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Freeports & Free Zones

Freeports and free trade zones are used globally to incentivise inbound and domestic investment by providing businesses with tariff exemptions on inputs or warehousing for subsequently exported goods. Other tax levers include tariff deferrals on goods entering the domestic market and tariff inversion for processed goods, as well as supporting economic activity through financial incentives, regulatory flexibility and tax reductions.

They can also be “supercharged” by integrating them with enterprise zones locally so that business hubs are created and, in turn, more jobs are created. The sector-specific agglomeration opportunities offered by free zones are also a significant advantage.

We offer a truly integrated approach to free zones. We understand how they can make an impact on the local economy and, more importantly, we have been providing comprehensive legal advice on all aspects of the development of, and operations within, free zones for more than 20 years. Our unrivalled understanding, born from our track record in advising governments, ensures that we are the law firm of choice for companies incorporating, maintaining and liquidating entities established in many of the leading global free zones.

We have advised clients on the establishment of limited liability companies, enterprises and branches in all 46 of the United Arab Emirates’ free zones, as well as the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. Our work encompasses free zone legislative and regulatory drafting, company formation within free zones, and wider regulatory and corporate experience.

In addition, our specialist teams can advise in relation to tax, planning, international trade compliance, state aid, anti-bribery and corruption, regulatory, compliance and infrastructure.

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Free Zone Legislative and Regulatory Drafting

  • Al Madina A’Zarqa/Blue City, Oman – Advising on the creation of the Blue City/Digital Hub “data free zone” in Al Madina A’Zarqa, a new technology free zone in the Sultanate of Oman, including as to the legislative and regulatory requirements.
  • Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Humanitarian City – We have drafted amended laws and enabling regulations for two of Dubai’s newer free zones, Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Humanitarian City.
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market – We have worked directly with the free zone’s regulators (the Financial Services Authority) to develop policies on such matters as corporate continuance from other jurisdictions and rules concerning the handling of “on-shore” funds.

Company Formation

Our lawyers have advised clients on the establishment of limited liability companies, enterprises and branches in all 46 of the United Arab Emirates’ free zones, including, for example:

  • Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA)
  • Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre (DMCC)
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)
  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
  • Dubai Healthcare City
  • Dubai World Central Free Zone
  • Dubai Media City
  • Dubai Outsourcing Free Zone
  • Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA)
  • Kizad or the Khalifa Industrial Zone (Abu Dhabi)
  • Abu Dhabi Technology and Media Free Zone (TwoFour54)
  • Mazdar City Free Zone
  • Sharjah International Airport Free Zone
  • Fujairah Free Zone
  • Ras Al Khaimah Free Zone
  • Ajman Free Zone


Corporate, Commercial and Regulatory

  • Large US telecommunications free zone – Providing day-to-day legal and regulatory advice to operations of a large US telecommunications free zone operating as a special free zone outside of the confines of a free zone park, including licence renewals, specialised customs authorisations and contractual advice.
  • Leading US-based energy drink company – Advising on the establishment of its trading wholly foreign-owned enterprise in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.
  • Emirati logistics company – Advised on joint venture arrangements for the development of the Jebel Ali Traders Market in Dubai.
  • Large global medical devices company – Advising on incorporation in a Dominican Republic free zone, including obtainment of the necessary free zone licence and necessary tax and regulatory guidance.
  • Large US textile manufacturer – Advising on the shutdown of the local free zone operation in the Dominican Republic.
  • Ashland Inc./Valvoline – Acted globally on the legal separation of Valvoline, formerly a division of Ashland, into a separate legal entity with annualised sales of US$2 billion. In the UAE, this involved a complex restructuring of Ashland’s subsidiaries within the DMCC Free Zone.
  • Dow Chemical Company/Olin Corporation – Acted globally in connection with The Dow Chemical Company’s successful closing of a split-off transaction. In the Middle East, this involved a complex reorganisation of Dow’s holdings in Dubai’s largest industrial free zone, JAFZA.
  • Leading US-based architecture design firm – Advising on the establishment of its consulting wholly foreign-owned enterprise in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, and representing the client to negotiate with a Shanghai-based state-owned enterprise on its design consulting services for the theatre of the state-owned enterprise.


Tax and Customs Duties

  • DP World – Advising on the US$3.6 billion sale of JAFZA, one of the leading free zones in the world. Our work in this regard included having complete oversight of JAFZA’s structure and operations, including the tax and duty framework for the day-to-day operations of the free zone.
  • DP World – Advising on its joint venture with the Suez Canal Authority for the establishment, development and operation of a new mixed-use free zone, including port, industrial, residential and leisure facilities over a 30-square-kilometre area. Our role includes working with Egyptian counsel on the tax structuring of the development.
  • International investor group – Advising on the establishment of a free zone refinery and industrial park development in Egypt, including on the tax aspects of the project structure.