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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to visit Guangzhou at the head of the largest Belgian mission ever to come to China. I thank the authorities of Guangzhou Municipality and of Guangdong Province for their welcome and for their efficient and generous support to our mission.
As the starting point of the Maritime Silk Route, Guangzhou has for centuries been China?s principal gateway to the world. The tradition of your city as the leading place of contact between the thirteen Chinese merchant houses and European traders, is well known in Europe. As a large coastal city and key manufacturing base of mainland China, at the centre of Asia?s economic powerhouse, at equal distances from Japan and from Southeast Asia, Guangzhou and indeed the entire Pearl River Delta is an essential partner for our companies and our foreign trade. Today, your bustling city builds on its ancient traditions to secure its rightful place in the soaring economic context of China and in the global economy.
Such a long tradition of contacts with Europe and the current and future economic potential of Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta are obvious incentives for us, Belgians, situated at the heart of Europe, to strengthen our ties with Guangzhou, China?s main economic gateway and with Guangdong, China?s richest province. We know how much effort and funding the Provincial and Municipal authorities are investing in creating the most modern business infrastructure, good communications, a harmonious social climate and a clean, agreeable urban environment.
Equally, we want to intensify our ties with Guangzhou as China?s main centre of the automobile industry and also with impressive new investments in the sectors of logistics, information technology, the petrochemical industry and consumer goods manufacturing. We are convinced that the recently launched Pan-Pearl River Delta regional economic cooperation will offer a multitude of exciting prospects for cooperation between our countries. The proximity of the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao adds, of course, special interest to Guangdong?s development capabilities.
And finally, we think that this city - and Guangdong province ? have undertaken the biggest challenge of all, by fighting pollution and putting top priority on environmental progress. We are highly interested in the blueprint for the ecological development of the City of Guangzhou, with the prospect of the creation of a landscaped city with lush gardens and surrounded by rich natural scenery. These measures will do justice to the beautiful green mountains, the landscapes and the ?8 scenic spots? that are Guangzhou?s claim to fame.
For all these reasons, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Pearl River Delta and its surrounding economic development zones are of paramount interest to Belgium and to our political and economic leaders. That is why such a large number of them have decided to accompany us on this mission. At the heart of our delegation you will find more than 300 business leaders representing all export-oriented sectors of the Belgian economy.
I should mention in particular a strong delegation from our ports, Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent. Port infrastructure and management are sectors where my country has developed leading-edge expertise. Efficient handling, high productivity and reliability, and connection to a dense road, rail and waterways network are the keys to success, as the Guangzhou port authorities know very well themselves. We look forward to our meeting with the port authorities tomorrow during our boat trip on the Pearl River.
I also want to highlight the very strong know-how we have developed in Belgium in the area of the fight against pollution and in environmental technology as a whole. Many participants in this mission are world leaders in this field, and they will be interested to contribute some of that know-how to the water and waste treatment projects which are currently under consideration here.
Let me also draw the attention of our Chinese friends to the presence in our delegation of many leaders from industrial and services companies. They represent a great diversity of areas of activity : logistics and infrastructure, the hotel and catering trade, luxury goods manufacturers, information technology specialists, engineering consultants, machine and instrument manufacturing, financial experts and companies in the chemical, textile, food or biotechnology industries. All are at your disposal, all are eager to do business with you.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Guangzhou is famous as a privileged gateway to China.
Belgium, for its part, likes to consider itself as one of the most efficient and interesting gateways to Europe. First of all, because Brussels is the decision making capital of the European Union. But also because Belgium is a good place to invest and to establish your European headquarters, as so many enterprises, professional organizations, representative bodies and media have done for years now. One of the media networks to establish its European headquarters in Brussels this year is the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua. Belgian companies and industries are interesting partners for Chinese enterprises who want to broaden their activities in Europe. The seminar we are organizing here today will illustrate the possibilities for investment in and closer cooperation with Belgium.
The visit of our delegation to Guangzhou is not only of an economic and commercial nature. It is also a meeting amongst friends. We want to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation to our partners in Guangzhou, in Guangdong Province and indeed in the entire Pearl River Delta. In Belgium, one of the ways we have of celebrating friendship is by drinking a glass of beer together. We will be doing exactly that, later today, when it will be my pleasure to lay the first stone of the Beer Museum at the Zhu Jiang Brewery. I will also be opening an important new investment in the sector of packaging.
With these highly symbolic gestures, and through the important official contacts we will be having with the Provincial and Municipal authorities, we want to establish a solid and lasting basis for the friendship and cooperation between Belgium and Guangzhou.
I am confident that our Chinese partners will find in Belgium, both at the level of the official authorities and of the private companies, reliable partners with a commitment to progress and success, an open and eager outlook to cooperation with China and with an unmatched European expertise. To all of you I extend my best wishes for success in your professional endeavours and happiness in your private lives. Thank you.