SURINAME   -  Trade Information Database

SURINAME COUNTRY COMMERCIAL GUIDE FY 2003

INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT, U.S. & FOREIGN COMMERCIAL SERVICE AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 2005. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES.
 
6. Trade Regulations and Standards
 

 

Membership in Free Trade Arrangements

 
 

Suriname officially became a full member of the Caribbean Common Market, CARICOM, on July 4, 1995.  Suriname eliminated tariffs on CARICOM products on January 1, 1996 and fully adheres to CARICOM's common external tariff regime (with most rates in the 5-25 percent range). CARICOM membership is increasing Suriname's regional economic activity.  The Surinamese government regards CARICOM membership as an important stepping-stone toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
 
 

Suriname is also a member of the Amazon Charter with Brazil, and the Association of Caribbean Producers.
 
 

Prohibited Imports and USG-Imposed Export Controls

 
 

An obsolete trade law implemented during the military regime in the 1980's prohibited imports of hundreds of goods.  According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, this law has been discontinued.
 

 
Import Taxes and License Requirements
 

 
Import tariffs from non-CARICOM products range between zero and 40 percent.  According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry officials, average import duties are between 30 and 40 percent.  Licenses are no longer required to import many products.
 
 

Customs Regulations

 
 

In July 1994, the Surinamese government adjusted the exchange rate at which imports are valued for customs purposes to a unified, set exchange rate.   As of June 2002, the official exchange rate is SF 2650 per USD for selling and SF 2600 for purchasing.
 
 

Temporary Goods Entry Requirements

 
 

Temporary entry is not generally applicable in Suriname.  With the exception of re-export of goods to Guyana and illegal smuggling to French Guyana, Suriname is not a distribution point for shipping or air cargo.  Nonetheless, temporary entry under bond can be arranged.
 
 

Other Import/Export Requirements and Certifications

 
 

There are two special import taxes: the statistics duty, which is one-half of one percent of the product's value, and the consent duty, which is one and one-half percent of a product's value.
 

 
 

Import licenses are no longer required for all imports, however, the local importer must register with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and pay a small fee. The government has announced its intention to establish a "one-stop-shop" for licenses and permits.  To import certain goods, such as plants and animals, licenses and certifications are required from other ministries.
 

 
 

Suriname also has minor export controls.  A listing of goods that are prohibited for export is available from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.  A number of products require export licenses that must be approved by the Ministry of Trade and Industry's department of business licenses.
 
Labeling and Marketing Requirements
 
 

Products must be clearly labeled, with the content, weight, brand, and production date and expiration date of the product clearly visible.  This may done in English.
 
 




7. Investment Climate

 

Openness to Foreign Investment
 
 

Ministers and other Surinamese government officials repeatedly voice their support for liberalization and economic reform.  There is slow but steady progress being made to remove subsidies and to liberalize the economy.  International investors, observing this shift, have begun acting accordingly: investors from as far away as Canada, Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia are visiting Suriname in increasing numbers.  Suriname has responded by welcoming investment initiatives, and is slowly pressing forward toward a simplified, more transparent trade law and investment law which provide for dispute settlements, and investment initiatives and national treatment.
 
 

In December 2001, laws were passed to create a new institute called InvestSur to process applications for investment requests, to settle disputes, and to help investors. With this institution, which at this time not operational, companies would no longer need to negotiate directly with the Surinamese government on concessions, licenses and hiring.  Suriname is working on other investment law updates to make granting concessions less quixotic and less immune to patronage and favoritism.  However, new investment laws have been caught in bureaucratic delays and changes have been slow.
 
 

In general, foreign investors and exporters are expected to maintain a higher standard of good business practices than Surinamese firms.  While Surinamese companies might escape with bending the rules, foreign companies are generally held to the letter of the law and discovered infractions are widely publicized.  Large segments of Surinamese society retain a nationalistic suspicion of foreign investors.
 
Conversion and Transfer Policies
 
 

Currently, most foreign exchange is based on the market rate, although some companies' contracts with the government may require that they use the official rate.
 


 

Partially as a result of the decreased value of the guilder, which encourages locals use dollars for their most important transactions, foreign exchange reserves are limited.  The Central Bank of Suriname is one of the legal suppliers of the foreign exchange market, and, based on the central bank's ability to meet demand, foreign-exchange shortages or delay can occur.  Periodically during 2002, dollars were scarce on the open currency market, usually when the guilder's value was artificially set by the Central Bank.  Euros have been easier to find.  In addition, the underdeveloped banking sector lacks a number of international financial services, and transfer of funds into and out of Suriname can be expensive.
 
Expropriation and Compensation
 
The Embassy is unaware of any cases of expropriation in Suriname.
 
Dispute Settlement
 
 

There have been no major investment disputes since 1990.  The Surinamese government has agreed to include international arbitration under ICSID rules in its most recent agreements with new investors.  Although Suriname is a member of ICSID and other international agreements regarding investment dispute settlements, the Embassy knows of no instance in which an investor appealed to these mechanisms to resolve a dispute.
 
Political Violence
 
 

Areas outside Paramaribo suffered from political violence during the 1986-92 insurgency.  Since 1992, the government has made some progress in re-exerting legal authority in the interior.  While urban crime is on the rise, and incidences of banditry and armed robbery occur in the interior, with the exception of the 1986-92 Interior War period, foreign investors or investments have not been specifically targeted. Though no political violence was reported during street actions in May 1999, isolated incidents of political violence cannot be completely ruled out.  The likelihood that such actions would target foreign investments is small.
 
Performance Requirements/Incentives
 


 

Although the Surinamese government provides investment incentives to domestic investors, including long-term land leases, factory space, preferential credit and tax holidays, little use has been made of the incentives.  Current practice is for foreign investors to negotiate unique investment-incentive packages agreeable to the government and/or local partners.
 
 

Intellectual Property Rights
 


 

Suriname is a party to the Paris Convention and the Berne Convention.  Trademarks receive adequate protection but otherwise there is generally little protection against IPR infringement.  There is piracy of television programs, videos, and music.  Though the government of Suriname has expressed interest in pursuing adoption of adequate IPR protection rules, the number of other issues pending consideration makes early progress doubtful.
 
Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
 
 

The law accords property ownership as a basic right in Suriname, reserved only for Surinamese citizens, and guaranteed by the constitution, but in practice there are few property owners.  Generally, land and natural resources are considered the patrimony of the state, which grants leases of varying duration to private enterprises.
 
Protection of Property Rights.
 
 

Surinamese law provides for the right of an individual or company to hold land, buildings and equipment.  Settlement of ownership disputes or damage to property, buildings or equipment can be an extremely lengthy process in the undermanned, overworked, legal system.  Companies working natural resource concessions in the interior have had to deal with protests by native peoples asserting their historical land rights.  Potential natural resource investors should get detailed descriptions of their concession areas, and devote attention to the impact their proposed activities will have upon inhabitants in these areas.
 
Regulatory System
 
 

Information on laws and procedures can be obtained from the Ministry of Trade and Industry or the Surinamese Chamber of Commerce (KKF).
 
Bilateral Investment Agreements (BIT)
 
None.
 
OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
 
 

On February 20, 1996 the Surinamese government informed the American Embassy that it had taken the necessary steps to bring the investment incentive agreement (OPIC), signed in May 1993, into force.  This agreement guarantees reciprocal insurance of business investments between the US and Suriname.  OPIC also provides business information and counseling services for US companies.  OPIC has not engaged in any significant activity in Suriname due to the Export-Import Bank's off-cover position.  This stems from outstanding payments on previous commodity loans still owed by the Surinamese government.
 
Labor
 
 

Of Suriname's 100,000 strong formal-sector labor force, roughly half is employed in the public sector.  The labor force is generally well educated (literacy over 90 percent).  However, Suriname has suffered from "brain drain" since independence in 1975, exacerbated in the early 1980's due to a military coup.  A decline in purchasing power, in 1993 and 1994 and again in 1998 and 1999, resulted in a further loss of skilled workers.  The primary impact has been on managerial capacity.  The "brain drain" could continue given the sizeable under-30 population, and the limited opportunities for gainful employment.
 
 

In addition to the official language, Dutch, most middle-class Surinamers are proficient in English.  Suriname has a large pool of clerical and maintenance workers.  Low government salaries are encouraging many well-educated civil servants to seek employment with private firms.  The government reportedly has plans to decrease the size of the civil service apparatus as part of its structural adjustment program, although so far the government has taken no action.
 
 

Union membership is strong, and unions play a big role in determining salary levels.  In general, the government favors workers over employers.  The employee is safeguarded by labor legislation, which has been in force since 1947 with only minor changes.  Among other things, these laws force employers to get permission from the Ministry of Labor to fire employees.  However, most unions recognize the need to cooperate with employers to further investment, development and worker prosperity.
 
Capital Outflow Policy
 


 

As of this year, a license is no longer required to transfer profits and foreign currency out of the country, although currency regulations have been in flux since the Venetiaan administration began liberalizing regulations.  Investors are advised to investigate the current situation.
 
Major Foreign Investors
 


The following are known foreign investors: Alcoa has major bauxite mining and refining operations (Suralco) in Suriname since 1917.  Billiton Maatschappij Suriname, a subsidy of BHP/Billiton, operates open pit bauxite mines.  Golden Star, a Canadian company, is currently exploiting a gold mining concession. Esso, Texaco, and Royal Dutch Shell each own and franchise gas stations and provide fuel and related products.  IBM is a major supplier of copy machines and office equipment

 


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