Tue, 07 Feb 2023

DUBAI, 11th December, 2022 (WAM) - Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, Chairman of the World Free Zones Organisation (World FZO), headed a delegation from the World FZO on an official visit to the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Cuba to outline trends and factors to advance the future growth of free zones, in addition to identifying bilateral cooperation mechanisms to support the sector and its progress at an economic and commercial level.

Dr. Al Zarooni delivered the opening speech at the Free Trade Zones Association of the Americas (AZFA) Conference, held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The conference was attended by Louis Rodolfo Abinader Corona, President of the Dominican Republic, Gustavo Gonzalez De Vega, President of the AZFA, and leaders of free zones throughout America. In his speech, Al Zarooni spoke about the support provided by World FZO to member countries in North America and South America, affirming the Organisation's commitment to supporting the growth of this sector in that region.

He also confirmed that free zones at the local and global levels play an essential role in supporting economies across the globe on several levels, including attracting foreign direct investment to the national economy, enhancing global trade, developing supply chains, and other direct and indirect benefits. This was particularly evident during the past few years when the world incurred various challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as general fluctuations and changes in the economy.

Dr. Al Zarooni said, "At the World FZO, we will continue our efforts to advance the contribution of free zones to the economies of every country by exchanging knowledge and expertise with government and non-government officials, as well as the private sector. This is in addition to openly discussing and promoting economic opportunities among free zones around the world based on the concept of integration among free zones and supporting the companies that operate in these free zones to grow and expand beyond the borders of the countries they run in. They also continue to identify ways to take advantage of special programmes and initiatives launched by the World FZO to support these goals."

During the meeting in the Dominican Republic, chaired by Dr. Al Zarooni, the World FZO Board of Directors approved the hosting of the 9th edition of the World FZO Annual International Conference and Exhibition in Dubai. The conference will take place on 2nd and 3rd May, 2023, under the slogan "Global Trade 2.0: Free Zones, a Trust System that Supports Prosperity" and will see the participation of more than 600 figures.

The event will discuss several strategic issues, including how to support and sustain trust between concerned parties, mechanisms to mitigate the impact of economic challenges, and ways to maintain the vitality of free zones through strategies that ensure their prosperity. This is in addition to identifying ways to keep up with changes in corporate governance, data, and digitisation. The board also announced that it would receive applications to host the 10th edition of the annual event.

The board approved the formation of six committees comprising representatives from global free zones and international organisations to support its vision and strategy. This included the Executive Committee, the Financial Committee, the Knowledge Committee, the Memberships Committee, the Policies Committee, and a Committee for Developing Relationships with the Private Sector.

The delegation concluded its trip with a visit to the Mariel Special Development Zone in the Republic of Cuba, where Manuel Marrero Cruz, Prime Minister of the Republic of Cuba, welcomed Dr. Al Zarooni to discuss the future of free zones and their importance in supporting the country's economy, in addition to identifying directions and factors that would advance their growth and the mechanisms to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two sides to support the sector and its growth. The Cuban Prime Minister praised the role of the World FZO in supporting economic zones and empowering their regional and global integration with governments and relevant organisations while also affirming Cuba's full support for the organisation's strategic goals and empowerment elements.

The visit consisted of a site visit of SEZ's facilities and services and its strategic and development plans. Dr. Al Zarooni praised Cuba's free zone model, underlining its importance in supporting the country's economy to expedite recovery from the pandemic's repercussions and keep up with global commercial and investment activities.

The tour also included a series of bilateral meetings with senior leaders of the World FZO, including Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment for Cuba, and Ana Teresa Igarza Martinez, Director-General of the Mariel Special Development Zone, as well as several officials from the Republic of Cuba. This was in line with the organisation's strategic objectives to build bridges of communication and strengthen the network of international cooperation to enable and develop global trade and supply chains and achieve their economic potential through free zone models.

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