Vragen voor Minister van Mobiliteit en Vervoer, Isabelle Durant

26 May 2014

Toespraak bij Opening Ceremony Chongqing Government Logistics Council Belgium Office

Dear Mr Dong (Deputy Secretary General Chongqing Municipal Government)
Dear Ms Yang (Deputy Director General CQ Economic and Informatization Commission)
Dear Ms He (Vice Director General CQ Foreign Trade & Economic Relations Commission)

Dear Mr Ambassador

Dear officials and business leaders form Chongqing and Antwerp,

As the vice governor of the province of Antwerp, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome all of you today for the official opening of the Chongqing Municipal Government Logistics Council Belgium Office. I’m pleased to see that so many government officials and company representatives from Chongqing are here to join us for this special occasion.

Last year, when I visited Chongqing for the first time, I was truly impressed by not only the enormous size of the municipality (as could be seen on the scale model in the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall), but also by the obvious ongoing economic improvement. Even though it was a rather short visit, I learned quite a lot about this fascinating metropole.
Everywhere I looked around, either bridges, skyscrapers or housing facilities were being built or renovated.
I believe that the importance of Chongqing will only grow, within China, as well as on international level. And the New Silk Road can play a major role in the realization of this growt.

During my stay in Chongqing, I attended the official meeting between Mayor Huang and our Minister President Peeters. As I recall, some of you were also there in that very same room. Mayor Huang expressed a strong believe in the cooperation between Chongqing and Flanders, but more specifically, he stressed the importance of the cooperation between the two sister provinces Chongqing and Antwerp. The topic of the New Silk Road was obviously high on his agenda, and I can only agree with on that. I have heard about the recent retirement of Mayor Huang, so as for his successor, I sincerely hope he will share Mayor Huangs vision and will continue the excellent work that he has started.

So far I have talked mainly about Chongqing and the value of the New Silk Road for the economic improvement of your municipality, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of the rail connection for our own province.
Just like Chongqing, Antwerp is an inland hub. But this doesn’t mean that our port can’t compete with the other Western European seaports. On the contrary, no other port is as centrally located in Europe as the port of Antwerp. Therefore it offers the fastest and cheapest connections with the European hinterland, as well as ecological advantages. The volume of freight passing through the port of Antwerp reached 190 million tonnes in 2013. This makes Antwerp the second largest port in Europe.
According to recent figures, every day 250 freight trains depart from Antwerp to about 70 different destinations in 19 countries. With the commercialization of the New Silk Road, this number will only increase. Many exporters located in the Antwerp region, have already expressed their interest to make a modal shift for exporting their goods to Chongqing, Russia or Kazakhstan. Therefore I’m convinced that a close cooperation between Chongqing and Antwerp will result in an economically viable business model for the rail connection.

The opening of the Chongqing Government Belgium office is in my view a confirmation of our past cooperation, and an commitment to continue and further deepen this cooperation.
Today we celebrate the opening of this one- or two-man office, but over the years I’m sure the Chongqing government will expand its business network in Antwerp, and will eventually outgrow our facilities here.
The presence of the Chongqing Government in Antwerp will be an important point of reference for many businesses from your municipality and we look forward to welcoming these enterprises to our province one day.

Ladies and gentleman, I will hereby give the floor to Mr Dong

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