UAE free zones handle exports worth $61bn

May 2018

Exports by companies registered with the UAE’s free zones amounted to Dh225.5 billion ($61.39 billion) in 2017, a growth of 6.6 per cent from the previous year, according to the UAE Central Bank.

The free zone exports accounted for 19.5 per cent of the country’s total exports during 2017 and 16 per cent of the trade balance, reported Emirates news agency Wam.

The past three years saw some discrepancy in the free zone export volume, which reached Dh221.3 billion in 2015, before declining to Dh211.4 billion in 2016 and then rebounding significantly last year in a way that reflects the boom witnessed in the non-oil sector.

The UAE, which has one of the highest numbers of free zones in the world, offers foreign investors 100 per cent foreign ownership in companies registered with any of these free zones. The number of free zones in the UAE is more than 45 including 10 under construction. Among this 45, more than 30 are in Dubai, making it the region with the highest number of free zones.

Meanwhile, more than 3,500 Special Economic Zones or Free Trade Zones also known as Free Zones spread across 130 countries handle $3.5 trillion worth of exports annually, according to the 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 handle $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.

Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO of Annual Investment Meeting (AIM), said: “Free zones reduce red tape, ease business regulations, liberate global trade and support global economic growth that has been struggling for a while. Free zones are a major growth catalyst and they are not only a facility for import, export or trade, free zones are in fact economic growth enablers, job creators and attract investment.

“That is why the AIM also focuses on free zones as a tool to boost investment and private capital flow into the developing economies as well as help their economic growth accelerate. Since Dubai and the UAE have championed the free zone concept with 45 free zones, it is befitting that we, at the AIM, promote free zones as an enabler to investment,” he added.

The eighth edition of the AIM was held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre last month.

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