Toespraak

14-02-2017

Abu Dhabi - Chamber of Commerce

February 14th, 2017


- - -  the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a true pleasure to be here and to see many familiar faces. My last visit to Abu Dhabi was during the Belgian economic mission in 2015, together with Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, representing our King Philippe. During that mission, the officials and large business delegation of 453 people in total had intense and very productive contacts and exchanges. 223 Belgian companies were represented, as were 22 federations, 2 universities, and 20 public organizations. This made it one of the largest Belgian economic missions abroad and one of the largest ever that visited the United Arab Emirates.


And here we are once again, with a new mission that also covers a large range of sectors going from engineering to food, consulting and banking. All participants are key players in their domain and our objective is identical to that of the previous mission: we are here to do business and to deepen our bilateral trade ties.

 

[Bilateral trade relations]

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relations between the United Arab Emirates and Belgium have always been excellent and are today perhaps closer than ever, precisely thanks to these regular trade missions that are perfect occasions to develop contacts and deepen our ties.  Indeed, the immediate success of a trade mission is one thing, at least as important is its follow-up. Missions on a regular basis aim at further strengthening this bond. They also have a positive effect on our mutual knowledge and understanding in other domains than the economic one. We attach great importance to this city and this country. The United Arab Emirates are rather small in size, just like Belgium, but you also leave a strong mark on world events as a basis of stability, prosperity, development, and progress in the Arab World. A world which shares a long history with Europe. We are neighbors whose prosperity and stability always proved closely linked. Unfortunately, today the Arab World is facing many challenges. The situation in Iraq, Syria and other countries remain a cause for concern and an important focus of attention for Belgium and the rest of the world. However, I am convinced that the Arab people will be able to navigate through these turbulent times and I believe the United Arab Emirates will continue playing a major role as a beacon of stability in that evolution. The Arab World is full of energy, with a very young and fast-growing population with great ambitions and a strong sense of entrepreneurship.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Belgian companies have a large experience in this region. They possess high-tech knowledge in the logistics, construction, health, and petroleum sectors. The Belgian community here is also the largest in the Gulf Region, with about 3,500 Belgians living and working here, and their number is still increasing. Within the European Union, Belgium is the fifth major exporter of goods to the UAE with a share of 7,3% in the total amount of EUR 48 billion. And we remain the largest European importer of goods from the UAE with an impressive share of 30% of the total amount of EUR 9,3 billion. At a global level, the United Arab Emirates are our sixteenth largest customer and our twenty-third largest supplier, far ahead of neighboring countries as Oman, Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Indeed, these figures make the United Arab Emirates by far our most important trading partner in the Arab World.

 

The main commercial trade domain remains that of precious stones and diamonds, both in terms of imports and exports. Another important area is that of gas and oil trade, where Belgian companies play an important role in the development of new infrastructure. Regarding water supply, our country has a great knowledge and experience with desalination. In the construction and building sector, we have a very long history of cooperation dating back to 1965 with BESIX constructing the corniche of Abu Dhabi. Belgian companies were and are involved in major infrastructure works such as that of the power plant in Taweelah, the Emirates Palace Hotel, the Ferrari-experience on the Yas Marina island, Cleveland Clinic, and the important changes of the shoreline. Other important projects, such as the building of the ADNOC tower are ongoing.

 

Our products, yes, also Belgian chocolates, can be found in your shops and this city is a popular tourist destination for many of our citizens. And Belgian companies are very well-known for their expertise in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors and our cooperation in these sectors is strongly on the rise.

 

Abu Dhabi clearly offers many opportunities to Belgian companies, as demonstrated by a lot of success stories. But Belgium also offers many possibilities to business from here. A recent study of the World Economic Forum shows that Belgium has the tenth most trade-friendly economy in the world. Furthermore, it is also one of the most innovative European nations and the second most globalized country in the world, offering an easy access to the European market of 500 million customers.

 

[Conclusion]

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All these elements make us perfect partners and this mission aims to further strengthen our bond. The Chamber of Commerce plays an important role in this endeavor. You are doing valuable work by establishing an economic and commercial network that is capable of exploiting the full opportunities of the relation between the UAE and Belgium. You do important work in assisting Belgian companies on the Arab market, but your role in the other direction is of course equally important. I am grateful that you encourage and assist Arab companies to visit and to invest in Belgium.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our bond is unique. We understand each other’s heterogeneity and characteristics and our economies and citizens benefit greatly from our mutual investments and activities. Let us keep up the good work. I thank you for your hospitality. It is always a pleasure to be here.

 

- - -  the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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