(Tekst beschikbaar alleen in het Engels)
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having been to India many times since more than twenty years, I can tell you India is one of the most fascinating places in the world and one of the world's most dynamic economies. You, our Indian friends, are recognized as a major global player, and as a strong force for development and stability in the region. Your economy shows great resilience and has weathered the crisis remarkably well. The policy of inclusive growth now being pursued by the government, is supported by substantial public investment and, equally, by the firm commitment of Indian private enterprise.
Indian companies are highly successful, not just in India or South Asia, but increasingly on the world stage. Indeed, a recent study affirms that "The world is becoming the oyster for the Indian private sector". The bold new Government policies, and the vibrant outlook of India's business development, constitute the two main reasons for our visit to your country today. With all these strong assets India has on offer, it will come as no surprise that I am accompanied by a substantial number of Belgian companies.
Close cooperation between India and Belgium is not new. It has steadily expanded since the 1960s, to such an extent that Belgium is now one of your main European trading partners. We have the diamond sector to thank for that, in the first place. It remains the mainstay of our trade flows, and it is driven by the very creative and active Indian community in Antwerp. Other strong Belgian sectors also focus on India : textile, steel, engineering, pharmaceuticals, technology. They have formed successful joint ventures and continue to expand their investments.
The visit of the King and Queen, my parents, one and a half years ago, gave an additional impetus to more intensive and diversified ties between India and Belgium.
And during our stay, we will witness the signature of at least thirty new business agreements between Indian and Belgian companies, both here in Delhi and in Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore. I am particularly delighted with these signings, for they constitute important new advances in our economic partnership.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have mentioned why Belgian companies are eager to come to India.
I am sure our Indian friends will accept that I also take a few minutes to expand on what my country, Belgium, can mean for the Indian business community.
I do not need to dwell in detail on Belgium's most notable assets as a global economic player :
What I would like to highlight, however, is a feature we are particularly proud of, and that is : our position as a hub for Research and Development.
In terms of research and product development, Belgium is considered by many as an ideal test market for new products. That is due to our assets in terms of education, technology and productivity, but also to the fact that our country is a compact consumer market very focused on quality. Major multinationals such as Procter & Gamble, Google, Microsoft, Audi, GlaxoSmithKline all have operations in Belgium focusing on new product lines or on innovation and research.
These big operators are supported by hundreds of smaller enterprises who, because of their size, have the creativity and the flexibility to cater for any quality and efficiency requirement. That is especially the case in areas like green energy and technology, IT, telecom, engineering and biotechnology. In biopharma, Belgium is recognized by the OECD as having the highest per capita innovation effort in Europe.
I would therefore encourage our Indian friends whose ambition it is to develop new products for global markets, to look at Belgium as a privileged partner in research, development and market analysis. With the other assets I have mentioned, our country is a highly desirable location for new business activities, especially to those of you who consider approaching the European market with its 500 million customers.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The prospects for very close cooperation between India and Belgium are numerous and exciting. They bode well for the future.
My warmest thanks to all our Indian partners, and especially to the organizers of this important luncheon, for their eagerness to work together with Belgium, and for their generous hospitality.
I wish you every success and happiness.