starting operations.

JIC’s “Investment Window” at the Jordan Investment Commission ( www.jic.gov.jo ) serves as a comprehensive investment center for investors.  The window provides services to local and foreign investors, particularly those in the agricultural, medical, tourism, industrial, ICT-Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), and energy sectors.

In 2017, the Commission further streamlined procedures to register and license investment projects in development zones: it introduced a Fast-Track Investment Window, which reduced the number of committee approvals from 23 to 13, and reduced registration procedures from 15 to 5.  These changes reduced the typical time required to register in development zones from five days to one day.  Additionally, the time period to grant exemptions under the investment law has been reduced from two weeks to one, and the time period to grant exemptions under the decisions of the Prime Minister from seven days to one.

Jordan has also adopted a single security approval to replace the 11 approvals previously required for new investors.  The new approval covers registering and licensing the company, obtaining driving licenses for investors, possessing immovable property for the establishment of investment projects in the industrial and developing zones, in addition to granting residence permits to non-Jordanian investors and their family members. The commission has published a number of online guides, including the investor guide ( https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/investor-guide/ ).

In 2018, the Companies Control Department has developed and launched a portal for online registration:  http://www.ccd.gov.jo/ . Foreign investors can access it to register new companies. However, e-signatures have not been implemented, so investors must sign documents using notary services in their countries.

In November 2019, under the Jordan Investment Commission (JIC), the government introduced several new services including the issuance and renewal investor IDs, issuance and renewal of IDs for investors’ family members, registration of institutions in development zones, first-time registration of individual institutions, changing the method of use, registration and renewal of subscriptions to the Amman Chamber of Commerce (ACC), amendments to subscriptions to the ACC, and issuance of environmental permits. The introduction of these electronic services reduced the time needed to grant or renew the investor identification card (required to facilitate various transactions) to one day. ( https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/ ).

In December 2020, the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) digitized thirteen of its licensing-related services, including vocational licensing and renewal.

In accordance with the Investor Grievances Bylaw No. 163 of 2019, the JIC established a unit to follow up on and address investor complaints, with the aim to resolve legal disputes outside of government the formal court proceedings and reduce related cost.

Jordan launched a National Single Window (NSW) for customs clearance. In 2020, all export and import custom declarations became electronic. This was supported by new regulations enforcing the use of electronic clearances.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship statistics said that total electronic transactions in 2020 reached 14 million, including services provided by institutions such as GAM, JIC, Tax Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Jordan Customs. As of March 2021, the total number of available e-services is 404.

The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report attributed Jordan’s rise to 75th globally to reforms regarding the legal rights of borrowers and lenders, the introduction of a unified legal framework for secured transactions, launching a notice-based collateral registry, improvements to the insolvency law, and implementation of an electronic filing and payment for labor taxes and other mandatory contributions.  The number of payments that businesses need to file every year was also cut from twenty-three to nine. However, Jordan ranked 120 in starting a business, with 7.5 procedures and 12.5 days to complete the process.

Outward Investment

Jordan does not have a mechanism to specifically incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict it.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The legal system reliably facilitates and protects the acquisition and disposition of property rights.  Foreign ownership of land and assets is governed by the Leasing of Immovable Assets and Their Sale to Non-Jordanian and Judicial Persons Law No. 47/2006. Under Article 3 of the law, if the buyer’s country of residence has a reciprocal relationship with Jordan, foreign nationals are afforded the right of ownership of property within urban borders in Jordan for residential purposes. According to the law, foreign nationals may rent immovable assets for business or accommodation purposes, provided that the plot of land does not exceed 10 acres and the lease is for no more than three years in duration. Interest in real property is recognized and enforced once recorded in a legal registry.

Jordan approved an investment program that grants citizenship or permanent residency of non-Jordanians in February 2018. This program includes permanent residency for non-Jordanians who purchase properties worth a minimum of JOD 200,000 ($282,100) and hold the properties for 10 years.

A new Property law passed in 2019 consolidated 13 laws governing property ownership in one legislation and addressed issues such as zoning and the facilitation of ownership and leases for foreign investors.

All land plots in Jordan are titled and registered with the Jordanian Land and Survey Department; any land not titled as private property is considered government property.

According to the Ease of Doing Business report of 2020, Jordan ranked 78 out of 190 countries in “Registering Property.”

Intellectual Property Rights

Jordan has passed several laws in compliance with international commitments to protect intellectual property rights (IPR). Laws consistent with Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) now protect trade secrets, plant varieties, and semiconductor chip designs.

Copyrights are registered with the Ministry of Culture’s National Library Department and patents are registered with the Registrar of Patents and Trademarks at the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Jordan is a signatory to the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Protocol and amended its patent and trademark laws in 2007 to enable ratification of the agreements. Jordan is a signatory to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties on both copyrights and on performances and phonograms, and it has been developing updated laws for copyrights, trademark standards, and customs regulations to meet international standards. Jordanian firms are able to seek joint ventures and licensing agreements with multinational partners.  In 2017, Jordan acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT); the treaty entered into force October 2017. The Ministry of Industry and Trade introduced an e-filing service in 2018 through  https://ippd-eservice.mit.gov.jo/.

In 2017, Jordan acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT); the treaty entered into force October 2017. The Ministry of Industry and Trade introduced an e-filing service in 2018 through  https://ippd-eservice.mit.gov.jo/.

Amendments to Article 41 of Customs Law No. 33 of 2018 granted more time for legal agents to file trademark violation complaints.  Jordan’s record on IPR enforcement has improved in recent years, but more effective enforcement mechanisms and legal procedures are still needed. In particular, a large portion of pirated videos and software remain in the marketplace.

On January 1, 2020, Jordan issued a draft bylaw for the application of broader protections of intellectual property rights.  The bylaw stipulates the procedures to be followed by customs officials at the border to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights.  As of March 2021, the draft was still under review at the Legislative and Opinion Bureau.  On December 1, 2020 the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply issued instructions allowing the public to view patent applications once the legal period specified in the law has lapsed.

On December 1, 2020 the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply issued instructions allowing the public to view patent applications once the legal period specified in the law has lapsed.

Since 2000, 6,234 violations of Jordan’s current copyright law have been referred to the judiciary, including 218 cases in 2019 and 15 cases 2020.  The significant drop in cases between 2019 and 2020 is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated closing courts several times during the year.  In addition, the Customs Department issued 163 infringement notifications to trademark owners or their legal representatives and seized 1,159,828 pieces of merchandise due to the infringement of intellectual property rights.

Jordan is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report and the Notorious Markets Report.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari

Patent Attorney

Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Tel: +965 2259 1455 Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov 

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/.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $44,628 2019 $44,503 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $179 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 83.5% UNCTAD data available at

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

* Source for Host Country Data:  N/A

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Jordan Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 728* 100% Total Outward 27* 100%

“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
The Central Bank of Jordan does not collect or provide FDI data disaggregated by source.

*Aggregated number for 2020.

 Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries Amount 100% All Countries Amount 100% All Countries Amount 100%
United States 3,404 47% Bahrain 326 28% United States 3,249 54%
West Bank 1,080 15% West Bank 297 26% West Bank 783 13%
Bahrain 955 13% United States 155 13% Bahrain 629 10%
Luxembourg 425 6% UK 100 9% Luxembourg 404 7%
UK 221 3% Lebanon 79 7% Netherlands 137 2%

Saudi Arabia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The SAG seeks foreign investment that explicitly promotes economic development, transfers foreign expertise and technology to Saudi Arabia, creates jobs for Saudi nationals, and increases Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports. As part of Vision 2030, the SAG targets increasing foreign investments in Saudi Arabia to $3 trillion. The government encourages investment in nearly all economic sectors, with priority given to chemicals, industrial, and manufacturing; transport and logistics; information and communication technology; healthcare and life sciences; water and waste management; energy; education; tourism, entertainment and sports; real estate; financial services; and mining and metals. In March 2021, the SAG announced it is seeking to attract $420 billion in foreign investments over the next 10 years in the infrastructure and transportation sectors alone.

The Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA), formerly the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), governs and regulates foreign investment in the Kingdom, issues licenses to prospective investors, and works to foster and promote investment opportunities across the economy. Established originally as a regulatory agency, MISA has increasingly shifted its focus to investment promotion and assistance, offering potential investors detailed guidance and a catalogue of current investment opportunities on its website (https://investsaudi.sa/en/sectors-opportunities/).

MISA promotes efforts to improve the Kingdom’s attractiveness as an investment destination: e-licenses to provide a more efficient and user-friendly process; an online “instant” license issuance or renewal service to foreign investors that are listed on a local or international stock market and meet certain conditions; a reduction in the license approval period from days to hours; a reduction in required customs documents; 100 percent foreign ownership in most sectors; a reduction in customs clearance period from weeks to hours; the launch of Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration; and an increase in the investor license period to five years. MISA’s reforms appear to be yielding results: Saudi Arabia jumped 30 places to 62nd place in the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.

In a country where most public entertainment was once forbidden, the SAG now regularly sponsors and promotes entertainment programming, including live concerts, dance exhibitions, sports competitions, and other public performances. Significantly, the audiences for many of those events are now gender-mixed, representing a larger consumer base. In addition to reopening cinemas in 2018, the SAG has hosted Formula E races, professional golf tournaments, a world heavyweight boxing title match, and a professional tennis tournament. Saudi Arabia launched the Saudi Seasons initiative in 2019 with tourism and cultural events in each of the 11 regions of the country. The Riyadh Season included first-ever car exhibition and auction in Riyadh, which attracted 350 U.S. exhibitors. Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority announced it plans to launch the second iteration of Saudi Seasons in November 2021 after a COVID pause.

The SAG is proceeding with “economic cities” and new “giga-projects” that are at various stages of development and is seeking foreign investment in them. These projects are large-scale and self-contained developments in different regions focusing on particular industries, e.g., technology, energy, logistics (airports, railways, ports, and warehouses), tourism, entertainment, and institutional (education; medical; government entities, post offices and fire stations; religious buildings, and dams and reservoirs). Principal among these projects are:

  • Qiddiya, a new, large-scale entertainment, sports, and cultural complex near Riyadh;
  • King Abdullah Financial District, a commercial center development with nearly 60 skyscrapers in Riyadh;
  • Red Sea Project, a massive tourism development on the archipelago of islands along the western Saudi coast, which aims to create 70,000 jobs and attract one million tourists per year;
  • Amaala, a wellness, healthy living, and meditation resort on the Kingdom’s northwest coast, projected to include more than 2,500 luxury hotel rooms and 700 villas; and
  • NEOM, a $500 billion long-term development project to build a futuristic “independent economic zone” in northwest Saudi Arabia. In November 2020, the SAG announced The Line; a new, 100 mile-long, $100-$200 billion development at NEOM that will have no cars, no streets, and no carbon emissions. The project aims to create 380,000 jobs and contribute $48 billon to domestic GDP by 2030.

The long term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and sustained downturn in oil prices in 2020 on these giga-projects is not clear. While some companies working on the projects reported the ongoing availability of funding in 2020, others reported that budget cutbacks had begun to impact their operations.

In June 2020, the SAG approved a new mining investment law that aims to boost investments in the sector. The law will facilitate the establishment of a mining fund to provide sustainable finance, support geological survey and exploration programs, and optimize national mineral resources valued at $1.3 trillion. The law could increase the sector’s contribution to GDP by $64 billion, reduce imports by $9.8 billion, and create 200,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030.

Structural impediments to foreign investment in Saudi Arabia remain.

Foreign investors must contend with increasingly strict localization requirements in bidding for certain government contracts, labor policy requirements to hire more Saudi nationals (usually at higher wages than expatriate workers), an increasingly restrictive visa policy for foreign workers, and gender segregation in business and social settings (though gender segregation is becoming more relaxed as the SAG introduces socio-economic reforms). The General Authority for Military Industries, for example, will require that all military procurements have fifty percent local content by 2030.

The SAG implemented new taxes and fees in 2017 and early 2018, including significant visa fee increases, higher fines for traffic violations, new fees for certain billboard advertisements, and related measures. On July 1, 2020, the SAG increased the value-added tax (VAT) from five percent to 15 percent.

The SAG implemented new taxes and fees in 2017 and early 2018, including significant visa fee increases, higher fines for traffic violations, new fees for certain billboard advertisements, and related measures. On July 1, 2020, the SAG increased the value-added tax (VAT) from five percent to 15 percent.

In February 2021, MISA and the Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC) announced a new directive that companies that want to contract with the SAG must establish their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia – preferably in Riyadh – by 2024. Companies that relocate their regional headquarters to Riyadh will receive tax breaks and other incentives. Saudi officials have confirmed that offices cannot be headquarters “in name only” but, rather, must be legitimate headquarters offices with C-level executive staff in Riyadh overseeing operations and staff in the rest of the region. Companies choosing to maintain their regional headquarters in another country will not be awarded public sector contracts – including contracts from Saudi Aramco – beginning in 2024.

Foreign investment is currently prohibited in 10 sectors on the Negative List, including:

  1. Oil exploration, drilling, and production;
  2. Catering to military sectors;
  3. Security and detective services;
  4. Real estate investment in the holy cities, Mecca and Medina;
  5. Tourist orientation and guidance services for religious tourism related to Hajj and umrah;
  6. Printing and publishing (subject to a variety of exceptions);
  7. Certain internationally classified commission agents;
  8. Services provided by midwives, nurses, physical therapy services, and quasi-doctoral services;
  9. Fisheries; and
  10. Poison centers, blood banks, and quarantine services.

In addition to the negative list, older laws that remain in effect prohibit or otherwise restrict foreign investment in some economic subsectors not on the list, including some areas of healthcare. At the same time, MISA has demonstrated some flexibility in approving exceptions to the “negative list” exclusions.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Saudi Arabia fully recognizes rights to private ownership and the establishment of private business. As outlined above, the SAG excludes foreign investors from some economic sectors and places some limits on foreign control.

With respect to energy, Saudi Arabia’s largest economic sector, foreign firms are barred from investing in the upstream hydrocarbon sector, but the SAG permits foreign investment in the downstream energy sector, including refining and petrochemicals. There is significant foreign investment in these sectors. ExxonMobil, Shell, China’s Sinopec, and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical are partners with Saudi Aramco (the SAG’s state-owned oil firm) in domestic refineries. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and other international investors have joint ventures with Saudi Aramco and/or the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) in large-scale petrochemical plants that utilize natural gas feedstock from Saudi Aramco’s operations. The Dow Chemical Company and Saudi Aramco are partners in the $20 billion Sadara joint venture with the world’s largest integrated petrochemical production complex.

Saudi Aramco also maintains several contractors under its Long-Term Agreement (LTA) group for a series of offshore jobs that include engineering, procurement, construction, and installation. LTA firms are prioritized for offshore contracts typically ranging between $100 to $800 million in value. Saudi Aramco also maintains a smaller group of contractors to provide hook-up, commissioning and maintenance, and modifications and operations jobs for its offshore oil and gas infrastructure. These refurbishment contracts are usually valued under $100 million and tendered exclusively to this smaller group.

With respect to other non-oil natural resources, Saudi Arabia’s mining sector continues to expand. With an estimated $1.3 trillion of mineral resources, the sector expects to have significant opportunities in exploration and development projects. Saudi Arabia’s mining sector laws were recently updated to allow foreign companies to enter the mining sector and invest in the Kingdom’s vast mining resources. Saudi Arabia’s national mining company, Ma’aden, has a $12 billion joint venture with Alcoa for bauxite mining and aluminum production and a $7 billion joint venture with the leading American fertilizer firm Mosaic and SABIC to produce phosphate-based fertilizers.

Joint ventures almost always take the form of limited liability partnerships in Saudi Arabia, to which there are some disadvantages. Foreign partners in service and contracting ventures organized as limited liability partnerships must pay, in cash or in kind, 100 percent of their contribution to authorized capital. MISA’s authorization is only the first step in setting up such a partnership.

Professionals, including architects, consultants, and consulting engineers, are required to register with, and be certified by, the Ministry of Commerce. In theory, these regulations permit the registration of Saudi-foreign joint venture consulting firms. As part of its WTO commitments, Saudi Arabia generally allows consulting firms to establish a local office without a Saudi partner. Foreign engineering consulting companies, however, must have been incorporated for at least 10 years and have operations in at least four different countries to qualify. Foreign entities practicing accounting and auditing, architecture and civil planning, or providing healthcare, dental, or veterinary services, must still have a Saudi partner.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has opened additional service markets to foreign investment, including financial and banking services; aircraft maintenance and repair; computer reservation systems; wholesale, retail, and franchise distribution services; both basic and value-added telecom services; and investment in the computer and related services sectors. In 2016, Saudi Arabia formally approved full foreign ownership of retail and wholesale businesses in the Kingdom. While some companies have already received licenses under the new rules, the restrictions attached to obtaining full ownership – including a requirement to invest over $50 million during the first five years and ensure that 30 percent of all products sold are manufactured locally – have proven difficult to meet and precluded many investors from taking full advantage of the reform.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Saudi Arabia completed its third WTO trade policy review in March 2021, which included investment policies ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp507_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

In addition to applying for a license from MISA, foreign and local investors must register a new business via the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), which has begun offering online registration services for limited liability companies at: https://mc.gov.sa/en/ . Though users may submit articles of association and apply for a business name within minutes on MOC’s website, final approval from the Ministry often takes a week or longer. Applicants must also complete a number of other steps to start a business, including obtaining a municipality (baladia) license for their office premises and registering separately with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Chamber of Commerce, Passport Office, Tax Department, and the General Organization for Social Insurance. From start to finish, registering a business in Saudi Arabia takes about three weeks. The country placed at 38 of 190 countries for ease of starting a business, according to the World Bank (2020 rankings). Also, improved protections for minority investors helped Saudi Arabia tie for third place globally on that World Bank indicator.

Saudi officials have stated their intention to attract foreign small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to the Kingdom. To facilitate and promote the growth of the SME sector, the SAG established the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority in 2015 and released a new Companies Law in 2016, which was amended in 2018 to update the language vis-à-vis Joint Stock Companies (JSC) and Limited Liability Companies (LLC). It also substantially reduced the minimum capital and number of shareholders required to form a JSC from five to two. Additionally, as of 2019, women no longer need a male guardian to apply for a business license.

Outward Investment

Private Saudi citizens, Saudi companies, and SAG entities hold extensive overseas investments. The SAG has been transforming its Public Investment Fund (PIF), traditionally a holding company for government shares in state-controlled enterprises, into a major international investor and sovereign wealth fund. In 2016, the PIF made its first high-profile international investment by taking a $3.5 billion stake in Uber. The PIF has also announced a $400 million investment in Magic Leap, a Florida-based company that is developing “mixed reality” technology, and a $1 billion investment in Lucid Motors, a California-based electric car company. In 2020 and early 2021, the PIF made a number of new investments, including in Facebook, Starbucks, Disney, Boeing, Citigroup, LiveNation, Marriott, several European energy firms, Carnival Cruise Lines, Reliance Retail Ventures Limited (RRVL), and Hambro Perks Ltd’s Oryx Fund, but liquidated its position in many of these within a few months. Saudi Aramco and SABIC are also major investors in the United States. In 2017, Saudi Aramco acquired full ownership of Motiva, the largest refinery in North America, in Port Arthur, Texas. SABIC has announced a multi-billion dollar joint venture with ExxonMobil in a petrochemical facility in Corpus Christi, Texas.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Saudi legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property, consistent with the Islamic practice of upholding private property rights. Non-Saudi corporate entities are allowed to purchase real estate in Saudi Arabia in accordance with the foreign-investment code. Other foreign-owned corporate and personal property is protected by law. Saudi Arabia has a system of recording security interests, and plans to modernize its land registry system. Saudi Arabia ranked 19th out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.

In 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing implemented an annual vacant land tax of 2.5 percent of the assessed value on vacant lands in urban centers in an attempt to spur development. Additionally, in January 2018, in an effort to increase Saudis’ access to finance and stimulate the mortgage and housing markets, Saudi Arabia’s central bank lifted the maximum loan-to-value rate for mortgages for first-time homebuyers to 90 percent from 85 percent, and increased interest payment subsidies for first-time buyers. This further liberalized stringent down-payment requirements that prevailed up to 2016, when the central bank raised the maximum loan-to-value rate from 70 percent to 85 percent.

Intellectual Property Rights

Saudi Arabia has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report “Priority Watch List” since 2019. In the U.S. Chamber International IP Index 2021 report, Saudi Arabia ranked 37th out of 53 countries surveyed.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) to regulate, support, develop, sponsor, protect, enforce, and upgrade IP fields in accordance with the best international practices. In 2020, SAIP worked to consolidate IP protection competence, including creating a government-wide IPR respect program, establishing a specialized IP court, launching online and in-market enforcement programs, continuing market raids against counterfeit and pirated goods, and conducting significant pro-IPR awareness campaigns. SAIP has cooperated with USTR and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including the signing of a Cooperation Arrangement in October 2018 between SAIP and USPTO. Saudi Arabia Customs Authority has significantly enhanced its IP enforcement efforts and capacity, seized and destroyed 2 million counterfeit items across all ports during 2020 in coordination with SAIP, partnered closely with trademark and copyright owners, and systematically notified right holders of suspected shipments.

Since 2016, the Saudi Arabia Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), which the Minister of Health oversees, has granted marketing approval for pharmaceuticals to domestic companies relying on another company’s undisclosed test or other data for products despite the protection provided by Saudi regulations.

The United States government also continues to remain concerned about reportedly high levels of online piracy in Saudi Arabia, particularly through illicit streaming devices (ISDs), which right holders report are widely available and generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia. Industry reported in December 2020 that 32.6 percent of the 510,000 worldwide users of livehd7, a popular streaming website that violates IP laws, were from Saudi Arabia. However, in August 2019, beoutQ, a Saudi-based rampant satellite and online piracy service, ceased operations. In June 2020, the SAIP announced that it had disabled access to 231 websites that had been disseminating infringing content.

U.S. software firms report that the Saudi government continues to use unlicensed and “under-licensed” (in which an insufficient number of licenses is procured for the total number of users) software on government computer systems in violation of their copyrights. Other concerns include the lack of seizure and destruction of counterfeit goods in enforcement actions, and limits on the ability to enter facilities suspected of involvement in the sale or manufacture of counterfeit goods, including facilities located in residential areas.

In 2020, SAIP launched a copyright enforcement campaign in 2020 in Riyadh, Mecca, Jeddah, Dammam, and al-Ahsa. During the campaign, SAIP inspected 359 shops and seized 9,137 counterfeit and illicit items in marketplaces. In collaboration with the Ministry of Media, SAIP confiscated and destroyed over 3.5 million counterfeit and illicit items in 2020, including CDs, computers, and TV receivers.

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/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy point of contact:

Darin Christensen
Economic Officer+966 11 488-3800 Ext. 4097
christensends2@state.gov

Regional IPR Attaché:

Pete C. Mehravari
U.S. Intellectual Property Attaché for Middle East and North Africa
Patent Attorney
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce
Office: +965 2259-1455 | Cell: +965 9758-9223 | WhatsApp: +1 404-429-9986
Peter.mehravari@trade.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) 2020 $700,118  2019 $792,967 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $10,826 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $6,220 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 29.8% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/
handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

* Source for Host Country Data: Saudi General Authority for Statistics   

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

According to the 2020 UNCTAD World Investment Report, Saudi Arabia’s total FDI inward stock was $236.2 billion and total FDI outward stock was $123.1 billion (in both cases, as of 2019).

Detailed data for inward direct investment (below) is as of 2010, which is the latest available breakdown of inward FDI by country.

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 $169,206 100% Total Outward N/A N/A
Kuwait $16,761 10% Country #1 N/A N/A
France $15,918 9% Country #2 N/A N/A
Japan $13,160 8% Country #3 N/A N/A
United Arab Emirates $12,601 7% Country #4 N/A N/A
China, P.R. $9,035 5% Country #5 N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

*Source: IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (2010 – latest available complete data)

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $308,806 100% All Countries $231,500 100% All Countries $77,306 100%
United States $108,474 35% United States $94,132 41% United States $14,342 19%
Cayman Islands $37,101 12% Cayman Islands $33,281 14% U.A.E $10,550 14%
Japan $20,827 7% China P.R $16,091 7% Turkey $7,284 9%
China P.R. $16,501 5% Japan $13,813 6% Japan $7,014 9%
U.A.E $15,464 5% Switzerland $8,964 4% Egypt $5,543 7%

Source: IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS); data as of June 2020.

United Arab Emirates

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) 

The UAE actively seeks FDI, citing it as a key part of its long-term economic development plans.  The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated government efforts to attract foreign investment to promote economic growth.  A letter issued by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MbR) on January 4, 2020 outlined the ruler’s vision for the next 50 years, pledging increased government accountability and a push for greater government efficiency.  In 2015, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development launched the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), an agency that provides essential information and invaluable support to foreign businesses looking to invest in Dubai’s thriving economy and take advantage of its global strategic importance.  The government of Abu Dhabi continues implementing its Economic Vision 2030, which aims at building an open, efficient, effective, and globally integrated economy.  In 2018, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development launched the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to attract foreign investments in the local economy by providing investors with clear data and information regarding the investment environment and the competitive edge of the emirate.

Federal Decree Law No. 26 of 2020 repealed the FDI Law (Federal Law No. 19 of 2018) effective January 2, 2021 and amended significant provisions of the Commercial Companies Law (Federal Law No. 2 of 2015).  As a result, onshore UAE companies are no longer required to have a UAE national or a GCC national as a majority shareholder.  UAE joint stock companies no longer must be chaired by an Emirati citizen or have the majority of its board be comprised of Emirati citizens.  Local branches of foreign companies are no longer required to have a UAE national or a UAE-owned company act as an agent.  An intra-emirate committee will recommend to the Cabinet a list of strategically important sectors requiring additional licensing restrictions, and companies operating in these sectors, likely including oil and gas, defense, utilities, and transportation, will remain subject to the above-described restrictions.  Analysts expect this list will be similar to the list of economic sectors in which foreign investment is barred under the recently abolished FDI Law.  The decree also grants emirate-level authorities powers to establish additional licensing restrictions.  These amendments will become effective six months after the publication of the law in the official gazette and require the publication of the Strategic Impact List to be implementable.  Until this happens, existing requirements for UAE or GCC majority shareholding still apply.

Federal Decree Law No. 26 of 2020 introduced provisions to protect the rights of minority shareholders.  It lowered the ownership threshold required to call for a general assembly and introduce agenda items.  It expedited the process for shareholders to assist a company in financial distress.  It extended mandates of external auditors.  It added additional flexibility in the IPO process to allow new investors to participate.  It also calls for additional regulations from the Ministry of Economy to address governance and related-party transactions.

Federal Law No. 11 of 2020 amended the Commercial Agencies Law (Federal Law No. 18 of 1981), which allowed UAE companies not fully owned by Emirati citizens to act as commercial agents.  These companies must still be majority-owned by Emirati citizens.

Non-tariff barriers to investment persist in the form of visa sponsorship and distributorship requirements.  Several constituent emirates, including Dubai, have recently introduced new long-term residency visas and land ownership rights to attract and retain expatriates with sought-after skills in the UAE.  In October 2020, Ras Al Khaimah Real estate developer Al Hamra, in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, began offering investors a 12-year residence visa and a business license when they purchased a residential property in Al Hamra Village or Bab Al Bahr.

 Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment  

As documented above, Federal Decree-Law Number 26 annulled the requirement commercial companies be majority-owned by Emirati citizens, have a majority-Emirati board, or maintain an Emirati agent effectively allowing majority or full foreign ownership of onshore companies in many sectors.  The annulment will not apply to companies operating in strategically important sectors.

Neither Embassy Abu Dhabi nor Consulate General Dubai (collectively referred to as Mission UAE) has received any complaints from U.S. investors that they have been disadvantaged relative to other non-GCC investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The UAE government underwent a World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review in 2016.  The full WTO Review is available at:  https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s338_e.pdf

Business Facilitation  

UAE officials emphasize the importance of facilitating business investment and tout the broad network of free trade zones as attractive to foreign investors.  The UAE’s business registration process varies by emirate, but generally happens through an emirate’s Department of Economic Development.  Links to information portals from each of the emirates are available at https://ger.co/economy/197.  At a minimum, a company must generally register with the Department of Economic Development, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization, and the General Authority for Pension and Social Security, with a notary required in the process. In response to the pandemic, UAE authorities temporarily reduced fees, permits, and licenses to stimulate business formation in the onshore and free zone sectors.

In February 2021, Dubai launched the Invest in Dubai platform, a “single-window” service enabling investors to obtain trade licenses and launch their business quickly.  In August 2020, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) introduced a new license for startups, entrepreneurs, and technology firms, starting at $1,500 per year.  In October 2019, Dubai introduced a ‘Virtual Business License’ for non-resident entrepreneurs and freelancers in 101 countries.  In 2019, the Dubai Free Zone Council allowed companies to operate out of multiple free zones in Dubai through a single license under the “one free zone passport” scheme.  In 2017, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development introduced an “Instant License” program, under which investors can obtain a license valid for one year in minutes without a registered lease agreement.   In November 2020, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development issued a resolution permitting non-citizens to obtain freelancer licenses allowing them to engage in 48 economic activities.  The licenses were previously limited to UAE nationals only.  In 2018, Abu Dhabi announced the issuance of dual licenses enabling free zone companies to operate onshore and to compete for government tenders.  In 2018, Sharjah announced that foreigners may purchase property in the emirate without a UAE residency visa on a 100-year renewable land lease basis.

Outward Investment  

The UAE is an important participant in global capital markets, primarily through its sovereign wealth funds, as well as through several emirate-level, government-related investment corporations.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property  

The UAE federal government allows individual emirates to decide the mechanisms through which ownership of land may be transferred within their borders.  Abu Dhabi has generally limited land ownership to Emiratis or other GCC citizens, who may then lease the land to foreigners.  The property reverts to the owner at the conclusion of the lease.  However, in 2019, the Abu Dhabi Government issued Law No. 13 (2019) amending the rules on foreign ownership of real estate in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  Under the law, foreign individuals and companies wholly or partially owned by foreigners are allowed to own freehold interests in land located within certain investment areas of Abu Dhabi for an unrestricted time period.  The law also extends the right for public joint stock companies to own a freehold interest in land and property anywhere in Abu Dhabi provided that at least 51 percent of the company is owned by UAE nationals.  Prior to the issuance of this law, foreign owners’ interest in land was limited to a “Musataha,” a long-term lease of up to 99 years, renewable upon the agreement of both parties.

Although Dubai has restricted ownership to UAE nationals in certain older, more established neighborhoods, traditional freeholds, also known as outright ownership, are widely available, particularly in newer developments.  Freehold owners own the land and may sell it on the open market.  The contract rights of lienholders, as well as ownership rights of freeholders, are generally respected and enforced throughout the UAE, which in some cases has employed specialized courts for this purpose.

Mortgages and liens are permitted with restrictions, and each emirate has its own system of recordkeeping.  In Dubai, for example, the system is centralized within the Dubai Land Department, and is considered extremely reliable.

In December 2020, Dubai’s ruler issued new legislation on unfinished and cancelled real estate projects in Dubai.  Law No. (19) of 2020 states that if a developer did not initiate construction on a real estate project for reasons beyond his control, or if the project was cancelled due to a decision issued by government regulators, the developer must refund the entire deposit paid by purchasers.

The World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report notes that not all privately-held land plots in the economy are formally registered in an immovable property registry.  Much of the country is unregistered desert; such land is generally owned by emirate-level governments.  Land not otherwise allocated or owned is the property of the emirate and may be disposed of at the will of its ruler who generally consults with his advisors prior to disposition.  The UAE does not have a securitization process for lending purposes.

Intellectual Property Rights 

The UAE has established a legal and regulatory framework for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.  Moreover, in recent years IPR holders have seen marked improvement in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property.  In April 2021, the UAE was removed from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report “Watch List.”  Recent UAE government changes include enhancing IP protections for the innovative pharma and biotech industry; lowering previously prohibitive trademark fees; increasing transparency in the outcomes of counterfeit seizures; significantly increasing notifications, seizures, and public destructions by Dubai Customs; and creating intergovernmental and quasi-governmental groups responsive to USG and U.S. industry concerns.  While concrete steps are needed to remedy problems with music licensing and IPR enforcement in FTZs, the UAE government has taken the concerns of rights holders seriously.

The 2019-2020 Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum ranked the UAE 19th globally on IPR protection, up from 26th in 2018-2019.  The UAE’s legal framework for IPR is generally considered compliant with international obligations.  Emirate-level authorities such as economic development authorities, police forces, and customs authorities enforce IPR-related issues, while federal authorities manage IPR policy.

Before January 2021, inventors could receive patent protection in UAE through either the UAE national patent office or the regional Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Patent Office.  On January 5, 2021, the GCC Patent Office stopped accepting new patent applications as the regional patent system undergoes significant reforms.  While GCC patent applications filed before January 5th will continue to be processed, inventors will need to rely on the national UAE patent office to seek patent rights until the new regional GCC system is established.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari

Patent Attorney

Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

Tel: +965 2259 1455 Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov

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/

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) ($B USD) 2019 $421.1 2019 $421.1 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($B USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $17.2 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($B USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $5.1 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 3.4% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report 

* Source for Host Country Data: Economic Report, Ministry of Economy

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI  

Data from the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Center indicates that the real GDP for 2019 in constant prices (base year 2010) were approximately USD $404.6 billion, while the nominal GDP at current prices was about USD $421.1 billion in 2019.

The UAE Ministry of Economy’s Annual Economic Report 2019, cited UNCTAD statistics that net annual FDI inflows to the UAE in 2018 were $10.385 billion, compared to USD $10.354 billion in 2017.  The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR)  reported that according to the CBUAE statistics, the net annual FDI inflows to the UAE in 2019 were approximately USD $13.78 billion.  The largest investors in the UAE were:  India, United States, UK, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Kuwait, France, and the Netherlands.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

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