LawFlash

China Regulators Streamline Filing Procedures for Outbound Investments

April 28, 2014

中国监管当局简化境外投资备案程序

The National Development and Reform Commission (the “NDRC”) recently issued the Administrative Measures for Ratification and Filing of Outbound Investment Projects (the “New NDRC Measures”) effective as of May 8, 2014.1 At about the same time, the Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) issued the draft Administrative Measures for Overseas Investment (the “MOFCOM Draft Measures”) for public comment.2 The New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures aim to reduce administrative oversight of outbound investments by delegating more approval and filing authority to these regulators’ local counterparts.

1. Background

Outbound investments by Chinese companies are subject to approval or filing procedures with the NDRC (or its local offices) and MOFCOM (or its local offices) before the investment is made. The NDRC, which has jurisdiction to review all fixed-asset investments, focuses on, among other factors, whether a project is in line with the industrial policies of the State and whether the prospective investor has the investment capacity to carry out the project. In turn, MOFCOM has the power to review all cross-border enterprise-formation matters whether by greenfield investment, merger and acquisition or otherwise. Under the New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures, the filing process will take less time and be less burdensome, but the detailed specifications of the information required to be filed remain to be further clarified.

China’s outbound investment regime has undergone several rounds of changes aiming to simplify the procedure and delegate power from central government authorities to provincial or municipal authorities. The government’s latest initiative commenced when the State Council issued the Notice Regarding Issuance of the Catalogue of Investment Projects Subject to Government Approval in November 2013 (the “2013 Catalogue”). Among other things, the 2013 Catalogue established principles to govern whether an outbound investment matter will be subject to an approval or filing with NDRC and MOFCOM, and whether the review will be conducted by central-level authority or local authority. More outbound investments became subject to local filing procedures under the 2013 Catalogue, a change welcomed by the market as local filing procedures are typically more expeditious. The New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures extend these principles by establishing specific details.

2. Approval and Filing Regime

Type of Outbound Investment Amount of Chinese Investment NDRC Approval or Filing MOFCOM Approval or Filing
Normal Outbound Investment Conducted by centrally-managed state owned enterprises US$ 1 billion or above Approval by NDRC Filing with MOFCOM
Less than US$ 1 billion Filing with NDRC
Conducted by entities other than centrally-managed state owned enterprises US$ 1 billion or above Approval by NDRC Filing with provincial level offices of MOFCOM
US$ 300 million or above but less than US$ 1 billion Filing with NDRC
Less than US$ 300 million Filing with provincial level offices of NDRC
Outbound investment in sensitive countries (regions) or sensitive industries US$ 2 billion or above Examined by NDRC and approval by the State Council Approval by MOFCOM
Less than US$ 2 billion Approval by NDRC

Although the terms “sensitive countries (regions)” and “sensitive industries” are used in the New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures, the definitions of these terms in the two regulations are slightly different.

  New NDRC Measures MOFCOM Draft Measures
Sensitive Countries (Regions) Countries that have not established diplomatic relations with China
Countries that are subject to international sanctions Countries that are subject to sanctions by the United Nations
Countries or regions where a war or riot, etc. is ongoing
Sensitive Industries Basic telecommunication operation, cross-border water resource development and utilization, large-scale land development, main power transmission lines, electrical grids, and news media Industries involving products or technologies whose exportation is prohibited or restricted by China, or where multiple countries (regions) have an interest3 — e.g., a cross-border water resource development project.

3. Shanghai Free Trade Zone

Outbound investments by entities within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (the “SFTZ”) are regulated by the Administrative Measures for the Record-Filing of the Investment in and Establishment of Enterprises Overseas by Enterprises Within the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone effective as of October 1, 2013 and the Administrative Measures for the Record-Filing of Overseas Investment Projects of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone effective as of October 1, 2013 (collectively, the “SFTZ Measures”).

According to the SFTZ Measures, outbound investments by entities within the SFTZ are subject to filing only with the Administrative Committee of the SFTZ except that (i) outbound investments in sensitive countries (regions) or sensitive industries (both of which terms have substantially the same scope as in the New NDRC Measures) are subject to approval from the NDRC, or review by NDRC plus approval by the State Council, and (ii) outbound investments (a) in countries or regions that have not established diplomatic relations with China, (b) in specifically designated countries or regions, (c) involving interests of multiple countries or regions, (d) involving establishment of offshore special purpose companies, (e) in energy and minerals, or (f) in industries where domestic investment needs to be attracted, are subject to the Administrative Measures for Overseas Investment (which is to be replaced by the MOFCOM Draft Measures).

Neither the New NDRC Measures nor the MOFCOM Draft Measures mentions outbound investments by entities within the SFTZ. It is generally believed that even after the effectiveness of the New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures, the convenient one-stop-filing principle adopted by the SFTZ Measures will be retained, but the SFTZ Measures may be amended to bring them in line with the changes related to delegation of approval and filing authority to local authorities introduced by the New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures.

4. Conclusion

The streamlined approval and filing procedures of the New NDRC Measures and the MOFCOM Draft Measures (if adopted) will provide additional impetus to China’s already robust outbound investment.

End Notes

1 These measures will replace the current Interim Administrative Measures for Ratification of Outbound Investment Projects effective as of October 9, 2004.

2 These draft measures, if adopted, will replace the existing Administrative Measures for Overseas Investment effective as of May 1, 2009.

3 Because of the absence of a clear definition, this latter category is subject to being broadly interpreted. For example, a port which may be located in one country but whose operations may impact the interests of other countries that share the same sea area, could easily be deemed a matter involving “multiple countries (regions).”

中国监管当局简化境外投资备案程序

国家发展和改革委员会(“发改委”)近期发布了《境外投资项目核准和备案管理办法》(“发改委新办法”),发改委新办法将自2014年5月8日起施行1。商务部(“商务部”)约于相同时间发布了《境外投资管理办法》(修订)征求意见稿(“商务部办法草案”2。发改委新办法以及商务部办法草案均旨在将有关核准与备案权下放至地方有关发改和商务部门,以放宽对境外投资的管理监督。

  1. 背景

中国企业进行境外投资须事先经发改委(或地方发改部门)以及商务部(或地方商务部门)核准或备案。发改委具有审查所有固定资产投资的管辖权,其审查重点关注境外投资项目是否符合国家产业政策以及潜在投资人是否具有执行项目的投资能力等。而商务部有权审查所有跨境企业设立事项,无论是新设或并购等。在发改委新办法和商务部办法草案项下,备案程序所用时间相对较短,且相对不太繁琐,但是有关备案资料的细节内容尚有待进一步澄清。

中国的境外投资制度几经变革,都旨在简化有关程序并将审批权从中央放权至省、市级主管部门。2013年11月,国务院发布了《关于发布政府核准的投资项目目录(2013年本)的通知》(“目录(2013年本)”),从而启动了最新一轮变革。目录(2013年本)规定了境外投资是由发改委和商务部核准还是备案的原则以及由中央还是地方主管部门审查的原则。根据目录(2013年本),更多境外投资将归由地方备案,市场对此改变十分欢迎,因为地方备案程序通常更为快捷。发改委新办法和商务部办法草案作出了更为具体的详细规定,对上述原则进行了扩充。

  1. 核准、备案制度
境外投资类型 中方投资额度 发改委核准或备案 商务部核准或备案
普通境外投资 中央管理企业实施的投资 10亿美元及以上 发改委核准 商务部备案
10亿美元以下 发改委备案
地方企业实施的投资 10亿美元及以上 发改委核准 省级商务部门备案
3亿美元及以上、
10亿美元以下
发改委备案
3亿美元以下 省级发改部门备案
涉及敏感国家(地区)、敏感行业的境外投资 20亿美元及以上 发改委提出审核意见,报国务院核准 商务部核准
20亿美元以下 发改委核准

虽然发改委新办法和商务部办法草案中均提到了“敏感国家(地区)”和“敏感行业”,但是它们有关上述两词的定义却稍有不同。

  发改委新办法 商务部办法草案
敏感国家(地区) 与中国未建交的国家
受国际制裁的国家 受联合国制裁的国家
发生战乱的国家和地区
敏感行业 基础电信运营、跨境水资源开发利用、大规模土地开发、输电干线、电网、新闻传媒等 涉及使用国家限制出口的产品和技术、涉及多国(地区)利益 等,例如:跨境水资源开发项目。
  1. 上海自由贸易试验区

上海自由贸易试验区(“上海自贸区”)内的实体进行境外投资须遵守《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区境外投资开办企业备案管理办法》以及《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区境外投资项目备案管理办法》(统称“上海自贸区管理办法”)。上海自贸区管理办法均自2013年10月1日起施行。

 

根据上海自贸区管理办法,上海自贸区内的实体进行境外投资仅需向上海自贸区管理委员会备案,但以下情况除外:(i)涉及敏感国家(地区)、敏感行业(敏感国家和敏感行业两词的范围基本与发改委新办法内的一致)的境外投资需经发改委核准或由发改委提出审核意见后报国务院核准;以及(ii)涉及(a)与我国未建交国家(地区)的境外投资;(b)特定国家(地区)的境外投资;(c)多国(地区)利益的境外投资;(d)设立境外特殊目的公司;(e)能源矿产类境外投资;以及(f)需在国内招商的境外投资等,仍按照《境外投资管理办法》(即商务部办法草案所拟将取代的办法)执行。

 

发改委新办法和商务部办法草案内均未提及上海自贸区内实体进行的境外投资问题。人们普遍认为,即便在发改委新办法和商务部办法草案生效后,上海自贸区办法所规定的一站式便捷原则将仍旧保留,但是或对上海自贸区办法进行修改,使之与发改委新办法和商务部办法草案提出的审批权下放至地方部门的规定保持一致。

  1. 结论

发改委新办法以及商务部办法草案(如被通过)内规定的核准、备案简化程序将为中国蓬勃发展的境外投资领域增添新的动力。

发改委新办法将取代自2004年10月9日起施行的现行《境外投资项目核准暂行管理办法》。

商务部办法草案一经通过,则将取代自2009年5月1日起施行的现行《境外投资管理办法》。

由于“多国(地区)利益”一词没有明确定义,因此或被做广义解释。以港口为例,如果其地理位置在一个国家,而其运营可能会影响到同一海域其它国家利益的,则很容易被视为是涉及“多国(地区)利益”。

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Ye-Xiaowei
Beglin-Brian

This article was originally published by Bingham McCutchen LLP.