More than 3,500 Special Economic Zones or Free Trade Zones—Free Zones—spread across 130 countries handle $3.5 trillion worth of exports annually, according to a latest report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
With global exports reaching $15.46 trillion, the share of free zones has crossed 22.63 per cent. Of this, free zones or Export Processing Zones in Asian countries handle $2.4 trillion worth of trade – leading the free zone output in the world while free zones in the Middle East handles $552 billion worth of exports.
Free zones add $500 billion worth of trade-related value globally while 66 million people are employed by companies registered within free zones, according to the report.
The UAE has over 45 free zones with 10 new under construction. Among the existing 45, more than 30 are in Dubai, making it the region with highest number of free zones. The country also has one of the highest number of free zones in the world that offers foreign investors 100 per cent foreign ownership in companies registered with any of these free zones.
Dubai’s free zones handled AED434 billion worth of goods or a third of the AED1.3 trillion worth of foreign trade in 2017.
The exports from UAE's free zones amounted to AED225.5 billion in 2017, a growth of 6.6 percent from the previous year, accounting for 19.5 percent of the country's total exports during 2017, and comprised 16 percent of the trade balance, according to the UAE Central Bank.
“Free zones have been instrumental in developing the economies of many countries around the world. One of our key objectives is to raise awareness of the benefits that free zones can bring in terms of enhancing foreign direct investment and trade; promoting cultural diversity; driving innovation and skills development; creating new jobs and industries, as well as bringing stability to the global economy and prosperity to nations,” said Dr. Mohammed Alzarooni, Chairperson of World Free Zones Organization and Director General of Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA).
Registered in Geneva and headquartered in Dubai, the World FZO is the only truly international, multi-lateral organisation for free zones in the world today.
Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) taking place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 9 to 11 April 2018 is set to highlight free zones’ role in attracting Foreign Direct Investment worldwide.