DUBAI, Exports by companies registered with the UAE's free zones amounted to AED225.5 billion (US$61.39 billion) in 2017, a growth of 6.6 percent from the previous year, according to the UAE Central Bank.

The free zone exports accounted for 19.5 percent of the country's total exports during 2017 and 16 percent of the trade balance.

The past three years saw some discrepancy in the free zone export volume, which reached AED221.3 billion in 2015, before declining to AED211.4 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 percent 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 percent.

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.

The eighth edition of the Annual Investment Meeting, AIM, is all set to be held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from 9th to 11th April, 2018. It will produce an investment conference with global experts, academics and consultants to update AIM audiences with contemporary investment trends in the ever-changing domain of FDI.

Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO of 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 focusses 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 has 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. We have lined up a number of interactive seminars, workshops and match-making initiatives to promote foreign investment from which participants and delegates could learn the most effective ways and means to attract investment."

The World Free Zones Organisation, World FZO, was launched in Dubai, UAE, in May 2014, by its 14 founding members under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

Dr. Mohammed Alzarooni, Chairperson of World FZO, and Director-General of the Dubai Airport Freezone, DAFZA, said, "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.

"As a not-for-profit entity, we are committed to supporting the management and continuous development of free zones and offering a range of support services for our members. These include training and development programmes as well as research and analysis on free zones and wider trade and investment trends. We have a very clear mandate and set of goals that we believe will benefit the world's many free zones and, ultimately, have the potential to transform the communities that we serve."

Source: Emirates News Agency