All the emirates are eager to attract foreign investment. One obstacle to foreign investment may be the federal requirement that investments must be on a joint venture basis with the local partner owning at least 51% of the venture. The exception is investment in the free trade zones where 100% foreign ownership is allowed. In 2002, there were 11 free trade zones in the UAE in various stages of development. Most provide 100% import and export tax exemption, 100% exemption from commercial levies, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, multiyear leases and other services, including assistance with recruiting labor. The largest and most successful is the Jebel Ali industrial free zone (JAFZ) in Dubai incorporating close to 2,000 companies from over 100 countries. The JAFZ has attracted more than $3 billion of foreign investment. In 2002, three new zones were announced: The Dubai International Financial Centre; the Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre; and the Mohammed bin Rashid Technology Zone. In 2000, Dubai Internet City, the world's first e-commerce free zone, was opened, and in 2001, the Dubai Media City began was launched. Other free zones are located in the Dubai International Airport, and in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah. Principal foreign investors are the United Kingdom, the United States, France, India, Japan, and Germany. Though reliable statistics are not available for the UAE, some reports suggest that US investment in 1999 was about $500 million. Multinational companies operating in the Jebel Ali industrial zone include the following Samsung (ROK); Pioneer (Japan); General Motors, IBM, Mobil, and Toys "R" Us (US); and Ericsson (Sweden).
In 1996, UAE created the Abu Dhabi Free Zone Authority to regulate the development of Saadiyat Island, where there will be few restrictions on foreign companies. Companies opening offices there will be exempt from taxes, will be allowed to repatriate all profits and capital, to import labor; in addition, there will be no requirements to establish UAE partners. In 1999, the Emirates Global Capital Corporation was granted a 50-year contract to develop the 26 sq km (10 sq mi) zone, where a stock, commodities, and futures exchange was planned. However, in 2002 this project was on hold.