The Business Year

Lilianne Ploumen

UAE, DUBAI - Diplomacy

Working Forward

Minister, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Bio

Lilianne Ploumen was appointed Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in the Rutte-Asscher government in November 2012 and was Chair of the Labour Party (PvdA) from October 2007 to January 2012. Minister Ploumen brings her a wealth of experience in non-profit organizations before joining government and served as Head of Quality and Strategy for the development organization Cordaid as well as founding Ploumen Projecten, an organization specializing in market research and innovation for commercial and non-profit clients. Minister Ploumen previously held the position of Vice Chair of the Evert Vermeer Foundation, and was a member of the Labour Party’s South-North Committee (advising on international cooperation). She has also been a board member of feminist organization Opzij and Women Inc., as well as a member of the Stop Aids Now! supervisory board.

TBY talks to Lilianne Ploumen, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on collaboration between the two states and the idea of trilateral cooperation.

How is the Netherlands strengthening its trade relationship with the UAE?

One could say that we want to strengthen our relationship with the more traditionally important sectors of the economy; however, we are also interested in the strategy of the Emirates to diversify its economy and to look for innovation. What I find interesting is that the authorities look for innovation within the traditional oil and gas sector, but they are also looking to invest in renewable energy. Investing in renewables is about investing in the hardware and technology, yet also in investing in changing the mindset of the people. When you are as resource rich as the Emirates, the first challenge is to acknowledge that you need diversification in order to keep up a strong economy for the longer term, which Dubai did.

How would you describe the opportunity for further collaboration between the Netherlands and the UAE in the agriculture sector?

We are the second largest exporter of agricultural goods on a global scale. Of course, we have strong ties to the Emirates in that sector, but there are still many opportunities in the areas of fresh fruits, for example, and other places where we have not really explored the market enough to take all the opportunities. Here is a well-developed market with a strong demand for quality products and also the logistics are well organized, which makes an excellent market for our fresh fruits and vegetables.

Is the UAE important as a place to offset the effects of the EU sanctions on Russia concerning agricultural products?

Yes. Regardless of the sanctions, we are always looking for new markets and opportunities for deepening our relationships with international markets. Our agricultural market has felt some impact, albeit minimal, from the sanctions. The agricultural sector has managed to look for new markets, meaning all in all the numbers game is still good. Obviously, the UAE represents a good opportunity for us for future collaboration. In October 2015, there will be a trade mission with agricultural companies coming here, and I believe that would be a good moment for Dutch companies to look into more specific opportunities here as well as to team up with businesses already present here.

What opportunities exist for collaboration with the UAE in the distribution and development of international humanitarian aid?

It is right to say that the UAE is one of the key players on the humanitarian development front. Actually, in 2014, it ranked first in the world, which is a wonderful achievement and I am glad that it is interested to work with us and continue its successes along the lines of trilateral cooperation. I believe the days of the concept of a donor-recipient paradigm are more or less over. We want to look at how we can work together using a new model. For the Emirates and us to work in a third country would be interesting; for example, we could work together in Africa, Asia, or even the Pacific. Equally important to trilateral cooperation is knowledge exchange. A new kid on the block always sees new things that you don’t see. And so, we invited the UAE to give its perspective on how The Netherlands is doing and I think that’s the way we should proceed. The humanitarian efforts that it is making in the region are also appreciated and we work with them through the UN channel, which is best positioned to coordinate humanitarian operations. It is good to know what the others are doing, looking at the gaps, and not doubling efforts. We want to continue to work with the UAE, the UN, and other key donors to achieve our humanitarian aid objectives.

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