Dafza's foreign non-oil trade reached $32.4bn in 2020

The free zone accounted for 25% of total trade last year through custom free areas in the emirate

The free zone contributed 10 per cent of Dubai's non-oil foreign trade. Image courtesy of Dafza
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Foreign non-oil trade through Dubai Airport Free Zone reached Dh119 billion ($32.4bn) in 2020, further solidifying the emirate's position as a global commerce and trading hub despite Covid-19 headwinds.

The free zone accounted for10 per cent of Dubai's non-oil foreign trade and 25 per cent of the total commercial activity last year through free zones in the emirate, Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

The performance affirms Dafza’s capability in “overcoming the challenges and consequences of the pandemic”, and the strength of its ecosystem that has ensured continuity of global trade despite economic fluctuations.

"The continuous accomplishment reflects Dubai's role in sustaining economic activities and enhancing trade on a regional and global scale in the face of crises and unprecedented events,” Mohammed Al Zarooni, director general of Dafza, said.

“The free zone will continue to provide necessary capabilities to allow the emirate's economic landscape to flourish and further expand its reach within crucial industries and regions."

Dafza provided several stimulus packages last year to support companies, which have helped in boosting trade, he added.

Trade through the free zone saw “exceptional growth” during the third and fourth quarters of the last year, surging 36.4 per cent and 23 per cent year-on-year, respectively.

Dafza also achieved a trade surplus of Dh15.8bn in 2020, with the first half accounting for Dh8.5bn and the remainder recorded during the last six months of the year. Overall, trade during the second half rose 7.1 per cent compared to the first six months of the year, helped by a rise in imports, exports and re-exports. Imports of goods grew 10.7 per cent, exports were up 7 per cent and re-exports increased by 4.5 per cent, Dafza said.

The free zone registered the highest amount of trade with Asia, which accounted for 42.6 per cent share of Dafza's total trade. This was followed by Mena countries with a 37.9 per cent share, of which the GCC countries accounted for 17.8 per cent. Europe ranked third with 13.6 per cent of total Dafza trade.

China was Dafza’s biggest trading partner in 2020, with 27 per cent of trade valued at Dh32.3bn. Iraq came second with a 10 per cent share of the free zone’s trade, which was valued at Dh11.8bn.

In terms of imports, China ranked first with 62.6 per cent, followed by India with 15.5 per cent and the US with 5 per cent. Iraq was the top country in terms of exports with 17.5 per cent of total exports from the free zone, followed by Switzerland with 7.5 per cent and Saudi Arabia with a 6.2 per cent share, Dafza said.