The 13th World Free Zones Conference was hosted by the ESBAS (Aegean Free Zone Development and Operating Co.), Dec.10-12, 2013 at the ESBAS Technology Center Conference Hall, under the aegis of the Turkish Ministry of Economy.
Nearly 180 bureaucrats, investors, and directors from 32 countries were at the conference to discuss the role of Free Zones and Special Economic Zones in today`s ever-changing world.
Speakers representing the free zones and special economic zones in India, Poland, Russia, Dubai, UAE, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda, Costa Rica, and many other countries, discussed the free zone regulations in other parts of the world, thus creating a platform for the participants and authorities to debate on the status of free zones in this new era.
Ugur Ozturk, General Director of Free Zones, Overseas Investment, and Services of the Ministry of Economy, spoke at the conference, emphasizing the increasing importance of free zones for the world’s economy. Ozturk remarked that the trade volume of the free zones in Turkey reached $23 billion in 2012 and was $18.8 billion January-October of 2013.
“Our goal is to augment the weight of industrial products through the service sector and service trade,” said Ozturk, pointing out that the share of industrial products in the trade volume of the free zones is 93.5%. Ozturk also explained that the Aegean Free Zone generates the highest trade volume and is followed by the Mersin Free Zone, Istanbul Industry and Trade Free Zone, and the European Free Zone. He added that the employment generated by free zones reached 57,088 with a 3.2% increase compared to the previous year.
Chairman of the World Free Zones Convention, Graham Mather, said: “This summit at ESBAS gives us an opportunity to pass our experiences to the new free zones of the world.”
Faruk Guler, CEO of ESBAS, remarked that a total of 120,000 people – 20,000 directly and 100,000 indirectly – earn their livelihood through ESBAS. Guler noted that ESBAS is by far a leader among the Turkish free zones in trade volume. “When we look at the rate of exports meeting imports, our Free Zone shows an export surplus by a rate of 226% and a growth rate realization parallel to the growth targets of the whole country in recent years,” said Guler.
ESBAS Board Member and Chairman of Izmir Chamber of Commerce (IZTO), Ekrem Demirtas, addressed Turkey’s uninterrupted growth for the last 16 quarters, which provides Turkey as a place of many opportunities for foreign investors.
Dan Griswold, President of US National Association of Foreign Trade Zones, said that there are a total of 3,200 companies operating in 174 Free Trade Zones in the US, which concentrate more on electronic, automotive, pharmaceutical, machinery, and textile industries, generating a total export of $70 billion in 2012. Griswold added that warehousing and manufacturing operations are conducted in these free trade zones to provide a tax-free environment for stocking goods so that companies manufacturing with customs tax-free ultimately gain an increased competitive power in the market.
Dr. Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai Knowledge Village & Dubai International Academic City emphasized the value of qualified workforce in economies of innovation, explaining that Dubai Knowledge Village was founded in 2003 to develop new skills for the growing “knowledge economy”. Dr. Kazim expressed that they focus on human resources in all areas, including search for managers, consulting, assessment, and professional education. Highlighting one of the most substantial criteria for successful free zones as human resources, Ayoub Kazim stated that through the Dubai International Academic City Project, initiated in 2007, they host 37 international campuses, giving services to more than 20,000 students from 10 countries.
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