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Canada

Executive Summary

Canada and the United States (U.S.) have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. U.S. investors are attracted to Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, its proximity to the U.S. market, its highly skilled work force, and abundant resources. As of 2017, the U.S. had a stock of USD391 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada.  U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 49 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the U.S. totaled USD523 billion.

U.S. FDI in Canada is subject to the provisions of the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chapter 11 of NAFTA contains provisions such as “national treatment” designed to protect cross-border investors and facilitate the settlement of investment disputes.  NAFTA does not exempt U.S. investors from review under the ICA, which has guided foreign investment policy in Canada since its implementation in 1985. The ICA provides for review of large acquisitions by non-Canadian investors and includes the requirement that these investments be of “net benefit” to Canada. The ICA also has provisions for the review of investments on national security grounds.  The Canadian government has blocked investments on only a few occasions.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico completed negotiations for a modernized and rebalanced NAFTA agreement on September 30, 2018.  The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed by all three countries November 30, 2018 and will come into force after the completion of the domestic ratification processes by each individual member of the agreement.  The agreement updates NAFTA’s provisions with respect to investment protection rules and investor-state dispute settlement procedures to better reflect U.S. priorities related to foreign investment. All Parties to the agreement have agreed to treat investors and investments of the other Parties in accordance with the highest international standards, and consistent with U.S. law and practice, while safeguarding each Party’s sovereignty and promoting domestic investment.

Although foreign investment is a key component of Canada’s economic development, restrictions remain in key sectors. Under the Telecommunications Act, Canada maintains a 46.7 percent limit on foreign ownership of voting shares for a Canadian telecom services provider. However, a 2012 amendment exempts foreign telecom carriers with less than 10 percent market share from ownership restrictions in an attempt to increase competition in the sector. In May 2018, Canada eased its foreign ownership restrictions in the aviation sector, which increased foreign ownership limits of Canadian commercial airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent. Investment in cultural industries also carries restrictions, including a provision under the ICA that foreign investment in book publishing and distribution must be compatible with Canada’s national cultural policies and be of “net benefit” to Canada. Canada is open to investment in the financial sector, but barriers remain in retail banking.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 9 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2019 22 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 18 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $391,208 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $47,270 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Canada and the United States (U.S.) have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. U.S. investors are attracted to Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, its proximity to the U.S. market, its highly skilled work force, and abundant resources. As of 2017, the U.S. had a stock of USD391 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada.  U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 49 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the U.S. totaled USD523 billion.

U.S. FDI in Canada is subject to the provisions of the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chapter 11 of NAFTA contains provisions such as “national treatment” designed to protect cross-border investors and facilitate the settlement of investment disputes.  NAFTA does not exempt U.S. investors from review under the ICA, which has guided foreign investment policy in Canada since its implementation in 1985. The ICA provides for review of large acquisitions by non-Canadian investors and includes the requirement that these investments be of “net benefit” to Canada. The ICA also has provisions for the review of investments on national security grounds.  The Canadian government has blocked investments on only a few occasions.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico completed negotiations for a modernized and rebalanced NAFTA agreement on September 30, 2018.  The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed by all three countries November 30, 2018 and will come into force after the completion of the domestic ratification processes by each individual member of the agreement.  The agreement updates NAFTA’s provisions with respect to investment protection rules and investor-state dispute settlement procedures to better reflect U.S. priorities related to foreign investment. All Parties to the agreement have agreed to treat investors and investments of the other Parties in accordance with the highest international standards, and consistent with U.S. law and practice, while safeguarding each Party’s sovereignty and promoting domestic investment.

Although foreign investment is a key component of Canada’s economic development, restrictions remain in key sectors. Under the Telecommunications Act, Canada maintains a 46.7 percent limit on foreign ownership of voting shares for a Canadian telecom services provider. However, a 2012 amendment exempts foreign telecom carriers with less than 10 percent market share from ownership restrictions in an attempt to increase competition in the sector. In May 2018, Canada eased its foreign ownership restrictions in the aviation sector, which increased foreign ownership limits of Canadian commercial airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent. Investment in cultural industries also carries restrictions, including a provision under the ICA that foreign investment in book publishing and distribution must be compatible with Canada’s national cultural policies and be of “net benefit” to Canada. Canada is open to investment in the financial sector, but barriers remain in retail banking.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 9 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview  
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2019 22 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings  
Global Innovation Index 2018 18 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator  
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $391,208 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/  
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $47,270 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD  

 

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The NAFTA guides investment relations between Canada and the U.S. Investment relations with other states are governed by Foreign Investment Protection Agreements (FIPAs). These bilateral treaties promote and protect foreign investment through a system of legally binding rights and obligations based on the same principles found in the NAFTA. Canada has 37 FIPAs in force with countries in Central Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Canada is actively pursuing FIPAs with 14 countries including India, Pakistan, and Kosovo. Canada views China as an increasingly important trade and investment partner and ratified a FIPA with China in September 2014.  The Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed in October 2016 and came into force provisionally in September 2017. Canada is a partner to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which entered into force in December 2018.

Canada has tax conventions or agreements with many countries, including the U.S.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The transparency of Canada’s regulatory system is similar to that of the U.S. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems, including those related to debt obligations, are transparent and consistent with international norms. Proposed legislation is subject to parliamentary debate and public hearings, and regulations are issued in draft form for public comment prior to implementation. While federal and/or provincial licenses or permits may be needed to engage in economic activities, regulation of these activities is generally for statistical or tax compliance reasons.

Canada and the U.S. announced the creation of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) on February 4, 2011. This regulatory cooperation does not encompass all regulatory activities within all agencies. Rather, the RCC focuses on areas where benefits can be realized by regulated parties, consumers, and/or regulators without sacrificing outcomes such as protecting public health, safety and the environment. The initial RCC Joint Action Plan set out 29 initiatives where Canada and the U.S. sought greater regulatory alignment.  A Memorandum of Understanding between the Treasury Board of Canada and the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, signed on June 4, 2018, reaffirmed the RCC as a vehicle for regulatory cooperation.

The World Bank published in-depth information on regulatory transparency for 185 economies. For information on Canada, see http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/data/explorecountries/canada#cer_transparency  .

International Regulatory Considerations

Canada is not part of a regional economic block and does not incorporate regional standards into its economic system. Canada and the U.S. work together through the RCC to develop like standards and streamline product certification on both sides of the border. Canada, with the U.S. and Mexico, is a member of the NAFTA.  The CETA agreement also contains a chapter on regulatory cooperation that commits both sides to strengthen regulatory cooperation and facilitate discussions between regulatory authorities in the EU and Canada. The Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership for Trans-Pacific Partnership contains a chapter on regulatory coherence that aims to encourage members of the agreement to adopt widely accepted good regulatory practices, such as reviewing the effectiveness of existing regulatory practices and providing public notice of future regulatory measures.

Canada is a member of the WTO and notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Canada is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in December 2016.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Canada’s legal system is based on English common law, except for Quebec, which follows civil law. Canada has both a federal parliament which makes laws for all of Canada and a legislature in each of the provinces and territories that deals with laws in their areas. When Parliament or a provincial or territorial legislature passes a statute, it takes the place of common law or precedents dealing with the same subject. The judicial branch of government is independent of the executive branch and the current judicial process is considered procedurally competent, fair, and reliable. The provinces administer justice in their jurisdictions. This includes organizing and maintaining the civil and criminal provincial courts and civil procedures in those courts.

Canada has both written commercial law and contractual law, and specialized commercial and civil courts. Canada’s Commercial Law Directorate provides advisory and litigation services to federal departments and agencies whose mandate includes a commercial component and has legal counsel in Montréal and Ottawa.

Parliament and provincial and territorial legislatures give government organizations the authority to make specific regulations. As of June 1, 2009, all consolidated Acts and regulations on the Justice Laws Website (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/  ) are “official,” meaning they can be used for evidentiary purposes.

Laws and Regulations on FDI

Foreign investment policy in Canada has been guided by the Investment Canada Act (ICA) since 1985. The ICA liberalized policy on foreign investment by recognizing that investment is central to economic growth and key to technological advancement. The ICA provides for review of large acquisitions by non-Canadians and imposes a requirement that these investments be of “net benefit” to Canada.  The ICA also contains provisions that permit the government to conduct a national security review of virtually any investment or acquisition. For the vast majority of small acquisitions and the establishment of new businesses, foreign investors need only to notify the Canadian government of their investments.

U.S. FDI in Canada is subject to provisions of the ICA, the WTO, and the NAFTA. Chapter 11 of the NAFTA ensures that regulation of U.S. investors in Canada and Canadian investors in the U.S. results in treatment no different than that extended to domestic investors within each country, i.e., “national treatment.” Both governments are free to regulate the ongoing operation of business enterprises in their respective jurisdictions provided that the governments accord national treatment to both U.S. and Canadian investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Bureau of Competition Policy and the Competition Tribunal, a quasi-judicial body, enforce Canada’s antitrust legislation.

Expropriation and Compensation

Canadian federal and provincial laws recognize both the right of the government to expropriate private property for a public purpose, and the obligation to pay compensation. The federal government has not nationalized any foreign firm since the nationalization of Axis property during World War II. Both the federal and provincial governments have assumed control of private firms, usually financially distressed, after reaching agreement with the former owners.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Canada ratified the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention on December 1, 2013 and is a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention, ratified on May 12, 1986. Canada signed the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (known as the Mauritius Convention on Transparency) in March 2015.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Canada accepts binding arbitration of investment disputes to which it is a party only when it has specifically agreed to do so through a bilateral or multilateral agreement, such as a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement. The provisions of Chapter 11 of the NAFTA guide the resolution of investment disputes between NAFTA persons and NAFTA member governments. The NAFTA encourages parties to settle disputes through consultation or negotiation. It also establishes special arbitration procedures for investment disputes separate from the NAFTA’s general dispute settlement provisions. Under the NAFTA, a narrow range of disputes dealing with government monopolies and expropriation between an investor from a NAFTA country and a NAFTA government may be settled, at the investor’s option, by binding international arbitration. An investor who seeks binding arbitration in a dispute with a NAFTA party gives up his right to seek redress through the court system of the NAFTA party, except for proceedings seeking nonmonetary damages. Canada does not have a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

A list of current NAFTA Chapter 11 Arbitrations is below:

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Provinces primarily regulate arbitration within Canada. With the exception of Quebec, each province has legislation adopting the UNCITRAL Model Law. The Quebec Civil Code and Code of Civil Procedure are consistent with the UNCITRAL Model Law. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that arbitration agreements must be broadly interpreted and enforced. Canadian courts respect arbitral proceedings and have been willing to lend their enforcement powers to facilitate the effective conduct of arbitration proceedings, requiring witnesses to attend and give evidence and produce documents and other evidence to the arbitral tribunal.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Bankruptcy in Canada is governed by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) and is not criminalized. Creditors must deliver claims to the trustee and the trustee must examine every proof of claim. The trustee may disallow, in whole or in part, any claim of right to a priority under the BIA or security. Generally, the test of proving the claim before the trustee in bankruptcy is very low and a claim is proved unless it is too “remote and speculative.” Provision is also made for dealing with cross-border insolvencies and the recognition of foreign proceedings. Canada is ranked number 13 for ease of “resolving insolvency” by the World Bank. Credit bureaus in Canada include Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Federal and provincial governments in Canada offer a wide array of investment incentives that municipalities are generally prohibited from offering. The incentives are designed to advance broader policy goals, such as boosting research and development or promoting regional economies. The funds are available to any qualified Canadian or foreign investor who agrees to use the monies for the stated purpose. For example, Export Development Canada can support inbound investment under certain specific conditions (e.g., investment must be export-focused; export contracts must be in hand or companies have a track record; there is a world or regional product mandate for the product to be produced).  The government also announced the USD 940 million Strategic Innovation Fund in 2017, which provides repayable or non-repayable contributions to firms of all sizes across Canada’s industrial and technology

sectors in an effort to grow and expand those industries.  One of the explicit goals of the program is to attract new investments to Canada.

The Liberal government invested USD 730 million over five years, beginning in 2018, to support five business-led supercluster projects that have the potential to accelerate economic and investment growth in Canada.  The superclusters are now operational, and feature projects in digital technologies, food production, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence in supply chain management, and ocean industries. 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions, and 180 other partners are involved in the supercluster projects.  Several U.S. firms are participants, including Microsoft, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and GE.

Several provinces offer an array of incentive programs and services aimed at attracting foreign investment that lower corporate taxes and incentivize research and development. The Province of Quebec officially re-launched its “Plan Nord” (Northern Plan) in April 2015, a 20-year sustainable development investment initiative that is intended to harness the economic, mineral, energy, and tourism potential of Quebec’s northern territory. Quebec’s government created the “Société du Plan Nord” (Northern Plan Company) to attract investors and work with local communities to implement the plan. Thus far, Plan Nord has helped finance mining projects in northern Quebec and began building the necessary infrastructure to link remote mines with ports. The provincial government is actively seeking other foreign investors who desire to take advantage of these opportunities.

Provincial incentives tend to be more investor-specific and are conditioned on applying the funds to an investment in the granting province. For example, Ontario’s Jobs and Prosperity Fund provides USD2.5 billion from 2013 to 2023 to enhance productivity, bolster innovation, and grow Ontario’s exports. To qualify, companies must have substantive operations (generally three years) and at least C10 million in eligible project costs. Alberta offers companies a 10 percent refundable provincial tax credit worth up to C400,000 annually for scientific research and experimental development encouraging research and development in Alberta as well as Alberta Innovation Vouchers worth C15,000 to C50,000 to help small early-stage technology and knowledge-driven businesses in Alberta get their ideas and products to market faster. Newfoundland and Labrador provide vouchers worth 75 percent of eligible project costs up to C15,000 for R&D, performance testing, field trials, and other projects.

Provincial incentives may also be restricted to firms established in the province or that agree to establish a facility in the province. Government officials at both the federal and provincial levels expect investors who receive investment incentives to use them for the agreed purpose, but no enforcement mechanism exists.

Incentives for investment in cultural industries, at both the federal and provincial level, are generally available only to Canadian-controlled firms. Incentives may take the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees, venture capital, or tax credits. Provincial incentive programs for film production in Canada are available to foreign filmmakers.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Under the NAFTA, Canada operates as a free trade zone for products made in the U.S. Most U.S. made goods enter Canada duty free.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Data localization is an evolving area in Canada. Privacy rules in two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, mandate that personal information in the custody of a public body must be stored and accessed only in Canada unless one of a few limited exceptions applies. These laws prevent public bodies such as primary and secondary schools, universities, hospitals, government-owned utilities, and public agencies from using non-Canadian hosting services.

The Canada Revenue Agency stipulates that tax records must be kept at a filer’s place of business or residence in Canada. Current regulations were written over 30 years ago and do not take into account current technical realities concerning data storage.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Foreign investors have full and fair access to Canada’s legal system, with private property rights limited only by the rights of governments to establish monopolies and to expropriate for public purposes. Investors from NAFTA countries have mechanisms available to them for dispute resolution regarding property expropriation by the Government of Canada. The recording system for mortgages and liens is reliable. Canada is ranked 34 in 2019 in the World Bank’s “Ease of Registering Property” rankings. About 89 percent of Canada’s land area is Crown Land owned by federal (41 percent) or provincial (48 percent) governments; the remaining 11 percent is privately owned. British Columbia began a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers of residential real estate in the Metro Vancouver area in August 2016.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/property-transfer-tax/understand/additional-property-transfer-tax  ). In early 2017, the province announced that foreign buyers with work permits would be exempt from the tax.  In 2018, British Columbia increased this tax to 20 percent and expanded its geographical coverage to include several other metro areas, including that of the provincial capital Victoria.

A 2014 Supreme Court decision recognized the existence of aboriginal title on land in British Columbia, which has ramifications for aboriginal land claims across Canada. While stopping short of giving aboriginals a veto on projects, the decision gives them increased influence on the economic development of any land with a colorable (potentially valid) aboriginal title claim.

In terms of non-resident access to land, including farmland, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have no restrictions on foreign ownership of land. However, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan maintain measures aimed at prohibiting or limiting land acquisition by foreigners. The acreage limits vary by province, from as low as five acres in Prince Edward Island to as high as 40 acres in Manitoba. In certain cases, provincial authorities may grant exemptions from these limits, for instance for investment projects. In British Columbia, Crown land cannot be acquired by foreigners, while there are no restrictions on acquisition of other land.

Intellectual Property Rights

Canada was placed on the Watch List in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2019 Special 301 Report.  While this represents an improvement from 2018 when Canada was on the Special 301 Priority Watch List, Canada remains the only G7 country identified in the report.  The report applauds Canada’s agreement to important intellectual property (IP) provisions in the USMCA that will significantly improve Canada’s IP environment once implemented.  Canada’s commitment to high IP standards was welcomed through the seizure of suspected counterfeit items from the Pacific Mall in Ontario, which was listed in the 2017 Notorious Markets List.  Right holders also report that Canadian courts have established meaningful penalties against circumvention devices and services.  Canada has also made positive progress in reforming proceedings before the Copyright Board related to tariff-setting procedures for the use of copyrighted works.

Significant challenges to adequate and effective protection of IP rights remain in Canada, including poor border and law enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirated goods, weak patent and pricing environment for innovative pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding geographical indications.

Canada continues to exclude shipments of goods in-transit to the U.S. from counterfeit inspection, which permits large-scale shipments of counterfeit and pirated goods to enter our highly integrated supply chains.

On pharmaceuticals, Canada has drawn concern from stakeholders by proposing changes that would dramatically reshape how the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board evaluates patented pharmaceuticals and sets their ceiling prices. Further, the U.S. has serious concerns about the fairness of Canada’s Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) proceedings as amended in September 2017. Canada’s long-anticipated proposal to provide for patent term restoration for delays in obtaining marketing approval appears to be disappointingly limited in duration, eligibility, and scope of protection. The U.S. also has serious concerns about the breadth of the Minister of Health’s discretion in disclosing confidential business information.

Commercial-scale online piracy is a significant issue in Canada where some notorious copyright-infringing websites are hosted or operated.  Stream-ripping, the unauthorized converting of a file from a licensed streaming site into an unauthorized copy, is now a dominant method of music piracy, including in Canada, causing substantial economic harm to music creators and undermining legitimate online services.  Industry is also concerned with uneven application of new notice and notice regulations requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to notify (and address) sites of trademark or copyright infringements. Canada’s ambiguous education-related exemption added to the 2012 copyright law has significantly damaged the market for educational publishers and authors.  While Canadian courts have helped clarify this exception, confusion remains and the educational publishing sector reports lost revenue from licensing.

On Geographical Indications (GIs), the U.S. has concerns about lack of due process and transparency relating to the GI system in Canada, including commitments Canada made without public notification or opposition procedures to protect certain GIs under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU, which came into force provisionally on September 21, 2017. These measures negatively affect market access for U.S. agricultural producers. The U.S. prefers the protection or recognition of GIs, including with respect to existing trademarks, safeguards for the use of common names, and meaningful opposition and cancellation procedures.

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

Canada’s capital markets are open, accessible, and without onerous regulatory requirements. Foreign investors are able to get credit in the local market. Canada has its own stock market, the Toronto Exchange, and there is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. The World Economic Forum ranked Canada’s banking system as the second “most sound” in the world in 2018. Among other factors, Canadian banking stability is linked to high capitalization rates that are well above the norms set by the Bank for International Settlements. The Canadian government and Bank of Canada do not place restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Money and Banking System

The Canadian banking industry is dominated by six major domestic banks, but includes a total of 29 domestic banks, 24 foreign bank subsidiaries, 27 full-service foreign bank branches and three foreign bank lending branches operating in Canada. The six largest banks manage close to USD4 trillion in assets.  Many large international banks have a presence in Canada through a subsidiary, representative office, or branch of the parent bank. Ninety-nine percent of Canadians have an account with a financial institution.

Foreign financial firms interested in investing submit their applications to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) for approval by the Finance Minister. U.S. firms are present in all three sectors, but play secondary roles. U.S. and other foreign banks have long been able to establish banking subsidiaries in Canada, but no U.S. banks have retail banking operations in Canada. Several U.S. financial institutions have established branches in Canada, chiefly targeting commercial lending, investment banking, and niche markets such as credit card issuance.

The Bank of Canada is the nation’s central bank. Its principal role is “to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada,” as defined in the Bank of Canada Act. The Bank’s four main areas of responsibility are monetary policy, promoting a safe, sound, and efficient financial system, issuing and distributing currency, and being the fiscal agent for Canada.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

Canada has a free floating exchange rate.

Remittance Policies

The Canadian dollar is fully convertible and the central bank does not place time restrictions on remittances. Canada provides some incentives for Canadian investment in developing countries through programs offered by Global Affairs Canada.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Canada does not have a sovereign wealth fund, but the province of Alberta has the Heritage Savings Trust Fund established to manage the province’s share of petroleum royalties. The fund’s net financial assets were US12.9 billion (C17.4 billion) on March 31, 2018. It is invested in a globally diversified portfolio of public and private equity, fixed income, and real assets. The fund follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the “Santiago Principles” and participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group of SWFs. 45 percent of the Heritage Fund is currently held in equity investments, 14 percent of which are Canadian equities. The fund is currently heavily invested in the U.S. dollar (16 percent of total currency) with more than USD2.9 billion in reserves.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Canada has more than 40 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) at the federal level, with the majority of assets held by three federal crown corporations: Export Development Canada, Farm Credit Canada, and Business Development Bank of Canada. Canada also has over 100 SOEs at the provincial level that contribute to a variety of sectors including finance; power, electricity and utilities; and transportation. The Treasury Board Secretariat provides an annual report to Parliament regarding the governance and performance of Canada’s federal crown corporations and other corporate interests.

The Canadian government lists SOEs as “Government Business Enterprises” (GBE). A list is available at http://www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/Eng/fi-if/rtn-rlv/fr-rf/dti-id/Pages/GBE.aspx   and includes both federal and provincial enterprises.

There are no restrictions on the ability of private enterprises to compete with SOEs. The functions of most Canadian crown corporations have limited appeal to the private sector. The activities of some SOEs such as VIA Rail and Canada Post do overlap with private enterprise. As such, they are subject to the rules of the Competition Act to prevent abuse of dominance and other anti-competitive practices. Foreign investors are also able to challenge SOEs under the NAFTA and WTO.

Privatization Program

Federal and provincial privatizations are considered on a case-by-case basis, and there are no overall limitations with regard to foreign ownership. As an example, the federal Ministry of Transport did not impose any limitations in the 1995 privatization of Canadian National Railway, whose majority shareholders are now U.S. persons.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Canada encourages Canadian companies to observe the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in their operations abroad and provides a National Contact Point for dealing with issues that arise in relation to Canadian companies. Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad” is available on the Global Affairs Canada website: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/other-autre/csr-strat-rse.aspx?lang=eng  .

Despite the increased level of official attention paid to Responsible Business Conduct, the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad remain the subject of some critical attention and have prompted calls for the government to move beyond voluntary measures. Canada is a supporter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

International Trade Portfolio Division
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Tel: (1-343) 203-2341
Fax: (1-613) 944-1574
Email: ncp.pcn@international.gc.ca
Web: www.ncp.gc.ca  / www.pcn.gc.ca 

9. Corruption

On an international scale, corruption in Canada is low and similar to that found in the U.S.. In general, the type of due diligence that would be required in the U.S. to avoid corrupt practices would be appropriate in Canada. Canada is a party to the UN Convention Against Corruption. Canada is a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, as well as the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits corruption, bribery, influence peddling, extortion, and abuse of office. The 1998 Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act prohibits individuals and businesses from bribing foreign government officials to obtain influence and prohibits destruction or falsification of books and records to conceal corrupt payments. The law has extended jurisdiction that permits Canadian courts to prosecute corruption committed by companies and individuals abroad. Canada’s anti-corruption legislation is vigorously enforced, and companies and officials guilty of violating Canadian law are being effectively investigated, prosecuted, and convicted of corruption-related crimes. In March 2014, Public Works and Government Services Canada (now Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC) revised its Integrity Framework for government procurement to ban companies or their foreign affiliates for 10 years from winning government contracts if they have been convicted of corruption. In August 2015, the Canadian government revised the framework to allow suppliers to apply to have their ineligibility reduced to five years where the causes of conduct are addressed and no longer penalized a supplier for the actions of an affiliate in which it had no involvement. PSPC has a Code of Conduct for Procurement, which counters conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts. Canadian firms operating abroad must declare whether they or an affiliate are under charge or have been convicted under Canada’s anti-corruption laws during the past five years in order to receive help from the Trade Commissioner Service. U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI in Canada.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Mario Dion
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (for appointed and elected officials, House of Commons)
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
66 Slater Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario

(Mailing address)
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
Centre Block, P.O. Box 16
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Pierre Legault

Office of the Senate Ethics Officer (for appointed Senators)
Thomas D’Arcy McGee Building
Parliament of Canada
90 Sparks St., Room 526
Ottawa, ON K1P 5B4

10. Political and Security Environment

Political violence occurs in Canada to about the same extent as it does in the U.S.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The federal government and provincial/territorial governments share jurisdiction for labor regulation and standards. Federal employees and those employed in the railroad, airline, and banking sector are covered under the federally administered Canada Labor Code. Employees in most other sectors come under provincial labor codes. As the laws vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to another, it is advisable to contact a federal or provincial labor office for specifics, such as minimum wage and benefit requirements.

Canada’s unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent in January 2019. Total employment increased  1.8 percent on a year-over-year basis.. Analysts note that Canada’s labor story varies significantly by province, with resource-dependent provinces affected more adversely than non-resource dependent provinces as a result of lower oil and other commodity prices.

Canada faces a labor shortage in skilled trades’ professions, such as carpenters, engineers, and electricians. Canada launched several initiatives including the Global Skills Visa, announced in November 2016, to address its skilled labor shortage, including through immigration reform, the inclusion of labor mobility provisions in free trade agreements, including the Canada-EU CETA agreement, and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

The TFWP is jointly managed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and is divided into two categories: the International Mobility Program (IMP), which primarily includes high skillhigh wage professions, and the TFWP, which refers to primarily low skilled workers. The majority of U.S. temporary workers fall under the more highly skilled IMP stream. The number of temporary foreign workers a business can employ is limited. For more information, see the TFWP website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/employers/temp-foreign-worker-program.asp  

Canadian labor unions are independent from the government. Canada has labor dispute mechanisms in place and unions practice collective bargaining. In Canada less than one in three employees belonged to a union or was covered by a collective agreement in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. In 2015, there were 776 unions in Canada. Eight of those unions – five of which were national and three international – represented 100,000 or more workers each and comprised over 45 percent of all unionized workers in Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/collective-bargaining-data/reports/union-coverage.html  ). In June 2017 parliament repealed legislation public service unions had claimed contravened International Labor Organization conventions by limiting the number of persons who could strike.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation does not operate in Canada.

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) 2017 $1,583,000 2017 $1,653,000 www.worldbank.org/en/country  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $299,609 2017 $391,208 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm  
Host Country’s FDI in the U.S. ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $373,904 2017 $523,761 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm  
Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 39% 2017 40% N/A

*Host Country Source, Office of the Chief Economist, 2017 FDI Stats, Global Affairs Canada.

Note: Data converted to U.S. dollars using yearly average currency conversions from IRS


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 $610,396 100% Total Outward $830,445 100%
U.S. $299,609 49% U.S. $373,904 45%
Netherlands $68,061 11% U.K. $76,018 9%
Luxembourg $36,965 6% Luxembourg $56,986 7%
U.K. $35,134 6% Barbados $36,257 4%
Switzerland $29,787 5% Cayman Islands $31,922 4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $1,513,140 100% All Countries $1,204,811 100% All Countries $308,328 100%
U.S. $927,094 61% U.S. $715,534 59% U.S. $211,560 69%
U.K. $82,202 5% U.K. $67,976 6% U.K. $15,061 5%
Japan $69,822 5% Japan $57,038 5% Germany $7,786 3%
France $42,700 3% France $31,574 3% France $7,028 2%
Germany $36,807 2% Germany $29,806 2% Japan $4,992 2%

14. Contact for More Information

Katherine Musgrove
Economic Officer
490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa Ontario
Email: musgroveka@state.gov

Morocco

Executive Summary

Morocco enjoys political stability, robust infrastructure, and a strategic location, which have contributed to its emergence as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies.  Morocco is actively encouraging and facilitating foreign investment, particularly in export sectors like manufacturing, through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, investment incentives, and structural reforms.  Morocco’s overarching economic development plan seeks to transform the country into a regional business hub by leveraging its unique status as a multilingual, cosmopolitan nation situated at the tri-regional focal point of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. In recent years, this strategy increasingly influenced Morocco’s relationship and role on the African continent. The Government of Morocco has implemented a series of strategies aimed at boosting employment, attracting foreign investment, and raising performance and output in key revenue-earning sectors, such as the automotive and aerospace industries. 

Morocco attracts the fifth-most foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, a figure that increased 23 percent in 2017.  As part of a government-wide strategy to strengthen its position as an African financial hub, Morocco offers incentives for firms that locate their regional headquarters in Morocco, such as the Casablanca Finance City (CFC), Morocco’s flagship financial and business hub launched in 2010.  CFC intends to open a new, 28-story skyscraper in 2019, which will eventually house all CFC members. Morocco’s return to the African Union in January 2017 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in March 2018 provide Morocco further opportunities to promote foreign investment and trade and accelerate economic development.  In late 2018, Morocco’s long-anticipated high-speed train began service connecting Casablanca, Rabat, and the port city of Tangier. Despite the significant improvements in its business environment and infrastructure, insufficient skilled labor, weak intellectual property rights (IPR) protections, inefficient government bureaucracy, and the slow pace of regulatory reform remain challenges for Morocco.

Morocco has ratified 69 bilateral investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investments and 60 economic agreements – including with the United States and most EU nations – that aim to eliminate the double taxation of income or gains.  Morocco’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States entered into force in 2006, eliminating tariffs on more than 95 percent of qualifying consumer and industrial goods. The Government of Morocco plans to phase out tariffs for a limited number of products through 2030.  Since the U.S.-Morocco FTA came into effect, overall annual bilateral trade has increased by more than 250 percent, making the United States Morocco’s fourth largest trading partner. The U.S. is the second largest foreign investor in Morocco and the U.S. and Moroccan governments work closely to increase trade and investment through high-level consultations, bilateral dialogue, and the annual U.S.-Morocco Trade and Investment Forum, which provides a platform to strengthen business-to-business ties.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 73 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 60 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 76 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $412 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $2,860 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

Morocco actively encourages foreign investment through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, structural reforms, infrastructure improvements, and incentives for investors.  Law 18-95 of October 1995, constituting the Investment Charter, which can be found online at http://www.usa-morocco.org/Charte.htm  , is the principal Moroccan text governing investment and applies to both domestic and foreign investment (direct and portfolio).  Morocco’s 2014 Industrial Acceleration Plan, a new approach to industrial development based on establishing “ecosystems” that integrate value chains and supplier relationships between large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs;), has guided Ministry of Industry policy for the last five years.  The plan runs through 2020. Morocco’s Investment and Export Development Agency (AMDIE) is the primary agency responsible for the development and promotion of investments and exports. The Agency’s website aggregates relevant information for interested investors and includes investment maps, procedures for creating a business, production costs, applicable laws and regulations, and general business climate information, among other investment services.  Further information about Morocco’s investment laws and procedures is available on AMDIE’s website at http://www.amdie.gov.ma/en/  .  For further information on agricultural investments, visit the Agricultural Development Agency (ADA) website (http://www.ada.gov.ma/)   or the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture (ANDA) website (https://www.anda.gov.ma/  ).

Moroccan legislation governing FDI applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities, with the exception of certain protected sectors.

When Morocco acceded to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in November 2009, Morocco guaranteed national treatment of foreign investors (i.e., according equal treatment for both foreign and national investors in like circumstances).  The only exception to this national treatment of foreign investors is in those sectors closed to foreign investment (noted below), which Morocco delineated upon accession to the Declaration. Per a Moroccan notice published in 2014, the lead agency on adherence to the Declaration is AMDIE.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises, barring some sector restrictions.  While the U.S. Mission is not aware of any economy-wide limits on foreign ownership, Morocco places a 49 percent cap on foreign investment in air and maritime transport companies and maritime fisheries.  Morocco prohibits foreigners from owning agricultural land, though they can lease it for up to 99 years. The Moroccan government holds a monopoly on phosphate extraction through the 95 percent state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP).  The Moroccan state also has a discretionary right to limit all foreign majority stakes in the capital of large national banks, but does not appear to have ever exercised that right. In the oil and gas sector, the National Agency for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) retains a compulsory share of 25 percent of any exploration license or development permit.  The Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) may use regulatory discretion in issuing authorizations for the establishment of domestic and foreign-owned banks. As set forth in the 1995 Investment Charter, there is no requirement for prior approval of FDI, and formalities related to investing in Morocco do not pose a meaningful barrier to investment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of instances in which the Moroccan government turned away foreign investors for national security, economic, or other national policy reasons.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any U.S. investors disadvantaged or singled out by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms, relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) 2016 Trade Policy Review (TPR) of Morocco found that the trade reforms implemented since the last TPR in 2009 have contributed to the economy’s continued growth by stimulating competition in domestic markets, encouraging innovation, creating new jobs, and contributing to growth diversification. The WTO 2016 TPR can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp429_e.htm   .  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any other investment policy reviews in the past three years.

Business Facilitation

In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report (http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/morocco   ), Morocco ranks 60 out of 190 economies worldwide in terms of ease of doing business, rising nine places since the 2018 report.  Since 2012, Morocco has implemented a number of reforms facilitating business registration, such as eliminating the need to file a declaration of business incorporation with the Ministry of Labor, reducing company registration fees, and eliminating minimum capital requirements for limited liability companies.  Morocco maintains a business registration website that is accessible through the various Regional Investment Centers (CRI – Centre Regional d’Investissement at https://rabat.eregulations.org/procedure/4/7?l=fr).  The business registration process is generally streamlined and clear.

Foreign companies may utilize the online business registration mechanism.  Foreign companies, with the exception of French companies, are required to provide an apostilled Arabic translated copy of its articles of association and an extract of the registry of commerce in its country of origin.  Moreover, foreign companies must report the incorporation of the subsidiary a posteriori to the Foreign Exchange Board (Office National de Change) to facilitate repatriation of funds abroad such as profits and dividends. According to the World Bank, the process of registering a business in Morocco takes an average of nine days (significantly less time than the Middle East and North Africa regional average of 21 days).  Including all official fees and fees for legal and professional services, registration costs 3.7 percent of Morocco’s annual per capita income (significantly less than the region’s average of 22.6 percent). Moreover, Morocco does not require that the business owner deposit any paid-in minimum capital.

On December 11, 2018, the lower house of parliament adopted draft law 88-17 on the electronic creation of businesses.  The final implementation decrees are expected to be ready by mid-2019.  The new system will allow the creation of businesses online via an electronic platform managed by the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC). Once launched, all procedures related to the creation, registration, and publication of company data will be required to be carried out via this platform.  The creator of the company will be exempt from filing physical documents. A separate decree will determine the list of documents required during the electronic business creation process. A new national commission will monitor the implementation of the new procedures.

The business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy.  Notably, according to the World Bank, the length of time and cost to register a new business is equal for men and women in Morocco.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any special assistance provided to women and underrepresented minorities through the business registration mechanisms.  In cooperation with the Moroccan government, civil society, and the private sector, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving gender quality in the workplace and access to the workplace for foreign migrants, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa.

Outward Investment

In 2017, Morocco’s FDI in Africa was USD 2.57 billion, representing a 12 percent increase over 2016.  The African Development Bank ranks Morocco as the second biggest African investor in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa, with up to 85 percent of Moroccan FDI going to the region.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of a standalone outward investment promotion agency, though AMDIE’s mission includes supporting Moroccan exporters and investors seeking to invest outside of Morocco. Nor is the U.S. Mission aware of any restrictions for domestic investors attempting to invest abroad.   However, under the Moroccan investment code, repatriation of funds is limited to convertible Moroccan Dirham accounts. Capital controls limit the ability of residents to convert dirham balances into foreign currency or to move funds offshore.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

As of March 2019, Morocco has signed bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with 69 countries, of which 51 are in force.  Morocco’s most recent BIT, signed in April of 2018, is with the Republic of the Congo. For more information, please visit https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/  .

The United States and Morocco signed a BIT on July 22, 1985, but its provisions were subsumed by the investment chapter of the U.S.-Morocco FTA, which entered into force on January 1, 2006.  The BIT’s dispute settlement provisions remained in effect for 10 years after the effective date of the FTA for certain investments and investment disputes that predated the agreement. On January 1, 2016, the dispute settlement provisions of the Morocco-U.S. BIT Articles VI and VII were suspended in their entirety.

Morocco has also signed a quadrilateral FTA with Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan (under the Agadir Agreement), an FTA with Turkey, an FTA with the United Arab Emirates, the European FTA with Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area agreement (which eliminates certain tariffs among 15 Middle East and North African countries).  The Association Agreement (AA) between the EU and Morocco came into force in 2000, creating a free trade zone in 2012 that liberalized two-way trade in goods. The EU and Morocco developed the AA further through an agreement on trade in agricultural, agro-food, and fisheries products, and a protocol establishing a bilateral dispute settlement mechanism, all of which entered into force in 2012.  However, the legal standing of the agreement’s rules of origin, particularly in regards to fisheries, has come into question in recent years with both sides seeking to resolve the issue.  Following an initial stay on the EU-Morocco agricultural agreement issued by the European Court of Justice in 2016, the European Parliament formally adopted an amended agreement in January 2019. In 2008, Morocco was the first country in the southern Mediterranean region to be granted “advanced status” by the EU, which promotes closer economic integration by reducing non-tariff barriers, liberalizing the trade in services, ensuring the protection of investments, and standardizing regulations in several commercial and economic areas.

On March 3, 2018, Morocco signed an agreement, along with 43 other African states, forming the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) that will seek to establish a market of over 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross product of over USD 3 trillion.  The CFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s long-term vision for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa. Its entry into force requires ratification by at least 22 member States, including Morocco.

The United States signed an income tax treaty with Morocco in 1977 (a copy of the treaty can be found at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/morocco.pdf )

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and a mixed legal system of civil law based primarily on French law, with some influences from Islamic law.  Legislative acts are subject to judicial review by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has the power to determine the constitutionality of legislation, excluding royal decrees (Dahirs).  Legislative power in Morocco is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Chamber of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) and the Chamber of Councillors (Majlis Al Mustashareen).  The King can issue royal decrees, which have the force of law. The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the Code of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 and Law No. 15-95 establishing the Commercial Code.  The Competition Council and the National Authority for Detecting, Preventing, and Fighting Corruption (INPPLC) have responsibility for improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. All levels of regulations exist (local, state, national, and supra-national).  The most relevant regulations for foreign businesses depend on the sector in question. Ministries develop their own regulations and draft laws, including those related to investment, through their administrative departments, with approval by the respective minister. Each regulation and draft law is made available for public comment.  Key regulatory actions are published in their entirety in Arabic and usually French in the official bulletin on the website (at http://www.sgg.gov.ma/Accueil.aspx  ) of the General Secretariat of the Government.  Once published, the law is final. Public enterprises and establishments can adopt their own specific regulations provided they comply with regulations regarding competition and transparency.

Morocco’s regulatory enforcement mechanisms depend on the sector in question, and enforcement is legally reviewable.  The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), for example, created in February 1998 under Law No. 24-96, is the public body responsible for the control and regulation of the telecommunications sector.  The agency regulates telecommunications by participating in the development of the legislative and regulatory framework. Morocco does not have specific regulatory impact assessment guidelines, nor are impact assessments required by law.  Morocco does not have a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.

The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report indicates that Morocco implemented reforms in 2018 aimed at reducing regulatory complexity and strengthening legal institutions.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. The Moroccan Ministry of Finance posts quarterly statistics (compiled in accordance with IMF recommendations) on public finance and debt on their website (https://www.finances.gov.ma/en/Pages/Finances-publiques.aspx?m=ACTIVITIES&p=402  )

International Regulatory Considerations

Morocco joined the WTO since January 1995 and reports technical regulations that could affect trade with other member countries to the WTO.  Morocco is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (https://www.tfadatabase.org/members/morocco  ) and has a 92 percent implementation rate of TFA requirements.  European standards are widely referenced in Morocco’s regulatory system.  In some cases, U.S. or international standards, guidelines, and recommendations are also accepted.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Moroccan legal system is a hybrid of civil law (French system) and Islamic law, regulated by the Decree of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 as amended, the 1996 Code of Commerce, and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts.  These courts also have sole competence to entertain industrial property disputes, as provided for in Law No. 17-97 on the Protection of Industrial Property, irrespective of the legal status of the parties. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s 2015 Morocco Commercial Law Assessment Report, Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997) established commercial court jurisdiction over commercial cases including insolvency.  Although this led to some improvement in the handling of commercial disputes, companies have complained of the lack of training for judges on general commercial matters to remain a key challenge to effective commercial dispute resolution in the country. In general, some report litigation procedures to be time consuming and resource-intensive, and lacking legal requirement with respect to case publishing. Disputes may be brought before one of eight Commercial Courts (located in Rabat, Casablanca, Fes, Tangier, Marrakech, Agadir, Oujda, and Meknes), and one of three Commercial Courts of Appeal (located in Casablanca, Fes, and Marrakech).  There are other special courts such as the Military and Administrative Courts. Title VII of the Constitution provides that the judiciary shall be independent from the legislative and executive branches of government. The 2011 Constitution also authorized the creation of the Supreme Judicial Council, headed by the King, which has the authority to hire, dismiss, and promote judges. Enforcement actions are appealable at the Courts of Appeal, which hear appeals against decisions from the court of first instance.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the 1913 Royal Decree of Obligations and Contracts, as amended; Law No. 18-95 that established the 1995 Investment Charter; the 1996 Code of Commerce; and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts.  These courts have sole competence to hear industrial property disputes, as provided for in Law No. 17-97 on the Protection of Industrial Property, irrespective of the legal status of the parties. Morocco’s CRI and AMDIE provide users with various investment related information on key sectors, procedural information, calls for tenders, and resources for business creation.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Morocco’s Competition Law No. 06-99 on Free Pricing and Competition (June 2000) outlines the authority of the Competition Council   as an independent executive body with investigatory powers.  Together with the INPPLC, the Competition Council is one of the main actors charged with improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization.  Law No. 20-13, adopted on August 7, 2014, amended the powers of the Competition Council to bring them in line with the 2011 constitution.  The Competition Council’s responsibilities include:  (1) making decisions on anti-competition practices and controlling concentrations, with powers of investigation and sanction; (2) providing opinions in official consultations by government authorities; and (3) publishing reviews and studies on the state of competition.  After four years of delays, the Moroccan Government nominated and approved all members of the Competition Council in December of 2018.

Expropriation and Compensation

Expropriation may only occur in the context of public interest for public use by a state entity, although in the past, private entities that are public service “concessionaires,” mixed economy companies, or general interest companies have also been granted expropriation rights.  Article 3 of Law No. 7-81 (May 1982) on expropriation, the associated Royal Decree of May 6, 1982, and Decree No. 2-82-328 of April 16, 1983 regulate government authority to expropriate property. The process of expropriation has two phases. In the administrative phase, the State declares public interest in expropriating specific land, and verifies ownership, titles, and value of the land, as determined by an appraisal.  If the State and owner are able to come to agreement on the value, the expropriation is complete. If the owner appeals, the judicial phase begins, whereby the property is taken, a judge oversees the transfer of the property, and payment compensation is made to the owner based on the judgment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any recent, confirmed instances of private property being expropriated for other than public purposes (eminent domain), or being expropriated in a manner that is discriminatory or not in accordance with established principles of international law.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Morocco is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and signed its convention in June 1967.  Morocco is also a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Law No. 08-05 provides for enforcement of awards made under these conventions.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Morocco is signatory to over 60 bilateral treaties recognizing binding international arbitration of trade disputes, including one with the United States.  Law No. 08-05 established a system of conventional arbitration and mediation, while allowing parties to apply the Code of Civil Procedure in their dispute resolution.  Foreign investors commonly rely on international arbitration to resolve contractual disputes. Commercial courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitrations awards. Generally, investor rights are backed by a transparent, impartial procedure for dispute settlement.  There have been no claims brought by foreign investors under the investment chapter of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement since it came into effect in 2006. The U.S. Mission is aware of approximately five cases of business disputes over the past ten years involving U.S. investors, three of which were resolved.

Morocco officially recognizes foreign arbitration awards issued against the government.  Domestic arbitration awards are also enforceable subject to an enforcement order issued by the President of the Commercial Court, who verifies that no elements of the award violate public order or the defense rights of the parties.  As Morocco is a member of the New York Convention, international awards are also enforceable in accordance with the provisions of the convention. Morocco is also a member of the Washington Convention for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and as such agrees to enforce and uphold ICSID arbitral awards.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Morocco has a national commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) with a mandate to regulate mediation training centers and develop mediator certification systems.  Morocco seeks to position itself as a regional center for arbitration in Africa, but the capacity of local courts remains a limiting factor. The Moroccan government established the Center of Arbitration and Mediation in Rabat and the Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Center (CIMAC).  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any investment disputes involving state owned enterprises (SOEs).

Bankruptcy Regulations

Morocco’s bankruptcy law is based on French law.  Commercial courts have jurisdiction over all cases related to insolvency, as set forth in Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997).  The Commercial Court in the debtor’s place of business holds jurisdiction in insolvency cases. The law gives secured debtors priority claim on assets and proceeds over unsecured debtors, who in turn have priority over equity shareholders.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized. The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report ranked Morocco 71 out of 190 economies in “Resolving Insolvency,” a significant improvement from Morocco’s 134th place ranking in 2018.  One contributing factor to this improvement is the Moroccan Government’s revision of the national insolvency code in March of 2018.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

As set out in the Investment Code (Section 2.4), Morocco offers incentives designed to encourage foreign and local investment.  Morocco’s Investment Charter gives the same benefits to all investors regardless of the industry in which they operate (except agriculture and phosphates, which remain outside the scope of the Charter).  With respect to agricultural incentives, Morocco launched the Plan Maroc Vert (Green Morocco Plan) in 2008 to improve the competitiveness of the agribusiness industry, which has grown to 10 percent of GDP.  This plan offers technical and financial support to federations in the citrus and olive sectors to boost agribusiness value chains.  More information about agricultural subsidies for incentivizing investments and the Plan Maroc Vert can be found at http://www.agriculture.gov.ma/fda  .

Morocco has several free zones offering companies incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, and reduced customs duties. Free zones aim to attract investment by companies seeking to export products from Morocco. The Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade, and Digital Economy inaugurated the newest free zone in the Souss-Massa region in November 2018.  Additionally, businesses associated with Casablanca Finance City (CFC) receive a variety of incentives, including exemption from corporate taxes for the first five years after receiving CFC status. For details on CFC eligibility, see CFC’s website (https://casablancafinancecity.com/le-statut-cfc/avantages/?lang=fr).

The Moroccan government launched its “investment reform plan” in 2016 to create a favorable environment for the private sector to drive growth.  The plan included the adoption of investment incentives to support the industrial ecosystem, tax and customs advantages to support investors and new investment projects, import duty exemptions, and a value added tax (VAT) exemption.  AMDIE’s website (http://www.amdie.gov.ma/en/#missions) has more details on investment incentives, but generally these incentives are based on sectoral priorities (i.e. aerospace).  Morocco does not issue guarantees or jointly finance FDI projects, except for some public-private partnerships in fields such as utilities.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The government maintains several “free zones” in which companies enjoy lower tax rates in exchange for an obligation to export at least 85 percent of their production.  In some cases, the government provides generous incentives for companies to locate production facilities in the country. The Moroccan government also offers a VAT exemption for investors using and importing equipment goods, materials, and tools needed to achieve investment projects whose value is at least USD 20 million.  This incentive lasts for a period of 36 months from the start of the business.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Moroccan government views foreign investment as an important vehicle for creating local employment.  Visa issuance for foreign employees is contingent upon a company’s inability to find a qualified local employee for a specific position, and can only be issued after the company has verified the unavailability of such an employee with the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Competency (ANAPEC).  If these conditions are met, the Moroccan government allows the hiring of foreign employees, including for senior management. According to some reports, the process for obtaining and renewing visas and work permits can be onerous and may take up to six months, except for CFC members, where the processing time is reportedly one week.

The government does not require the use of domestic content in goods or technologies.  The WTO Trade Related Investment Measures’ (TRIMs) database does not indicate any reported Moroccan measures that are inconsistent with TRIMs requirements.  Though not required, tenders in some industries, including solar energy, are written with targets for local content percentages. Both performance requirements and investment incentives are uniformly applied to both domestic and foreign investors depending on the size of the investment.

The Moroccan Data Protection Act (Act 09-08) stipulates that data controllers may only transfer data if a foreign nation ensures an adequate level of protection of privacy and fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals with regard to the treatment of their personal data.  Morocco’s National Data Protection Commission (CNDP) defines the exceptions according to Moroccan law. Local regulation requires the release of source code for certain telecommunications hardware products. However, the U.S. Mission is not aware of any Moroccan government requirement that foreign IT companies should provide surveillance or backdoor access to their source-code or systems.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies (i.e. companies whose share capital is owned in whole or in part by a foreign individual or company) to own land, but not agricultural land.  Foreigners may acquire agricultural land in order to carry out an investment or other economic project that is not agricultural in nature, subject to first obtaining a certificate of non-agricultural use from the authorities.  Morocco has a formal registration system maintained by the National Agency for Real Estate Conservation, Property Registries, and Cartography (ANCFCC), which issues titles of land ownership.   Approximately 30 percent of land is registered in the formal system, and almost all of that is in urban areas.   In addition to the formal registration system, there are customary documents called moulkiya issued by traditional notaries called adouls.  While not providing the same level of certainty as a title, a moulkiya can provide some level of security of ownership.  Morocco also recognizes prescriptive rights whereby an occupant of a land under the moulkiya system (not lands duly registered with ANCFCC) can establish ownership of that land upon fulfillment of all the legal requirements, including occupation of the land for a certain period of time (10 years if the occupant and the landlord are not related and 40 years if the occupant is a parent).  There are other specific legal regimes applicable to some types of lands, among which:

  • Collective lands: lands which are owned collectively by some tribes, whose members only benefit from rights of usufruct;
  • Public lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State;
  • Guich lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State, but whose usufruct rights are vested upon some tribes;
  • Habous lands: lands which are owned by a party (the State, a certain family, a religious or charity organization, etc.) subsequent to a donation, and the usufruct rights of which are vested upon such party (usually with the obligation to allocate the proceeds to a specific use or to use the property in a certain way).

Morocco’s rating for “Registering Property” improved over the past year, with a ranking of 68 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, 18 places higher than in 2018.  According to the same report, Morocco made registering property easier by increasing the transparency of the land registry/cadaster and by streamlining administrative procedures.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy oversees the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), which serves as a registry for patents and trademarks in the industrial and commercial sectors.  The Ministry of Communications oversees the Moroccan Copyright Office (BMDA), which registers copyrights for literary and artistic works (including software), enforces copyright protection, and coordinates with Moroccan and international partners to combat piracy.  The Ministry of Communication supported the enactment of new copyright decrees on May 20, 2014, which obligate the police to work on behalf of BMDA to investigate suspected cases of copyright infringement, including the illegal selling/production of unlicensed media and illegal media use on the radio or television.  Additionally, the Ministry of Communication and BMDA formed a national anti-piracy committee responsible for developing a plan for consistent action in combating copyright infringement and counterfeit goods.

In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU to expand cooperation to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Morocco.  The MOU committed both parties to improving the judicial and operational dimensions of Morocco’s copyright enforcement.  Following this MOU, in November 2016, BMDA launched WIPOCOS, a database developed by WIPO for collective management organizations or societies that aims to ensure a timely, transparent, and autonomous distribution of royalties.  Despite of these positive changes, BMDA’s current focus on redefining its legal mandate and relationship with other copyright offices worldwide has appeared to lessen its enforcement capacity.

Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defines civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies.  It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys in order to better systematize and regulate the practice of patent law.  Law No. 34-05, amending and supplementing Law No. 2-00 on Copyright and Related Rights, includes 15 items (Articles 61 to 65) devoted to punitive measures against piracy and other copyright offenses.  These range from civil and criminal penalties to the seizure and destruction of seized copies.  Judges’ authority in sentencing and criminal procedures is proscribed, with little power to issue harsher sentences that would serve as stronger deterrents.

OMPIC enacted a Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 to strengthen the institution’s capacity to carry out its core mandate of granting industrial and commercial property titles and enforcing IPR.  This new strategic plan focuses on promoting quality, transparency, and a service-oriented organizational culture, while underscoring the important role that IPR protection has in promoting innovation under Morocco’s 2014-2020 Industrial Acceleration Plan.

Moroccan authorities appear committed to cracking down on counterfeiting but, due to resource constraints, have chosen to focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically areas with public safety and/or significant economic impact.  In 2017, BMDA brought approximately a dozen court cases against copyright infringers and collected USD 6.1 million in copyright collections.  In 2018, Morocco’s customs authorities seized USD 62.7 million worth of counterfeit items. In 2018, Morocco also created a National Customs Brigade charged with countering the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods and narcotics.

In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is currently pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments.  Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to undergo a transparent and substantive assessment process for the EU GIs in a manner consistent with Morocco’s existing obligations, including those under the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement.

Morocco is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about IPR treaty obligations and points of contact at government offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list ( at https://ma.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/), as well as to the regional U.S. IP Attaché at https://ma.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Morocco encourages foreign portfolio investment and Moroccan legislation applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities and to both domestic and foreign portfolio investment.  The Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), founded in 1929 and re-launched as a private institution in 1993, is one of the few exchanges in the region with no restrictions on foreign participation.  Local and foreign investors have identical tax exposure on dividends (10 percent) and pay no capital gains tax. With a market capitalization of around USD 60 billion and 75 listed companies, CSE is the second largest exchange in Africa (after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange).  CSE authorities have recently invested in several initiatives to encourage more SME listings on the exchange. Short-selling, which could provide liquidity to the market, is not permitted. The Moroccan government initiated the Futures Market Act (Act 42-12) in October 2015 to define the institutional framework of the futures market in Morocco and the role of the regulatory and supervisory authorities. As of March of 2019, futures trading was still pending full implementation.

The Casablanca Stock Exchange demutualized in November of 2015.   This change allowed the CSE greater flexibility, more access to global markets, and better positioned it as an integrated financial hub for the region.  Morocco has accepted the obligations of IMF Article VIII, sections 2(a), 3, and 4, and its exchange system is free of restrictions on making payments and transfers on current international transactions.  Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors are able to obtain credit on the local market.

Money and Banking System

Morocco has a well-developed banking sector, where penetration is rising rapidly and recent improvements in macroeconomic fundamentals have helped resolve previous liquidity shortages.  Morocco has some of Africa’s largest banks, and several are major players on the continent and continue to expand their footprint. The sector has several large, homegrown institutions with international footprints, as well as several subsidiaries of foreign banks.  According to the IMF’s 2016 Financial System Stability Assessment on Morocco at https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr1637.pdf , Moroccan banks comprise about half of the financial system with total assets of 140 percent of GDP – up from 111 percent in 2008.  There are 24 banks operating in Morocco (five of these are Islamic “participatory” banks), six offshore institutions, 32 finance companies, 13 micro-credit associations, and nine intermediary companies operating in funds transfer. Among the 19 traditional banks, the top three hold over two-thirds of the banking system’s assets.  The top eight banks comprise 90 percent of the system’s assets (including both on and off-balance sheet items). Foreign (mainly French) financial institutions are majority stakeholders in seven banks and nine finance companies. The financial system also comprises several microcredit associations and financing companies, with combined assets of 10.5 percent of GDP.  Moroccan banks have built up their presence overseas mainly through the acquisition of local banks, thus local deposits largely fund their subsidiaries.

The overall strength of the banking sector has grown significantly in recent years.  Since financial liberalization, credit is allocated freely and the Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) has used indirect methods to control the interest rate and volume of credit.  The banking participation rate is approximately 60 percent, with significant opportunities remaining for firms pursuing rural and less affluent segments of the market. At the start of 2017, Bank Al-Maghrib approved five requests to open Islamic banks in the country.  By mid-2018, over 80 branches specializing in Islamic banking services were operating in Morocco.  The first Islamic bonds (sukuk) were issued in October 2018, and Islamic insurance products (takaful) are expected to launch in mid-2019.

Following an upward trend beginning in 2012, the ratio of non-performing loans (NPL) to bank credit stabilized at 7.5 percent in 2017 at USD 6.5 billion.  According to the most recently available data from the IMF, NPL rates in September 2018 were 7.7 percent.

Morocco’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms.  Morocco is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures (please visit https://rabat.eregulations.org/procedure/2/2?l=fr for more information).  Bank Al-Maghrib is responsible for issuing accounting standards for banks and financial institutions.  Circular 56/G/2007 issued by Bank Al Maghrib requires that all entities under its supervision use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for accounting periods that began January 2008.  The Securities Commission is responsible for issuing financial reporting and accounting standards for public companies. Circular No. 06/05 of 2007 reaffirmed the Moroccan Stock Exchange Law (Law No. 52-01), which stipulated that all companies listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), other than banks and similar financial institutions, can choose between IFRS and Moroccan Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  In practice, most public companies are using IFRS.

Legal provisions regulating the banking sector include Law No. 76-03 on the Charter of Bank Al-Maghrib, which created an independent board of directors and prohibits the Ministry of Finance and Economy from borrowing from the Central Bank except in exceptional circumstances.  Law No. 34-03 (2006) reinforced the supervisory authority of Bank Al-Maghrib over the activities of credit institutions. Foreign banks and branches are allowed to establish operations in Morocco and are subject to provisions regulating the banking sector. At present, the U.S. Mission is not aware of Morocco losing correspondent banking relationships.

There are no restrictions on foreigners’ abilities to establish bank accounts.  However, foreigners who wish to establish a bank account are required to open a “convertible” account with foreign currency.  The account holder may only deposit foreign currency into that account; at no time can they deposit dirhams. One issue, reported anecdotally, is that banks in Morocco close accounts without giving appropriate warning

In November 2017, the foreign exchange office (Office des Changes), the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF), the Central Bank, and the Moroccan Capital Market Authority (AMMC) announced a prohibition on the use of cryptocurrencies, noting that they carry significant risks that may lead to penalties.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign investments financed in foreign currency can be transferred tax-free, without amount or duration limits.  This income can be dividends, attendance fees, rental income, benefits, and interest. Capital contributions made in convertible currency, contributions made by debit of forward convertible accounts, and net transfer capital gains may also be repatriated.  For the transfer of dividends, bonuses, or benefit shares, the investor must provide balance sheets and profit and loss statements, annexed documents relating to the fiscal year in which the transfer is requested, as well as the statement of extra-accounting adjustments made in order to obtain the taxable income.

A currency-convertibility regime is available to foreign investors, including Moroccans living abroad, who invest in Morocco.  This regime facilitates their investments in Morocco, repatriation of income, and profits on investments. Morocco guarantees full currency convertibility for capital transactions, free transfer of profits, and free repatriation of invested capital, when such investment is governed by the convertibility arrangement.  Generally, the investors must notify the government of the investment transaction, providing the necessary legal and financial documentation. With respect to the cross-border transfer of investment proceeds to foreign investors, the rules vary depending on the type of investment. Investors may import freely without any value limits to traveler’s checks, bank or postal checks, letters of credit, payment cards or any other means of payment denominated in foreign currency.  For cash and/or negotiable instruments in bearer form with a value equal to or greater than USD 10,000, importers must file a declaration with Moroccan Customs at the port of entry. Declarations are available at all border crossings, ports, and airports.

Morocco has achieved relatively stable macroeconomic and financial conditions under an exchange rate peg (60/40 Euro/Dollar split), which has helped achieve price stability and insulated the economy from nominal shocks. In January 2018, the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance, in consultation with the Central Bank, adopted a new exchange regime in which the Moroccan dirham may now fluctuate within a band of ± 2.5 percent compared to the Bank’s central rate (peg).  The change loosened the fluctuation band from its previous ± 0.3 percent.

Remittance Policies

Amounts received from abroad must pass through a convertible dirham account.  This type of account facilitates investment transactions in Morocco and guarantees the transfer of proceeds for the investment, as well as the repatriation of the proceeds and the capital gains from any resale.  AMDIE recommends that investors open a convertible account in dirhams on arrival in Morocco in order to quickly access the funds necessary for notarial transactions.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Ithmar Capital is Morocco’s investment fund and financial vehicle, which aims to support the national sectorial strategies.  Established in November 2011 by the Moroccan government and supported by the royal Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development, the fund initially followed the government’s long-term Vision 2020 strategic plan for tourism.  The fund is currently part of the long-term development plan initiated by the government in different economic sectors. Its portfolio of assets is valued at USD 1.8 billion.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Boards of directors (in single-tier boards) or supervisory boards (in dual-tier boards) oversee Moroccan SOEs.  The Financial Control Act and the Limited Liability Companies Act govern these bodies. The Ministry of Economy and Finance’s Department of Public Enterprises and Privatization monitors SOE governance.  Pursuant to Law No. 69-00, SOE annual accounts are publicly available. Under Law No. 62-99, or the Financial Jurisdictions Code, the Court of Accounts and the Regional Courts of Accounts audit the management of a number of public enterprises.

As of March 2019, the Moroccan Treasury held a direct share in 212 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and 44 companies.  Several sectors remain under public monopoly, managed either directly by public institutions (rail transport, some postal services, and airport services) or by municipalities (wholesale distribution of fruit and vegetables, fish, and slaughterhouses).  The Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), a public limited company that is 95 percent held by the Moroccan government, is a world-leading exporter of phosphate and derived products. Morocco has opened several traditional government activities using delegated-management or concession arrangements to private domestic or foreign operators, which are generally subject to tendering procedures.  Examples include water and electricity distribution, construction and operation of motorways, and the management of non-hazardous wastes. In some cases, SOEs continue to control the infrastructure while allowing private-sector competition through concessions. SOEs benefit from budgetary transfers from the state treasury for investment expenditures.

Morocco established the Moroccan National Commission on Corporate Governance in 2007.  It prepared the first Moroccan Code of Good Corporate Governance Practices in 2008. In 2011, the Commission drafted a code dedicated to SOEs, drawing on the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs.  The code, which came into effect in 2012, aims to enhance SOEs’ overall performance. It requires greater use of standardized public procurement and accounting rules, outside audits, the inclusion of independent directors, board evaluations, greater transparency, and better disclosure.  The Moroccan government prioritizes a number of governance-related initiatives including an initiative to help SOEs contribute to the emergence of regional development clusters. The government is also attempting to improve the use of multi-year contracts with major SOEs as a tool to enhance performance and transparency.

Privatization Program

In the Government of Morocco’s 2019 budget, there are plans to revive the privatization program that ended in 2013. The updated annex to Law 38-89 (which authorizes the transfer of publicly held shares to the private sector) includes the list of entities to be privatized.  The state still holds significant shares in the main telecommunications companies, banks, and insurance companies, as well as railway and air transport companies.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible business conduct (RBC) has gained strength in the broader business community in tandem with Morocco’s economic expansion and stability.  Businesses are active in RBC programs related to the environment, local communities, employees, and consumers. The Moroccan government does not have any regulations requiring companies to practice RBC nor gives any preference to such companies.  However, companies generally inform Moroccan authorities of their planned RBC involvement. Morocco joined the UN Global Compact network in 2006. The Compact provides support to companies that affirm their commitment to social responsibility. In 2016, the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs launched an annual gender equality prize to highlight Moroccan companies that promote women in the workforce.  While there is no legislation mandating specific levels of RBC, foreign firms and some local enterprises follow generally accepted principles, such as the OECD RBC guidelines for multinational companies. NGOs and Morocco’s active civil society are also taking an increasingly active role in monitoring corporations’ RBC performance. Morocco does not currently participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, though it has held some consultations aimed at eventually joining EITI.  No domestic transparency measures exist that require disclosure of payments made to governments. There have not been any cases of high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights in the recent past.

9. Corruption

In the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International (TI), which can be found at https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018  , Morocco improved by three points from the previous year (from 40 to 43 points) and moved up eight spots in the rankings (from 81st to 73rd out of 180 countries).  According to the 2018 State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Moroccan law stipulates criminal penalties for official corruption, but companies have reported that the government does not implement the law effectively.  Per TI’s 2018 report, NGOs assert that corruption and extrajudicial influence weakened judicial independence.

The 2011 constitution mandated the creation of a national anti-corruption entity.  Morocco formally adopted the National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPLCC) through a law published in 2015.  The INPLCC did not come into operation until late 2018 when its board was appointed by King Mohammed VI, although a weaker predecessor organization continued in existence until that time.  The INPLCC is tasked with initiating, coordinating, and overseeing the implementation of policies for the prevention and the fight against corruption, as well as gathering and disseminating information on the issue. Additionally, Morocco’s anti-corruption efforts include enhancing the transparency of public tenders and implementation of a requirement that senior government officials submit financial disclosure statements at the start and end of their government service, although their family members are not required to make such disclosures.  Some report that few public officials submitted such disclosures, and there are no effective penalties for failing to comply.  Morocco does not have conflict of interest legislation. In 2018, thanks to the passage of an Access to Information (AI) law, Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral effort to make governments more transparent.

Although the Moroccan government does not require that private companies establish internal codes of conduct, the Moroccan Institute of Directors (IMA) was established in June 2009 with the goal of bringing together individuals, companies, and institutions willing to promote corporate governance and conduct.  IMA published the four Moroccan Codes of Good Corporate Governance Practices.  Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.  Morocco signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2007 and hosted the States Parties to the Convention’s Fourth Session in 2011.  However, Morocco does not provide any formal protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.  Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of cases involving corruption with regard to customs or taxation issues, American businesses report encountering unexpected delays and requests for documentation that is not required under the FTA or standardized shipping norms.

Resources to Report Corruption

Address: Avenue Annakhil, Immeuble High Tech, Hall B, 3eme etage, Hay Ryad-Rabat
Telephone number: +212-5 37 57 86 60
Email address: contact@icpc.ma
Fax: +212-5 37 71 16 73

Note: The official website and contact information has not yet changed to INPLCC

Organization: Transparency International National Chapter
Address: 24 Boulevard de Khouribga, Casablanca 20250
Email Address: transparency@menara.ma
Telephone number: +212-22-542 699
Website: http://www.transparencymaroc.ma/index.php 

10. Political and Security Environment

Morocco does not have a history of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance.  There has not been any damage to projects and/or installations, which has had a continuing impact on the investment environment.  Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and usually center on political or social issues. They can attract thousands of people in major city centers, but most have been peaceful and orderly.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Moroccan labor market exhibits a gap between many Moroccan university graduates who cannot find jobs commensurate with their education and training, and employers reporting a shortage of skilled candidates.  In education, STEM literacy and industrial skills are not prioritized, and many graduates are unprepared to meet contemporary job market demands. Since 2011, the Moroccan government restructured its employment promotion agency, the National Agency for Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC), in order to assist new university graduates in preparing for and finding work in the private sector that requires specialized skills.  The Bureau of Professional Training and Job Promotion (OFPPT), Morocco’s main public provider for professional training, also launched the Specialized Institute for Aeronautics and Airport Logistics (ISMALA) in Casablanca in 2013 to offer technical training in aeronautical maintenance.  According to figures released by the government planning agency, unemployment was 9.8 percent at the end of 2018, with unemployment among youth aged 15 to 24 hovering around 40 percent in some urban areas.

The Government of Morocco is pursuing a strategy to increase the number of students in vocational and professional training programs. The government opened 27 such training centers between 2015 and 2018 and nearly doubled the number of students receiving scholarships for training between 2017 and 2018.  In April 2018, the Government of Morocco launched a National Plan for Job Promotion, created after three years of collaboration with government partners involved in employment policy, to support job creation, strengthen the job market, and consolidate regional resources devoted to job promotion. This plan promotes entrepreneurship – especially in the context of regionalization outside the Casablanca-Rabat corridor – to boost youth employment.

Pursuing a forward-leaning migration policy, the Moroccan government regularized the status of over 50,000 sub-Saharans migrants since 2014.  Regularization has provided these migrants with legal access to employment, employment services, and education and vocation training.  The majority of sub-Saharan migrants who benefitted from the regularization program work in call centers and education institutes, if they have strong French or English skills, or domestic work and construction.

According to section VI of the labor law, employers in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and forestry sectors with ten or more employees must communicate a dismissal decision to the employee’s union representatives, where applicable, at least one month prior to dismissal.  The employer must also provide grounds for dismissal, the number of employees concerned, and the amount of time intended to undertake termination.  With regards to severance pay (article 52 of the labor law), the employee bound by an indefinite employment contract is entitled to compensation in case of dismissal after six months of work in the same company regardless of the mode of remuneration and frequency of payment and wages.  The labor law differentiates between layoffs for economic reasons and firing.  In case of serious misconduct, the employee may be dismissed without notice or compensation or payment of damages.  The employee must file an application with the National Social Security Funds (CNSS) agency of his or her choice, within a period not exceeding 60 days from the date of loss of employment.  During this period, the employee shall be entitled to medical benefits, family allowances, and possibly pension entitlements.  Labor law is applicable in all sectors of employment; there are no specific labor laws to foreign trade zones or other sectors.  More information is available from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Economic Diplomacy unit (https://www.diplomatie.ma/Portals/12/index_test/localhost/diploslack/22.html  ).

Morocco has roughly 20 collective bargaining agreements in the following sectors: Telecommunications, automotive industry, refining industry, road transport, fish canning industry, aircraft cable factory, collection of domestic waste, ceramics, naval construction and repair, paper industry, communication and information, land transport, and banks.  The sectoral agreements that exist to date are in the banking, energy, printing, chemicals, ports, and agricultural sectors.  According to the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices ( visit https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/), the Moroccan constitution grants workers the right to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions (S 396-429 Labor Code Act 1999, No. 65/99).  The law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary, from forming and joining unions and from conducting strikes.  The law allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining.  The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.  Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for the majority of unionized and nonunionized workers.  Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions.  Legally, unions can negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues.

Labor disputes (S 549-581 Labor Code Act 1999, No. 65/99) are common, and in some cases, they result in employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages.  Trade unions complain that the government sometimes uses Article 288 of the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes.  Labor inspectors are tasked with mediation of labor disputes.  In general, strikes are frequent in heavily unionized sectors such as education and government services, and such strikes can lead to disruptions in government services but usually remain peaceful.  In July 2016, the Moroccan government passed the Domestic Worker Law and the long-debated pension reform bill; the former entered into force in October 2018. The new pension reform legislation is expected to keep Morocco’s largest pension fund, the Caisse Marocaine de Retraites (CMR), solvent until 2028, with an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 63 by 2024, and adjustments in contributions and future allocations.

Chapter 16 of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) addresses labor issues and commits both parties to respecting international labor standards.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

OPIC has a long history of supporting projects in Morocco and has provided finance or insurance support to 22 deals over the past four decades.  Morocco signed an agreement with OPIC in 1961. The agreement was updated in 1995 and ratified by the Moroccan parliament in June 2004. The agreement can be found on OPIC’s website . In August 2013, OPIC provided its consent for a new USD 40 million, eight-year term loan facility with Attijariwafa Bank to support loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Morocco under a risk-sharing agreement between OPIC and Citi Maghreb. In August 2014, OPIC signed an additional agreement with Attijariwafa and Wells Fargo to provide additional support to SMEs.

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) 2017 $109,700 2017 $109,709 World Bank 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $567.3 2017 $412 BEA
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $5.5 2017 $-18 BEA
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 55.47% 2017 59.3% UNCTAD

* Source for Host Country Data: Moroccan GDP data from Bank Al-Maghrib, all other statistics from the Moroccan Exchange Office.  Conflicts in host country and international statistics are likely due to methodological differences


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 $31,351 100% Total Outward $4,532 100%
France $12,360 39% France $885 20%
United Arab Emirates $10,644 34% Ivory Coast $711 16%
Spain $1,116 4% Luxembourg $366 8%
Kuwait $969 3% Mauritius $318 7%
Netherlands $828 3% Switzerland $197 4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Foreign Commercial Service
U.S. Consulate General Casablanca, Morocco
+212522642082
Email: Office.casablanca@trade.gov

Philippines

Executive Summary

The Philippines has improved its overall investment climate throughout the past decade, and the country’s sovereign credit ratings remain investment grade due to the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals.  The Philippines continues to experience high levels of net foreign direct investment (FDI), even as FDI inflows slightly dipped to USD 9.8 billion for 2018 from a record high of USD 10.3 billion in 2017, according to Department of Trade and Industry data. The majority of FDI investments included manufacturing, financial and insurance activities, real estate, gas, steam, and tourism/recreation.  (https://www.dti.gov.ph/resources/statistics/net-foreign-direct-investments-fdi#table)

Foreign investment pledges approved by Philippine investment promotion agencies (IPAs) increased from USD 2.04 billion in 2017 to USD 3.45 billion in 2018, a 69 percent increase. (https://www.dti.gov.ph/resources/statistics/ipa-approved-investments).  FDI in the Philippines, however, remains relatively low in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as it ranks fourth out of 10 ASEAN countries for total FDI in 2018.

Foreign ownership limitations in many sectors of the economy constrain investments.  Poor infrastructure, high power costs, slow broadband connections, regulatory inconsistencies, and corruption are major disincentives to investment.  The Philippines’ complex, slow, and sometimes corrupt judicial system inhibits the timely and fair resolution of commercial disputes. Investors often describe the business registration process as slow and burdensome.  Traffic in major cities and congestion in the ports remain a regular cost of business. Proposed tax reform legislation to reduce the corporate income tax from ASEAN’s highest rate of 30 percent would be positive for business investment, although some foreign investors have concerns about a possible reduction of investment incentives proposed in the measure.

The Philippines is working to address investment constraints.  In October 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), which enumerates investment areas where foreign ownership or investment is banned or limited.  The most significant changes permit foreign companies to have a 100 percent investment in internet businesses (not a part of mass media), insurance adjustment firms, investment houses, lending and finance companies, and wellness centers.  It also allows foreigners to teach higher educational levels, provided the subject is not professional nor requires bar examination/government certification. The latest FINL now allows 40 percent foreign participation in construction and repair of locally funded public works, up from 25 percent.  The FINL, however, is limited in scope since it cannot change prior laws relating to foreign investments, such as Constitutional provisions which bar investment in mass media, utilities, and natural resource extraction.

There are currently several pending pieces of legislation which would have a large impact on investment and unleash investment within the country.  Congress approved the Ease of Doing Business Bill and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act in May 2018 (which amends the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007) that allows for a standardized maximum deadline for government transactions, a single business application form, a one-stop shop, an automation of business permits processing, a zero contact policy, and a central business databank (https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2018/05/28/republic-act-no-11032/).  It is presently awaiting the President’s signature and expected to be signed in 2019.  Touted as one of the Duterte Administrations’ landmark law, it creates an Anti-Red Tape Authority under the Office of the President that oversees national policy on anti-red tape issues implement reforms to improve competitiveness rankings.  It will also monitor compliance of agencies and issue notices to erring and non-compliant government employees and officials.

While the Philippine bureaucracy can be slow and opaque in its processes, the business environment is notably better within the special economic zones, particularly those available for export businesses operated by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), known for its regulatory transparency, no red-tape policy, and one-stop shop services for investors.  Finally, the Philippines plans to spend about USD 180 billion through 2022 to upgrade its infrastructure through the Build, Build, Build program.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 99 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2018 124 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2017 73 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $7.1  http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $3,660 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

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

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

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

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

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

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

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

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

Other Investment Policy Reviews

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

Business Facilitation

Business registration in the Philippines is cumbersome due to multiple agencies involved in the process.  It takes an average of 31 days to start a business in Quezon City in Metro Manila, according to the 2019 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report.  Touted as one of the Duterte Administrations’ landmark laws, the Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act amends the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, and legislates standardized deadlines for government transactions, a single business application form, a one-stop-shop, automation of business permits processing, a zero contact policy, and a central business databank.

The law was passed in May 2018, and it creates an Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA – http://arta.gov.ph/  ) under the Office of the President to carry out the mandate of business facilitation.  ARTA is governed by a council that includes the Secretary’s of Trade and Industry, Finance, Interior and Local Governments, and Information and Communications Technology.  The Department of Trade and Industry serves as interim Secretariat for ARTA. Without the rules and regulations being issued, compliance has not been in effect. The implementing rules and regulations are currently being drafted (http://arta.gov.ph/pages/IRR.html  ).

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

Outward Investment

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

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The Philippines has neither a bilateral investment nor a free trade agreement with the United States.  The only bilateral free trade agreement the Philippines has is with Japan. The Philippines has signed bilateral investment agreements with 39 countries or entities: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Mongolia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

The Philippines is party to ASEAN regional trade agreements, including an investment chapter with trading partners Australia and New Zealand, Republic of Korea, India, and China.  It also has an investment agreement with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland under the Philippines-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Free Trade Agreement.

The Philippines has a tax treaty with United States to avoid double taxation and provide procedures for resolving interpretative disputes and tax enforcement in both countries.  The treaty encourages bilateral trade and investment by allowing the exchange of capital, goods, and services under clearly defined tax rules and, in some cases, preferential tax rates or tax exemptions.

U.S. recipients of royalty income qualify for preferential tax rates (currently 10 percent) under the most favored nation clause of the United States-Philippines tax treaty.  A preferential tax treaty rate of 15 percent applies to dividends and interest income from bona fide loans; and 10 percent on interest income from government bonds. The Philippine Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that securing a tax treaty relief ruling from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is not a legal requirement to qualify for preferential treatment and tax treaty rates; however, based on experience, tax experts generally still advise filing a tax treaty relief application to avoid potential challenges or controversies.  Despite efforts to streamline processes, taxpayers find documentation requirements for tax treaty relief applications burdensome. The volume of tax treaty relief applications has resulted in processing delays, with most applications reportedly pending for over a year. Inconsistent taxation rulings are also a concern.

The BIR rules and regulations for tax accounting have not been fully harmonized with the Philippine Financial Reporting Standards.  The BIR requires taxpayers to maintain records reconciling figures presented in financial statements and income tax returns. Additional information regarding BIR regulations is available on the BIR website   (https://www.bir.gov.ph/ ).

The Philippines and United States signed a reciprocal Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) in July 2015 for automatic exchange of information between tax authorities to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA).  The bilateral agreement has yet to enter into force pending completion of domestic legal remedies to overcome stringent bank secrecy restrictions to the disclosure/sharing of information.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Proposed Philippine laws must undergo public comment and review.  Government agencies are required to craft implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) through public consultation meetings within the government and with private sector representatives after laws are passed.  New regulations must be published in newspapers or in the government’s official gazette, available online, before taking effect (https://www.gov.ph/ ). The 2016 Executive Order on Freedom of Information (FOI) mandates full public disclosure and transparency of government operations, with certain exceptions.  The public may request copies of official records through the FOI website (https://www.foi.gov.ph/).  Implementing rules for the Executive Order had not been fully developed, as of April 2019.  The order is criticized for its long list of exceptions, rendering the policy less effective.

Stakeholders report regulatory enforcement in the Philippines is generally weak, inconsistent, and unpredictable.  Many U.S. investors describe business registration, customs, immigration, and visa procedures as burdensome and frustrating.  Regulatory agencies are generally not statutorily independent but are attached to cabinet departments or the Office of the President and, therefore, are subject to political pressure.  Issues in the judicial system also affect regulatory enforcement.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Philippines is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and provides notice of draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade  (TBT).

The Philippines continues to fulfill required regulatory reforms under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).  The Philippines is still completing its National Single Window (NSW) Phase 2 Project and targets to run and connect the NSW trade portal to the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) by end of 2019.

The Philippines passed the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act in 2016, which enables the country to largely comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.  However, the various implementing rules and regulations to execute specific provisions had not been completed by the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Customs as of April 2019.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Philippines has a mixed legal system of civil, common, Islamic, and customary laws, along with commercial and contractual laws.

The Philippine judicial system is a separate and largely independent branch of the government, made up of the Supreme Court and lower courts.  The Supreme Court is the highest court and sole constitutional body. More information is available on the court’s website   (http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/).  The lower courts consist of: (a) trial courts with limited jurisdictions (i.e. Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, etc.); (b) Regional Trial Courts (RTCs); (c) Shari’ah District Courts (Muslim courts); and (d) Court of Appeals (appellate courts).  Special courts include the “Sandiganbayan” (anti-graft court for public officials) and the Court of Tax Appeals. Several RTCs have been designated as Special Commercial Courts (SCC) to hear intellectual property (IP) cases, with four SCCs authorized to issue writs of search and seizure on IP violations, enforceable nationwide.  In addition, nearly any case can be appealed to appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, increasing caseloads and further clogging the judicial system.

Foreign investors describe the inefficiency and uncertainty of the judicial system as a significant disincentive to investment.  Many investors decline to file dispute cases in court because of slow and complex litigation processes and corruption among some personnel.  The courts are not considered impartial or fair. Stakeholders also report an inexperienced judiciary when confronted with complex issues such as technology, science, and intellectual property cases.  The Philippines ranked 149th out of 190 economies, and 23rd among 25 economies from East Asia and the Pacific, in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business report in terms of enforcing contracts.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The BOI regulates and promotes investment into the Philippines.  The Investment Priorities Plan (IPP), administered by the BOI, identifies preferred economic activities approved by the President.  Government agencies are encouraged to adopt policies and implement programs consistent with the IPP.

The Foreign Investment Act (FIA) requires the publishing of the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) that outlines sectors in which foreign investment is restricted.  The FINL consists of two parts: Part A details sectors in which foreign equity participation is restricted by the Philippine Constitution or laws; and Part B lists areas in which foreign ownership is limited for reasons of national security, defense, public health, morals, and/or the protection of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The 1995 Special Economic Zone Act allows PEZAs to regulate and promote investments in export-oriented manufacturing and service facilities inside special economic zones, including grants of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives.

Further information about investing in the Philippines is available at BOI website (http://boiown.gov.ph/ ) and PEZA website (http://www.peza.gov.ph/ ).

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The 2015 Philippine competition law established the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), an independent body mandated to resolve complaints on issues such as price fixing and bid rigging, and to stop mergers that would restrict competition.  More information is available on PCC website (http://phcc.gov.ph/#content ). The Department of Justice (https://www.doj.gov.ph/ ) prosecutes criminal offenses involving violations of competition laws.

Expropriation and Compensation

Philippine law allows expropriation of private property for public use or in the interest of national welfare or defense in return for fair market value compensation.  In the event of expropriation, foreign investors have the right to receive compensation in the currency in which the investment was originally made and to remit it at the equivalent exchange rate.  However, the process of agreeing on a mutually acceptable price can be protracted in Philippine courts. No recent cases of expropriation involve U.S. companies in the Philippines.

The 2016 Right-of-Way Act facilitates acquisition of right-of-way sites for national government infrastructure projects and outlines procedures in providing “just compensation” to owners of expropriated real properties to expedite implementation of government infrastructure programs.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The Philippines is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and has adopted the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, or the New York Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Philippines is signatory to various bilateral investment treaties that recognize international arbitration of investment disputes.  Since 2002, the Philippines has been respondent to six investment dispute cases filed before the ICSID. Details of cases involving the Philippines are available on the ICSID website  .

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Investment disputes can take years to resolve due to systemic problems in Philippine courts.  Lack of resources, understaffing, and corruption make the already complex court processes protracted and expensive. Several laws on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms (i.e. arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and conciliation) were approved to decongest clogged court dockets.  Public-Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure contracts are required to include ADR provisions to make resolving disputes less expensive and time-consuming.

A separate action must be filed for foreign judgments to be recognized or enforced under Philippine law.  Philippine law does not recognize or enforce foreign judgments that run counter to existing laws, particularly those relating to public order, public policy, and good customary practices.  Foreign arbitral awards are enforceable upon application in writing to the regional trial court with jurisdiction. The petition may be filed any time after receipt of the award.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The 2010 Philippine bankruptcy and insolvency law provides a predictable framework for rehabilitation and liquidation of distressed companies, although an examination of some reported cases suggests uneven implementation.  Rehabilitation may be initiated by debtors or creditors under court-supervised, pre-negotiated, or out-of-court proceedings. The law sets conditions for voluntary (debtor-initiated) and involuntary (creditor-initiated) liquidation.  It also recognizes cross-border insolvency proceedings in accordance with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, allowing courts to recognize proceedings in a foreign jurisdiction involving a foreign entity with assets in the Philippines.  Regional trial courts designated by the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over insolvency and bankruptcy cases. The Philippines ranked 63rd out of 190 economies, and eighth among 25 economies from East Asia and the Pacific, in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business report in terms of resolving insolvency and bankruptcy cases.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Philippines’ Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) enumerates investment activities entitled to incentives facilitated by BOI, such as an income tax holiday.  Non-fiscal incentives include the following: employment of foreign nationals, simplified customs procedures, duty exemption on imported capital equipment and spare parts, importation of consigned equipment, and operation of a bonded manufacturing warehouse.

The 2017 IPP, updated every three years, provides incentives to the following activities: manufacturing (e.g. agro-processing, modular housing components, machinery, and equipment); agriculture, fishery, and forestry; Integrated Circuit design, creative industries, and knowledge-based services (e.g. IT-Business Process Management services for the domestic market, repair/maintenance of aircraft, telecommunications, etc.); healthcare (e.g. hospitals and drug rehabilitation centers); mass housing; infrastructure and logistics (e.g. airports, seaports, and PPP projects); energy (development of energy sources, power generation plants, and ancillary services); innovation drivers (e.g. fabrication laboratories); and environment (e.g. climate change-related projects).  Further details of the 2017 IPP are available on the BOI website (http://boi.gov.ph/  ).

BOI-registered enterprises that locate in less-developed areas are entitled to pioneer incentives and can deduct 100 percent of the cost of necessary infrastructure work and labor expenses from taxable income.  Pioneer status can be granted to enterprises producing new products or using new methods, goods deemed highly essential to the country’s agricultural self-sufficiency program, or goods utilizing non-conventional fuel sources.  Furthermore, an enterprise with more than 40 percent foreign equity that exports at least 70 percent of its production may be entitled to incentives even if the activity is not listed in the IPP. Export-oriented firms with at least 50 percent of revenues derived from exports may register for additional incentives under the 1994 Export Development Act.

Multinational entities that establish regional warehouses for the supply of spare parts, manufactured components, or raw materials for foreign markets also enjoy incentives on imports that are re-exported, including exemption from customs duties, internal revenue taxes, and local taxes.  The first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law which took effect January 1, 2018, removed the 15 percent special tax rate on gross income of employees of multinational enterprises’ regional headquarters (RHQ) and regional operating headquarters (ROHQ) located in the Philippines.  RHQ and ROHQ employees are now subjected to regular income tax rates, usually at higher and less competitive rates.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Export-related businesses enjoy preferential tax treatment when located in export processing zones, free trade zones, and certain industrial estates, collectively known as economic zones, or ecozones.  Businesses located in ecozones are considered outside customs territory and are allowed to import capital equipment and raw material free of customs duties, taxes, and other import restrictions. Goods imported into ecozones may be stored, repacked, mixed, or otherwise manipulated without being subject to import duties and are exempt from the Bureau of Customs’ Selective Pre-shipment Advance Classification Scheme.  While some ecozones are designated as both export processing zones and free trade zones, individual businesses within them are only permitted to receive incentives under a single category.

Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)

PEZA operates 379 ecozones, primarily in manufacturing, IT, tourism, medical tourism, logistics/warehousing, and agro-industrial sectors.  PEZA manages four government-owned export-processing zones (Mactan, Baguio, Cavite, and Pampanga) and administers incentives to enterprises in other privately owned and operated ecozones.  Any person, partnership, corporation, or business organization, regardless of nationality, control and/or ownership, may register as an export, IT, tourism, medical tourism, or agro-industrial enterprise with PEZA, provided the enterprise physically locates its activity inside any of the ecozones.  PEZA administrators have earned a reputation for maintaining a clear and predictable investment environment within the zones of their authority. (http://www.peza.gov.ph/index.php/economic-zones/list-of-economic-zones/operating-economic-zones)

Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)

The ecozones located inside former U.S. military bases were established under the 1992 Bases Conversion and Development Act.  The BCDA (http://www.bcda.gov.ph/  ) operates Clark Freeport Zone (Angeles City, Pampanga), John Hay Special Economic Zone (Baguio), Poro Point Freeport Zone (La Union), and Bataan Technology Park (Morong, Bataan).  The SBMA operates Subic Bay Freeport Zone (Subic Bay, Zambales). Clark and Subic have their own international airports, power plants, telecommunications networks, housing complexes, and tourist facilities.  These ecozones offer comparable incentives to PEZA. Enterprises already receiving incentives under the BCDA law are disqualified to receive incentives and benefits offered by other laws.

Other Zones

The Phividec Industrial Estate (Misamis Oriental Province, Mindanao) is governed by Phividec Industrial Authority (PIA) (http://www.piamo.gov.ph/ ), a government-owned and controlled corporation.  Other ecozones are Zamboanga City Economic Zone and Freeport (Zamboanga City, Mindanao) (http://www.zfa.gov.ph/  ) and Cagayan Special Economic Zone (CEZA) and Freeport (Santa Ana, Cagayan Province) (http://ceza.gov.ph/  ).  CEZA grants gaming licenses in addition to offering export incentives.  The Regional Economic Zone Authority (Cotabato City, Mindanao) (http://reza.armm.gov.ph/ ) has been operated by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).  The incentives available to investors in these zones are similar to PEZA, but administered independently.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The BOI imposes a higher export performance requirement on foreign-owned enterprises (70 percent of production) than on Philippine-owned companies (50 percent of production) when providing incentives under IPP.

Companies registered with BOI and PEZA may employ foreign nationals in supervisory, technical, or advisory positions for five years from date of registration (possibly extendable upon request).  Top positions and elective officers of majority foreign-owned BOI-registered enterprises (such as president, general manager, and treasurer, or their equivalents) are exempt from employment term limitation.  Foreigners intending to work locally must secure an Alien Employment Permit from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE  ), renewable every year or co-terminus with the duration of employment (which in no case shall exceed five years).  The BOI and PEZA facilitate special investor’s resident visas with multiple entry privileges and extend visa facilitation assistance to foreign nationals, their spouses, and dependents.

The 2006 Biofuels Act establishes local content requirements for diesel and gasoline, which must have a minimum content of locally produced biofuel (currently 2 percent for diesel and 10 percent for gasoline, by volume).  There is no other data localization requirement imposed on other goods. The Philippines does not impose restrictions on cross-border data transfers. Sensitive personal information is protected under the 2012 Data Privacy Act, which provides penalties for unauthorized processing and improper disposal of data even if processed outside the Philippines.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Philippines recognizes and protects property rights, but the enforcement of laws is weak and fragmented.  The Land Registration Authority and the Register of Deeds (http://www.lra.gov.ph/), which facilitate the registration and transfer of property titles, are responsible for land administration, with more information available on their website  s.  Property registration processes are tedious and costly.  Multiple agencies are involved in property administration, which results in overlapping procedures for land valuation and titling processes.  Record management is weak due to a lack of funds and trained personnel. Corruption is also prevalent among land administration personnel and the court system is slow to resolve land disputes.  The Philippines ranked 114th out of 190 economies in terms of ease of property registration in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business report.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Philippines is not listed on the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report.  The country has a robust intellectual property rights (IPR) regime in place, although enforcement is irregular and inconsistent.  The total estimated value of counterfeit goods reported seized in 2018 was USD 453 million, nearly a 180 percent increase from USD 162 million in 2017.  The sale of imported counterfeit goods in local markets has visibly decreased, though stakeholders report the amount of counterfeit goods sold online is gradually increasing.

The Intellectual Property (IP) Code provides legal framework for IPR protection, particularly in key areas of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.  The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) is the implementing agency of the IP Code, with more information available on its website  .  The Philippines generally has strong patent and trademark laws.  IPOPHL’s IP Enforcement Office (IEO) reviews IPR-related complaints and visits establishments reportedly engaged in IPR-related violations.  However, weak border protection, corruption, limited enforcement capacity by the government, and lack of clear procedures continue to weaken enforcement.  In addition, IP owners still must assume most enforcement costs when counterfeit goods are seized.

Enforcement actions are often not followed by successful prosecutions.  The slow and capricious judicial system keeps most IP owners from pursuing cases in court.  IP infringement is not considered a major crime in the Philippines and takes a lower priority in court proceedings, especially as the courts become more crowded out with criminal cases, which receive higher priority.  Many IP owners opt for out-of-court settlements (such as ADR) rather than filing a lawsuit that may take years to resolve in the unpredictable Philippine courts. The IPOPHL has jurisdiction to resolve certain disputes concerning alleged infringement and licensing through its Arbitration and Mediation Center.

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

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Mission:

Douglas Fowler, Economic Officer
Economic Section, U.S. Embassy Manila
Telephone: (+632) 301.2000
Email: ManilaEcon@state.gov

A list of local lawyers can be found on the U.S. Embassy’s website: https://ph.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Philippines welcomes the entry of foreign portfolio investments, including into local and foreign-issued equities listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE  ).  Investments in certain publicly listed companies are subject to foreign ownership restrictions specified in the Constitution and other laws.  Non-residents are allowed to issue bonds/notes or similar instruments in the domestic market with prior approval from the Central Bank; in certain cases, they may also obtain financing in Philippine pesos from authorized agent banks without prior Central Bank approval.

Although growing, the PSE (with fewer than 270 listed firms as of the end of 2017) lags behind many of its neighbors in size, product offerings, and trading activity.  The securities market is growing but remains dominated by government bills and bonds. Hostile takeovers are uncommon because most companies’ shares are not publicly listed and controlling interest tends to remain with a small group of parties.  Cross-ownership and interlocking directorates among listed companies also decrease the likelihood of hostile takeovers.

In September 1995, the Philippines accepted International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article VIII obligations to refrain from imposing restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.  The IMF staff did not raise/report any issues involving restrictions on current international payments and transfers following its most recent annual consultations with the Philippines in 2017.

Credit is generally granted on market terms and foreign investors are able to obtain credit from the liquid domestic market.  However, some laws require financial institutions to set aside loans for preferred sectors (e.g. agriculture, agrarian reform, and MSMEs).  To help promote lending at competitive rates to MSMEs, the government is working to fully operationalize a centralized credit information system that collects and disseminates information about the track record of borrowers and credit activities of entities in the financial system.

Money and Banking System

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP, the Central Bank) is a highly respected institution.  The banking system is stable. The Central Bank has pursued regulatory reforms promoting good governance and aligning/adapting risk management regulations and the risk-based capital framework with international standards.  Capital adequacy ratios are well above the 8 percent international standard and the central bank’s 10 percent regulatory requirement. The non-performing loan ratio was at 1.7 percent as of the end of 2018. There is ample liquidity, with the liquid assets-to-deposits ratio estimated at about 48 percent.  Commercial banks constitute more than 90 percent of the total assets of the Philippine banking industry. The five largest commercial banks represented about 60 percent of the total resources of the commercial banking sector as of 2018. Twenty-two of the 44 commercial banks operating in the country are foreign branches, including three U.S. banks (Citibank, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase).  Citibank has the largest presence among the foreign bank branches and currently ranks 12th overall in terms of assets.

Foreign residents and non-residents may open foreign and local currency bank accounts.  Although non-residents may open local currency deposit accounts, they are limited to the funding sources specified under central bank regulations.  Non-residents’ foreign currency accounts cannot be funded from foreign exchange purchases from banks and banks’ subsidiary/affiliate foreign exchange corporations.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

The Central Bank has actively pursued reforms since the 1990s to liberalize and simplify foreign exchange regulations.  As a general rule, the Central Bank allows residents and non-residents to purchase foreign exchange from banks, banks’ subsidiary/affiliate foreign exchange corporations, and other non-bank entities operating as foreign exchange dealers and/or money changers and remittance agents to fund legitimate foreign exchange obligations, subject to provision of information and/or supporting documents on underlying obligations.  No mandatory foreign exchange surrender requirement is imposed on exporters, overseas workers’ incomes, or other foreign currency earners; these foreign exchange receipts may be sold for pesos or retained in foreign exchange in local and/or offshore accounts. The Central Bank follows a market-determined exchange rate policy, with scope for intervention to smooth excessive foreign exchange volatility.

Remittance Policies

The Central Bank does not restrict payments and transfers for current international transactions, including payments for imports, subject to submission of a duly accomplished foreign exchange purchase application form if the foreign exchange is sourced from banks and/or their subsidiary/affiliate foreign exchange corporations within specified thresholds (currently USD 500,000 for individuals and USD 1 million for corporates/other entities).  Purchases above the thresholds are also subject to the submission of minimum documentary requirements but do not require prior Central Bank approval.

Foreign exchange policies do not require approval of inward foreign direct and portfolio investments.  Registration of foreign investments with the Central Bank or custodian banks is generally optional. Duly registered foreign investments are entitled to full and immediate repatriation of capital and remittance of dividends, profits, and earnings.

As a general policy, current regulations require prior Central Bank approval of government-guaranteed foreign loans/borrowings (including those in the form of notes, bonds, and similar instruments) by the private sector.  Although there are exceptions, private sector loan agreements should also be registered with the Central Bank if serviced through the purchase of foreign exchange from the banking system.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed the Philippines from its gray list of countries with strategic deficiencies in countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism in 2013.  Although a high reporting threshold and exclusion of junket operators and non-cash transactions are weaknesses, a law signed in July 2017 to include casinos as covered institutions in the Philippine anti-money laundering regime has allowed the Philippines to stave off a return to the FATF gray list thus far.  Although not a systemic issue, some local banks and money service businesses have been affected by the “de-risking” phenomenon reported by various jurisdictions in recent years, driven in part by risk aversion of foreign banks due to anti-money laundering/terrorism financing compliance costs. The Philippines has a restrictive regime for accessing bank accounts to detect or prosecute financial crimes, which is a significant impediment to enforcing laws against corruption, tax evasion, smuggling, laundering, and other economic crimes.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Philippines does not presently have sovereign wealth funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises, known in the Philippines as government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC), are predominant in the power, transport, infrastructure, communications, land and water resources, social services, housing, and support services sectors.  There were 103 operational and functioning GOCCs as of April 2019 (a list is available on the Governance Commission for GOCC [GCG] website  ).  GOCCs are required to remit at least 50 percent of their annual net earnings (e.g. cash, stock, or property dividends) to the national government.

Private and state-owned enterprises generally compete equally.  The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS  ) is the only agency, with limited exceptions, allowed to provide coverage for the government’s insurance risks and interests, including those in BOT projects and privatized government corporations.  Since the national government acts as the main guarantor of loans, stakeholders report GOCCs often have an advantage in getting financing from government financial institutions and some private banks.  Most GOCCs are not statutorily independent, but attached to cabinet departments, and, therefore, subject to political interference.

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs

The Philippines is not an OECD member country.  The 2011 GOCC Governance Act addresses problems experienced by GOCCs, including poor financial performance, weak governance structures, and unauthorized allowances.  The law allows unrestricted access to GOCC account books and requires strict compliance with accounting and financial disclosure standards; establishes the power to privatize, abolish, or restructure GOCCs without legislative action; and sets performance standards and limits on compensation and allowances.  The GCG   formulates and implements GOCC policies.  GOCC board members are limited to one-year term, subject to reappointment based on a performance rating set by GCG, with final approval by the Philippine President.

Privatization Program

The Philippine Government’s privatization program is managed by the Privatization Management Office (PMO) under the Department of Finance (DOF).  The privatization of government assets undergoes a public bidding process. Apart from restrictions stipulated in FINL, no regulations discriminate against foreign buyers and the bidding process appears to be transparent.  Additional information is available on the PMO website (http://www.pmo.gov.ph/index.htm )

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) is regularly practiced in the Philippines, although no domestic laws require it.  The Philippine Tax Code provides RBC-related incentives to corporations, such as tax exemptions and deductions. Various non-government organizations and business associations also promote RBC.  The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP  ) is the largest corporate-led social development foundation involved in advocating corporate citizenship practice in the Philippines.  U.S. companies report strong and favorable responses to RBC programs among employees and within local communities.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

The Philippines is not an OECD member country.  The Philippine government strongly supports RBC practices among the business community but has not yet endorsed the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to stakeholders.

9. Corruption

Corruption is a pervasive and long-standing problem in both the public and private sectors.  The country’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index declined from 101 in 2016 to 111 in 2017 of 176 countries worldwide yet rebounded to 99 out of 180 in 2018.   The World Economic Forum’s 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report ranked corruption among the top problematic factors for doing business in the Philippines. The Bureau of Customs is still considered to be one of the most corrupt agencies in the country, having fired and replaced five customs commissioners in as many years.

The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 outlines strategies to reduce corruption by streamlining government transactions, modernizing regulatory processes, and establishing mechanisms for citizens to report complaints.  A front line desk in the Office of the President, the Presidential Complaint Center, or PCC (https://op-proper.gov.ph/contact-us/  ), receives and acts on corruption complaints from the general public.  The PCC can be reached through its complaint hotline, text services (SMS), and social media sites.

The Philippine Revised Penal Code, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Code of Ethical Conduct for Public Officials all aim to combat corruption and related anti-competitive business practices.  The Office of the Ombudsman investigates and prosecutes cases of alleged graft and corruption involving public officials, with more information available on its website  .  Cases against high-ranking officials are brought before a special anti-corruption court, the Sandiganbayan, while cases against low-ranking officials are filed before regional trial courts.

The Office of the President can directly investigate and hear administrative cases involving presidential appointees in the executive branch and government-owned and controlled corporations.  Soliciting, accepting, and/or offering/giving a bribe are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment, a fine, and/or disqualification from public office or business dealings with the government.  Government anti-corruption agencies routinely investigate public officials, but convictions by courts are limited, often appealed, and can be overturned. Recent positive steps include the creation of an investors’ desk at the Ombudsman’s Office, and corporate governance reforms of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

The Philippines ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2003.  It is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Office of the Ombudsman
Ombudsman Building, Agham Road, North Triangle
Diliman, Quezon City
Hotline:  (+632) 926.2662
Telephone:  (+632) 479.7300
Email/Website: pab@ombudsman.gov.ph / http://www.ombudsman.gov.ph  /

Presidential Complaint Center
Gama Bldg., Minerva St. corner Jose Laurel St.
San Miguel, Manila
Telephone: (+632) 736.8645, 736.8603, 736.8606
Email: pcc@malacanang.gov.ph / https://op-proper.gov.ph/presidential-action-center/ 

Contact Center ng Bayan
Text:  (+63) 908 881.6565
Call:  1-6565
Email/Website: email@contactcenterngbayan.gov.ph / contactcenterngbayan.gov.ph  

10. Political and Security Environment

Terrorist groups and criminal gangs operate in some regions.  The Department of State publishes a consular information sheet and advises all Americans living in or visiting the Philippines to review the information periodically.  A travel advisory is in place for those U.S. citizens contemplating travel to the Philippines.

Terrorist groups, including the ISIS-Philippines affiliated Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Maute Group, Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines (AKP) and elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), periodically attack civilian targets, kidnap civilians – including foreigners – for ransom, and engage in armed attacks against government security forces.  These groups have mostly carried out their activities in the western and central regions of Mindanao, including the Sulu Archipelago and Sulu Sea. They are also capable of operating in some areas outside Sulu, as evidenced by the 2015 kidnapping of four hostages from Samal Island, just outside Davao City.

ISIS-affiliated groups in Mindanao occupied and held siege to Marawi City for five months in 2017, prompting President Duterte to declare martial law over the entire Mindanao region – approximately one-third of the country’s territory.  Congress granted multiple extensions of martial law, which will remain in place until the end of 2019. Security forces ultimately cleared the city and eliminated much of the terrorist leadership, but suffered many casualties during the siege.

The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is responsible in some parts of the country, mostly Mindanao, for civil disturbances through assassinations of public officials, sporadic attacks on military and police forces, bombings, and attacks on infrastructure, such as power generators and telecommunications towers.  The NPA relies on extortionist revolutionary taxes from local and some foreign businesses to fund its operations. The Philippine government ended a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA in 2017 and initiated a process for designating the group as a terrorist organization under domestic law.

The Philippines’ most significant human rights problems were killings allegedly undertaken by vigilantes, security forces, and insurgents; cases of apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process; official corruption; and a weak and overburdened criminal justice system notable for slow court procedures, weak prosecutions, and poor cooperation between police and investigators.

President Duterte’s administration continued a nationwide campaign, led primarily by the Philippine National Police (PNP), to eliminate illegal narcotics.  The ongoing operation received worldwide attention for its harsh tactics.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Managers of U.S. companies in the Philippines report that local labor costs are relatively low and workers are highly motivated, with generally strong English language skills.  In 2018, the Philippine labor force reached 43 million workers, with an employment rate of 94.6 percent and an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. These figures include employment in the informal sector and do not capture the substantial rates of underemployment in the country.  Youths between the ages of 15 and 24 made up nearly 50 percent of the unemployed. More than half of all employment was in the services sector, with 23.1 percent and 19.4 percent in agriculture and industry sectors, respectively.

Compensation packages in the Philippines tend to be comparable with those in neighboring countries.  Regional Wage and Productivity Boards meet periodically in each of the country’s 16 administrative regions to determine minimum wages.  The non-agricultural daily minimum wage in Metro Manila is approximately USD 9.86, although some private sector workers receive less. Most regions set their minimum wage significantly lower than Metro Manila.  Violation of minimum wage standards is common, especially non-payment of social security contributions, bonuses, and overtime. Philippine law also provides for a comprehensive set of occupational safety and health standards.  The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has responsibility for safety inspection, but a shortage of inspectors has made enforcement difficult.

The Philippines Constitution enshrines the right of workers to form and join trade unions.  The trend among firms using temporary contract labor to lower employment costs continues despite government efforts to regulate the practice.  The DOLE Secretary has the authority to end strikes and mandate a settlement between parties in cases involving national interest. DOLE amended its rules concerning disputes in 2013, specifying industries vital to national interest:  hospitals, the electric power industry, water supply services (excluding small bottle suppliers), air traffic control, and other industries as recommended by the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC). Economic zones often offer on-site labor centers to assist investors with recruitment.  Although labor laws apply equally to economic zones, unions have noted some difficulty organizing inside the zones.

The Philippines is signatory to all International Labor Organization (ILO) core conventions, but has faced challenges with enforcement.  Unions allege that companies or local officials use illegal tactics to prevent workers from organizing. The quasi-judicial National Labor Relations Commission reviews allegations of intimidation and discrimination in connection with union activities.  Meanwhile, the NTIPC monitors the application of international labor standards.

Reports of forced labor in the Philippines continue, particularly in connection with human trafficking in the commercial sex, domestic service, agriculture, and fishing industries.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provides debt financing, political risk insurance, and private equity capital to support U.S. investors and their investments.  It does so under a bilateral agreement with the Philippines. Going forward, the BUILD Act will consolidate OPIC and USAID’s Development Credit Authority program into one organization, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, allowing it to use tools such as loans, guarantees, and political risk insurance to facilitate private-sector investment in the region.

Previously, OPIC has provided debt financing in the form of direct loans and loan guarantees of up to USD 350 million per project for business investments with U.S. private sector participation in the Philippines.  Past OPIC programs in the Philippines include projects with the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the Asia Foundation for economic development activities, and a cloud-based technology program for the local cargo and courier industry.

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) (millions of U.S. dollars) 2018 $330.8  2017 $313.6 www.worldbank.org/en/country   
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 N/A 2017 $7,116 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/xls/usdia-position-2010-2017.xlsx  
Host Country’s FDI in the United States (millions of U.S. dollars, stock positions) 2018 N/A 2017 $750 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/xls/fdius-current/fdius-detailed-country-2008-2017.xlsx  
Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 16% 2016 11% http://www.bsp.gov.ph/statistics/statistics_sdds0.asp   

*Host Country Statistical Sources:
Philippine Statistical Authority (http://psa.gov.ph/nap-press-release/data-charts  )
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (http://www.bsp.gov.ph/statistics/efs_ext2.asp#FCDU  )


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data, as of end-2017
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (U.S. Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $50,876 100% Total Outward $13,565 100%
Japan $14,986 29% China, P.R.: Mainland $1,733 13%
Netherlands $12,958 25% Singapore $4,469 33%
United States $7,116 14% India $2,067 15%
China, P.R.: Hong Kong $3,702 7% Netherlands $1,637 12%
Rep. of Korea $2,477 5% France $1,353 10%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- $500,000.

The Philippine Central Bank does not publish or post inward and outward FDI stock broken down by country.  Total stock figures are reported under the “International Investment Position” data that the Central Bank publishes and submits to the International Monetary Fund’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB).  As of the 4th quarter of 2018, inward direct investment (i.e. liabilities) is USD 83 billion, while outward direct investment (i.e. assets) is USD 51.9 billion.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets, as of end-2018
Top Five Partners (Millions, U.S. Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $13,060 100% All Countries $1,270 100% All Countries $11,790 100%
United States $4,695 36% United States $658 52% United States $4,037 34%
Indonesia $2,365 18% Luxembourg $339 27% Indonesia $2,364 20%
China, P.R.: Mainland $467 4% China, P.R.: Hong Kong $64 5% China, P.R.: Mainland $463 4%
Cayman Islands $354 2.7% Ireland $90 7% Cayman Islands $349 3%
China, P.R.: Hong Kong  $553 4.2% Netherlands $1 0% China, P.R.: Hong Kong $489 4%

The Philippine Central Bank disaggregates data into equity and debt securities but does not publish or post the stock of portfolio investments assets broken down by country.  Total foreign portfolio investment stock figures are reported under the “International Investment Position” data that Central Bank publishes and submits to the International Monetary Fund’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB).  As of 2018, outward portfolio investment (i.e. assets) was USD 19.5 billion, of which USD 1.9 billion was in equity investments and USD 17.7 billion was in debt securities.

14. Contact for More Information

Douglas Fowler
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Manila
1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines
Telephone: (+632) 301.2000
Email: ManilaEcon@state.gov

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