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Foreign direct investment reviews 2024: A global perspective

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Understanding the ever-evolving global FDI landscape is crucial amid growing regulatory complexities in cross-border transactions


Now in its eighth year of publication, White & Case's 2024 Foreign Direct Investment Reviews provides a comprehensive look at foreign direct investment (FDI) laws and regulations in more than 40 countries worldwide.

In this edition, we continue to offer key datapoints that can help inform parties and their advisors as they evaluate the new set of challenges presented by FDI screening requirements in cross-border transactions that span multiple countries.

FDI screening is continuously evolving, in fact, maturing. Stakeholders in the process, in particular FDI regulatory authorities in allied countries, are communicating and learning from each other. It is imperative to stay on top of the FDI requirements as transactions—be it mergers and acquisitions, investments, public equity offerings, debt structurings or financial restructurings—are negotiated. Understanding the potential remedies that could be required for approval and proper allocation of FDI risk are key ingredients in avoiding unpleasant surprises related to timing, certainty and business plan execution.

The number of national FDI regimes and regulatory enhancements is growing around the world, particularly in Europe, with no harmonization in terms of process and timelines. FDI regulators, at least from allied nations, are collaborating and learning from each other.

FDI regulators interpret their jurisdiction and authority broadly, especially if they believe it is in the national interest. Many regulators have "call-in," "ex officio," or "non-notified" authority. There is increasing coordination in the European Union (EU) between FDI authorities with the support of the European Commission.

Despite increased regulation, most cross-border transactions are successfully consummated, although there has been an increase in the number of cases clearing with remedies.

The origin of the investor remains a key concern for Western regulators. For example, China and Russia are included more and more in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States' regular Q&A, asking broader and more invasive questions.

Investors conducting cross-border business need to understand FDI restrictions as they are today, and how these laws are evolving over time, to avoid disruption to realizing synergies, achieving technological development and integration, and ultimately securing liquidity.



The Canadian government continues to scrutinize foreign investments by state-owned enterprises and state-linked private investors, especially if from "non-like-minded" countries.

canada fdi 2022


FDI, whether undertaken directly or indirectly, is generally allowed without restrictions or without the need to obtain prior authorization from an administrative agency.

mexico fdi 2022

United States

Most deals are approved without mitigation, but the CFIUS landscape has continued evolving based on a combination of expanded jurisdiction, mandatory filings applying in certain cases, enhanced focus on a broad array of national security considerations, increased rates of mitigation, further attention on monitoring, compliance and enforcement, and a substantially increased pursuit of non-notified transactions.

United States of America



The European Commission continues to be a driver of FDI screening across the EU, with Member States now moving toward coordinated enforcement.

european union fdi 2022


The wide scope, low trigger thresholds and extensive interpretation of the Austrian FDI regime require a thorough assessment and proactive planning of the M&A process.

austria fdi 2022


The Belgian FDI screening regime entered into force in July 2023. In its early days, investors and authorities alike are coming to grips with the new regime and the guidelines that help parties navigate it.



A bill contemplating the creation of a foreign direct investment screening mechanism in Bulgaria is currently before the Bulgarian parliament.


Czech Republic

The new Czech Foreign Investments Screening Act took effect in May 2021, establishing the rights and duties of foreign investors and setting screening requirements for Czech targets.

czech republic fdi 2022


The scope of the Danish FDI regime is comprehensive and requires a careful assessment of investments and agreements involving Danish companies.

denmark fdi 2022


Estonia's foreign direct investment screening mechanism entered into force on September 1, 2023.

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FDI deals are generally not blocked in Finland.



French FDI screening continues to focus on foreign investments involving medical and biotech activities, food security activities or the treatment, storage and transmission of sensitive data. The nuclear ecosystem is subject to very close scrutiny.

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Following numerous amendments over the past years, Germany's FDI review continued in full swing in 2023, with further significant updates expected in 2024.

germany fdi 2022


FDI screening in Hungary – forever changing regulation, no change in its importance.

hungary fdi 2022


Ireland is expected to enact its FDI screening legislation in 2024.

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Italy's Golden Power Law is now more than 10 years old and is continuously expanding its reach.



The law in Latvia provides for sectoral FDI regimes for specific corporate M&A, real estate dealings and gambling companies.



All investments concerning national security are under the scope of review.



In 2023, Luxembourg adopted a national screening mechanism for foreign direct investments.



Malta's FDI regime regulates transactions that must be notified to the authorities and, in some cases, will be subject to screening.


Middle East

The Middle East continues to welcome foreign investment, subject to licensing approvals and ownership thresholds for certain business sectors or in certain geographical zones.

Middle East


The Netherlands, complementing its existing sector-specific regulations, has introduced a general investment screening mechanism to enhance the protection of its national security across a broader range of sectors.



The foreign direct investment regime in Norway is subject to upcoming changes, with further changes expected to come.



The Polish FDI regime – ambiguous rules, no blocking decisions and evolving market practice.



In Portugal, transactions involving acquisition of control over strategic assets by entities residing outside the EU or the EEA may be subject to FDI screening.



The Romanian regime regarding foreign direct investment appears to have become more stable in 2023, but continues to surprise.


Russian Federation

Russian laws regulating foreign investments have been considerably amended in 2023 to extend the scope of the laws as well as to strengthen control in this sphere.

Russian Federation


The new Foreign Investments Screening Act entered into force in Slovakia on March 1, 2023.



Since May 31, 2020, certain foreign investments into Slovenian companies can be subject to foreign direct investments review. Incorporation of new companies and business units can also be screened.



Certain foreign direct investments in Spain are subject to scrutiny under the Law 19/2003 (Law on the movement of capital and foreign economic transactions and on certain measures for the prevention of money laundering). These restrictions started back in 2020 and, since then, additional formalities have been introduced, specifically by the new FDI regulation, which entered into force on September 1, 2023.



In December 2023, Sweden adopted and implemented a new FDI regime, meaning that a general FDI screening mechanism now applies in relation to investments in certain Swedish businesses.



Historically, Switzerland has been very liberal regarding foreign investments. However, there has recently been increased political pressure to create a more structured legal regime for foreign investment.



Making Türkiye an attractive investment destination continues to be a priority for the government.


United Arab Emirates

Foreign direct investment is permissible in the UAE, subject to applicable licensing and ownership conditions.


United Kingdom

The UK introduced new legislation governing FDI in 2022, which also captures domestic investment in certain sectors.




Australia's stringent foreign investment regulations, overseen by the Treasurer and FIRB, safeguard national interests and security. The framework, including the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and recent updates like the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, emphasizes transparency and accountability, with new penalties and registration requirements enhancing oversight and compliance.



While restricting the data transfer relating to national security, China issued guidelines to further optimize its foreign investment environment. 



India continues to be an attractive destination for foreign investment, ranking as the world's eighth-largest recipient of FDI in 2023.



Certain businesses related to "Specifically Designated Critical Commodities" have been designated "core" sectors subject to Japan's FDI regime, FEFTA.


Republic of Korea

The Republic of Korea continues to welcome foreign investment, with the government actively seeking to ease regulations and update the regulatory framework to be in line with global standards.


New Zealand

After a number of years of amendments under the OIA from 2018 to 2021, New Zealand has seen a period of stabilization of the overseas investment regime. However, following the recent election and change of government in New Zealand, further changes are expected to better support investments in build-to-rent housing developments.

New Zealand


Taiwan continues to promote FDI under a two-track screening mechanism for foreign and PRC investors.


Foreign direct investment reviews 2024: Australia

Australia's stringent foreign investment regulations, overseen by the Treasurer and FIRB, safeguard national interests and security. The framework, including the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and recent updates like the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, emphasizes transparency and accountability, with new penalties and registration requirements enhancing oversight and compliance.


9 min read

Fiona Blanch (White & Case) contributed to the development of this publication

Australia requires a wide variety of proposed investments by foreign investors to be reviewed and approved before completion of the investment.

The Treasurer of Australia, advised by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), determines foreign investment approval or denial based on national interest and security considerations.

Australia's foreign investment policy framework comprises the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (Cth) and its related regulations, the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Fees Imposition Act 2015 (Cth) (Fees Regime) and its related regulations, Australia's Foreign Investment Policy, and associated guidance notes.

Summary of major changes in 2023

  • The maximum financial penalties for contraventions of foreign investment provisions relating to residential land were doubled
  • The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement commenced on May 31, 2023, enabling UK investors to benefit from higher monetary screening thresholds under the foreign investment framework
  • The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) implemented the new Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian Assets, which replaces and consolidates the existing foreign asset registers, as well as replacing the existing method whereby foreign investors notified the FIRB of having completed an approved investment. It is also now the source of notifying of the disposal of a FIRB-approved investment, or notification of certain changes to existing investment already notified on the register. Notably, the new register requires that the foreign investor registers with the new supporting ATO online services for foreign investors platform prior to registering the acquisition of registrable Australian investments"and this can take some time. And importantly, the acquisition of Australian land, securities or assets by a foreign investor may require registration via the new ATO register, even where the acquisition did not require mandatory FIRB approval.

Who files?

A foreign person or entity making an acquisition that requires approval under the act must apply to FIRB for a notification that the Treasurer has "no objection" to the acquisition before completion of the acquisition. In these circumstances, any agreement to make the acquisition must be conditional upon, and subject to, receipt of FIRB approval by the acquirer.

An application includes a filing fee that varies according to the type and value of the action being taken, the consideration payable and whether special fee rules apply. As of January 2024, the maximum fee payable is capped at AUD 1,119,100.

Types of deals reviewed

FIRB approval is required for various acquisitions by foreign persons.

These include "substantial interest": the acquisition of a 20 percent or more direct or indirect interest in an Australian entity or business valued at more than US$330 million.

"Direct interest" covers the acquisition of a 10 percent or more direct interest in an Australian national security business such as businesses relating to critical infrastructure assets, telecommunications, defense or national intelligence communities or an Australian media business, irrespective of monetary value. Starting a national security business also requires prior approval, irrespective of monetary value.

Approval is required to acquire an interest in national security land, such as defense premises or land in which a national intelligence community has an interest.

The regulations also cover diverse acquisitions of interests in Australian land, and mining and production tenements subject to varying monetary thresholds. This includes agricultural, residential, vacant and developed commercial land, and entities with 50 percent or more of their total asset value attributable to Australian land interests.

Types of investors also receive differing treatment for their deals, and each foreign investor should consider the applicable monetary threshold and other provisions relevant to it.

Investors from specific countries benefit from higher monetary thresholds based on free trade agreements (note however, the direct acquiring entity will also need to be from the relevant country for the higher thresholds to apply). Generally, in respect of acquisitions of securities in an Australian entity, mandatory FIRB approval is only required where the monetary threshold exceeds US$1.427 billion, except for national security or sensitive businesses.

Stricter rules apply to foreign government investors, which can include domestic or offshore entities where a foreign government and its associates hold a direct or upstream interest of 20 percent or more, or foreign governments of more than one foreign country and their associates hold an aggregate interest of 40 percent or more. In general, unless an exemption applies, such as the de minimus exemption for offshore acquisitions, a foreign government investor must obtain FIRB approval before acquiring a "direct interest" (generally defined as at least 10 percent holding or the ability to influence, participate in or control) in any Australian asset or entity; starting a new business; or acquiring mining, production or exploration interests.

Scope of the review

The Treasurer may prohibit an investment if he or she believes it would be contrary to the national interest or national security or, while approving the investment, may impose conditions on such investment to safeguard the national interest or national security.

In making this decision, while the concept of "national interest" is not defined in the legislation, the Treasurer will broadly consider the impact on national security being the extent to which investments affect Australia's ability to protect its strategic and security interests.

The Treasurer will also consider the impact on competition (whether a proposed investment may result in an investor gaining control over market pricing and production of a good or service in Australia); the effects of other Australian government laws and policies (including tax, environmental and critical technology laws and objectives, and the impact of the investment on Australian tax revenues); the impact of the investment on the Australian economy and the community; and the character of the investor (including to the extent to which the investor operates on a transparent commercial basis and is subject to adequate and transparent regulation and supervision, as well as the corporate governance practices of the investor).

The "national security test" requires the Treasurer to assess a given investment from a national security perspective, and whether such investment will affect Australia's ability to protect its strategic and security interests. In making this assessment, the Treasurer relies on advice from the relevant national security agencies for assessments as to whether an investment raises national security issues for example, through foreign intrusion or espionage. This test is generally applied in circumstances where an investment involves a "national security business," "national security land" or falls within one of the sectors of interest for the Treasurer, as set out in Guidance Note 8 on National Security.

Review process timeline

Under the act, the Treasurer has 30 days to consider an application and make a decision. However, in practice, the assessment process is in many cases extended and takes longer, typically eight to 12 weeks from the time of application to the receipt of a "no objections" notification. The holiday period and federal government election periods usually impact these timeframes for decisions.

The timeframe for making a decision will not start until the correct application fee has been paid in full. If the Treasurer requests further information from the investor, the review period will be on hold until the request has been satisfied.

Typically, if FIRB requires further time, it will request that the applicant voluntarily extend the approval deadline. As the Treasurer is also entitled to unilaterally impose a 90-day extension under statute, applicants are generally incentivized to "voluntarily" request the proposed deadline extensions and such that, in reality, the review process will take approximately eight to 12 weeks.

How foreign investors can protect themselves

Foreign persons should file an application in advance of any transaction that requires FIRB approval, and any transaction requiring mandatory FIRB approval must be conditioned on receipt of FIRB approval. Foreign investors should obtain appropriate advice at an early stage of the transaction with respect to the application of the act whenever a transaction directly or indirectly involves the acquisition of Australian assets. A transaction requiring mandatory FIRB approval should not proceed to completion until the Treasurer advises on the outcome of his or her review.

Particularly for applications related to sensitive or national security businesses (those with a nexus to the Australian defense force, public infrastructure, sensitive data, power, ports, water, telecommunications, banking or media sectors), the Australian government encourages engagement with FIRB before filing applications for significant investments.

These early discussions serve as a valuable forum for foreign investors to gain insights into the intricacies of their application, discern any national interest concerns the government may have, and understand the potential conditions the Treasurer might impose upon approval. Such an understanding may result in foreign investors being able to structure transactions differently to mitigate adverse FIRB outcomes. Furthermore, proactive and early engagement is crucial in competitive bid scenarios to avoid situations where other bidders have already obtained FIRB approval.

Moreover, foreign investors need to be cognizant of the sensitivity surrounding investment structures, profit shifting and the payment of Australian tax. Collaboration with tax advisors at the outset ensures that investment structures align with the parameters acceptable to the ATO, a critical consideration given the ATO's involvement in all approval processes and the increasing imposition of tax conditions on approvals.

We also recommend transparency in disclosing upstream ownership details of the acquiring entity, including identifying and disclosing direct and indirect, legal and beneficial holders of a 5 percent or more interest in the acquiring entity (this is a FIRB requirement), in order to streamline the review process as well as mitigate unwarranted scrutiny by FIRB.

"Looking ahead": Likely developments in the next year

The Treasury is also implementing a Foreign Investment Digital Transformation Program, which aims to modernize management and regulation of the framework. It is expected to entail an enhanced case management system and advanced analytics. The program appears to still be in the delivery phase.

On December 10, 2023, the federal government announced changes to residential land fee rules, designed to "improve housing affordability and supply." The changes involve a proposed increase in FIRB application fees to purchase established dwellings, a proposed increase in vacancy fees for foreign-owned dwellings, reduced FIRB application fees for build-to-rent (BTR) projects and enhanced compliance activities.

We anticipate a continued emphasis on national security and national interest considerations over economic factors and reducing foreign investment red tape, leading to conditions being applied to many transactions, especially higher value transactions. The latest 30 June 2023 FIRB Quarterly Report supports this, with 550 out of the 1,310 applications (excluding residential land applications) for the June 30, 2023 year having conditions imposed and representing AUD 131.6 billion of a total AUD 171.5 billion value wise for the year.

We also expect the ongoing use of the foreign investment framework by consultation agencies (in particular the ATO) to gain greater access to information via imposing specific reporting and audit conditions.

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This article is prepared for the general information of interested persons. It is not, and does not attempt to be, comprehensive in nature. Due to the general nature of its content, it should not be regarded as legal advice.

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