Toespraak

16-02-2017

Dubai Chamber of Commerce

February, 16th, 2017


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your excellence, thank you for your very captivating welcome remarks. It is a true pleasure to be here once again since my last mission together with Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, representing our beloved King Philippe, and an impressive participation of 453 representatives of Belgian companies. This current mission also covers a large range of sectors going from engineering to food, consulting and banking. All participants are key players in their domain and the objectives are similar as those of the previous mission: we want to do business and we want to deepen the trade relation between our two nations, to mutual benefit.

 

[Bilateral trade relations]

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relationship between the United Arab Emirates and Belgium is excellent and today perhaps closer than ever. Trade missions enable us to further strengthen our contacts, to discuss ideas and opportunities and to deepen our ties. We attach great importance to this city and this country. Just like Belgium, the United Arab Emirates are rather small in size, but leave a strong mark on world events. This country is a beacon of stability, prosperity, development and progress in the Arab world. A world which is unfortunately facing many challenges.

 

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 growing. Within the European Union, Belgium is the fifth major exporter of goods to the UAE. We have 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 a 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 domain of trade is that of diamonds and precious stones, both in terms of imports and exports. Other important areas are oil and gas, with Belgian companies playing an important role in the development of new infrastructure, and water supply, in which our companies make good use of their knowhow and experience with desalination. Concerning construction and building, our cooperation goes back a long time. Belgian companies were and are involved in major infrastructure works such as the power plant of Taweelah, the Burj Khalifa, the tram lines and the Canal in Dubai, and the impressive changes to the shoreline. And new projects are planned in the context of Dubai 2020. Belgian products, yes, also Belgian chocolates, can be found in Dubai’s shops and this city is a popular tourist destination for many of our citizens. The Belgian company Schreder provide lighting for many highlights of this city, such as the Burj. 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.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dubai is a major hub in international trade, known in the entire world as a success story of innovation, entrepreneurship and development. Global events, such as the World Expo in 2020 will only strengthen this reputation. As was the case for Belgium in 1958, it gives the hosting country a perfect occasion to show its strengths to the entire world and gives a boost to the economy.  And of course, Belgium will also be strongly represented at the Expo 2020. This city is full of activity and energy, with a strong sense of entrepreneurship. Belgian companies have a very large experience here. They possess high-tech knowledge in the logistics, petroleum and construction sectors. And they bring innovation to the local economy, as demonstrated by many success stories. This city and this country offer a lot of opportunities to Belgian companies, and Belgium 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. It was the 12th exporter and 14th importer of goods worldwide in 2015. Furthermore, Belgium is the second most globalized country in the world and one of the most innovative European nations. Through our sea ports of Zeebrugge, Ghent, and Antwerp, we offer an easy access to more than 500 million customers. 80% of Europe’s purchasing power lies within a radius of 500 miles around Brussels. And of course, we are also host to the European Union and NATO, and offer a stable business environment that is very open for foreign investments. 

 

[Conclusion]

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Does it still need to be demonstrated that we are the perfect partners? I think not. Our economies, companies and citizens have all benefited from our strong relations. This mission aims to further strengthen our cooperation, as I am convinced that Belgian companies can make a significant contribution in achieving the objectives of Dubai to become one of the world’s most innovative cities, and companies of the UAE will continue to choose Belgium as their most important European partner.

Therefore, and to conclude, I would like to thank the Chamber of Commerce of Dubai for their very hard work and permanent commitment, and also for hosting this beautiful event. It is impressive to hear that 250 Belgian companies are registered at this Chamber and that they cover a large variety of sectors. Please continue your crucial task of bringing our companies and our nations closer together with the same enthusiasm and know that you can always count on my full support to achieve this goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for your attention and your hospitality. It is always a pleasure to visit this city and its citizens.

 

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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