Toespraak

09-12-2016

Seminar on synergies between two world-class innovative hubs: Texas and Belgium - Closing remarks

December 9th, 2016


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

[Introduction]

 

Your Highness,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, this economic mission headed by Her Highness Princess Astrid, is slowly coming to an end. And I am very pleased that, today already, I can state that it was a true success, with many promising and unique opportunities for both of our economies and companies. And this seminar is of course no exception to this. I would like to thank all speakers and the whole team of Essenscia and FIT  and our Texan hosts for making this possible.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our expectations of this mission were very high, and were fully met. After all, we share a bond that goes back a long time. Belgium was not only one of the first nations in the world to recognize the independence of Texas, back in the 1830’s. By 1841, the Belgian government sent its first representative to Texas to negotiate trade relations and financial support. In turn, Texas opened a consulate in Antwerp. We bought cotton, corn, and a few other raw materials from you, and sold you iron, tea, and, of course, beer in return. We even had a Belgian Prime Minister, that once rode a mechanical bull here in Texas, back in 1995. And our unique relationship with Texas has endured, based on commerce and shared economic interests, resulting in this current economic mission.

 

[Two world-class innovative hubs]

 

Your Highness,

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

In the past days, we have witnessed once again why exactly Texas and Belgium are considered world-class innovative hubs. We both have an open economy, built on important international ports that offer a privileged access to the European and American inland respectively. Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States has the busiest American port in terms of foreign tonnage and the second-busiest in the US in terms of overall tonnage. Belgium has the tree major seaports of Zeebrugge, Ghent and Antwerp. The port of Zeebrugge continues to grow at an incredible speed, the port of Ghent always lives up to its motto “large enough to cope, small enough to care”, and the port of Antwerp continues to break records. Last year, Europe’s second largest seaport passed for the first time in its history the 200-million-ton mark for the volume of freight handled. And thanks to its continuous growth, it is performing significantly better than other European ports. No less than 32% of Houston trade is with Europe and the container ships, carrying over 4,000 containers a day, make the port of Antwerp a key player in the world for transports of goods to and from the United States.  

 

This strategic location, combined with excellent port infrastructures, made it possible to become leaders in the chemical and  petrochemical sectors. Indeed, Belgium hosts the second world cluster for chemicals and plastics and Europe’s largest integrated petrochemical center. Moreover, we have a very diverse portfolio of chemistry-based industrial activities developed throughout the past two centuries. Our chemical sector has one of the highest degrees of specialization in the world, and the high level of integration and diversity across the value chain in Belgium is unique in the world. Our logistics platform offers a highly competitive hub for the chemical industry thanks to a state-of-the-art infrastructure. The Belgian chemical and life sciences industry is highly export-orientated as more than 75% is exported to the rest of the world. Moreover, the US is our 5th most important trading partner, and first partner outside of Europe. Three-quarters of the world’s top chemical companies have chosen to invest in our country, including world players such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron Phillips and Praxair. And it is therefore a vital source for the sustainable development of our economy.

 

Houston, in turn, is nicknamed the “Energy capital of the world”, and hosts the most extensive petrochemical cluster in the world, good for 100.000 jobs and 40% of national energy production. 28 of the 100 biggest chemical companies in terms of sales are American and 7 of them have their headquarters based around Houston, together with another 3.700 energy companies located in and around this metropole, including Belgian companies such as Solvay, Exmar, and the Sibelco Group that have developed large activities here in Texas.

 

The cooperation and exchange between our companies is indeed large and rewarding. Two thirds of exports to Belgium are organic chemicals and plastics and plastic products and two thirds of imports from Belgium are mineral fuels, refined products and organic chemicals. Furthermore, we both pay a special attention to investments in Research & Development in the energy sector, ensuring our dominant role in the future.

 

To a large extent due to Houston and Texas, the US is a leading energy hub in the world and has a lot of knowledge to share in the traditional energy sector. Belgium is, in turn, a world leader in sustainable chemistry, energy efficiency and cleantech. These roles are complementary and open many forms of cooperation and mutual investments, as was clear from the seminar of today. There also remains a big potential for energy export, thanks to the opening of the American export market of gas and the important infrastructures for LNG in Belgium, connected to the European network. And, next to cross investments in the chemical and petrochemical sectors, there are of course still many other fields in which we can and must increase our synergies. I am thinking about agriculture, logistics and services, public transport infrastructures, but also tourism, and hi-tech.

 

[Conclusion]

 

Your Highness,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

In short, it is clear that both Texas and Belgium are indeed world-class innovative hubs and have many strengths in common. Nevertheless, the opportunities to cooperate are endless. Both Texas and Belgium are leaders in the chemical and petrochemical sector. This presence of a state-of-the-art chemical activity in both regions must lead to new business opportunities and increased partnerships and investments. So I want to thank all of you for your presence here today and urge you to seize these opportunities. For the time has now come to close this seminar with a networking drink. Tomorrow, we will head home with a bag full of new contacts, new friendships, new ideas and new knowledge.

 

Thank you.

 

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 


< Vorige bericht