World Free Zones Organization: Outstanding Global Contribution to Free Zone Growth 2016

At last count, the world had just over 3,500 free zones where businesses operating in a low tax and liberalised regulatory environment generate well over seventy million jobs. Stretching from Argentina to Yemen – and pretty much every country in between and beyond – free zones offer investors privileged conditions to trade and manufacture. The host economy benefits from increased employment and significant spillover opportunities. Free zones also encourage an accelerated transfer of technology and help pioneer markets find and navigate a shortcut to sustained development.

Until recently, the world’s free zones lacked representation on a global scale. That changed with the launch in 2014 of the World Free Zones Organization (World FZO), a multilateral body registered in Geneva and headquartered in Dubai that aims to function as a clearinghouse for experiences and best practices, and represent the industry. The World TZO will also strive to highlight the contributions made by free zones to global development. Their role in the building of traffic arteries, basic industrial infrastructure, and logistics networks is all too often overlooked.

Ever since the first free zone was instituted at Shannon Airport in Ireland (1959) – also the airport that first offered tax-free shopping for international travellers (1947) – free zones have been instrumental, if not pivotal, in fostering economic progress. One of the main objectives pursued by the World FZO is to remind governments on the importance of free zones and help authorities put in place policies that maximise the upside of low-taxation, low-regulation economic enclaves and exclaves.

The judging panel applauds the initiative and wholeheartedly agrees that the full story of free zones needs to be told. The judges recognise that free zones provide a wealth of opportunity to both new investors and well-established businesses. Free zones add a significant degree of pizazz to any economy. Hence, if the World FZO did not exist, it would need to be invented. Luckily, it has been invented and it is doing a stellar job of giving the sector the voice it previously lacked. The judging panel wishes to recognise the value of this work by offering the 2016 Outstanding Global Contribution to Free Zone Growth Award to the World Free Zones Organization.