Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement - Guide to the Agreement
1. Purpose and structure
The Investment Chapter provides investors with an open and secure environment
for investment. It ensures that investors from each Party and their
investments receive national treatment or most-favoured-nation treatment
(whichever is better) in the other Party. It also provides protection
for investors and their investments through prohibitions on a range of distorting
performance requirements and on restrictions on transfers, and through requiring
compensation equivalent to fair market value for any expropriated investment.
Any company or national in either Party investing or planning to invest
in the other Party can benefit from the Chapter. Protection for investment
is provided from the pre-investment phase through the life of the investment.
The Investment Chapter does not impose any obligation on a Party to privatise.
The Investment Chapter does not apply to measures that are covered by the
Chapter on Financial Services (Chapter 13).
2. What is investment?
"Investment" is defined in Article 11.17 of the Chapter as every
asset of an investor that has the characteristics of an investment (e.g.
the commitment of capital or other resources, an expectation of gain or profit,
or the assumption of risk), including:
- an enterprise;
- shares, stock, and other forms of equity participation in an enterprise;
- bonds, debentures, other debt instruments, and loans;
- futures, options, and other derivatives;
- turnkey, construction, management, production, concession, revenue-sharing,
and other similar contracts;
- intellectual property rights;
- licenses, authorizations, permits, and similar rights conferred pursuant
to applicable domestic law; and
- other tangible or intangible, movable or immovable property, and related
property rights, such as leases, mortgages, liens and pledges.
The Chapter defines an "investor" of a Party as a national or
an enterprise of that Party who seeks to make, is making, or has made an
investment in the other Party. Under the FTA, a "national" includes
permanent residents as well as citizens. In the Investment Chapter,
an "enterprise" of a Party includes branches located in its territory,
as well as incorporated companies and other entities constituted or organized
under its laws.
The protections of the Investment Chapter apply to both an investor and
to any "covered investment", i.e. an investment that an investor
of a Party has in the territory of the other Party at the date of entry into
force of the Agreement, or subsequently establishes, acquires or expands.
3. Core obligations
The Chapter requires each Party to accord to investors of the other Party,
and to covered investments, whichever is better of national treatment (Article
11.3) or most-favoured-nation treatment (Article 11.4).
National treatment means treatment no less favourable than that accorded,
in like circumstances, to a Party's own investors or their investments.
Most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment means treatment no less favourable
than a Party accords, in like circumstances, to investors, or investments,
of any non-Party.
The national treatment and MFN obligations apply to the establishment, acquisition,
expansion, management, conduct, operation and sale or other disposition of
3.2 Performance Requirements
Article 11.9 establishes disciplines on the use of a range of performance
requirements that distort trade and investment flows. Performance
requirements are measures that impose certain requirements on the operation
of a business, e.g. that the goods it produces must incorporate a certain
proportion of domestically-produced inputs, or that a certain proportion
of its output must be exported.
Article 11.9 prohibits each Party from imposing or enforcing any of the
following requirements in relation to an investment in its territory:
a: to export a given level or percentage of goods or services;
b: to achieve a given level or percentage of domestic content;
c: to purchase, use, or accord a preference to goods produced
in its territory, or to purchase goods from persons in its territory;
d: to relate in any way the volume or value of imports to
the volume or value of exports or to the amount of foreign exchange inflows
associated with an investment;
e: to restrict sales of goods or services in its territory
that an investment produces or supplies by relating such sales in any way
to the volume or value of its exports or foreign exchange earnings;
f: to transfer a particular technology, a production process,
or other proprietary knowledge to a person in its territory; or
g: to supply exclusively from its territory the goods that
an investment produces or the services it supplies to a specific regional
market or to the world market.
In addition, the Parties may not condition the receipt or continued receipt
of an advantage on compliance with the requirements in Categories b. to e.
The disciplines in Article 11.9 apply to all investments, whether by US
investors, domestic investors, or investors from a non-Party.
Article 11.9 also contains a number of exceptions, which allow some of the
performance requirements in Categories a. to g. to be used in several specified
circumstances, such as government procurement, actions related to intellectual
property rights or competition laws, and measures necessary to protect human,
animal or plant life or health.
3.3 Senior Management and Boards of Directors
Article 11.10 provides that a Party cannot require that an enterprise that
is a covered investment appoint individuals of any particular nationality
to senior management positions. However, a Party may require that
a majority or less of the board of directors (or any committee thereof) of
an enterprise that is a covered investment be of a particular nationality
or be resident in its territory, provided that this requirement does not
materially impair the ability of that investor to exercise control over its
4. Non-conforming measures
Article 11.13 allows the Parties to maintain or adopt certain measures that
are not consistent with the provisions of the obligations on National Treatment,
MFN Treatment, Performance Requirements, and Senior Management and Boards
of Directors (i.e. "non-conforming measures"). These non-conforming
measures must be identified in individual Schedules for each Party that are
contained in two Annexes to the Agreement:
- Annex I can be used by a Party to reserve the right to maintain existing
non-conforming measures that are specifically identified in its Schedule
to that Annex. These measures cannot be made more restrictive (i.e.
less consistent with the obligations of the Chapter). Furthermore,
Annex I measures are subject to a "ratchet" mechanism, which
means that if a Party liberalizes such a measure, i.e. makes it less inconsistent
with an obligation, then it cannot subsequently make it more restrictive. In
other words, the ratchet mechanism means that the liberalized measure becomes "bound" as
part of the Agreement's treaty commitments.
- Annex II can be used by a Party to reserve the right to maintain existing
non-conforming measures, make these measures more restrictive, or adopt
new non-conforming measures for sectors, sub-sectors or activities identified
in its Schedule to that Annex.
The Schedules to Annex I and II represented a carefully negotiated balance
of commitments between the Parties. An example of entries the Parties
have included in their Schedules is the approach Australia has taken with
regard to its foreign investment policy. This is described in the
The outcome of the negotiations liberalises Australia's foreign investment
policy while retaining the right for the Government to examine all investment
of major significance.
It does this through the following reservations in Australia's schedules
in Annex 1 and Annex II:
- An Annex II reservation allowing Australia to continue to examine all
foreign investments in urban land (including residential properties), other
than developed non-residential commercial real estate;
- An Annex I reservation that allows Australia to examine investment in
other sectors including the right to screen, in defined circumstances:
direct and portfolio investment of 5 per cent or more in media; investment
in Australian businesses in telecommunications, transport and defence related
industries valued at $50 million or more; investments representing stakes
in financial sector companies of 15 per cent or more; and investments in
Australian businesses in other sectors valued at $800 million or more.
- Separate reservations preserving Australian foreign investment limits
relating to the media, Telstra, CSL, Qantas and other Australian international
airlines, federal leased airports and shipping.
In addition to the measures identified in the Schedules, Article 11.13 provides
that the articles on National Treatment, MFN Treatment, and Senior Management
and Boards of Directors do not apply to government procurement or to subsidies
or grants provided by a Party.
5. Other obligations
5.1 Minimum Standard of Treatment
Article 11.5 requires a Party to treat covered investments in accordance
with the "customary international law minimum standard of treatment
Annex 11-A confirms the understanding of the Parties that "customary
international law" is law that results from a general and consistent
practice of countries that they follow from a sense of legal obligation. It
also confirms that the customary international law minimum standard of treatment
of aliens refers to all customary international law principles that protect
the economic rights and interests of aliens.
Two important aspects of this customary international law minimum standard
of treatment of aliens are:
- "fair and equitable treatment" - this includes a requirement
that a country not deny justice to foreign investors in accordance with
the principle of due process embodied in the principal legal systems of
the world; and
- "full protection and security" - this requires a country to
provide a minimum level of safety to foreign investors and their investments
5.2 Treatment in Case of Strife
Article 11.6 provides protection for an investor of the other Party or their
covered investment for loss due to armed conflict or civil strife in the
territory of a Party. If the latter takes action relating to such
losses (e.g. by setting up a compensation system), then it must accord the
investor of the other Party or their covered investment treatment no less
favourable than the treatment accorded, in like circumstances, to:
- its own investors and their investments; and
- investors of any non-Party and their investments.
5.3 Expropriation and Compensation
Article 11.7 provides that a Party may not directly expropriate or nationalise
a covered investment ("direct expropriation"), or indirectly do
so through measures equivalent to expropriation or nationalisation ("indirect
expropriation"), except for a public purpose, in a non-discriminatory
manner, in accordance with due process of law, and on payment of prompt,
adequate and effective compensation. The compensation must be:
- paid without delay;
- equivalent to the fair market value of the covered investment immediately
before the expropriation (ignoring any changes to that fair market value
that might have happened because the intended expropriation had become
public knowledge before it occurred); and
- fully realisable and fully transferable.
Annex 11-B provides guidance on the operation of the expropriation article. A
country's action can only constitute an expropriation if it interferes with
a tangible or intangible property right or property interest in an investment. The
determination as to whether an indirect expropriation has occurred requires
a case-by-case, fact-based inquiry, with some relevant factors identified
in Annex 11-B. Except in rare circumstances, non-discriminatory regulatory
actions of a Party that are designed and applied to protect legitimate public
welfare objectives, such as the protection of public health, safety, and
the environment, do not constitute indirect expropriations.
Article 11.8 requires that each Party must allow all transfers relating
to a covered investment (e.g. contributions to capital, transfers of profits
and dividends, payments of interest and royalties, and payments under a contract)
to be made freely and without delay into and out of its territory, and must
allow such transfers to be made in a freely usable currency as determined
by the International Monetary Fund (i.e. currently the United States dollar,
the Japanese Yen, the Euro, and the British Pound) at the prevailing market
rate of exchange.
A Party must allow returns in kind relating to a covered investment to be
made in the way set out in any written agreement between that Party and a
covered investment or an investor of the other Party where that written agreement
takes effect on or after the date of entry into force of the FTA.
A Party can still prevent or delay such transfers through the equitable,
non-discriminatory, and good faith application of laws such as on bankruptcy.
6. Other provisions
6.1 Investment and Environment
Article 11.11 states that nothing in the Investment Chapter prevents a Party
from taking measures otherwise consistent with the Chapter that it considers
appropriate to ensure that investment activity in its territory is undertaken
in a manner sensitive to environmental concerns.
6.2 Denial of Benefits
Article 11.12 provides that a Party may deny the benefits of the Investment
Chapter to an investor of the other Party if it is an enterprise that is
owned or controlled by investors of a non-Party, and the denying Party:
- does not have diplomatic relations with the non-Party; or
- has in place sanctions with respect to the non-Party or an investor
of the non-Party that prohibit transactions with the enterprise.
A Party may also deny the benefits of the Investment Chapter to an investor
of the other Party that is an enterprise that:
- has no substantial business activities in the territory of the other
- is owned or controlled by investors of a non-Party or the denying Party.
Article 11.15 provides for the Parties to meet annually, or as otherwise
agreed, to discuss the implementation of the Chapter.
6.4 Investor-State dispute settlement
In recognition of the Parties' open economic environments and shared legal
traditions, and the confidence of investors in the fairness and integrity
of their respective legal systems, the Investment Chapter does not establish
an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. Article 11.16 provides
that the Parties may consider establishing such a procedure to hear a claim
by an investor, if there is a change in these circumstances regarding the
Parties' economic and legal environments.
March 6, 2004