In the apparent trade war between the US and China, other countries have seen an opportunity, or the dispute it has forced world exporters to identify new locations for their merchandise, production and logistics, especially through their current free-trade agreements.

This is where the 3500 free-trade zones, located in more than 135 countries in the world, offer a strategic value in the reconfiguration of new global value chains, by allowing the relocation of entire factories and their suppliers from one country to another, without taxes. 

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Now, more than 500 free-trade zones in the US are benefiting from the new wave of reinvesting utilities retained by US companies abroad.

These and other topics will be addressed in depth at the World Free Zones Organization (WFZO) 5th Annual International Conference and Exhibition, which takes place in Barcelona on June 26 to June 28. At the conference, expert panellists will analyse topics such as the construction of global value chains; the role of free-trade zones in the trade war and the revival of protectionism; the launch by the WFZO, the World Customs Organization and the OECD of the Safe Free Zones Programme to combat illicit trade practices and ensure transparency and a strong corporate governance in free trade zones.

This important conference will also host experts in crossborder e-commerce free-trade zones. E-commerce will increase its share of global trade from 12% to 30% in the next five years, and free-trade zones will have to hold factories as well as the logistics, data centres and call centres needed to facilitate this disruptive way of doing business. In addition, the WFZO will present, for the first time, a methodology to measure the impact of free-trade zones in each country’s economy and the cost-benefit relation between the incentives given by the government versus the taxes, employment and development generated.

In the same week, Barcelona will be hosting three other events that will take place simultaneously: the World Summit of International Trade and Supply Chain, the International Authorised Economic Operators Congress, and the National Associations of Freight Forwarders and International Logistics Operators in Latin America and the Caribbean Congress. Hence, the whole week will be dedicated to the analysis of the future of international trade in this volatile environment.

Martín Ibarra Pardo is the chairman of Araújo Ibarra & Asociados, a law firm based in Bogotá. He also serves as vice-president of the WFZO.