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I am deeply moved by your warm words of welcome, and I can tell you that our entire delegation is delighted to be here in Nagoya for the interesting meetings and contacts you have organised.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ports of Nagoya and Antwerp have intensified their friendship and cooperation in the last few years. The challenges you face are very similar : you are both gateways to highly industrialised regions with a very high living standard, you are both key logistical centres, you both face competition from emerging markets and ports especially in Asia, and you both have to adapt continually to globalisation and to drastic changes in the world economy. So it is right that you should meet as often as possible and develop a close and strong partnership.
The port of Nagoya is a crucial gateway to Japan. It is surrounded by Japan?s most important industrial companies. It adapts continually to the requirements of world container and bulk traffic, to new environmental norms and to the challenges created by competing economies in Asia and elsewhere.
The port of Antwerp, and indeed Belgium as a whole, face a very similar situation. As one of the world?s most open economies, we need to keep very close ties with our main trading partners. That is why we have come to Japan with a strong economic delegation representing highly competitive companies from Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Our companies believe in the opportunities Japan offers them; they are interested in the use of new technologies and in new markets and further business opportunities. Most Belgian companies are small or medium-sized but they are big in creativity, they are among the most productive in the world and they care for their customers and their business partners. Often, Belgian companies are leaders in their specific niche markets. So I recommend to our Japanese friends : look for new business opportunities with Belgian companies; you will find them reliable, flexible and easy to deal with.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to combine our economic contacts in Nagoya and the Chubu region with a visit to the Aichi Expo. The theme of the Expo is very dear to my heart. I am indeed convinced that sustainable development is the key to tomorrow?s world. In Japan, like in Belgium, natural resources are limited, the population density is high, the economy highly industrialised. We need to deal very carefully with environmental issues and with problems such as urbanisation, traffic and public utilities. In these important areas, we can learn a lot from what Japan is doing. I wish the port and city of Nagoya and the Aichi Expo every success, and to our Japanese friends I convey my warmest wishes of happiness.