Trade and Investment Partnership Summit 2017 - Europe India Chamber of Commerce

December 5th, 2017

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -





Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished guests,

It is an honor to open this annual flagship event, the Trade and Investment Partnership Summit, dedicated to fostering bilateral trade, investment and economic relations between India and the European Union. It is a pleasure to see so many familiar faces here today, people I’ve met in India and in Belgium, and who all have one thing in common: a passion for strengthening the bond between our two countries.


In my foreign trade policy, India also occupies a special place. I personally headed missions to India in 2015, 2016 and earlier this year, together with many different Belgian companies and I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with top Indian political and business leaders, including President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi. All these missions and meetings proved time and again that we are on the same wavelength and attach great importance to our friendship and bilateral relations. All of our hard work in bringing even closer together our countries led us to an absolute highlight, the State Visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians to India last month.


State Visit India

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My expectations for this State Visit were high as my previous missions to India have not only been very successful but also showed me that there is a huge growth potential in our bilateral cooperation. In this context, I am also pleased to have contributed to the realization of the new direct connection between Brussels and Mumbai, as it considerably simplifies doing business. Indeed, some of you probably used it to attend this summit. In any case, it is clear to us all that India and Belgium have a lot to offer each other economically and that we benefit from a strengthened partnership.


Now back to the visit, and, ladies and gentlemen, what a visit it was! We left Brussels with a delegation of 175 persons, including a very extensive economic and academic delegation of approximately 100 persons, including 84 Belgian CEO’s. The central focus lay on the innovative partnership between India and Belgium in the 21st century and this element of innovation was particularly emphasized in the important economic part of the Visit.


Not only did the Visit went smoothly because of the exceptional hospitality and impeccable preparation of our Indian hosts, but also thanks to the fact that our countries demonstrate so many similarities and are often facing the same challenges. Our bond is unique. Today already, India is one of the most important non-European trading partners of Belgium. This country is the 2nd most important European exporter of goods to India with a 22% share and the 3rd most important European importer of Indian goods with a share of 11%. About 175 Belgian companies are active in India and about 80 Indian companies have activities in Belgium.


And their number will only increase in the following years and decades, as the common thread running through the entire State Visit was undoubtedly the many great ideas and projects I heard and witnessed, and the huge will of India to further expand its relations with Belgium and the European Union. Both our countries want to push the boundaries of innovation, in order to create new opportunities and prosperity for our peoples.


However, ladies and gentlemen, I do not only bring you a good news show. There is much work yet to be done. You all know that despite our strong economic bond, our trade today is still heavily dominated by diamond trading. So the most important economic objective of the State Visit probably was to explore new opportunities and in this way to diversify our economic cooperation. Don’t get me wrong, our exceptional cooperation in diamond trade is an excellent thing. Yet, is also makes us susceptible to fluctuations in this particular market. Of course we want to further promote diamond trade, but, at the same time, we aim at strengthening other sectors and establishing new forms of cooperation. Indian and Belgian companies have a unique knowhow and expertise in new sectors such as nanotech, renewable energy, biotech, cleantech, and information technologies, as well as in traditional sectors such as food processing, glass production, heavy industries, ports, railways, and so on. Opportunities are endless and to our mutual benefit and a close cooperation is made possible because the context in which Indian and Belgian companies operate, demonstrates many similarities. Both our economies are very open and strongly focused on foreign trade. We thank our prosperity to our geographical key position in the world and our smooth maritime connections and world ports. This also sharpened competition and forced our companies to innovate and to modernize, making them pioneers in so many different fields. Belgian companies want to be a part of the success story in projects as Make in India, Clean Ganga, Digital India, Smart Cities, and many more. And, as President Mahatma Gandhi once stated, there cannot be commerce without morality and this is exactly what Belgian companies in India are achieving. I was indeed impressed by the many Belgian success stories in India, including the personal reports of Belgian CEO’s  that have been presented to me during my visit to the Bombay Stock Exchange, where I also had the honor to ring the bell. We were able to launch many new projects during the Visit, including the 37 new contracts, memorandums of understanding and cooperation agreements signed during the Visit.


Furthermore, I took the opportunity to highlight the unique strengths of Belgium as an investment destination to the many Indian business leaders with whom I had the opportunity to exchange ideas. Belgium truly is “uniquely phenomenal” and we will continue to welcome not only new investors, but of course also the many Indians who want to discover the tourist assets of this country. Together with the CEO of Brussels Airport, Mr. Arnaud Feist, I therefore had a meeting with Indian Minister of Civil Aviation Raju to discuss a new connection between Brussels and Delhi. This would further simplify contacts between our countries and I am convinced of its great potential for both of us. I will continue to monitor this project closely and hope to see it materialize in the near future.


Unique historical bond

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished guests,

This State Visit not only focused on trade, but also on cooperation in other fields such as the diplomatic, academic, cultural and social ones. The Visit took place during the 70th anniversary of India’s independence and the launch of bilateral relations between Brussels and Delhi. Yet, our collective history truly began during the First World War. Almost 140 000 soldiers from India were sent to Europe during the war and most of these soldiers were deployed in the Ypres Salient and at nearby Neuve Chappelle in France. More than 9 000 Indian soldiers lost their lives in Flanders Fields and we will always keep their memory in our hearts. The commemoration of the First World War therefore held a special place in the Visit with a wreath laying ceremony and last post bugle call at the India Gate and the opening of the exhibition “India in Flanders Fields” in Delhi.


Another important part was  the academic cooperation. The rectors of all main Belgian universities took part in the Visit and signed a series of cooperation agreements with Indian research and academic institutions that lay the foundations for future innovative collaborations.


And finally, the cultural and social aspects of the Visit have been unique too. India is a country that continues to astonish and to stimulate people and all participants of the Visit were truly charmed by the warm people and unique cultures. People like the Belgian Sister Jeanne Devos, whose life’s work the King and Queen visited in Mumbai, or the people of the University of Hasselt who are working together with UNICEF to improve personal hygiene of children are but two examples of the many pioneers and bridge builders between India and Belgium. Their commitment is impressive and admirable.




Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished guests,


It is clear that I could go on for a while about the many achievements of this State Visit, yet the time has come to conclude these opening remarks. I thank you for this opportunity. The State Visit certainly was a highlight in our relationship, but not an end point. It must motivate us to further tighten our ties and this Summit is an excellent opportunity to realize this ambition. Let’s take the bull by the horns, just as I did at the entrance of the Bombay Stock Exchange.


Many thanks to the Europe India Chamber of Commerce for organizing this event and of course to all you for attending this summit and your important role in deepening, strengthening, and above all diversifying our relations. I encourage you to get the most out of this event and you can always count on me to support new ideas and projects and to search new ways to cooperate to our mutual benefit.


Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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