Toespraak

12-06-2017

FEB B2G Lunch meeting – Closing Speech – Korea Mission

June 12th, 2017


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

[Introduction]

Your Royal Highness,

Mr. Deputy Minister,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s a true pleasure to be in Korea once again. My last visit to this country dates back to 2010, when I was invited as the then Belgian Minister of Defense to the impressive commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. And Korea has certainly moved forward in those seven years. We’ve only been here for a couple of days, but I’ve already seen so many new projects, developments, and innovations. Your achievements are truly impressive and make of Korea a very prosperous nation, the 11th economy in the world, and a very constructive member of the OCDE and G20. Korea is a fine example of what can be achieved when everyone strives for a common goal. Yet I’m also glad to see that some things haven’t changed at all, like the hospitality of the Korean people.

 

[Bilateral trade]

Your Royal Highness,

Mr. Deputy Minister,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have listened very attentively to the address of HE Deputy Minister for Trade LEE about the Korean investment climate and the many actions to facilitate doing business in this beautiful country. And I can confirm that Korea and Belgium share many of those strengths.

 

It is therefore obvious that numerous Belgian companies have important and very successful activities here in Korea, for example Solvay, Umicore, AB Inbev, Agfa, Besix, Atlas Copco, Barco, Puratos, our pharma companies UCB, GSK and Janssen Pharmaceutica, and many more. Several of these companies are of course represented here today at this lunch, organized by the Federation of Belgian Enterprises. And major Korean companies as Hyunday, LG, Lotte, to name a few, have large investments in Belgium. Yet, despite the importance of these mutual investments, their number could be much bigger, as there are lots of opportunities for Korean companies to invest in Belgium and vice versa.

 

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is exactly what this economic mission headed by HRH Princess Astrid wants to achieve. Our objective is to create opportunities to discuss new ideas, to launch new projects, and to meet new people. Despite Korea and Belgium already being very close, we need to get to know each other even better, and show the many assets that we can offer to investors. To put the spotlight on the Belgian strengths, we launched a campaign only a few weeks ago which promotes our country by defining “99 reasons why it is uniquely phenomenal”. (Because 100 would be a bit over the top). And we share a lot of these strengths with Korea.

 

Indeed, like Korea, Belgium fully depends on international trade and has one of the most open economies in the world. We are a world leader in exports, dispatching diamonds, carpets, chocolate, margarine, glass and cars to destinations all over the globe. Belgian exports amount to more than 80% of our national GDP and, as mentioned by the 75th of the 99 reasons, despite the fact that only 0,2% of the world population is living in Belgium, our country is the 12th biggest exporter and 3rd most globalized country in the world.

 

The basis for this open and competitive economy is our strategic location. The Port of Antwerp is Europe’s second largest port and one of the largest ports in the world and, as cited in reason n°84, continues to break records with more than 500 direct destinations. Last year, it peaked by handling more than 215 million ton of freight. With its growth of more than 4%, it is performing significantly better than the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg.

 

This strategic location of Belgium is also demonstrated by the numerous distribution centers that are established in our country and take advantage of the low cost and short distance to Europe’s major markets. Indeed, 80% of Europe’s purchasing power lies within a radius of 800 km. More than 2.300 foreign companies, including several Korean ones, have their European headquarters in Belgium, as mentioned in reason n°73.

 

Another reason emphasizes the fact that Brussels is home to the European institutions and NATO headquarters and houses more than 5,000 diplomats. So it makes sense for Korean companies that are active in Europe to be close to the main decision centers if they want to contract with these institutions.

 

On the Global Competitiveness Index, Belgium ranks 17th and Korea 26th, making both of us very important players worldwide. Belgium earns this spot in particular due to its success in healthcare, education and training, and very high degree of technological development and innovation. We also get top marks for top teaching, as 7 of our 16 universities are among the best in the world, and also offer excellent academic opportunities to young Korean students. And, ladies and gentlemen, the list goes on and on, yet it’s time to conclude.

 

[Conclusion]

Your Royal Highness,

Mr. Deputy Minister,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ever since the Korean War, our countries have forged a close bond. Over 3.000 Belgian soldiers left their home country and more than a hundred didn’t get to see it again. Yet, their sacrifices have not been meaningless. The Belgian UN volunteers have laid the foundation of a very strong alliance based on common values. We are touched by the respect and gratitude that the Korean people still show today to our fallen compatriots, of which many have been given a last resting place here, …

Friends and allies are very important in these challenging and fast-evolving times. Korea and Belgium are very aware of the fact that cooperation is the best guarantee of stability and prosperity for both our peoples. Therefore, my expectations of this mission are very high. We have taken with us a selection of our finest companies. Belgian entrepreneurs that could offer a unique added value to the Korean economy thanks to their know-how and expertise in so many different domains.

 

Let me conclude by thanking HRH Princess Astrid and Deputy Minister for Trade LEE for their presence, as well as our Korean hosts, and everyone who has contributed to this Business to Government lunch meeting, in particular the FEB and the Belgian Embassy in Seoul and  I would also like to highlight the presence of the Regional Export Promoting Authorities.

 

Finally, Mr. Deputy Minister, I would like to invite you also to visit Belgium, whether it be for business or pleasure, and to discover the 99 reasons why Belgium is uniquely phenomenal yourself. You will always receive a very warm welcome!  

 

Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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