Toespraak

26-04-2017

Closing remarks at the Business Seminar Mumbai

April 26th, 2017


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

[Introduction]

It was a pleasure to hear so many enthusiastic and dynamic presentations at this business seminar. This truly confirms the strong entrepreneurial spirit of India and Belgium and our mutual desire to grow and to innovate.

I have listened with a lot of attention to the strengths of India as well as the unique benefits that Belgium has to offer to Indian investors.

I can only conclude and confirm that our bond is unique in the sense that our countries share a common past. A past that started during the First World War in which more than 9,000 Indians troops made the supreme sacrifice in Flanders Fields. We will never forget this and commemorate them with the utmost respect and gratitude.

In the following decades, this bond continued to expand and grew out to become the unique economic, diplomatic, academic, cultural, and social partnership that we have today. Indeed, this year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Belgium. This mission has the objective of further strengthening and diversifying this bond, and, of course, the State Visit by His Majesty King Philippe to India later this year will be a key event in this festive year for Indo-Belgian relations.

[India – Belgium]

Today, approximately 1.500 Belgian companies are already exporting to India and another 2.000 have shown interest to do so. They make India Belgium’s second largest export destination outside of the European Union. The majority of these exports consists of diamonds, followed by chemical products, and machinery and equipment. In the other sense, Belgium is India’s fourth largest trade partner in the European Union and major exports are in the sectors of gems & jewelry, textiles, chemicals, and chemical products. More than 160 Belgian companies are present in India, of which a third are active here in Maharashtra. And around 80 Indian companies have established base in Belgium to cater the Belgian as well as the European markets.

We encourage you to seize every opportunity that further strengthens and diversifies this partnership, by taking advantage of other investment opportunities, especially in sectors such as ports, railways, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, information technology, health, research and innovation, as they are numerous and to our mutual benefit.

The ambitious projects of Prime Minister Modi and his Government also offer a lot of opportunities to Belgian companies. They have a unique knowhow and experience in many key sectors and can make an important contribution in the achievement of India’s goals. I am 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. This could also help to further diversify our bilateral relations, that today still largely depend on the diamond industry.

And Belgium has a lot to offer to Indian companies, not only as a thriving and very open economy, but also as home to the European institutions and as an economic hub and gateway to the European market of 500 million customers.

 

[Conclusion]

Indeed, during my two previous missions to India as Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, and also now, I see a lot of opportunities that are still being untapped. It is my objective to assist Belgian and Indian companies in diversifying the bilateral trade basket and expanding investment ties.

We have no excuses left, as the need for direct passenger flights has now been answered by this new direct connection between Brussels Airport and Mumbai. I thank everyone who has played a role in the establishment of this project.

And I am of course very grateful to you all for investing in our common future, a future in which strong partnerships will be of ever increasing importance. It is only by working together that we will be able to grow, to innovate, to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and to provide stability and prosperity to our citizens. Trade plays a crucial role in this objective, and this business seminar is exactly what I want to achieve with this mission: bringing decision makers, political authorities, business leaders, innovators, and great minds together to exchange ideas, to talk about projects and to discuss opportunities.

Thank you for your presence and the work that you do with vigor and passion. I hope to see all of you making use of the direct flight to Brussels in the next weeks and months to further discuss and explore new forms of cooperation.

 

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

 


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