Federal Decree 15 of 2013 was published on 11 February 2013 establishing the Abu Dhabi International Market as the Middle East's newest financial free zone. In an official statement released yesterday, the Executive Council named the new financial market as "Global Marketplace Abu Dhabi" (referred to in our publication as "GMAD") and shared further information on the objectives of GMAD and its regulatory framework.

GMAD will be located in Abu Dhabi's new financial heart, Al Maryah Island. Similar to the other financial free zone in the UAE (the DIFC in Dubai), GMAD will have the ability to establish independent regulatory authorities and to create its own legal framework for commercial and civil law matters. These new authorities will include a Global Marketplace Registration Bureau, a Financial Services Regulations Bureau and Global Marketplace courts. The GMAD courts will comprise courts of first instance and courts of appeal. Government sources have indicated that laws of GMAD will be based on the laws of England and Wales.

The Executive Council explained that the objective of GMAD is to promote Abu Dhabi as a leading global market, develop the Emirate's economy and attract financial investment. Companies licensed by GMAD will be able to provide financial services and other ancillary services in a tax efficient manner. GMAD intends to capitalise on the UAE's location mid way between the leading Far East and European markets which enables UAE financial markets to operate at times when other international markets may be closed for trading.

Abu Dhabi is not unique in launching an English law based financial free zone. Dubai and Qatar have both done the same. However, by launching GMAD, the UAE is setting out to strengthen its stature in global markets by offering a common law regulatory and legal infrastructure in its two leading commercial centres.