Financial Times’ fDi Magazine has recently released its Global Free Zones of the Year 2021, recognizing the world’s best free zones for fDi. China’s Dalian Free Trade Zone in Liaoning province and Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone in Shanghai ranked third and fourth.
The top spot went to DMCC (the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre), followed by the Mauritius Freeport.
Dalian FTZ is the overall winner in Asia-Pacific region. It also won the highly commended award for the SME results, best free zone for large tenants, excellence award for infrastructure investment, and honourable mention for aquaculture.
Chinese free trade zones have been testing ground for policy reforms and industrial innovation since their debut in the 1980s, and the Dalian Free Trade Zone continues to uphold this tradition.
The zone is the biggest zone in northern China, with the highest number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) among all the participating zones – more than 27,000 SMEs active within its area at the end of 2020.
The zone is also in the middle of a big infrastructure push. It upgraded its three bonded zones, it opened the Dalian Free Trade Zone International Expo Centre in May 2021 and is gearing up to reap the logistics benefits from the adjacent $4 billion Dalian New Airport, which is currently under construction and is scheduled to come online in 2025.
Shanghai’s Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone won the highly commended award in Asia-Pacific region and excellent award for COVID-19 response.
With 278,000 employees, Waigaoqiao FTZ stands out as the biggest employer among all the participating zones.
Waigaoqiao FTZ impressed the judging panel with its capacity to respond to the pandemic by quickly setting up the physical and soft infrastructure required for its tenants and their employees to operate in safety.
It also approved a series of measures to aid SMEs during the pandemic, including rent reductions and financial support.
As of March 11, 2020, 98.96% of companies operating in the zone had resumed work, with 68,591 (65.19%) employees returning to work and 106 (100%) largescale companies resuming production.
On a more strategic level, the zone has aligned its strategy to reflect the country’s ‘dual circulation’ strategy and approved a Global Operation Programme to help enterprises in the zone become global operators, by offering participating companies a more tailored approach. Overall, 118 multinational corporations had their regional headquarters in the zone at the end of March 2021, according to the zone’s data.
The full list of the global top 10 winners of fDi’s Global Free Zones of the Year 2021
2. Mauritius Freeport
3. Dalian Free Trade Zone
4. Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone
5. Katowice Special Economic Zone
6. Łódź Special Economic Zone
7. Ajman Free Zone
8. Kaliningrad Special Economic Zone
9. Coyol Free Zone
10. West of England