Agoria International Business

The World is not enough – December 4th, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you here today. I also thank Agoria’s CEO Mr. Marc Lambotte and Director International Business Mr. Peter Demuynck, and of course anyone within Agoria, Belgium’s largest sectorial federation, who puts his heart and soul into his work, each day again, for the promotion of our economy and prosperity.


The road to economic recovery is a long one. It is a process that must be done step by step. We must take choices and persevere in order to regain a healthy and sustainable economic growth. And by growth, I’m not only thinking of expansion, but also about the growth of our knowledge, our diversification, our knowhow and our expertise. It is therefore crucial to ensure that our businesses are the first to reap the fruits of economic recovery. And it is up to politicians to create the right conditions in which the businesses are able to tackle today’s challenges in the most efficient possible way.


We are facing some major challenges. We have to focus on strengthening the position of our companies on a global level, improve our balance of trade, regain lost market shares and improve the investment climate in our own country. If we want to achieve this, we will have to work hard for it. We must not take anything for granted. Only diamonds are forever, and, I hope of course, also the Diamond Building in Brussels.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


As Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, my mission is to assist our companies through an all-inclusive economic approach, in other words, a comprehensive short- and long-term approach that will benefit every part of our economy, and will thus make a major contribution to our economic recovery and prosperity. More specifically, this means that I will fully support all regional export initiatives, that I will update the instruments at the federal level for export financing and of course refine those who need to be refined, and that I will defend the interest of our businesses and the entire economic society at the international level.


The world is indeed not enough. And certainly not when we talk about the Belgian economy, which is among the most open, export-oriented economies in the world. This is why our image and our voice abroad are crucial factors for the trust that foreign investors have in our country and our economy. This is exactly why I do not only want to be the contact point within the federal government for the Belgian businesses in the context of exports, but also in the opposite direction as the point of contact for foreign companies that are interested to invest in Belgium. As an aside, I wish to note that the economic missions on her Majesty’s Secret Service are of gold value in this endeavor. Not only do they offer our companies a privileged access to a host country, but their contribution to the overall image of Belgium abroad should not be underestimated. This is why I am very much in favor of adding an economic component to all state and official visits, this of course in consultation with the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency and the Regions.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


As all of you probably know, I am also a staunch supporter of free trade. It leads to an increased economic activity and contributes to global prosperity. It is therefore essential that our businesses can gain market access through the Free Trade Agreements, negotiated by the European Commission, and that they can effectively capitalize the opportunities offered by Free Trade. This is the reason why our country will continue to support and monitor the European Union’s Trade Policy, so that our businesses can capitalize on the growth offered by the new market opportunities. It is my intention to insist within the Government on those aspects in multilateral negotiations that lead to trade facilitation, which is essential for the internationalization of our small and medium enterprises, to insist on a realistic reduction of non-tariff barriers (not everything from Russia is with love), and to ensure a maximal openness to services and government procurement.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


In my policy statement, I have therefore argued that the Credendo Group, Finexpo and the Belgian Corporation for International Investment should continue to have sufficient resources at their disposal - despite the planned public savings – to continue to support the internationalization of our companies in the most efficient way possible.


The federal Government, in close cooperation with the Regions, will continue to consider how to support businesses with the tools and contacts at its disposal, including by relying on market access specialists of the European Commission when it is interesting. In particular on how to support the companies that are among the strongest professional sectors in our country – I think of course in particular of the sectors represented by Agoria -  as well as the enterprises that are searching to do business with emerging markets.


Currently, the federal Government, together with the Regions, financially supports the Chambers of Commerce at home and abroad, as well as the Business Entities. In the course of this term, and after consultation with the Chambers of Commerce and the different associations, the objections, operation and support criteria will be reviewed. I will consult with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Regions on how to further develop the informal network abroad based on clear objectives and thus make better use of it in support of regional initiatives. Finally, I will also consult the competent government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs on how to implement a permanent structure within the Directorate General for Bilateral Affairs in order to improve information exchange between public and private bodies and to ensure a permanent dialogue.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


You only live once, or is it twice? Anyway, we should seize every opportunity and every moment and try to rake out the moon, try to attain the impossible. Aim for the moon they say, if you should fall from the sky, you are still among the stars, maybe a little bit shaken, but certainly not stirred.


I wish you all success in all of your further undertakings and I will assist you wherever and whenever I can and should. Thank you for your attention,


Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade


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