Free Trade Zones


There are at present three free zones operating in the U.A.E. and three more are planned. Since U.A.E. tariffs are low and are not levied against most imports, the chief attraction of the free zones is the waiver of the requirement for majority local ownership. In the free zones, foreigners may own up to 100 percent of the equity in an enterprise.

The largest and most successful of the free zones is the Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai. Each free zone offers special incentives to attract tenants, such as no taxation for many years, subsidized energy rates, and full repatriation of capital and profits. In addition, for a nominal fee the zone authorities provide significant support services, such as sponsorship, worker housing, dining facilities, recruitment, and security.

Within the Jebel Ali Free Zone, three types of licenses are issued. The licenses are valid while a company holds a current lease from the free zone authority and are renewable annually as long as the lease is in force. They are the general license, the special license, and the national industrial license. The special license is issued to companies incorporated, or otherwise legally established, within the free zone or outside the U.A.E. In such cases, no other license is required, and the ownership of the company may be 100 percent foreign. The license is issued for any activity permitted by the free zone authority, including manufacturing. A company with a special license can operate only in the Jebel Ali Free Zone or outside the United Arab Emirates, but business can be undertaken and sales made in the U.A.E. through or to a company holding a valid Dubai Economic Department license. However, a company with a special license can, itself, purchase goods or services from within the U.A.E. Further information regarding the free zone at Jebel Ali may be obtained from the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone Authority, Tel: 800-JAFZA(52392

The Hamriyah Free Zone in Sharjah is designated a "green zone" and recruits environmentally friendly companies. Additional information is available from the Hamriyah Free Zone, P.O. Box 41975, Sharjah, and Telephone: (6) 5263690 - Fax (6) 5263691.

The free trade zone under construction near Abu Dhabi will concentrate primarily on the storage, transportation, distribution, and trade in raw materials and major commodities. Information is available from the Abu Dhabi Free Trade Zone Authority, U.A.E. Offset Group, P.O. Box 5688,Abu Dhabi; Telephone: (2) 6763333; Fax: (2) 6711888 .

Transit & Re-Export

There are free transit zones in operation at Sharjah and Dubai; Al Awir inland container terminal in Dubai permits only goods in transit. Dubai is a center of entrepot trade for the Arabian Gulf and the Indian subcontinent. Abu Dhabi’s port, Port Zayed, accepts only cargo destined to the emirates.

Goods may be imported temporarily provided the importer posts a bond or bank guarantee. Re-export must take place within six months; customs officials inspect the goods and seal the packages.