Free zones’ export, import problems discussed in a meeting

Tehran Times – Barriers and problems related to the process of exports from Iran’s free trade zones and imports from them were investigated in a meeting attended by Morteza Bank, the secretary of Free Zones High Council, and Reza Rahmani, the minister of industry, mining and trade, on Tuesday.

During the meeting, Bank put the value of exports from free zones at $18.5 billion in the past Iranian calendar year (ended on March 20, 2019), IRNA reported.

The official also put the value of foreign investment at these zones at $650 million in the past year, falling 30 percent from $1 billion in its preceding year, due to the sanction condition.

Bank further mentioned imports of the raw materials and machinery as one of the major issues to be discussed in terms of the free zones.

He named the problems that the enterprises are facing regarding supply of foreign currency and order registration as the other important issue to be discussed and solved.

In an interview recently conducted by IRIB, Akbar Eftekhari, the deputy secretary of Free Zones High Council for production, exports and technology affairs, put the value of commodities produced in the free zones at $28 billion in the past year.

The official said that about 500,000 people are working in 1,700 production units in the country’s free zones.

There are seven free trade zones and 25 special economic zones in Iran, according to Eftekhari.

And as previously announced by Morteza Bank, 2600 industrial, service and tourism units are operational in Iran’s free trade zones.

The official said 1.3 quadrillion rials (over $30.95 billion) of investment have been made in these zones over the past five years.

Free zones play some significant role in development of the country, Bank noted.

Establishment of free trade zones in Iran dates back to Iranian calendar year 1368 (March 1989- March 1990) following the fall in the country’s oil income in the preceding year which prompted the government to promote the non-oil exports.

The first two free trade zones of Iran were established in the south of country. The first one was Kish Free Trade Zone established in 1368 on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf and the second one was Qeshm Free Trade Zone established the year after on Qeshm Island in the Strait of Hormuz.

Some five other free trade zones have been also established in the country since then, including Chabahar in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Arvand in southwestern Khuzestan Province, Anzali in northern Gilan Province, Aras in East-Azarbaijan Province and Maku in West-Azarbaijan Province, both in the northwest of the country.

While near three decades have passed since start of free trade zones activity in Iran, their planned objectives have not been fully achieved and their development is still facing some impediments.

Lack of proportion between the facilities and the objectives, lack of a national definition for free trade zones’ performance, limited resources for establishment and completion of infrastructures, no comprehensive management between the zones, and not complete implementation of zones management law are some of the barriers in the way of free trade zones’ activity and development in the country.