Tag Archive | Protection of Investment Bill

Protection of Investment Bill finally passed

Protection of Investment Bill goes for signature….

Sent to clients 20 Nov…… Trade and Industry Minister, Dr. Rob Davies, pushing through Parliament the proposed Protection of Investment Bill for signature by President Zuma, has discounted advice from rob davies 6the majority of submissions from business and industry and disagreed with all opposition members,

A majority of ANC Alliance members had out voted all opposition parties including the EFF in the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, with concurrence from the NCOP’s Select Committee on Trade and International relations.

The vote in the National Assembly following this was merely a formality with opposition parties voting against. Minister Davies held a media briefing beforehand claiming the removal of recourse for foreign investors to international arbitration was no big deal and in his opinion “the level of investment protection had very little, if any, impact on investment decisions.”

A sum up of the Bill

Shadow Minister  of  Trade and Industry, Geordin Hill-Lewis, said earlier in Parliament that the opposite was indeed the fact and “the new Bill, if it became law, would provide investors with no more protection than already provided in South African law.”

moneyIt had become apparent from earlier meetings that it was Minister Davies’ view that he disliked “litigious-minded investors taking advantage of obscure factors of international trade laws to reverse protection sought by his department” when Department and Trade and Industry (DTI) sought to protect local industry from unfair practices in disputes. He said DTI was not prepared to run and control over 180 bi-lateral trade agreements (BITs), which would now be terminated when they expire.

DTI, the Minister said, required “one harmonised law for investment” which, whilst taking South Africa into new investment territory at law at the same time, “joined South Africa with other leaders with a revised view towards foreign investment and trade.”

The “e” word

eThe primary area of concern during the debates conducted in Parliament recently surrounded an expressed fear of expropriation, a word not used lightly in the context of Africa as a whole. As pointed out by both Minister of Trade, Rob Davies, in terms of the Protection of Investment Bill now passed by Parliament, and Deputy Minister Cronin of Public Works, in terms of the Expropriation Bill being finalised by the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, South Africa’s Constitution guarantees against unfair and unjust expropriation. This, they maintain, is the protection that South African law gives at the highest possible level.

A debate recently occurred in the Portfolio Public Works Committee that the SA Constitution did not define exactly what was meant by the terms “property” or “the public interest” but it eventually transpired that at committee level that Constitutional issues could not be debated in a parliamentary forum. The issue has therefore been “ducked”, as it has, it appears, at Constitutional Court level.

None of our business

The fact that both Committees will not allow debate on the business of other committees in their debating time also precludes any debate on the Private Security Industry Bill, retained by President Zuma as unsigned and which demands 51% of foreign security company investments and was subject and voted on by the Portfolio Committee on Police.

Objectives

The original Cabinet statement issued when the Protection of Investment Bill, then with the deleted word “Promotion” still included when first tabled, stated that the Bill would:

• Provide adequate and equal protection for foreign and local investors alike.scan0004
• Place a stable business environment in place as part of efforts to attract investment.
• Provide adequate and equal protection for foreign and local investors alike.
• All investments will be protected irrespective of their origin.
Courtesy of Business Day
By default, therefore, all interests should be protected by SA law.

One concession

The original requirement that “government may consent to international arbitration with respect to investments after domestic remedies have been exhausted” was watered down, after debate, to allowing an independent tribunal to make further recommendations to the Minister before he or she exercised their rights in ultimate decision making which still remains the Minister’s prerogative.

With the passage of the Bill now for signature, all parliamentary procedure is now complete and a date for the Act to be promulgated announced – by which time DTI would have gazetted any regulations.
Other articles in this category or as background
Changes to Protection of Investment Bill – ParlyReportSA
Sept workshop: Protection of Investment Bill – ParlyReportSA
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA

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Changes to Protection of Investment Bill

sent to clients 13 Oct…. updates yet to be posted ….

Unpopular Bill on its way to final vote….

After some marathon debates in the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, Parliament put aside the newly named Protection of Investment Bill (previously the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill) until after the recent winter recess for members to consider two important substitution clauses suggested by an Opposition member.

Whether the final Bill will meet international expectations still remains a query despite being finally hammered through. (report and details still with clients)

lionel octoberThe Trade and Industry Department (DTI) was represented throughout the two days of clause by clause debate by director-general, Lionel October; Mustaqeem De Gama: DTI Legal Director: International Trade and Investment (ITED) and Counsellor to the WTO; with Ms. Phumelele Ngema: Parliamentary Legal Advisor. This followed earlier hearings which included many submissions from business, industry and institutions such as the Institute of Race Relations.

Taking it seriously

Bearing in mind that a full back-up team from DTI was also present for the first clause-by-clause debate, including Ms. Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter: DTI Acting Deputy Director General: ITED who promoted the Bill from DTI, it could said that DTI fielded their full team on the issue with a full bench of reserves and consequently had taken all submissions during the Bill’s hearings a week before in a serious light.

Main objections to the Bill had come in the areas in the definition of investment; fair and equitable treatment of both local and international investors on equal terms; the definitions of “property” in the case of expropriation and disputes, particularly the issue of arbitration and the locale and parties involved in such determinations.

Lack of clarity

Specifically complaints were received that Bill as tabled was unclear on the obligations of investors;

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there appeared to be differences in standards of fair and equitable treatment for international investors; many disliked the omission of a favoured nation clauses; lack of reference in the Bill to exactly what was meant by expropriation; and the fact that DTI in the form of the Minister had express rights to regulate in the public interest and in dispute resolution remedies.

The fact that the Minister “may” allow cases to be referred to international arbitration was, by some, expressed as an objectionable approach to international business relations.

No movement on national bias

In the first meeting  to provide responses to submissions received, Lionel October assuring members that DTI had no intention to act in a manner that reduced investment flows into South Africa.    He said government had a duty to regulate in the public interest and needed the political space to do so. He insisted that any dispute resolution is to be limited at first to domestic remedies with the option, now, of state-to-state arbitration once domestic remedies had been exhausted.

Further, he said, DTI was amenable to deleting the part of the definition of ‘dispute’ that read “provided that a dispute will only arise once the parties agree, or as prescribed by law”. He explained that the proposal that the definition of “measure” could be changed to a definition reading “measure refers to binding governmental action directly affecting an investor or its investment, and includes laws, regulations, and administrative actions…etc.”

Cosmetic change to title

de GamaMustaqeem De Gama, in agreeing to the point that the title of the Bill should be changed to “The Protection of Investment Bill” in the light of the argument that there was little in the way of Promotion, said that he wished to assure all that the phrase regarding “use of available resources” in the clauses on security of investment as only referring to physical security and policing.

It was agreed that the state must provide this type of security on an investment. Wording would apply as such. It was also agreed that the word “dispute” would not be defined as such in the Bill allowing a court to fall back to the normal dictionary definition of the term.

Rights to establish investment

On the right of international enterprises to invest and the restrictive clauses in this respect referred to under Clause 6 as the “ Right of Establishment’”, De Gama said the clause does not seek to deal with or create a right of establishment up front but only sought to require that an investment be established in accordance with domestic laws. He claimed that any state had an inherent right to regulate who does and does not “establish” in their territory.

Opposition members said that wording as such was another investment barrier and Dean Mcpherson (DA) pointed to the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill where it is proposed that no foreign person may own agricultural land.  He felt that South Africa should not be limiting investment but rather welcoming all investment of whatever kind in order to grow the economy. He was wary of specifying who can and cannot invest in South Africa, particularly in the light of other Bills now being processed by Parliament.

State to hold rights on access

DTI responded with the view that “no investors have ever been so bold as to attempt to exempt themselves from following domestic law”. De Gama continued that international law gives any state the right to regulate the access of foreigners to their land. “If the investment negatively impacts the economy, the state should have a right to take action to mitigate these negative effects through various policy spaces”, de Gama concluded.

If expropriation is ever necessary in an extreme case, the Constitution requires just compensation be paid and that was clearly stated in the Constitution, DTI pointed out. Opposition members complained that the exact definition of expropriation per se “in terms of the laws of the country” was still being debated in another Bill, the Expropriation Bill, currently before the Portfolio Committee on Public Works.

Double talk

The chairperson, Joanna Fubbs, refused to allow debate on the subject to continue on the basis that joan fubbs“this definition was the responsibility of another department”. DA member, Geordan Hill Davies, complained that Committee was “just side stepping the issue insofar as The Protection of Investment Bill was concerned” and the apparent avoidance in “debating this issue in this forum just added to the uncertainty of South Africa’s intentions”.

Fair and equitable treatment

Also under the microscope was the issue raised during a submission from American Chamber of Commerce in SA and others during hearings that any form of iron clad promise of fair and equitable treatment of investments by foreign companies was not evident in the Bill. In this regard, Lionel October argued that this could not possibly be the case as South Africa needed investment and the Bill was designed to protect such.

However, the phrase “subject to national legislation” could not be deleted as a matter of state policy and the expression at the outset of the Bill of “in like circumstances” also had to stay in view that “national treatment” was necessary to avoid ambiguity, as previously stated.

Like circumstances issue

Lionel October argued that the SA government would be applying “national treatment” in line with WTO practice. The DTI had never discriminated based on place of origin, he said. The only reason for the ‘like circumstances’ clause in the Bill before them was because, for example, “minor abuses of black empowerment policies”, such policies and others being specific to South Africa, he said.

He said a dispensation had been granted on the issue that international arbitration was only to be allowed at the Minister’s discretion after all domestic legal avenues had been exhausted and to allow state-to-state arbitration to take place. Opposition members argued that in some cases in the world of modern investment this was both an impractical and unenforceable suggestion.

No “certainty”

geordin hill-lewisGeordin Hill-Lewis said this whole section was the crux of the Bill’s weakness in encouraging investment. He felt that the essence was that foreign investors wanted be treated in like manner to domestic investors and the wording of the Bill still implied, or gave the impression, that SA would treat foreign investors less favourably.  In addition, SA could legislate in the future to the further disadvantage of foreign investors. “There was no certainty in the wording at present”, he said.

New clauses

Geordin Hill-Lewis produced two amending clauses, one on “Standards of Treatment” (to be inserted after Clause 7 to become Clause 8) and a further on “Legal Protection of Investments” (to replace Clause 9 which would become Clause 10 because of the above addition). These had been prepared overnight by the DA’s legal advisors.

DTI and all members were asked to study these two clauses during the two week recess when the Bill would be finally concluded. The Chairperson noted that this issue was not closed. DTI confirmed that they would study the recommended changes. In addition, seven issues within the Bill were carried over for further discussion before the Bill could be recommended to go forward until after the recess.

The hearings conducted before the debate included submissions from Anglo-American, SA Institute of Race Relations, Banking Association of SA, The Mandela Institute of Wits University, NUMSA, the EU-SA Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in SA. All expressed disquiet to varying degrees on the Bill as originally proposed.

(further articles to be posted in due course leading to final committee vote)

Other articles in this category or as background

Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled

Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA

Expropriation Bill phrases could be re-drafted – ParlyReportSA

Land Holdings Bill joins state acquisition trend – ParlyReportSA

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Sept workshop: Protection of Investment Bill

Report to clients 15 Sept. Two more posts to follow…

Initial discussions on Investment Bill…

In a parliamentary Trade and Industry Committee workshop, two professors of law at South AfricanCOMMITTEES_large universities stated that the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill (as it was then called) seemed to be little about promotion of investment but more about local protection.

Nevertheless, both felt that localised jurisdiction was the more appropriate way to settle issues under arbitration conditions in the South African context; was in line with SADC modelling and introduced the elements of national interest and “fairness”, which they said international arbitration often precluded.

Both added that some of the vague wording and definitions had to be tightened up upon if the Bill was to be a useful tool in encouraging developmental investment and that, in purely legal terms, their view was that the Bill would pass constitutional muster.

Legal minds

joan fubbsMs. Joanna Fubbs, chairperson of the committee, had invited a number of legal and trade entities to share opinion on the new Bill under relaxed workshop discussion rules and on the invite list was Prof. Riekie Wandrag of University of Western Cape and Prof. Jonathan Klaaren of Wits University.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also made a presentation by Ms. Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter, who was to be leading DTI’s briefing of Parliament on the PPI Bill in the coming days.

 International views

An international guest to report on the PPI Bill was a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) representative, James Zhan, who noted that the proposals contained in the Bill seemed to be following the new trend, particularly in developing countries.

It was now becoming standard practice, he said, not to have traditional bilateral trade treaties (BITs) butzahn rather an agreement that favoured economic development in the host country and subject to the laws of that country.

Unctad led most of the discussions during the debate and stated that any such legislation as proposed by the PPI Bill could “fill an important gap in the developmental role of a country and help with economic development.”

The trend in many countries such as South Africa, Mr Zhan said, was to move away from BITs which tended to be a legacy from the past. However, he added that this was not the whole story. What was put in its place, such a Bill as proposed, had to be part of a whole regulatory framework that encouraged development strategies as well as investment. One could not be without the other.

 Part of a state policy perhaps

D Macpherson DAWhen asked by DA member, Dean Macpherson, if he was aware that the PPI Bill was part of a whole number of Bills that were part of the South African government’s present land and state expropriation policy, such as the Expropriation Bill and a draft Land Holdings Bill, Mr Zahn said he was not asked to talk on these further Bills or discuss any state policy nor was he asked to study the wording of the Bill before them in detail.

His brief, he said, was merely to comment on the Bill as this was a workshop and on the basis of what was happening elsewhere in the world and the role of Unctad. Each government had its own policies and laws and it was not Unctad’s role to get involved in specific national issues.

On issues of arbitration on BITs resulting from disagreements with host countries, he said globally there were over 3,500 treaties of some sort in operation in 160 countries on trade at any one time and, on average, a new treaty is signed every week including mega regional BITs.   He said “few countries were satisfied with the current international trade regime” and it was fast changing.

 Where the argument comes

He said most arbitration matters or points of disagreement arose over waste collection, treatment and disposal (3%); transportation and storage (3%); the manufacture of food products (4%); real estate (4%); telecommunications (6%); construction (8%); financial services and insurance issues (9%); mining and gas (16%); supply of electricity (19%); and other varied issues (28%).

65% of arbitration cases were decided in favour of the businesses involved and 35% in favour of the state involved.    Zahn said that “the world was going through a period of reflection on trade agreements” and whilst companies in the major trading nations in some cases might prefer BITs, most of them were coming to terms with the fact that many smaller nations, especially those with poor communities, were asking for national priorities to be included in packages.

History of up and down

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), South Africa was amongst the world’s top recipients but South Africa’s graph of incoming funds since 1994 was “lumpy” he said, “sometimes up and sometimes down due to the fact that most projects in South Africa were very large infrastructure projects and only occurred now and then”.

FDI graphAs far as FDI was concerned, the UK was by far the largest supplier of FDI in South Africa (48%), with the Netherlands coming in at 16%; the US at 6%; Germany at 5%; and China at 4%.  Financial destinations provide 40% of FDI applications in SA; mining, quarrying and petroleum at 28%; and manufacturing at 17%.   Transport, storage and communications was at 10% and gas, water and electricity, at this stage, almost 0%.  The reason for the odd groupings was not given.

Zahn said Unctad saw this Bill as a natural bridge to the country’s own developmental strategies and it was in general was in line with Unctad’s core principles. When asked by Opposition MPs if the wording regarding “the public interest” and vagaries of allowing the Minister to decide if an investor may use international arbitration methods on disagreements worried him at all, Chairperson Joanna Fubbs stepped in and said that the meeting was a workshop, not a clause by clause debate on the Bill.

 Findings often obscure

However, Zahn did say that he could only opinionate in broad terms and state what the rest of the world was doing in general terms. The point was that arbitration under BITs was a different issue to the state to state relationships envisaged by the Bill before the workshop but he noted that many international arbitration findings in favour of the investing company were on obscure technical points and had little to do with the investment itself and the country in which the investment was made.

He understood, however, that whilst the Bill might not be coming at a good time from the point of global economic factors, “it was a good Bill generally in broad principle and it was a good time to set up new structures”.

Gives policy space

 Jonathan klaarenProf. Jonathan Klaaren of Wits University said in broad terms BITs probably do not affect a leaning towards good developmental investment but do not hurt inward flows of capital. Thus he felt that DTI, by giving protection for inward and outward SA investments and retaining “policy space for a legal and policy framework attuned to sustainable development”, allowed South Africa to do some of “the agenda setting”.

He agreed with the recent Policy Review on trade treaties which stated that BITs tended to open the door to narrow commercial interests and that matters of national interest became subject to unpredictable international arbitration outcomes if they went wrong. “This may lead to a result that may constitute a direct challenge to legitimate, constitutional and democratic policy making”, he said.

In his view, procedural “fairness” contained in a domestic jurisdiction approach was superior to the arguments often given in favour of “fairness” at international level. He said the “fairness” was guaranteed with a robust judicial system such as existed in South Africa whereas in the international environment of arbitration, quite often “fairness” was not reached because of obscure legal issues. The national interest of a country was therefore made irrelevant because of a technical point at law.

He noted that issues of economic development could not be addressed outside of borders but human rights issues such as land grabs in Zimbabwe were coming into the matter and involved the SA Law Society at the moment who were deciding upon such issues. At the moment the SADC Arbitration Tribunal was only state to state, so matters raised in this workshop fell away.

The future with SADC

reikie wandragProf. Rieikie Wandrag of the Faculty of Law, UCW, gave a detailed comparison with existing SADC investment protocols and hoped-for changes being negotiated. She also drew comparisons with the East Africa COMESA trading bloc.

She said the Bill was generally in line with the regional perspective in SADC and Africa generally and that the PPI Bill attempted to address most of the concerns currently being expressed in many developmental regions. Prof. Wandrag undertook a comparison of expropriation wording; the use of the expression “in like circumstances” in each region, which was usually the contentious area in any such Bill; and how each region dealt with the area of “fair and just compensation”.

DTI’s view

DTI’s Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter complained that arbitration panels produced inconsistent interpretations even on similar matters and undermined in their view the predictability of investment law.   She said that with international arbitration, DTI had noted that matters were shrouded in secrecy; rulings were not published because of confidential rules and which affected governments; whilst matters were not generally conducted on a “proper state-to-state basis”.

 Social imperatives to be included

She said the trend was now to have state-to-state international investment agreements, where implications for countries was involved and arbitration issues could not avoid local courts or the laws of the country where the investment took place. Broader social and public imperatives would have to be considered when considering investment because, DTII said, it had to be understood that South Africa was engaged in a process of socio-economic transformation.

The agenda in South Africa was set by the NDP, New Growth Plan and IPAPs in addition to the local laws of the land, Mlumbi-Peter said, and the implementation of this “ambitious development agenda required the development of new policies and regulations whilst ensuring that South Africa remained open to foreign investment and trade”.

The workshop concluded with the chairperson pointing out that the idea had been to “set the scene” for parliamentarians on the forthcoming hearings and the reasons for introducing such a Bill.
Other articles in this category or as background
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA
Protection of Personal Information Bill almost concluded

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Zuma goes for traditional support with expropriation

Editorial….

Session ahead may bring clarity on expropriation…….

NAIt is a difficult time for business and industry to establish exactly where they are in terms of the legislative environment in South Africa, land expropriation and state or BEE participation being mainly the issues.  However, the cabinet must be aware of the need expressed in many circles for more certainty in terms of the investment climate.

The Bills held back by the Presidency for re-consideration or signature are re-emerging slowly back into the public sphere.   Aside from the highly controversial Traditional Courts Bill adding power to the arm of President Zuma’s supporters in rural  leadership roles but offending women’s rights groups, now re-tabled in Parliament in a different form, as a section 76 Bill, is the Expropriation Bill.

Being a 76 section Bill means that the proposed changes and the formation of a state valuator’s office as thezuma traditional final arbiter on land restitution will have to be debated in all nine provincial legislatures and a mandate provided to the National Council of Provinces to gain concurrence with any vote on the Bill taken in the National Assembly. 

It is interesting to note that some time ago, President Zuma let it be known that he would also like to see this Bill considered by the House of Traditional Leaders. This is probably in the light of the debate now emerging that traditional chiefs were not consulted properly, if at all, in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights amendments.

Serving notice

Crucially, the Expropriation Bill still seeks to allow any ‘expropriating authority’ to take property by serving a notice of expropriation on the owner stipulating the value the state will pay, presumably according to the state valuation if there has been an appeal.

Commentators have noted that the new Bill differs in that the state may then serve a further notice of expropriation, which could be less, more or not necessarily revised at all, and the owner will be deemed to have accepted that transfer of land to the state unless the owner commences litigation within 60 days.

The short amount of time to respond and appoint and brief counsel and the fact that litigation, a highly costly process (costs being to the owner not the state), will no doubt be an issue debated extensively in Parliament. At this moment the main opposition party has been caucusing on the Bill. The fact that the Bill will now have to be debated in all nine provinces will leave a fluid situation for some time yet.

Struggling to produce

The Protection of Investment Bill remains an unknown quantity. Speaking to the DTI legal advisor, all he could say was “We are struggling with it”. 

Similarly, no tabling notice has been published with regard to the Private Security Industry Bill.

No energy  outcome

At the time of writing the “Five Point Energy Plan”, promised by the cabinet “war room”, has also not been presented to Parliament, the minister of energy advising all that it was necessary to have first a trip to the DRC and discuss the Grand Inga Hydro project.

Instead of her unadvised non-appearance in Parliament, a presentation by the department of energy took place, monitored in this report. What did emerge however was that future regarding the intended energy mix is also very fluid, there clearly being a division of interest in what is necessary to bring about in the short term better service delivery to the poor and in the longer term the needs of investors.

Traditional support

Time and time again, since his state address to the nation, President Zuma, where land matters are concerned, has made reference to the Council of Traditional Leaders, the majority party having no doubt realised that this base of power can either be pacified or radicalised – a very sensitive area and where the least service delivery by government occurs.

In his speech opening the National House of Traditional Leaders, he encouraged traditional leaders to take advantage of the 2013 Restitution of Land Rights Act as amended and rushed through at the end of the last Parliament and for them to put in claims.

The amendment Bill passed reopened the window for lodging restitution claims, but retains the restriction that dispossession must have taken place after 1913. The hints by the President in subsequent days in further briefings that the date of 1913 “is negotiable” have led to further claims being notified some of them apparently going back many hundreds of years. 

Once again, this will only be finalised when parliamentary debate finally takes place as the issue is bound to be raised but the whole matters adds to current uncertainty.

Hole in the pocket

Meanwhile the budget for what can be paid out in the form of restitution has been decided by minister of finance Nene and was presented in the last budget to Parliament in the current session.

President Zuma’s reference in Parliament to land held by foreigners in the state of nation address produced an unfortunate atmosphere which was somewhat mollified by off-the-record remarks by ministers to the media but no legislative clarity for Parliament to consider has emerged.

Indeed, a difficult time for business and industry, not forgetting that the Eskom issue is about to be raised again in forthcoming portfolio committee meetings in the coming week, hopefully bringing some clarity to the issue of reliable electricity supply.

Editorial only

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