Foreign-Trade Zones in the United States

To help encourage domestic warehousing, manufacturing and processing activity.

States and local communities use foreign-trade zones as part of their overall economic growth efforts to improve their international business service structure.

In this way, FTZs contribute to the enhancement
of their investment climate for commerce and industry.

Agency - Department of Commerce

The Department of Commerce fosters and promotes the nation's economic development and technological advancement through vigilance in international trade policy, domestic business policy and growth, and promoting economic progress at all levels.

Office - Commerce District Offices.
Website Address

Program Accomplishments

The Board processes approximately 60 to 80 applications each year covering new general-purpose zones, sub zones, and zone expansions.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Zone procedures help firms reduce customs costs and help improve a domestic operation's international competitiveness.

The procedures are available at facilities designated as foreign trade zones and sub zones under the sponsorship of local public and quasi-public corporations.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

Public and private corporations as defined by the Law, and by appropriate State enabling legislation.

Beneficiary Eligibility

Foreign Trade Zone's (FTZ) are required to operate under public utility principles, providing access to zone procedures on a nondiscriminatory basis to businesses and manufacturers. Zone procedures are available at any of the operating FTZ's, subject to customs requirements, a review process to determine that manufacturing activity is in the public interest, and the specific requirements of the local zone project.


Applications contain: A cover letter, with exhibits, detailing corporation's eligibility to apply; type of authority requested; a site and facility description; project background; the need for a zone; public economic benefits; the relationship of the zone project to the overall community economic development plans; and how the project will be operated and financed. When manufacturing activity is involved, the application must also contain information on the activity, including products and components, tariff rates, benefits to the operator, industry information, international competitive factors, public benefits (e.g., employment retention/creation), and a demonstration of a net positive economic effect.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

Draft applications are recommended.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.


Application Procedures

Applications for zone authority are submitted by eligible applicants and reviewed under the regulations of the FTZ Board. The Board (Secretaries of Commerce (Chairman), and Treasury) can approve or deny the application, or approve it with restrictions. Applications are processed for the Board by the FTZ Staff/Import Administration/International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Award Procedures

Upon filing of an application, after a prefiling review, an examiner is appointed to investigate the proposal and make recommendations. Hearings are held in cases of new zones and public comments invited in all cases. When the Foreign-Trade Zones Board makes a decision an order is issued and published in the Federal Register.


Not applicable.


Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 98-1003, 19 U.S.C. 81a-81u, as amended, Public Law 81-566, 64 Stat. 246; Public Law 85-791, 72 Stat. 945; Public Law 91-271, 84 Stat. 292; Public Law 96-609, 94 Stat. 3561 Section 231; Public Law 98-573, 98 Stat. 142 and 299; Public Law 99-386, 100 Stat. 823; Public Law 99-514; Public Law 100-418, 102 Stat. 1300; Public Law 100-647, 102 Stat. 3808; Public Law 100-449, 102 Stat. 1863; Public Law 101-382, 104 Stat. 706 and 710.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Applications are usually acted upon within 10 to 12 months of filing.


A negative decision can be appealed by reapplication to the FTZ Board when warranted by evidence and circumstance.


Applicable when the Board places time constraints on the FTZs. In that event, a renewal application must be filed.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

Not applicable.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Not applicable.

Post Assistance Requirements


Annual reports on FTZ operations are submitted by grantees.


FTZ operations are supervised and audited by the U.S. Customs Service and monitored by the Foreign-Trade Zones Board in terms of restrictions imposed by board and the general public interest mandate of the FTZ Act.


Each grantee is required to keep records pursuant to the FTZ Board's (15 CFR 400), and Customs regulations (19 CFR 146).

Financial Information

Account Identification



(Operations and administration) FY 07 $0; FY 08 est not available; and FY 09 est not reported.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

Not applicable.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

Commerce Regulations, 15 CFR, Part 400 (15 CFR 400). U.S. Custom Regulations, (19 CFR Part 146), FTZ Board Guidelines (see web site below).

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

Commerce District Offices.

Headquarters Office

Office of the Executive Secretary, Foreign- Trade Zones Board, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room FCB 4100W, Washington, DC 20230. Inquiries should be directed to Dennis Puccinelli, Executive Secretary, Foreign-Trade Zones Board. Telephone: (202) 482-2862.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Not applicable.

The Social Incubator North, a £2 million incubator fund spearheaded by Sheffield-based Key Fund in collaboration with the four Northern Social Enterprise Partnerships and Locality, is providing 0% interest loans to North of England’s social entrepreneurs.

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Edited by: Michael Saunders

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