Free zones received 351 foreign investment projects in 2019, accounting for about $23.5bn. 

These fDi Markets figures, likely to increase slightly once the investment monitor finalises its 2019 data, are in line with FDI flows seen in the previous two years. The long-term trend of foreign investment to free zones has been one of fairly consistent growth since 2003, with flows hitting their peak in 2016. 

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The United Arab Emirates’ free zones continue to be the most attractive destination for FDI, taking 15% of all global investment projects. Similarly, and as in previous years, Chinese’s free zones were the second most attractive destination. Last year saw Russian free zones attract their largest ever inflow of FDI in a single year. 

Free economic zones possess unique economic regulations – such as tax incentives and streamlined customs procedures – that differ from most other parts of the country in which they are located.