Dominican Republic: Two Decades of Legal Change in Favor of Foreign Investment
For approximately 16 years now, the Dominican Republic has been implementing a continued legal reform to adjust its legal framework to international standards, specifically aiming to attract foreign investors.
The legal reform includes enactment of new laws and treaties, amendments to existing laws and treaties and the issuance of updated interpretations of local statutes by courts. Among the most important achievements of the legal reform are the following:
Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) entered into force in the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007. The DR-CAFTA is a free trade agreement among the United States, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, aimed at creating new economic opportunities by reducing commercial and tax barriers.
CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement entered into force in the Dominican Republic on February 5, 2002. This agreement among the Dominican Republic, Suriname, Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago is aimed at creating free trade of goods, services and, promoting investments.
Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization entered into force in the Dominican Republic on June 27, 2000. This treaty, ratified by more than 185 states, promotes cooperation among the parties regarding the effective protection of intellectual property throughout the world.
The Constitution of the Dominican Republic dated January 26, 2010 and amended in 2015. The Constitution of the Dominican Republic of 2010, among other relevant provisions, allowed the state of the Dominican Republic to participate in arbitration proceedings and established that public officials may be held personally liable for wrongful acts that occur during the course of their public functions.
Restructuring and Liquidation of Companies and Business Persons Law 141-15 signed into law on August 7, 2015. This law provides a legal framework for insolvency and restructuring procedures for individuals or entities with domicile in the Dominican Republic.
International Private Law 544-14 published on December 19, 2014. This law regulates the civil and commercial international private relationships in the Dominican Republic, including issues regarding exclusive jurisdiction, applicable laws and the recognition and enforcement of decisions of foreign courts.
Rights of Persons in their relations with the Administration and Administrative Procedures Law 107-13 was signed into law on August 6, 2013. This law regulates the relationship between natural or legal persons and certain public administration entities and provides, among other things, that public administration entities and government officials may be held liable for violating the laws of the Dominican Republic.
Promotion of the Film Industry in the Dominican Republic Law 108-10 was signed into law on July 29, 2010. This law provides tax incentives for individuals or entities investing in the film industry in the Dominican Republic.
Commercial Arbitration Law 489-08 was signed into law on December 19, 2008. This law regulates arbitral agreements, arbitration proceedings, arbitral awards and setting aside of actions in the Dominican Republic. Law 489-08 is very similar but not identical to the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.
General Law on Companies and Limited Liability Sole Proprietorships 479-08 was signed into law on December 11, 2008. This law regulates all types of entities incorporated under the laws of the Dominican Republic and regulates the operations and local activities of foreign entities registered in the Dominican Republic.
Defense of Competition Law 42-08 was signed into law on January 6, 2008. This law promotes effective commercial competition among individuals and entities to increase local economic efficiency and benefit consumers and end users in the Dominican Republic.
Civil Aviation Law 491-06 was signed into law on December 22, 2006. This law regulates the inspection, oversight and control of all domestic and foreign civil aircrafts, their owners, operators, crew, passengers and cargo transporting such aircrafts in the Dominican territory.
Bribery in Commerce and Investment Law 448-06 was signed into law on December 6, 2006. This law sanctions and prohibits individuals or entities from giving and public officials from receiving gifts or bribes related to their public functions.
Procurement and Contracts of Goods, Services, Works and Concessions Law 340-06 was signed into law on August 18, 2006 and subsequently amended by Law 449-06 on December 6, 2006 and Executive Order 490-07 on August 30, 2007. This law regulates the country’s government procurement process.
Protection of the Rights of the Consumer or User No. 358-05 was signed into law on September 9, 2005. This law regulates consumer and end user rights in the Dominican Republic.
Promotion of Tourist Development Law No. 158-01 was signed into law on October 9, 2001. This law provides tax incentives for the development of the tourism industry and focuses on certain areas with particular potential in the Dominican Republic.
Copyright Law 65-00 was signed into law on August 21, 2000. This law regulates the intellectual property rights of authors and owner of literary, artistic and scientific work in the Dominican Republic.
Industrial Property Law 20-00 was signed into law on May 8, 2000. This law protects industrial property rights by modernizing the rules applicable to patents and trademarks in the Dominican Republic.
Protection of Agent Importers of Merchandise and Products Law 173 was signed into law on April 6, 1966, and was subsequently amended on at least five occasions. This law protects local licensees from termination of a distribution or representation agreement for products or services in the territory by the licensor without just cause. The law establishes a mandatory calculation of damages in favor of the licensee if the licensor unilaterally terminates or fails to renew the licensor agreement without just cause. The law is not recent but it has been modified by the DR-CAFTA (with regard to licensors from the United States) and the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (with regard to CARICOM entrepreneurs) and has been interpreted very differently in recent years by the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic.
 See contracting parties at http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?lang=en&treaty_id=1
Although the Supreme Court’s decisions are not binding to third parties, they are a source of local law and thus are taken under advisement by lower courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial system (not including the Constitutional Court) and may order a case to be reheard if it determines that the lower court applied the law incorrectly.