Toespraak

09-01-2017

Reception at the US Embassy in honor of the members of the Belgian economic mission to Texas

January 9th, 2017


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

[Introduction]

Your Highness,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

First of all, I would like to express my best wishes to all of you and your loved ones. 2017 will be a very important year, a pivotal year even, filled with many challenges and opportunities. In only eleven days, President elect Donald Trump will take office as the 45th President of the United States. During President Obama’s eight years in office, the relation between both of our countries was outstanding, and I am convinced that this will not change under President Trump.

 

 [Mission to Texas]

Last December, I personally witnessed once again the many similarities between the US and Belgium during the economic mission to Texas, headed by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, whose presence here tonight demonstrates the exceptional bond between our countries. To give you a brief summary: the mission was an incredible success! We managed to gather 98 companies and 240 business representatives and we seized each and every opportunity that was offered to us. Highlights definitely were the meetings with the governor of Texas and the mayors of San Antonio, Houston and Austin. But also the many business to business meetings between Texan and Belgian business leaders and the visits to different American companies. I personally recall the meeting hosted by the greater Houston partnership and the seminar on Belgium and Houston as world class chemical hubs. And of course, the powerful and moving ceremony honoring Captain Pena, one of the last surviving veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, demonstrated that the bond between the United States and Belgium goes beyond trade and economics.

 

Your Highness,

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Texas and Belgium share a common history that goes back to the 1830s and the mission made it clear once again that this unique relationship has endured, based on commerce and shared economic interests.

 

By the way, when I told our interlocutors that we have a ‘Texas’ of our own in Western Flanders, albeit on a different scale, people reacted somewhat surprised. Luckily I didn’t mention the ‘Texas rakkers’, a very popular comic book in Belgium, which would probably have led to even more confusion…

 

Today, 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. This strategic location made it possible for Houston and Belgium to become world leaders in the chemical and petrochemical sectors. But we also see a lot of potential for future success in sectors such as aerospace technology, biotech and tourism.

 

[Conclusion]

Your Highness,

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year, the US once again was our 5th most important customer and our 4th most important supplier, preceded only by our biggest neighboring countries. This makes the US Belgium’s first trading partner outside of Europe, both for exports and investments.  And the economic mission to Texas demonstrated that the opportunities to cooperate are endless.

I want to thank all of you present here for all your hard work in strengthening and deepening the ties between our two countries. The Embassies, Chambers of Commerce, and regional trade agencies are doing outstanding jobs, and their role today is more important than ever. In these challenging, yet also very promising times, I am more than ever convinced that the transatlantic bond between the US, Belgium and Europe is of paramount importance for our security and for stability in the world and will continue to guarantee development and prosperity for our people.

 

I thank you for your attention,

 

Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade

 

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 


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