Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled

Revised Investment Bill gives some ground…..

Rob+DaviesA crucially re-amended version of the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill has been re-tabled in Parliament by DTI that gives ground to some degree on the question of rights of investors regarding international arbitration regarding disputes in terms of the new ground breaking  legislation.

During his budget vote speech, Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, stated that the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill would finally be retabled in Parliament, meaning that it will definitely not be signed into law as it was and that it would be subject to changes.

That Bill has now been re- tabled and no doubt being studied by all.

Past bilaterals respectedPromotion and Protection of Investment Bill 

Promoted by Minister Davies specifically, the Bill as it was voted through but not signed by the President ignored existing bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between South Africa and other countries in the EU whilst extending protection to new investors from all other countries. The new Bill as amended clarifies that this does not apply retrospectively.

Minister Davies said at the time, which was worrying to many foreign companies, that there was a trend he felt amongst developing countries to ignore such treaties although they might have been agreed to by previous governments.

Impediment to investment

Africa-map-with-coinsUnder BITs at present, trading investors are allowed to have arbitration proceedings as laid down by World Bank rules.   International arbitration, for obvious reasons, is preferred by investors as it is impartial and not in the hands of the country invested in, as is promoted the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill making it localised.

Minister Davies is on record as saying that that “South Africa had significant foreign direct investment from the US, Japan, Malaysia, India and other countries, and we have no bilateral investment treaties with them”. He commented in Parliament, some time before this budget vote speech, that such bi-lateral agreements on the whole were “irrelevant”.

The Bill as it stood allowed for acquisition by the state in the ownership of foreign companies “in a just and equitable manner”.  Such nebulous wording was rejected by the international business community in South Africa. Minister Davies said at the time when the Bill was passing through the portfolio committee on trade and industry, that “protection for overseas investors will be in terms of South Africa’s Constitution”, which he said, “provided significant and robust protection for investors and for property, both domestic and foreign.”

A “Bit” better

legalWhat the re-written Bill contains is a clause granting an investor the right to be treated no less favourably than South African investors as long as their investments are ‘‘in like circumstances’’. This is qualified by the clause which states, “The Bill provides for the security of investors and their investments. It seeks to clarify that the Republic bears no greater obligation to foreign investors than to its own investors in respect of their investments.”

However, on the rights under BITs agreements for arbitration or mediation internationally on new investment, it would appear that DTI have relented to some degree. After describing the whole process of local mediation which has to be undertaken first, the re-drafted Bill still insisting on this, a clause has been inserted that “the government may consent to international arbitration in respect of investments covered by this Act, subject to the exhaustion of domestic remedies. Such arbitration will be conducted between the Republic and the home state of the applicable investor.”

The Bill is now being digested and presumably Parliament will announce new hearings and call for further submissions.

Other Bills coming

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ack bdlive

In his budget vote speech a few weeks ago, Minister Davies confirmed that a Copyright Amendment Bill would also come before Parliament in the current financial year, together with a National Gambling Amendment Bill (as distinct from the Remote Gambling Amendment Bill before Parliament at present).

He also referred to a Liquor Amendment Bill which is suspected of being somewhat draconian. The whereabouts of the Intellectual Property Rights policy paper is also long outstanding from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Other articles in this category or as background
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA
Private Security Industry Bill comes closer – ParlyReportSA

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