The World Free Zones Organization (World FZO) released 30  exclusive videos online on 30 April 2020 for its sixth Annual International Conference (AICE) featuring five panel discussions and in-depth interviews with global experts under the theme: ‘Value Creation in Free Zones – Building Stakeholders Resilience’.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the AICE took a unique and innovative approach to knowledge sharing when the World FZO unveiled 30 videos for its global forum aimed at free zone stakeholders. Free registration to view the videos can be accessed at 

Over 2,400 professionals from 130 countries registered on the first day to view the films, more than double the number of attendees that usually participate in the World FZO’s annual event. This unprecedented success generated more than 20,000 video impressions, driven by strong interest from the UAE, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the United States.

His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Alzarooni, Chairman of the World FZO and one of its two Keynote speakers, explained that “In the rapidly changing global industry landscape, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to help build resilience amongst our free zone stakeholders so that they may emerge from this crisis stronger, better structured, and more prepared to handle the next set of challenges.”

The other Keynote was provided by Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, to outline ‘Regional Models of Trade under Pressure’. Five separate panel discussions, featuring edited excerpts from dozens of interviews conducted digitally by the World FZO, addressed themes of public-private sector dynamics, sustainability challenges, the role of incentives and regulation, as well as the balance between infrastructure and manpower investments in free zones. Speakers included leading authorities on global trade and investment, illicit trade, customs and borders management, human capital, and free zone management.

The AICE has partnered with the Dubai Airport Free Zone and Dubai Silicon Oasis, along with the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority and Barcelona’s Consorci de la Zona Franca. Dr. Mohammed Alzarooni further commented that “We had to adapt quickly to turn our annual event into this unique online experience. No other organization offers that much depth and access to such as a high caliber of industry figures. The support we have received and the content we have delivered is unprecedented.”

Beyond its two Keynotes and five panel discussions, the AICE offers access to four exclusive Feature discussions. Richard Bolwijn, Head of Investment Research, Investment and Enterprise Division, at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), discussed the latest published World Investment Report 2019, remarking that “Rather than the generic free zones attracting all industries […], we are seeing more focused types of investment promotion within free zones.” Lars Karlsson, CEO of KGH Global Consulting, talked about the Future of Customs Borders and Risk Management, pointing out that “People say that the lockdowns we’ve seen from COVID-19 will make it more difficult to trade. I think the opposite.” Dr. Robert Koopman, Chief Economist and Director of Economic Research and Statistics Division with the World Trade Organization (WTO), looked at New Models in Global Services Trade, remarking that “What we see in the Global Value Chain is the relative fall in the manufacturing component in the total value of a good and increasingly it is the services value embedded in the good that is taking up a larger share of its final price.” Dr. Piotr Stryszowski, Senior Economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), examined Coordination and Compliance Approaches to Fight Illicit Trade, noting that “There are two issues when it comes to combatting illicit trade from the free zone perspective. One is transparency, another is data access.” Each of these discussions is accessible on the AICE webpage.

The complete Feature videos are also accessible on the AICE web page, along with the Panel discussion videos and the full participant interviews, including Dr. Gokhan Akinci, Technical Lead at the International Finance Corporation, Arif Amiri, CEO of Dubai International Financial Centre, Erik Autor, President of the US National Association of Free Trade Zones, and Mohanud Helal, Secretary General of Saudi Arabia’s Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority, along with many others.

Dr. Mohamed Alzarooni explained that “It was important to share insights from our speakers on issues impacting free zones everywhere. Specifically, their opinions and advice concerning the present COVID-19 crisis and its business repercussions will provide precious actionable recommendations for our stakeholders everywhere.”

Since the World FZO was created in 2014, the AICE has consistently provided insights and constructive solutions to free zones worldwide. This 2020 edition aims to go even further by helping free zones and their stakeholders build resilience and achieve a quick recovery after the pandemic crisis. As a complement to the World FZO’s Free Zone of the Future program and its flagship Izdihar Index, this AICE provides expert advice to structure free zones into dynamic and flexible entities, better equipped to face challenges ahead. “We are entering a new era,” stated Dr. Mohammed Alzarooni, “where we will come together to consolidate a global free zone network that will provide resilience, agility, and adaptability to our members everywhere.”

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