There are currently 5,400 Special Economic Zones in 147 countries in the world, according to the most recent report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The number is significant if one takes into account that in the previous census carried out by the organization in 2008, there were 3,800. Read more Macroeconomic News.
In this context, Latin America has 660 free trade zones that host more than 10,700 companies that generate 1.03 million direct jobs and more than two million indirect jobs. In this region, exports from Free Trade Zones amount to US$55.7 billion per year.
The Dominican Republic is the leader in exports from these zones, with foreign sales from these zones accounting for 58% of the total. Costa Rica is close behind with 57%.
It must be said, however, that when speaking of the weight of this activity in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country the result is interchanged, because while in the Dominican Republic exports from free zones are 3.6% of GDP, in Costa Rica correspond to 11%.
“Costa Rica has been characterized by its program of productive linkages with the local economy, and that is why 43% of purchases come from local purchases,” said the Free Trade Zones Association of the Americas (AZFA).
Another case to highlight in the region is that of Uruguay, which completes 11 free zones with 1,070 companies and 15,700 direct jobs. In this country, for every dollar exempted, these zones generate a return six times higher. And it must be said that 5.6% of the total investment of the economy comes from free zones.
AZFA also highlights the case of Panama, where the Free Zone Commission approved the operation of six new zones, with an investment of US$23 million and an expectation of generating 16,500 new jobs. Today, the country’s three main free zone mechanisms (private free zones, Panama Pacifico, and Colon Free Zone) generate 43,000 direct jobs.
On the other hand, in Nicaragua, with its 53 Free Trade Zones and 224 companies installed, 120,000 direct jobs are being generated and 52% of the country’s total exports.
Likewise, in Honduras with 39 and 289 installed companies are generating 50% of sales abroad; and finally, “in Guatemala, the new Free Trade Zones Law was approved with which it seeks to recover 45,000 direct jobs that were lost in 2016 due to the instability of the regime that year,” the Association concluded.