Singapore: 《中华人民共和国外商投资法》—— 新法评论 Commentary On The Newly Passed Foreign Investment Law Of The People's Republic Of China ("China")

Last Updated: 1 October 2019
Article by Amanda Chen, Shaun Wong and Wang Xi

2019年3月15日,经第十三届全国人民代表大会第二次会议表决,《中华人民共和国外商投资法》("外商投资法")正式通过,并将于2020年1月1日起正式施行。

On 15 March 2019, the Second Conference of the 13th National People's Congress voted to pass the "Foreign Investment Law of China" ("Foreign Investment Law") which will be officially implemented from 1 January 2020.

外商投资法之颁布是中国在外商投资领域具有划时代性的一步,其为长久以来的《中华人民共和国外资企业法》《中华人民共和国中外合资经营企业法》《中华人民共和国中外合作经营企业法》(合称为"外资三法")之外资三法并立的时代画上之句点。外商投资法的颁布亦宣告了中国在实行准入前国民待遇与负面清单管理制度的原则下,保护外商投资企业的合法权益,给予外商投资企业平等竞争的机会,同时将与外商投资企业的规范、监管与保护相关之法律法规和与内资企业相关之法律法规进行逐步统一。

The promulgation of the Foreign Investment Law is an epoch-making step in the field of foreign investment in China. It officially ends the era where the foreign investment in China had been concurrently governed by the Law of China on Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprises, the Law of China on Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures, and the Law of China on Sino-Foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures (collectively "Three Foreign Investment Laws"). The new law also proclaims that by implementing the pre-establishment national treatment plus negative list administrative system, China will protect the rights and legitimate interests of foreign-invested enterprises and provide foreign-invested enterprises with equal opportunities to compete in China. Further, China will also take steps to unify the laws and regulations relating to the compliance, supervision and protection of foreign-invested enterprises with those of domestic-funded enterprises.

外商投资之定义统一

Unified Definition of Foreign Investment

依据外商投资法第四十二条规定,外资三法将自2020年1月1日外商投资法开始施行后,同时废止。这意味着曾经依据外资三法而存在的"中外合资经营企业"、"中外合作经营企业"将从此统一为"外商投资企业"。就此,外商投资法预留了五年的缓冲期,规定在其施行后的五年内在其施行前设立之相关企业可以继续保留原企业组织形式等(第六章第四十二条)。同时,外商投资法亦对外商投资做出了明确定义,即"外国的自然人、企业或其他组织直接或者间接在中国境内进行的投资活动"(第一章第二条)。

According to Article 42 of the Foreign Investment Law, the Three Foreign Investment Laws will be repealed when the Foreign Investment Law comes to effect on January 1, 2020. As a result, the categories of "equity joint venture" ("EJV") and "cooperative joint venture" ("CJV") which exist under the Three Foreign Investment Laws regime will be merged into a single category "foreign-invested enterprise". In this regard, the Foreign Investment Law sets a five-year transitional period so that companies incorporated prior to the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law may retain its original corporate structure until the end of the fifth year after the implementation date (Chapter 6, Article 42). Further, the Foreign Investment Law also explicitly defines "foreign investment" as "investment activity directly or indirectly conducted by foreign natural persons, enterprises or other organizations in China" (Chapter 1, Article 2).

值得注意的是,外商投资法对于上述定义的列举情形下,不但包括受外资三法规范的在中国境内设立公司之投资方式,亦增加了投资新建项目之投资方式。除了上述之以新设为实现手段的外资投资类型外,同时包括了以收购为主要实现手段的投资类型,即外国投资者对于中国境内企业的股份、股权、财产份额或者其他类似权益的取得(第一章第二条)。这使得外商投资法在外资三法的基础上,进一步完善及统一了受其管制的外商投资之范围。

It is worth noting that the elaboration of the abovementioned definition under the Foreign Investment Law indicates that the new law not only retains the foreign investment mode via setting up of a company in China under the old Three Foreign Investment Laws regime but also includes project-based investment. In addition, the definition introduces modes of investment via acquisition, i.e., the acquisition of shares, equity, property shares or other similar rights in China (Chapter 1, Article 2). The expansion of scope ensures that the Foreign Investment Law covers a more comprehensive list of foreign investment activities beyond the scope previously covered by the Three Foreign Investment Laws regime.

同时,在最终生效的外商投资法下的"外商投资"之定义中虽删除了2015年发布的《中华人民共和国外国投资法(草案征求意见稿)》("2015年征求意见稿")中被认为指向VIE结构的"通过合同、信托等方式控制境内企业或者持有境内企业权益"这一投资方式,但结合其就外商投资之纲领性定义条款(第一章第二条)下保留的"间接投资活动"以及在列举情形下"法律、行政法规或者国务院规定的其他方式的投资"这一兜底条款(第一章第二条),亦保留了在将来通过相关细则的颁布将VIE结构进一步列入外商投资法的监管范围内的可能性。

Under the "Draft Foreign Investment Law of the China (for Public Consultation)" released in 2015 ("2015 Draft for Public Consultation"), foreign investors controlling domestic enterprise or holding interests in any domestic enterprise by contract, trust or other means were to be regarded as a type of the foreign investment to be governed by the Foreign Investment Law. This was supposedly targeting the variable interest entity structure ("VIE Structure"). However, such provisions have been deleted in the final Foreign Investment Law. The Foreign Investment Law retains the definition of "indirect investment activities" (Chapter 2, Article 2). Together with the relevant provisions that allows the scope of foreign investment to be expanded as may be stipulated by laws, administrative regulations or statement of the State Council (Chapter 2, Article 2), arguably, the Foreign Investment Law may still apply to VIE Structure in the future.

外商投资之促进与管理

Promotion and Administration of Foreign Investment

外商投资法明确了中国对于外商投资实行准入前国民待遇加负面清单管理制度(第一章第四条),明确在准入负面清单以外的领域,将按照内外资一致的原则进行管理(第四章第二十八条)。上述规定从法律层面宣告了外资准入领域"准入前审查"制度为主之原则的终结。

The Foreign Investment Law clarifies that China implements a pre-establishment national treatment principle plus negative list administrative system for foreign investment (Chapter 1, Article 4), and clearly states that industries not included in the "negative list for foreign investments" shall be regulated based on the equal treatment policy between domestic investments and foreign investments (Chapter 4, Article 28). The above-mentioned provisions have effectively abolished the application of the "pre-establishment approval" mechanism at the legislative level.

在减轻外资准入成本的同时,外商投资法亦以两章的篇幅强调了外资促进(第二章)与外资保护(第三章),纲领性地明确了对于外商投资企业应给予的平等竞争机会及合法权益保护,其中亦包括如知识产权等时代性热点话题。以知识产权为例,外商投资法既从应为的角度强调对外国投资者和外商投资企业知识产权应以保护(第三章第二十二条),亦从不可为的角度规定行政机关及其工作人员不得利用行政手段强制转让相关技术(第三章第二十二条),以及从收益角度明确外商投资者可将知识产权许可使用费依法自由汇入汇出(第三章第二十一条)。

Apart from reducing the cost for foreign investors to enter China market, the Foreign Investment Law also emphasizes the promotion (Chapter 2) and the protection (Chapter 3) of foreign investments, setting out policies to provide equal opportunity for competition and to protect the rights and legitimate interests of foreign-invested enterprises. Certain popular topics, such as the protection of intellectual property rights, have also been addressed. For example, the Foreign Investment Law endeavours to protect the intellectual property rights of foreign investors and foreign-invested enterprises (Chapter 2, Article 22), prohibiting any administrative department or its officers from forcing any transfer of technology by administrative means (Chapter 2, Article 2). The Foreign Investment Law also allows foreign investors to freely transmit the intellectual property royalty/license fees across the border, subject to the existing regulations (Chapter 3, Article 21).

从政府监管角度,外商投资法亦明确国家应建立外商投资信用报告制度,通过企业登记系统及企业信息公示系统向商务部相关部门报送投资信息(第四章第三十四条)。同时,外商投资法规定,国家应建立外商投资安全审查制度,对影响或可能影响国家安全的外商投资进行安全审查(第四章第三十五条)。耐人寻味的是,外商投资法下强调上述安全审查之决定为最终决定(第四章第三十五条)。虽然目前有关安全审查制度的具体实施细则尚未出台,但上述规定或引发被安全审查之主体是否将无法通过如行政诉讼之方式对于安全审查之决定进行申诉的疑问。

For the purpose of government administration, the Foreign Investment Law mandates the establishment of a foreign investment credit reporting system. Foreign investors/foreign-invested entities are obliged to submit relevant information about their investments to the Ministry of Commerce via the enterprise registration platform and the enterprise credit information bulletin board platform (Chapter 4, Article 34). Further, the government is required to establish a foreign investment security review system to conduct the review of foreign investment which affects or may affect China's national security (Chapter 4, Article 35). The decision of the security review is final (Chapter 4, Article 35). While the detailed implementation rules for such a security review system are yet to be issued, queries may be raised about whether the foreign investors will be barred from appealing against the decision of the security review by way of legal proceedings.

与现行内资公司法律对接

Adoption of the existing regulations on domestic enterprises

本次外商投资法的另一大亮点为与现行内资企业的相关法律的统一和对接,明确外商投资企业的组织形式、组织机构及其活动准则亦应适用《中华人民共和国公司法》《中华人民共和国合伙企业法》等法律(第四章第三十一条)的规定。

Another highlight of this Foreign Investment Law is the unification and adoption of the relevant laws for domestic enterprises. It is clear that the organization form, institutional framework and code of conduct of foreign-invested enterprises shall be subject to the provisions of the Company Law of China, the Partnership Enterprise Law of China, and other laws which are currently only applied to domestic enterprises (Chapter 4, Article 31).

这一规定是对中国长久以来内外资公司管理双轨制的突破,从立法层面上对公司架构准则进行了进一步的统一。笔者相信这亦或是会对外商投资者商业决策及对现有外资企业的合规直接产生较大影响的规定。本文现将笔者认为的在外商投资法施行后,将受公司法下有关有限责任公司的相关规定约束的中外合资经营企业和中外合作经营企业之较为重要的变更影响总结如下:

This is a landmark change in China's conventional dual-track corporate administration regime which distinguishes between foreign-invested enterprises and domestic ones. The principal corporate structures have been unified and standardized at the legislative level. This unification may cause a significant impact on the commercial decision making of foreign investors and the compliance requirements of existing foreign-invested enterprises. The table below summarizes certain key changes which may impact the governance of the relevant existing EJVs and CJVs which will be regulated by the relevant provisions under the Company Law of China in relation to companies with limited liability after the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law:

对新加坡投资者的启示

Insight for Singaporean Investors

对于新加坡投资者来说,外商投资法在一定程度上降低了在华投资法律风险的同时,也提供了更大的商业自由度。外商投资法明确内外资企业将就组织形式、组织机构及其活动准则统一依据公司法等相关法律进行规范的趋势。考虑到中国公司法下的公司治理架构与新加坡法的《公司法》下之公司治理架构的相似性,将外商投资企业的公司治理统规于《公司法》下这一措施,在一定程度上减轻了新加坡投资者对于中国法律法规熟悉之成本,亦或裨益新加坡投资者对于相关法律风险的认识,并最终增加新加坡投资者对于中国投资环境之信心。

For Singaporean investors, the Foreign Investment Law provides greater commercial freedom and reduces the legal risks of investing in China to some extent. The Foreign Investment Law clarifies that domestic and foreign-invested enterprises will be uniformly regulated according to the Company Law of China and other relevant laws with regard to their organization form, institutional framework and code of conduct. Considering the similarity between the governance framework under the Company Law of China and that under the Companies Act of Singapore, local investors may find it easier to comprehend the governance regime under Chinese law and assess the relevant legal risks accordingly. We believe that the new Foreign Investment Law is expected to boost Singaporean investors' confidence in the investment environment in China.

Published: March 22, 2019

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