Trade mission seeks closer ties between China, Belgium

Updated: 2011-10-21 10:53

By Fu Jing (

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BRUSSELS-- On Friday, about 500 Belgian businessmen have started their partners-seeking missions in five cities in China to strengthen bilateral economic and trade relations.

The trade mission is led by Prince Philippe and is scheduled to visit Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai until Oct 29. Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping is to meet Philippe, according to his spokesman Michel Malherbe.

In Southwest China's Chongqing, Philippe will attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate a direct cargo rail route linking the city and Antwerp. The rail route is expected to boost trade ties between West China and Europe.

"This will be Belgium’s biggest trade mission this year," spokesman Malherbe told China Daily in an interview, adding the country had already arranged trade missions to Russia and United States earlier this year.

The mission is part of the two country’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Bernard Dewit, chairman of Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce said the tours, amid worsening European debt crisis, will help European investors gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities in China.

"Of course, all of the exchanges will help boost confidence and trust of both Chinese and European investors towards each other at this particular moment," said Dewit, whose organization has been involved in the arrangement of the 10-day business tours.

The mission to China occurs every three years. This year, the tours take place amid with the EU Summit on Sunday, the 14th Sino-EU summit next week and G20 summit in early November. The political gatherings aim to regain confidence and trust towards a global economic recovery.

Rudi Thomaes, CEO of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (VBO), said the objectives of the mission are threefold. First, Belgium will introduce companies to China to establish business partners. Second, it will improve relations between Belgian companies and their clients, partners, and suppliers. Finally, the businessmen will negotiate and sign contracts.

"There are many opportunities for Belgian companies in China and this year we put the emphasis on ecological solutions," said Thomaes, naming water purification, air purification, polluted soil purification, renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling on the wish list.

For Belgium, increased Chinese investment is also very important and an example of this is the Volvo factory in Gent. "This new wave of investment is comparable to the American influx in the 1960s and 1970s," said Thomaes. "The only thing that has changed is the nationality of investors."

He said Chinese investors are more than welcome to Belgium. "It is clear that they have had a positive influence in Europe… We should be optimistic, not pessimistic about Chinese investment in Belgium," said Thomaes.