(Tekst alleen beschikbaar in het Engels)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bid you all a very warm welcome at this meeting where we celebrate the friendship between Shanghai and Belgium. A very special welcome to all our Chinese friends. I bring you our best wishes and warm greetings from Belgium. I thank the authorities of the Municipality of Shanghai for their impeccable cooperation and for their warm and generous hospitality.
This Economic Mission I have the pleasure to preside is the largest ever bilateral mission from Belgium to visit China. This, in itself, shows the importance we in Belgium attach to strengthen our ties with China and especially with your vibrant City. Personally I am delighted that my wife Princess Mathilde has been able to join me on this mission, and together we hope to find some time to discover some of Shanghai?s outstanding landmarks. We also look forward to sharing at least some elements of your unique lifestyle.
Our mission is accompanied by key members of the Federal and Regional Governments of Belgium : the Federal Minister of the Economy, Energy, Scientific Policy and Foreign Trade Mr Verwilghen, the Minister-President of the Walloon Region Mr Van Cauwenberghe, the Minister-President of the Brussels Capital Region Mr Picqué and the Deputy Minister-President of Flanders Mrs Moerman. We are also fortunate to have with us the Chairman of the Belgian Federation of Enterprise, Mr Vansteenkiste and several political and official representatives of the federal, regional and local institutions of Belgium. I also salute among us Mr Patrick Janssens, the mayor of Shanghai?s sister city, Antwerp and his delegation including key municipality and port leaders.
The core of our delegation, Ladies and Gentlemen, consists of over 350 business leaders from the most varied sectors of our economy. Many of them know Shanghai well, either through their investments or the representative offices they have established here or through the ever more intensive trading activity they conduct here. Many other companies in our delegation came here to discover new opportunities for doing business, for expanding their commitment to China, for exploring new avenues for partnership. They tell me that Shanghai is, for them, the ideal gateway for doing business in China and even in Asia as a whole.
And I must say I am not surprised at this because it is obvious to any visitor that Shanghai is not only China?s most vibrant and biggest business environment, but first and foremost a truly cosmopolitan city, an ideal gateway to Asia and China and an international metropolis in the top league. The roads, bridges, transport infrastructure and urban planning are impressive. Together with the skyline, they are the most visible signs of Shanghai?s extraordinary development. It is a development based on industry, on commerce, on an open attitude to the world and on a strong sense of achievement. The economic growth of Shanghai is truly remarkable and it is turning this area into a powerhouse of the economic development of the region and of China as a whole.
But we all know that big cities have special problems : traffic congestion is one, the environmental impact of city living is another. Environmental technology is a growth sector in which several of our companies have developed special expertise. For that reason the Region of Flanders has chosen to organize a seminar on environmental technology during this mission.
The organisation in 2010 of the World Exhibition of course attracts the interest of our political and economic decision makers. We are very interested in the theme chosen for the Shanghai World Expo : Better city, better life. We think that Belgian companies are extremely well prepared for this, and they are eager to bring their know-how to the attention of the Chinese and Shanghai authorities. The seminar organized by Brussels Export will help our Chinese partners identify opportunities for cooperation with Belgian companies and experts in a wide number of fields. We wish our friends in Shanghai every success with the organization of the 2010 World Expo.
The Walloon Region has chosen to share with its partners in Shanghai its expertise in another crucial economic area of activity, the automotive sector. We are among the world?s top car manufacturers and we are especially strong in the manufacture of car parts and in services and subcontracting to the automotive industry.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Those who work hard also want to enjoy themselves from time to time. And people who have a sense of achievement and of perfection also expect the highest quality when it comes to food, fashion and good living. There are many such people in Shanghai : your city has a vibrant business elite who know and appreciate European cuisine and luxury goods of the highest quality and craftsmanship. So I am sure our Chinese friends will not be surprised that we have chosen precisely this city to present the excellence of our cuisine and some of the luxury consumer goods which Belgium is renowned for. Tomorrow night, a Belgian Gala Night organized in this hotel will show a small but delightful sample of Belgian cuisine, Belgian fashion and Belgian jewellery and accessories by designers and chefs from Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.
But Belgium is not only a world reference for its cuisine or its creative fashion designers. Our country and our economy have many other assets. The Belgian workforce is known for high productivity, innovation, attention to detail, hard work. Here in Shanghai you have exactly the same attitude, so you should find a lot of common ground with your Belgian counterparts. Our workforce is not only among the most productive in the world; it is also strongly motivated, well educated, highly skilled, speaking at least three languages : here again, there are many similarities with the population of Shanghai.
Belgium as a country has other assets as well : we are one of Europe?s busiest thoroughfares and we have one of the densest transport networks in the world. Here in Shanghai I don?t need to stress the strategic importance of transport infrastructure and of efficient port management. Antwerp, our main port, and Belgium?s other sea and inland ports, are crucial gateways to Europe. Belgium?s road, rail and waterways network links Northern to Southern and Western to Eastern and Central Europe. On the international level, we host the main decision making institutions of the European Union and NATO, and, linked to them, over 1.000 foreign journalists and thousands of lobbyists located in Brussels. As a result, companies and professional organizations from all over the world, from North America, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America invest in Belgium or have established their European headquarters or offices in our country.
So it will come as no surprise, Ladies and Gentlemen, if we have chosen as the title for our investment seminar : ?Think Europe, act from Belgium?. That is exactly what my country can offer to companies from China. Why don?t you follow the example of the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, who this year have established their European Regional Office in Brussels with a highly expanded staff. Please come and visit us in Belgium, and experience for yourself the assets I have mentioned. I can assure you of a warm and friendly welcome.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Shanghai government mentions among its key objectives for 2010 : to become a world metropolis with modern infrastructure, open to the world and to the international economy and with a balanced social, economic and environmental development. I want to stress to our friends from Shanghai today that we fully support you in these objectives. We are eager to become close partners in this ambitious enterprise. I wish you every success as you prepare your fascinating City for a promising future. Thank you.