Conference taking place from 21 – 24 June featuring speakers, global business leaders and senior policy makers from more than 140 countries
His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, Chairman of World Free Zones Organization, inaugurated the seventh edition of the Annual International Conference & Exhibition (AICE) 2021, which is happening virtually in Dubai from 21 – 24 June 2021. More than 100 high-profile speakers and over 4,000 senior policy makers, academics, multilateral organizations, and global business leaders from more than 140 countries and territories have come together, along with representatives from international free zones to share best practices and promote public awareness regarding the role of free zones and their contribution to economic growth.
Dr Mohammed Al Zarooni, Chairman, World FZO, said: “The World Free Zones Organization remains committed to strengthening, enabling and enhancing the free zones readiness for a more prosperous phase. This will be done by achieving economic, commercial and investment integration between governments and international organizations, which ensure the sustainable growth of free zones. We are looking forward to continuing our role in finding ways to enhance the performance of free zones to meet the needs of future challenges and developing a more compliant and valuable model for free zones along the global value chain.
“The conference is an ideal platform to discuss cooperation, investment and commercial opportunities that participants can explore through the panel discussions. They include the participation of representatives of governments, international organizations and free zones. We are keen to support the organization’s members and partners in the post-pandemic recovery phase and to play a key role in creating joint collaboration that achieves the required integration and interaction,” Dr. Al Zarooni added.
Participants engaged in an exclusive session titled ‘Future of Global Value Chains’, where they tackled how business entities should respond to present challenges. They also discussed topics such as the role of free zones in building resilient value chains increasing protectionism as a threat to global economic legitimacy of free zones. Other subjects that were analyzed include safer free zones as enablers of compliance and providers of predictability of more integrated value chains, deterring illegal trade across sectors and reporting illicit activities. The group addressed vulnerabilities in supply chain systems, promoting sustainable resource management, and protection against forced labor and other human rights abuses.
The second day of AICE 2021 started with a keynote address by Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy of UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT). There was also a special guest interview of David Luna, CEO and President of Luna Global Networks & Convergence Strategies.
World FZO also held special discussions on ‘Free Zones and Customs – Towards Renewed Partnership’, where the delegates explored opportunities to promote better partnerships between customs and free zones to benefit all stakeholders. They also participated in the topic ‘Technology Infusion to Ensure Safety and Compliance’, where they discussed how free zones should apply technology and promote transparency, while remaining perfectly compliant with their respective government.
Dr Samir Hamrouni, CEO, World FZO, noted: “Since the establishment of WFZO seven years ago, our founding members have been united with a vision of bridging the gap between free zones worldwide and helping one another address their challenges. We remain committed to delivering our services throughout the pandemic to help free zones overcome the challenges and become future ready.”
The four-day virtual event includes five panel discussions, four regional mini-events and eight webinars. The discussions focus on the way forward, post pandemic with the central idea that safety and compliance in Free Zones is paramount to cleaner, more compliant and more valuable free zone models. Prominent topics of discussion include the future of global value chains, opportunities to foster stronger relationships between free zones and customs, technology infusion to ensure safety and compliance as well as the importance of measurement and standards and free zones compliance with the UN Social Development Goals.
The regional webinars are an extension of the panel discussion from a regional perspective and dove deep into discussion on challenges faced in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas during the crisis and the unique roles that Free Zones can play as we move to a post-pandemic world.
In addition, the webinars presented several key initiatives from the World FZO, including a newly launched program to support businesses to adapt to the new market realities after the pandemic, called Empowering SMEs in Free Zones. As well as the World FZO Safe Zone Certificate program which has already gone through its pilot phase and aims to enhance transparency with Free Zones to increase performance and protect companies in these zones. Other webinars discussed the e-commerce challenges and opportunities that the crises has created, particularly from a safety and compliance perspective.
Aside from the above-mentioned sessions, World FZO also conducted the regional webinars during the first two days regarding the following topics Empowering SMEs, the Safe Zone Program, Safety and Compliance in E-Commerce, European Free Zones: The Way Forward, Towards Safer European Free Zones, and The future of Free Zones in Western Balkans on the Way to EU Accession. Samir Hamrouni was part of the dignitaries who facilitated these webinars.