A representative office is an office established by a company to conduct marketing and other non-transactional operations, generally in a foreign country where a branch office or subsidiary is not warranted. Representative offices are generally easier to establish than a branch or subsidiary, as they are not used for actual "business" (e.g. sales) and therefore there is less incentive for them to be regulated.
They have been used extensively by foreign investors in emerging markets such as China, India and Vietnam although they do have restrictions through not being able to invoice locally for goods or services. Consequently Representative Offices tend to be utilized by foreign investors in fields such as sourcing of products, quality control, and general liaison activities between the Head Office and the Representative Offices overseas.
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