Toespraak

27-09-2017

Official kick-off of the diamond year

September 28th, 2017


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

Introduction

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered here today to celebrate no less than 570 years of diamond trading and manufacturing in Antwerp. Indeed, this city has been the world diamond capital since 1447. This calls for a brilliant celebration to applaud Antwerp’s diamond excellence. And what better way to celebrate than with a cake. Cakes are a symbol of coming together, sharing, celebrating a special moment with friends and family. Today, I see a lot of different people here, different nationalities, persons with different roots, languages and age. But most of all, I see one big family, united here, sharing cake and celebrating this very special kickoff moment of a sparkling diamond year.

 

Diamond trade

The Belgian trade in diamonds is exceptional. More than 70 nationalities have been trading in diamonds here, in a stable political and business environment, for more than 570 years. This is truly inimitable. The diamond trade in Antwerp binds and brings diamond people together, surpassing any limit linked to religion, culture or ethnical background. In the changing and unpredictable world of today, this trade serves as cement between diamond people and is something to cherish.

As one of the most important trade products in our bilateral trade, I am of course very focused on promoting diamonds. They are true ambassadors of our country. On their own, they represent 15% of Belgian exports outside of the EU. The 1700 Antwerp-based diamond traders made this sector a spearhead within the Belgian economy.

Being responsible for Foreign Trade, I travel to many diamond producing, trading and consuming markets. And I can assure you that the Antwerp diamond story and its success continue to astonish people everywhere. In many countries, Antwerp is even a trade mark to do diamond business in an ethical and correct way. Quite unique, taking into account that Antwerp is only a dot on the world map (although Antwerp citizens won’t approve with me).

Few industries have been associated with the same city for such a long time and have succeeded in maintaining their leading position. Antwerp has always been successful because of its continual forward thinking and by swimming against the current at times when this wasn’t an obvious thing to do. This “thinking outside the box” typifies the Antwerp diamond industry and its success. Of course, I am aware that these are also challenging times for the industry. The Antwerp diamond midstream is under pressure due to limited profit margins, reduces access to financing and generic banking services. Together with my colleagues of the Federal Government, we work hard to find suitable and sustainable solutions to the challenges that you are facing. Together with you, the Government is dedicated to support Antwerp to remain the forerunner, pioneer and leader of the international diamond trade.

 

Conclusion

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege to officially kick off this diamond year in Antwerp, where 570 years ago, during the Golden Age of this city, a wonderful story embarked. Please allow me to make a toast. Because, when you celebrate, you wish people good luck and fortune. So, it is time to express my best wishes. Let this year be the ideal opportunity to shine on the Antwerp diamond industry and let it show to all and everyone that the sector and all Antwerp residents are proud, very proud, of their little ‘stones’. I wish you all a very happy birthday and at least 570 more years of pure brilliance for this sector in Antwerp.

 

Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade

 

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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