The Foreign Investment Bill 2020 was tabled in Parliament in June is aimed to have a foreign investment environment that accomplished multiple goals.
That is to encourage foreign investment while protecting legitimate local interests and to comply in a fair and transparent manner.
In 2014, the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development undertook a review of the existing Foreign Investment Act 2002 and how it was implemented.
The review identified a number of issues that need to be addressed. A review resulted in a policy paper endorsed by Cabinet, recognised it was essential that the framework under which foreign investment occurs must balance welcoming foreign investment to grow the economy.
Also, with the need to ensure that all Tongan citizens benefit from participating in the local economy.
Last year the Foreign Investment Bill 2019 was passed by Parliament in February after a hot debate that surrounded the reservation and restriction of businesses for Tongans only. Finalising and issuance of a business certificate to foreign investors were among the controversial issues in the Bill last year.
Proposed amendments in the 2020 Bill includes the scope of foreign investment in Tonga, businesses that are reserved or restricted, foreign investment registration, and duties of a certificate holder.
Other changes include sections on the suspension or cancellation of the certificate, foreign investment register, and miscellaneous.
The Foreign Investment Bill 2020 was tabled in Parliament on June 29. After its first reading, the Speaker directed for the referral of the Bill to further review by the Legislation and Foreign Affairs Standing Committee. The Joint Committee then recommended the need to consult the business community, civil society, and key stakeholders on the Bill.
A public consultation program was conducted via radio talkback shows and also a public hearing that got underway in Parliament today.
About 10 representatives of the business community and civil society attended the forum and voiced their concerns on the proposed Bi