His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Free Zones Council (DFZ Council), noted that Dubai's free zones have made a significant contribution to the growth of non-oil trade.
Free zone trade in Dubai hit AED394 billion in the first nine months of 2018, accounting for 41 per cent of the emirate's total trade during the same period and marking a growth rate of 22 per cent.
Imports amounted to 54.5 per cent at AED215 billion, while exports and re-exports reached 45.5 per cent at AED179 billion.
Overall, free zones have generated 31.9 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum added that this growth is due to the efforts on the ground and promotional campaigns of the free zones to attract foreign direct investment to Dubai. He stressed that the achievements of the free zones testify to the emirate’s attractiveness for investors and businessmen across sectors.
The Chairman of the DFZ Council pointed out that China topped the list of Dubai’s largest free zone trade partners in the first nine months of 2018 with a total trade volume of AED59 billion.
Saudi Arabia placed second globally and first in the Arab region with a trade value of AED34.2 billion, closely followed by India with AED34 billion. He noted that with more than 41,000 companies employing over 354,000 people, Dubai’s 24 free zones are key drivers of the emirate’s and the wider UAE’s economy.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum praised the outstanding performance of Dubai’s free zones during the first nine months of 2018 and highlighted their role as important economic hubs and centers of foreign direct investment that are poised for growth and expansion.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum noted that free zones support the strategic objectives of Dubai’s leadership, and its plans to build a strong and competitive economy based on diversity as a fundamental pillar.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum directed Dubai’s free zones to focus their efforts in 2019 on adapting to the global economic climate that is witnessing a recovery while maintaining their outstanding performance in attracting foreign investments and supporting economic development.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum noted that Dubai’s free zones serve as a proof of concept for, and an accelerator of, innovative economic solutions that are up to date with the latest trends in digital transformation, smart services, freehold ownership, and flexible economic and regulatory frameworks.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum stressed that the positive results are due to the Council’s keenness to boost the participation of all free zones in Dubai.
In 2018, the DFZ Council carried out a series of proactive steps and decisions that helped achieve the current growth. Notably, the Council introduced lower business fees within free zones in response to the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to reduce the cost of doing business and facilitate investments.
Furthermore, the DFZ Council signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Economic Development in Dubai (DED) to streamline business practices and operations for free zone-based companies that boosted various economic sectors and attracted foreign investment while strengthening Dubai’s position as an ideal destination for setting up, operating, and growing a business.
The MoU directs free zone establishments seeking to perform service activities in Dubai to provide an electronic link for the exchange of information between the relevant free zone and DED.
The entity requesting the operations permit is also required to obtain the approval of its respective free zone authority and submit an application to DED in line with the established procedures after ensuring that the service to be authorized does not fall within the remit of any other regulatory body in the emirate.
In 2018, the DFZ Council focused on enhancing the integration of comprehensive economic development efforts with other relevant institutions and agencies.
The DFZ Council also inked another agreement with DED to include the customers of free zone companies in the consumer protection system, resulting in higher transparency and consumer confidence as well as a faster response to customers’ requirements.
Dubai free zones offer 100 per cent foreign ownership to registered companies within their ecosystem, enabling them to enjoy tax and customs benefits, such as tax exemptions on exports and imports, and other trade concessions, including zero restrictions on employment or sponsorship.
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