The Business Year

Pieter De Crem

UAE, SHARJAH - Diplomacy

Right Place, Right Time

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Belgium


Pieter De Crem is the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade of Belgium.

Pieter De Crem, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade of Belgium on the importance of trade between the two regions, the importance of Belgian firms in Emirate, and the role of international trade in building up technical and intellectual capacity.

We attach great importance to this nation and region, and this is not only for economic reasons. The United Arab Emirates form a rather small country, but one that leaves a strong mark on world events, just like Belgium. The UAE is very important to us as a basis of stability, prosperity, development, and progress in the Arab World, a world that is currently facing many challenges.

Our cities, countries, and regions enjoy very close trade relations. The UAE is a major hub in international trade and thanks to its visionary leaders, the nation is known in the entire world as a success story of innovation, entrepreneurship, and development, symbolized by its impressive structures. Furthermore, there are multiple global events planned, like the World Expo in 2020, which will only strengthen this reputation. I am speaking from experience as the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels meant a huge boost for the image of our country. I am confident that it will mean the same for the United Arab Emirates.

The relations between the UAE and Belgium have always been excellent. The Belgian community in the UAE is the largest in the Gulf Region, with about 3,000 Belgians living and working here. Within the European Union, Belgium is the fifth major exporter of goods to the UAE and the largest importer of goods from the UAE. At a global level, the United Arab Emirates are our nineteenth largest customer and our 21st-largest supplier, ranking just after Canada and preceding Brazil. This makes the United Arab Emirates by far our most important trading partner in the Arab World. The main commercial trade domain is that of diamonds, both in terms of imports and exports. Another important area is gas and oil trade, where Belgian companies play an important role in the development of new infrastructure. Regarding water supply, our country has great knowledge and experience with desalination. In the construction and building sector, we have a very long history of cooperation, as it was the Belgian company BESIX (Six Construct) that realized the Corniche of Abu Dhabi in 1965. Electrabel GFD Suez is involved in building the power plant in Taweelah, Dredging International and Jan de Nul have helped to realize the changes to the shoreline, Belgian luxury products can be found in the country’s malls, and Belgian expertise is used in the medical sector, as well as in dozens of other sectors. In Belgium, we have the presence of the chemical group Borealis-Borouge, Abu Dhabi Investment authority, JFB-RAK, ATS Logistics, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines, and so on.

This region is full of energy and life, with a strong sense of entrepreneurship, which also strongly characterizes Belgium. Our companies have an extensive experience in this region; they possess high-tech knowledge in the logistics, construction, and petroleum sectors. They bring innovation into the local economy, as demonstrated by so many success stories. It is clear that this country offers many possibilities to Belgian companies, just as Belgium offers many interesting opportunities to businesses from the UAE. I am convinced that the constructive cooperation will only continue to grow in the 21st century and I am looking forward to the results of the UAE’s strategy to become one of the world’s most innovative nations within seven years. Belgian companies can make a significant contribution in achieving those objectives.



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