fDiMagazine’s first global ranking of economic zones has awarded Shanghai Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone the title of Global Free Zone of the Future 2010/11. Jacqueline Hegartyreports on the results.

Shanghai Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone (WFTZ), the largest free-trade zone in China, has been recognized by fDiMagazine as the ‘Global Free Zone of the Future 2010/11’. This is in part due to the large number of companies that have set up operations in Shanghai WFTZ; more than 9000 companies – accounting for one-third of all foreign companies moving into Shanghai – have set up in this zone. Shanghai WFTZ also came top in the categories of ‘Best Facilities’ and ‘Best Port Zone’.


Economic zones based in the United Arab Emirates dominated the Free Zones of the Future 2010/11 ranking, with seven of the top 25 zones coming from the UAE. Not only did Dubai Airport Free Zone rank as second overall, it also ranked second in the ‘Best FDI Promotion Strategy’ and ‘Best Transportation’ categories.

The top three in the ‘Best Economic Potential’ category was led by the city of San Luis Potosi in Mexico, followed closely by Industrial Estates in Thailand and the Jebel Ali Free Zone in the UAE. Clark Freeport in the Philippines, Togo Export Processing Zone, and Chittagong Export Processing Zone in Bangladesh were the top three in the ‘Best Cost Effectiveness’ category.

fDiMagazine’s rankings, which took more than four months to compile, ranked eight UAE zones in the ‘Best Transportation’ top 10, with Jebel Ali Free Zone and Dubai Airport Free Zone taking the top two positions and Dubai Media City and Dubai Knowledge Village ranking joint in third position. Dubai Media City, Dubai Airport Free Zone and Dubai Knowledge Village also claimed the top positions in the ‘Best FDI Promotion Strategy’ category.

The independent judging panel scored Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Media City and Ajman Free Zone (UAE) as the top three zones in ‘Best Incentives’.

South Carolina Foreign Trade Zones # 21 & 38, based in the US, topped the ‘Best Airport Zone’ category, followed by Aqaba Special Economic Zone (Jordan), Tanger Free Zone (Morocco), El Paso FTZ # 68 (US) and Bahrain International Airport.


More than 700 economic zones globally were invited by fDiMagazine to complete a survey requesting both qualitative and quantitative data regarding their zones. This list of 700 was reduced to 200 based on information collected by fDiBenchmark and information submitted by the zones. These zones included free-trade zones, special economic zones and country zones. The information collected was set under eight categories: Economic Potential, Cost Effectiveness, Facilities, Transportation, Incentives, FDI Promotion Strategy; and, for those relevant, Airports and Ports.

A total of 66 zones submitted details regarding many aspects of their operations and this was judged and scored by our independent judging panel.

Zones scored up to a maximum of 10 points under each of the individual categories, which were weighted by importance to give the overall scores.

Click on the link below for a PDF version of the complete results: