7TH ECONOMIC FORUM “BELGIUM LUXEMBOURG ARAB COUNTRIES” (Brussels – 06 November 2012)
Guest of Honour: H.E. Mr. Benoît CEREXHE, Minister of Economy, Employment, Scientific Research and Foreign Trade of the Brussels Capital Region.
Held under the patronage of H.E. Mr Etienne SCHNEIDER, Minister of Economy & Foreign Trade of Luxembourg
On the 6th of November, the ABLCC organized the 7th edition of the Economic Forum for Belgium, Luxemburg and Arab Countries under the title “New Business Environment in the Arab Countries” at the PNB Paribas Fortis premises in Brussels. This year’s edition of the forum focused on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, infrastructure investment and renewable energy.
While pointing out that Belgium-Arab trade statistics reflect an increasingly improving trade relation Mr. Johan Beerlandt, Chairman of the ABLCC, greatly emphasized the need for the forging of a strong partnership between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Arab world. According to H.E. Mrs. Nabila Al-Mulla, Ambassador of Kuwait and Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps in Belgium, the renewable energy sector in particular is offering valuable opportunities for such mutually beneficial cooperation, with Belgium offering extensive technological expertise and investment opportunities in the green soaring in the Arab world. Minister-Counsellor of the Luxembourg Embassy H.E. Mr. Jean-Claude Meyer pointed out that there is ample potential for further developing Arab-Luxembourg trade relations.
Keynote speakers during the first session, dealing with the need for renewable energy in the Arab world and moderated by Mr. Ghassan Ejjeh, Vice President of Besix, included Mr. Abdullah Al Gahtani, who spoke about the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Khalid Al-Hajri, Chairman of Qatar Solar Technologies, who informed the public about the new opportunities generated by Qatar’s transition towards solar energy.
Moving to the topic of infrastructure investment in the Arab world, Mr. Patrick Wilmart, Commercial Director at Tractebel Engineering, talked about the development of energy and water infrastructures in the Arab world, while Mrs. Joyce Choukri, Marketing Officer of RAK Free Zone, outlined the possibilities for investing and starting up business in Ras Al-Khaima, one of the United Arab Emirates.
During the closing session on PPP and Trade Financing in the GCC, which was moderated by Mr. Fouad Trad, CEO of Byblos Bank Europe, Mr. Frank Haak, Senior Regional Manager at BNP Paribas Fortis, took the public through recent trends occurring in the trade finance business in the GCC, while Mr. Nick Tabone, Audit Partner for Deloitte Luxembourg, gave a very informative presentation on PPP investments in the Arab world. Before the numerous participants to the forum took place at the lunch table, where dialogue and discussion on business opportunities in the Arab countries were continued over a networking lunch, Mr. Robert Edge, Business Development Manager of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, continued on the same topic, illustrating the use of the PPP model in Bahrain.
VISIT OF IRAQI MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT (Brussels – 27 September 2012)
On the 27th of September, the ABLCC welcomed a delegation of Iraqi MP’s to talk about Iraqi-Belgian commercial relations and the prospects offered by the Iraqi market. Lauding the recent improvement of Iraqi-Belgian commercial relations Mr. Hijazin, Secretary-General of the ABLCC, pointed out that Belgian exports to Iraq are on the rise, amounting to an estimated € 94 million in 2011, compared to €75 million in 2010. The most important Belgian export products to Iraq include machinery and electrical equipment, products of chemical industries, prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco and base metals and articles.
According to H.E. MR Saqid Humadi Al-Rikabi, Member of the Committee of Foreign Relations and Head of the Iraqi delegation, Iraq, in need of large scale infrastructure development, has significant investment opportunities on offer. Underlining the fact that in business, the greatest benefits befall those who are quick and prepared to work in an environment that is not entirely free of risk, Mr. Al-Rikabi expressed the wish to see a swift strengthening of Belgium-Iraqi economic relations.
SEMINAR "NEW BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT IN THE ARAB COUNTRIES (Brussels – 27 September 2012)
On the 27th of September, the ABLCC organized a seminar on the topic of the “New Business Environment in the Arab Countries” in cooperation with SGS Belgium NV. After a warm word of welcome pronounced by SGS Executive Director Mr. Wim Van Loon, the Secretary-General of the ABLCC, Mr. Qaisar Hijazin, started out by underlining the special commercial relationship that exists between Belgium and the Arab world. Referring to commercial figures per capita, Mr. Hijazin pointed out that Belgian export to the Arab world greatly surpasses that of other EU countries. Moreover, statistics show that the total volume of Belgian-Arab trade increased by 21% in 2011 compared with 2010, reaching €17.5 billion.
H.E. Dr. Montaser Oklah Al Zoubi, Ambassador of Jordan in Belgium, then gave an interesting outline of the impact of the Arab Spring on the Middle East and Jordan in particular. Mr. Ambassador identified a sharp decline in the touristic sector as one of the most hard felt direct consequences of the regional turmoil on Jordanian economy. Jordan is also struggling with rising prices due to globalized economy, poverty, high unemployment and corruption. Nevertheless, referring to the quick steps for genuine reform that have been taken by the king, the Ambassador feels his country can be seen as a model for successful reform. He concluded by urging those present to keep in mind that “challenge, in the language of businessmen, means opportunity.”
Through an outline on the 2010-2014 public investment plan in Algeria, participants were then informed about the development of the Algerian projects market. Focusing on both ongoing and future projects, the Algerian authorities are investing a total amount of USD 286 billion in human development, infrastructure, industry and energy, agriculture and rural development, central and local administration, water resources and scientific research. In combination with a fast-growing population and economy, significant cash reserves and the relatively stable political climate that is enjoyed in the country since May’s legislative elections, this 5-year investment plan is set to make Algeria one of the most attractive markets outside the GCC for firms worldwide.
Moreover, several business representatives, including Mrs. Mireille Janssens of ONDD, Mr. Cédric Ongena of Dredging International, Mr. Guy Ceunen of Qatar Airways and Mr. Peter Van Blanckenberg of SGS Belgium NV, gave an outline of the services offered by their companies to firms that are (interested in becoming) active in the Arab world.
Finally, the concluding reception allowed all participants to engage in networking and to continue discussing the interesting subjects touched upon during the seminar./p>
ALGERIA : 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INDEPENDENCE (27 June)
On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the independence of Algeria, the Arab-Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce organized on 27th June 2012 a lunch conference during which H.E. Mr Amar BENDJAMA, Ambassador of Algeria in Brussels, delivered a speech on the topic :" Algeria: 50 years after the Independence : Assessment and Perspectives" with the participation of representatives of Foreign Trade Agencies and of a large number of Belgian companies members of our Chamber, which are active on the Algerian market.
His Excellency has given an outline of Algeria during those 50 years stressing on the long way carried out via the reform committed in the economical and political fields, reminding that Algeria now counts at least 20 universities vs only 1 before the Independence, which makes a total of 1.000.000 students of which 60% are girls.
As to politics, Mr Ambassador has reminded that free legislative elections took place last May under the supervision of independent observants of which 150 Europeans and that the new parliament includes around 27% of women.
As to the economic field, Mr Ambassador has underlined the importance of the Algerian economy, 2nd rank on the African continent with a PIB of about 264 billions $ and a growth rate of the order of 4%. Besides, the government has launched a program of economic development covering all sectors (infrastructure, transport, lodging, health, electricity, etc..) and amounting to around 220 billions $ within 2016.
His Excellency has urged the Belgian companies to be more active on the Algerian market and to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this booming market.
The total exchange between the two countries reached 2,5 billions $ in 2011.
Finally, Mr Ambassador has pointed out the very good political relations between Belgium and Algeria and has announced the next visit to Algeria of H.E. Mr Didier Reynders, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
LUNCH CONFERENCE WITH H.E. Mr Sulaiman AL MAZROUI, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (May 22)
The ABLCC organized on 22th May 2012 a lunch-conference with H.E. Mr Sulaiman AL MAZROUI, Ambassador of the UAE to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU on the theme of "The UAE : your strategic business partner".
This successful event was organized on the occasion of the Annual General Assembly meetings of the Chamber and was attended by many Arab Ambassadors, the members of the Arab and Belgo-Lux. Board of Directors and representatives of the Belgian government and Belgian and International companies and organizations.
H.E.M. Ambassador underligned the economic development of the UAE during the last 40 years and the very high level of development in the country in various fields. He urged Belgian and Luxembourg companies to invest more in the UAE markets and to benefit of advantages offered by the country in order to attract the foreign investments.
Mr Ambassador expressed his great satisfaction to notice that UAE ranks first Belgium's most important commercial partner with a total of imports and exports of about 4,7 billion EUR in 2011, i.e. an increase by almost 50% compared to 2010.
ALGERIAN DAY (17 April)
On the 17th of April, the ABLCC, in collaboration with Brussels Invest and Export and the CBL-ACP and with the support of the Algerian Embassy in Brussels, organized an "Algerian Day" in which more than 40 Algerian companies participated. Offering participants an insight into the most recent information about Algerian-Belgian trade and investment opportunities, the Algerian Day proved to be an excellent opportunity for stakeholders from all sides to strenghten the already mutually beneficial Belgium and Luxemburg-Algerian partnership.
During the plenary session, many high level representatives from Belgium and Algeria, including Mr Medjekouh, Vice President of the Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mr Demaegh of the Brussels Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade, referred to the excellent relationship that exists between both countries on an economical as well as on a cultural and interpersonal level. Focusing on the importance held by politics in economical matters, Mr Belgaid, representing H.E. Amar Bendjama, Ambassador of Algeria, emphasized the fact that significant reforms are being taken to enhance the Rule of Law in Algeria, making the country an even more attractive partner for collaboration.
The particulars of Algerian-Belgian trade and investment opportunities were disclosed to the participants by experts from both countries. Ranking 7th amongst Algeria's most important import partners, Belgium imported $ 2.475 billion worth of Algerian products in2011, the energy and lubricants sector being responsible for the bulk of revenues with $ 2.258 billion. Belgian exports to Algeria reached $ 814.252 million in the same year, with alimentation, industrial equipment and semi products as most important industries.
During the afternoon session, all participants were offered the opportunity to engage in B2B networking.
LUNCH CONFERENCE WITH HE Mr Kris PEETERS, MINISTER-PRESIDENT OF THE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT (16th February)
"The Economic potential of Flanders and the Opportunities with the Arab countries"
The ABLCC organized on 16th February 2012 a lunch conference with H.E. Mr Kris PEETERS, Minister-President of the Flemish Government on "The Economic potential of Flanders and the Opportunities with the Arab countries"
To our great pleasure, many Arab Ambassadors and representatives of Belgian, International companies and organizations attended this gathering.
The Secretary General initiated the lecture by welcoming the participants then he spoke about the economic development in the Arab countries. He pointed out that the Arab world is considered as a growth engine for the global economy, especially in the fields of infrastructure and industrialisation. Belgium is an important trade partner for the Arab countries as shown in the increase of imports and exports. The Secretary General related that the label "Made in Belgium" in the Arab world is a symbol for quality and professionalism.
Mrs Claire TILLEKAERTS, CEO of Flanders Investment and Trade, spoke on behalf of H.E. Mr Kris PEETERS and fully agreed that a more intensive partnership between Belgium and Arab countries could only be beneficial for both parties.
She emphasized the quality of Belgium as a dynamic and open community. Belgium notably has risen from 6th to 4th place in Ernst & Young's annual globalisation index, which measures the openess of the 60 largest economies in the world. The ranking is based on 5 criteria : trade, capital movements, technology, foreign staff and cultural integration. Belgium has improved in almost all of them.
The CEO of FIT mentioned two examples of the current ties between Belgium and the Arab countries. In Libya, Belgium is helping to rebuild the country's infrastructure. There are already several Belgian hospitals where heavy wounded victims are treated. In the Flemish city of Genk, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) the Saudi Arabian company that ranks as one of the fifth largest petrochemical enterprises worldwide, established its largest "greenfield" compound factory.
We have to mention also the large investments of Kuwait Petroleum (Q8) on the site of Antwerp with the installation of 24 new oil storage tanks with a capacity of 36 million liters.
The two cases illustrate how the collaboration between Belgium and the Arab countries is "a two-way street" and she ended by stating that she feels sure such strong partnerships help to create a more prosperous world.
ARAB BELGIAN DIPLOMATIC WORKSHOP (2nd February)
The ABLCC organized on 2nd February the 3rd Arab Belgian Diplomatic Workshop with the participation of the Belgian Ambassadors accredited in the Arab countries, the Arab Ambassadors in Belgium and the members of our Chamber.
This meeting has been organized on the occasion of the Diplomatic Days and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Given the evolution of the situation in numerous Arab countries, we have thought it might be useful to know the points of view of the Belgian diplomats on the development opportunities of the relations with the Arab countries.
The Belgian Ambassadors in Kuwait, Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (namely Messrs Angelet, Ardui, Nève de Mevergnies and Vinck) have given an outline of the situation in the Arab countries following the political changes in those countries.
Besides, they have pointed out the importance of the economic and commercial relations between Belgium and the Arab countries and the positive evolution of the commercial exchanges on both sides.
They have invited the Belgian companies to develop more thoroughly their cooperation with their Arab partners and to take advantage of the opportunities offered by those markets in all the sectors. They have insisted on the good reputation of Belgium and its products on the Arab markets.
The workshop has been followed by a networking reception offered by our partner, LINKLATERS.