The UAE: A World Free Zone Hub

  • 21 May 2014

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, has launched the Dubai-based World Free Zones Organization (World FZO). The inauguration of the first international organization for free zones testifies to the great success achieved by the UAE’s own zones over the years. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum praised the objectives behind the establishment of World FZO and the fact that Dubai was chosen to host its permanent headquarters, which he said represented global recognition of UAE-based free zones’ success in attracting investment, supporting the national economy, creating jobs, and contributing positively to the development and diversification of national income.

At the launch and initial day of operation, the founding members of World FZO numbered 14, located in various different parts of the world. Some of the FZO members belong to advanced economies, such as those of the United States, France and Spain, while others belong to emerging economies like China and India, and developing economies such as Nigeria, Uruguay, Colombia and others. This indicates that there is broad international interest in joining the Organization and benefiting from the opportunities and privileges of membership it offers in the UAE. It is expected that these benefits will encourage many zones around the globe to join World FZO, particularly as membership is open to all relevant international organizations, individuals and academic institutions in the field.

The UAE now hosts more than a quarter of the total number of free zones (123) in the entire Arab World, and the number of free zones in the UAE exceeds that of any other country in the Middle East and North Africa region. This regional supremacy is not only numerical, but also based on the quality and efficiency of the services provided by these zones. The UAE leads the region in the Global Free Zones of the Year index, in which rankings are based on indicators that measure economic performance, incentives, facilities, cost-effectiveness, quality of transportation and communications services, and regional promotion. Among the list of the top 25 free zones in the MENA in 2012, 15 were in the UAE, according to the fDi-issued index.

Integral to the leading position of UAE free zones is the country’s strategic location and the growing importance of its status on the global map of trade and business. This status, in turn, comes as a direct result of the economic and trade policies adopted by the state. Since its establishment, the UAE has pursued an open approach to the outside world and has sought to provide an ideal environment for investment. This has transformed its national economy in general – and its free zones in particular – into a strategic base for major multinational companies targeting markets in the Middle East, North Africa, West Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Europe. These characteristics also make the UAE an ideal host for World FZO.