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A World Ripe For Free Zones?

From diversification to levelling up, more countries are embracing the benefits of FTZs however In the competitive world of Economic Zones there are thousands of ‘Failed’ zones which begs the question are SEZ & FTZ seen as a soft economic solution?

UNCTAD counted 500 free zones in 1995, 3500 in 2006 and 5400 in 2018. The World Free Zones Organization (WFZO) now counts more than 7000 of them. After omitting those with just one tenant, Adrianople Group, an advisory firm focused on SEZs, has identified 4921 active zones spread across more than 90 countries. Around 750 of those are still under construction.

As impressive as this growth is, a more compelling trend is the number of governments looking to harness the benefits of free zones for the first time. Since 2020, a growing number of policymakers around the world have rolled out inaugural programmes or set in motion policies to open their first free zones in the coming years. “Having been at the helm of an economic zone for six years, and hosted countless governmental delegations from all over the world, I can confidently say economic zones are top of mind for policy-makers,” says Krysta Fox, director of consulting firm EZDA and formerly executive director of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre until 2019.


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