Toespraak

19-04-2018

Information seminar – Chambers for Pacific Alliance & Central America

Donderdag 19 april 2018


Excelencias, Damas y caballeros, Señoras y Señores,

 

Es un placer estar aquí en media de ustedes hoy. Ya has tenido un programa ocupado y pronto es el momento de tomar una copa bien merecida sobre nuestra amistad y cooperación. Pero permíteme enfocarte algunas palabras primero. Y continuaré en inglés.

 

First of all, it is a relief to discuss free trade at a time when the whole world is only talking about trade wars. Protectionist measures are indeed emerging in several places, and are sometimes standing in the way of a strong common vision amongst partner countries. Ten years ago already, the Obama administration set out a more protectionist course, and President Trump continues to walk this path. In Europe, we are being confronted with the Brexit, or as some even tend to call it, the biggest single act of protectionism in recent history. Belgium watches these events very closely, as they are taking place in the UK, our 4th largest trade partner, and the US, our most important non-European trade partner.

 

How do we cope with these events? We focus on making our economies and companies “globalization proof”, by further diversifying our markets, strengthening our bond with like-minded countries, and promoting free trade all over the world.

 

The creation of this new cluster of Chambers for the Pacific Alliance and Central America, fits in perfectly with this ambition, as we are not only spurring new partnerships with other regions and partners at a national or European level, but also at company and Chambers levels. I understand that what your 4 Chambers intend to do, goes exactly in this very promising direction, and I congratulate all of you on this achievement. Furthermore, the cooperation with BECI will provide you with a professional basis, as this is a remarkable place gathering the contacts and expertise the Chambers need. This creates a win-win situation to the Chambers and BECI and generates synergies in information exchange, organization and actions.

 

This new “Cluster approach” will bring many advantages to the companies, and will make your voice heard more effectively. L’Union fait la Force! La unión hace la fuerza! Instead of having several smaller Chambers of Commerce, this cluster now is a big player that is able to take up a proactive role in strengthening the economic ties between Belgium and Latin American economies. Indeed, it is bringing us the best of the Latin American economy. On one side, the Pacific Alliance with its large economies (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) and on the other side the Central American Common Market, with its countries of more modest size, very comparable to Belgium (Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama).

 

And why not be even more ambitious? I’m also looking forward to a quick agreement between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur. This would create a free market that covers almost the whole of Latin America. In June, Princess Astrid and myself are heading an economic mission to Argentina and Uruguay, and the further strengthening of our economic ties with the whole of Latin America will of course be a focus point of this mission. The opportunities and growth potential are enormous and to our mutual benefit and we are very much looking forward to deepen our economic bond with the Latin American continent. De hecho, las oportunidades y el potencial de crecimiento son enormes y para nuestro beneficio mutuo, u estamos ansiosos por profundizar nuestro vinculo económico con el continente latinoamericano.

 

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, at this moment, more than 75% of Belgian exports still go to European countries, 50% even to our direct neighbors. These historic and close trade relations are of course very important, but it is also clear that we have to focus on finding new partners worldwide. I admit that trade outside the EU poses certain challenges for our companies, but with our joint support I am convinced that they will be able to write many success stories. The special attention given to SMEs in this respect is very important because they face specific challenges in their internationalization process. The proactive strategy of this cluster in promoting or creating joint projects, especially between SMEs in a concept of cl-localization is therefore very promising.

 

Conclusion

 

Excelencias,  Señoras y Señores,

El objetivo de este evento es mostrar a las empresas belgas el interés estratégico de aumentar su presencia en el mercado latinoamericano. Me suscribo completamente a esta ambición, por supuesto, y puedes contar con mi apoyo total siempre que sea posible. Además, seguiré de cerca este concepto prometedor e innovador, ya que también podría ser una inspiración para otras cámaras bilaterales. Aprovechemos el impulso creado al unir fuerzas y fortalecer los lazos. Felicidades, congratulations and cheers!

 


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