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UAE launches free zone for military and security sector

Reuters/Christopher Pike
The free zone was announced after the UAE signed deals worth $6.36bn at the International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi
  • 2.8 sq km free zone in Tawazun Industrial Park in Abu Dhabi
  • UAE ranked ninth on list of defence importers between 2016 and 2020

The UAE has announced the establishment of a new free zone dedicated to the military and security sector, just days after the Gulf state signed deals worth AED23.34 billion ($6.36 billion) at a major defence expo in Abu Dhabi.

The free zone will be located within the Tawazun Industrial Park in Abu Dhabi and will be operated by the Tawazun Council, the UAE’s defence and security acquisitions authority.

Measuring 2.8 sq km in size, the free zone “has been established to commence operations related to defence and security industries and associated activities, including electronic and technological activities, clear-cut metal industries, safety and security, research and development, as well as logistics services,” the Abu Dhabi Media Office announced on Sunday.

Companies setting up in the free zone will have access to markets across the GCC and the wider Middle East and North Africa and will be free from custom fees as a result of the UAE’s various free trade agreements.

The announcement comes as UAE state-owned news agency Wam revealed that the Tawazun Council signed 56 defence deals worth a total of AED23.34 billion at last week’s International Defence Exhibition (Idex) in the UAE capital.

The deals were signed on behalf of the UAE Ministry of Defence, the UAE Armed Forces, security agencies and Abu Dhabi Police.

Total global military expenditure increased by 0.7 percent in real terms in 2021, to reach $2,113 billion, according to the latest figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The top five largest spenders in 2021 were the US, China, India, the UK and Russia, together accounting for 62 percent of expenditure.

“Even amid the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, world military spending hit record levels,” said Dr Diego Lopes da Silva, senior researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. 

“There was a slowdown in the rate of real-terms growth due to inflation. In nominal terms, however, military spending grew by 6.1 percent.”

International Trade Administration reported that the UAE ranked ninth on the global list of global defence importers between 2016 and 2020, and the US was its largest supplier.