Toespraak

27-03-2015

Activity with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce – Keynote address

Thursday, March 26th, 2015


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 

Your Royal Highness,

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your Excellence Al Shirawi, Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, thank you for your very captivating welcome remarks. First of all, I would like to say that it is always an absolute pleasure to be here. Indeed, every time I visit this country I am amazed by the hospitality of its people. It is for the first time that I visit the United Arab Emirates and Dubai not as Minister of Defense, but as Federal Secretary of State for Foreign Trade. As all of you know, our attendance here today is part of a large economic mission headed by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, representing our beloved King Philippe.

 

We attach great importance to this city, nation and region, and this not only for economic reasons. The United Arab Emirates form a rather small country, but one that leaves a strong mark on the world events, just like Belgium. The UAE are very important to us as a basis of stability, prosperity, development and progress in the Arab World, a world which is currently facing many challenges.  

 

[Bilateral trade relations]

 

Your Royal Highness,

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a couple of minutes, Mr. Omar Khan (Director of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry), will tell us some more about the numerous business opportunities in Dubai, followed by Mr. Beerlandt, (President of the Arab-Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce), who will tell you why it is wise to invest in Belgium. I, however, would like to focus on the already existing and very close trade relations between our cities, countries and regions.

 

The United Arab Emirates are a major hub in international trade and, thanks to its visionary leaders, Dubai is known in the entire world as a success story of innovation, entrepreneurship and development, symbolized by its impressive structures. Furthermore, there are multiple global events planned, like the World Expo in 2020, that will only strengthen this reputation.  I am speaking from experience as the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels meant a huge boost for the image of our country. I am confident that it will mean the same for Dubai.

 

Your Royal Highness,

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The relations between the UAE and Belgium have always been excellent. The Belgian community here is the largest in the Gulf Region, with about 3,000 Belgians living and working here. Within the European Union, Belgium is the fifth major exporter of goods to the UAE and the largest importer of goods from the UAE within the EU. At a global level, the United Arab Emirates are our nineteenth largest customer and our twenty-first largest supplier, ranking just after Canada and preceding Brazil. This makes the United Arab Emirates by far our most important trading partner in the Arab World. The main commercial trade domain is that of 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. Did you know that it was the Belgian company BESIX (Six Construct) that realized the Corniche of Abu Dhabi in 1965? Electrabel GFD Suez is involved in the building of the power plant in Taweelah, Dredging International and Jan de Nul have helped realizing the changes to the shoreline, Belgian luxury products can be found in Dubai’s malls, Belgian expertise is used in the medical sector, as well as in dozens of other sectors. In Belgium, we have the presence of the chemical group Borealis-Borouge, Abu Dhabi Investment authority, JFB-RAK, ATS Logistics, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines, and so on.

 

[Conclusion]

 

Your Royal Highness,

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This region is full of energy and life, with a strong sense of entrepreneurship. One that also strongly characterizes Belgium. Our companies have a very large experience in this region, they possess high-tech knowledge in the logistics, construction and petroleum sectors. They bring innovation into the local economy, as demonstrated by so many success stories. It is clear that this city and country offer many possibilities to Belgian companies, just as Belgium offers many interesting opportunities to businesses from here. This will undoubtedly be reflected in the following speeches, to which I am very much looking forward. I am convinced that the constructive cooperation will only continue to grow in the 21st century and I am looking forward to the results of your strategy to become one of the worlds’ most innovative nations in seven years. I am convinced that Belgian companies can make a significant contribution in achieving your objectives. I thank you for your attention.

 

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -

 


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