Toespraak

07-11-2017

Closing remarks – Indian-Belgian Business Forum: Industry 4.0, Sustainability and Trade

November 8th, 2017


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

Introduction

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I would like to thank His Majesty the King for opening this forum. Also thanks to Ms. Kamineni and Mr. Banerjee, respectively President and Director-General of the Confederation of Indian Industry, and Mr. Gilliot, President of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, for having organized this high-level forum. And a special thanks of course to HE Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, for his captivating words. Finally, I want to thank the members of the panel, and of course all of you here present.

 

Belgian – Indian trade

 

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have heard many great ideas and projects here today. But, what I witnessed above all is a huge will to further expand and strengthen our bilateral economic relations. We are all convinced that our two countries benefit greatly from a robust economic partnership. India and Belgium share many strengths and one of them undoubtedly is our will to push the boundaries of innovation, in order to create new opportunities and prosperity for our peoples.

 

The past few years in particular, our ties have become significantly stronger thanks to the many exchanges, personal meetings and economic visits. I personally headed different missions to India in 2015, 2016 and in April of this year, to discuss projects for Belgian companies in India and Indian companies in Belgium, and to facilitate trade exchanges in many different sectors. And, of course, there were also several other visits organized by our Regions or sector organizations. Each and every visit improved our mutual knowledge, created new business opportunities and made our relationship stronger. Furthermore, the launch of a new direct connection between Mumbai and Brussels, provided by Brussels Airlines and Air India, greatly simplified business exchanges. Indeed, building a strong friendship requires real and easy contacts.

 

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, Belgium is the 2nd most important European exporter of goods to India with a 21,5% share, and the 3rd most important European importer of Indian goods, with a share of 11,1%. This makes India by far one of our most important non-European trading partners.

 

Surely, this Visit aims at strengthening our ties, yet, I think the most important economic objective is to explore new opportunities and in this way diversify our economic cooperation. Today, our bilateral trade is largely dominated by trade in diamonds. Our exceptional cooperation in diamond trade is of course a very good thing, yet, it also makes us susceptible to fluctuations in this particular market.  We obviously want our diamond trade to further increase, yet it is also our aim to strengthen other sectors and to establish new forms of cooperation. Therefore, we encourage you to seize every opportunity that further diversifies our partnership by taking advantage of other investment opportunities, in sectors such as ports, railways, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, biotech, information technology, health, research and innovation, and so on. Opportunities are indeed numerous and to our mutual benefit.

 

Industry 4.0 is another sector in which both our countries built a strong experience and where our companies can only benefit from the exchange of know-how and best practices. Furthermore, I am also thinking about Make in India, Clean Ganga, Digital India, Smart Cities, and many more projects in which we can and want to be part of the success story.

Such a close cooperation is made possible because the context in which Indian and Belgian companies operate, demonstrates many similarities. Both our economies are very open and strongly focused on foreign trade. India and Belgium thank their prosperity to their geographical key position in the world and their smooth maritime connections and world ports. And this also sharped competition and forced our companies to innovate and modernize, making them pioneers in so many different fields.

 

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Furthermore, next to its strong focus on trade, this State Visit also pays a lot of attention to close cooperation in other fields such as the diplomatic, academic, cultural, and social ones. Our collective history goes back a long time and this makes our bond unique. Belgium was among the first European countries to establish bilateral relations with India and, this year, we are celebrating seven decades of diplomatic ties, that started already five months before India achieved its independence. And the Belgian people will of course always keep the memory in their hearts of the more than 9,000 Indian soldiers that lost their lives in Flanders Fields. In fact, right after his inaugural address, His Majesty the King left for the Manekshaw Center to open the exhibition “Indian in Flanders’ Fields”.

 

Conclusion

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The time has come to close this forum. The progress we have made in deepening our bilateral trade relations in the past few years is truly impressive. This is the result of so many exchanges, meetings and missions at different levels, culminating in the current State Visit of our King and Queen to India, a country that continues to astonish and to stimulate people. I thank you all for your presence and the important role you are playing in deepening, strengthening, and above all diversifying our relations. This seminar is exactly what we want to achieve with this State Visit, bringing together decision makers, political authorities, business leaders, innovators and great minds to exchange ideas, to talk about projects and to discuss opportunities. Thank you for your presence and keep up the good work!

 

Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade

 

 - - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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