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New Free Zone Opens In Canaries

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

18 December 2001

The Free Trade Zone of Gran Canaria opens for business next month three years after it was given the go-ahead by the Spanish government.

"In the current situation, the creation of a Free Trade Zone on the island of Gran Canaria is a useful device for boosting and promoting the growth of the economy of the Canary Archipelago, especially when we take into account the fact that the European Union itself considers free trade zones to be an essential tool for carrying out its commercial policy," says a statement introducing the new zone.

According to Jose Sanchez Ruano, chief executive officer of the free trade zone, 40% of the available land at Las Palmas has already been booked: "At the moment we have companies that want to trade with Africa, bringing products from other parts of Europe and the US and selling into Africa," he said. "We also have firms that want to do industrial processing, for example, of fish, and a firm that wants to build desalination plants.

"The free trade zone puts the Canary Islands closer to the main route of international trade. We believe we can tap into part of the trade that goes between Europe and Africa or the United States and Africa, and be part of finishing and processing products. It could become very important."

Out of a total area of 300,000 sq.m., 250,000 sq.m. is at Arinaga, near the airport, where the Port Authority of Las Palmas is also expanding port facilities. The remaining 50,000 sq.m. are within the Port of Las Palmas' logistics zone, and there are plans for significant expansion there, through the building of a breakwater and a major land reclamation.

As with other free trade zones, permitted processing of merchandise deposited within the zone includes a wide range of operations, and the usual customs, tax and fiscal exemptions apply.

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