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The Netherlands expects Boao Forum to discuss global issues

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-04-08 11:31
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THE HAGUE - The Netherlands is expecting the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) conference to discuss global issues, share insights and make new contacts, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said ahead of his visit to China.

"Much like the annual (World Economic Forum) meetings in Davos, the Boao Forum provides an excellent platform to meet with leaders from governments, business, academia and think tanks and share insights on global issues," Rutte told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

He added that he is looking forward to meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping at the annual conference in China's southern island province Hainan, to be held from April 8-11.

While China is the world's second largest economy, the Netherlands is the 17th biggest. It is also an important trade partner for many Asian countries, said Rutte.

"International trade is vital to the Dutch economy. We earn 30 percent of our national income from exporting goods and services. A third of our jobs are related to international trade, either directly or indirectly, and foreign investment accounts for 1 million jobs in the Netherlands," Rutte said.

The Dutch prime minister said his country and China have a lot to offer each other.

"Because we face similar challenges: urbanization, an ageing population, sustainable development, green energy and food safety," he said. "The Netherlands has expertise in all these areas but we can learn a lot from China too."

On his third visit to China, Rutte is leading a giant trade mission comprising over 230 people from a "staggering" 165 companies and research institutions as well as the government.

"This visit is an excellent opportunity for companies to make new contacts and show where the Netherlands excels," he said. "Dutch companies are positive about doing business in China. And we're ready to welcome more Chinese companies to our country."

Over 1,000 Dutch companies are already present in China while more than 450 Chinese companies are active in the Netherlands. "For them, we're the gateway to Europe," he said, in a reference to the Port of Rotterdam and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

Rutte expects over 30 contracts and MoUs (memorandum of understanding) to be signed between Dutch and Chinese businesses during the mission, mostly in the fields of agrofood, horticulture, health, waste management and green transport.

Dutch companies are also keenly interested in the Belt and Road Initiative, especially since it involves enormous investment in infrastructure.

"This is where Dutch companies can assist China with their strong expertise in fields like maritime logistics and port development, as well as rail and road construction and sustainability," he said.

Proposed by China in 2013, the initiative aims to achieve infrastructure, trade and people-to-people connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes, building a new platform for international cooperation and new drivers of growth.

Last month, the first direct train connecting Amsterdam and Yiwu City in eastern China under the Belt and Road framework left the Dutch capital for the Chinese trading hub. A direct rail service linking Rotterdam and Tilburg in the Netherlands and Chengdu in southwest China has been in operation for nearly two years.

"I like to see this connection as a symbol of intensifying China-Dutch relations," Rutte said.

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