Wealthy Belgium in town this week
As Sri Lanka-Belgium bilateral trade closes in on $ One Billion mark for the first time, Sri Lanka’s 11th largest global trade partner and also the first ranked country in Europe for logistics investments and distribution in Europe, Belgium, is readying to expand trade and investment partnership with Sri Lanka in a significant manner.
“We warmly welcome the first ever Wallonian business and investment delegation to Sri Lanka this week led by AWEX. This is also a major development in Sri Lanka – Belgium relations which goes back to 1864” stressed Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce on 03 December.
Wallonia, called as the ‘heart’ of Europe and located at ‘the crossroads of the most advanced region of Western Europe’ claiming one fifth of Belgium’s GDP, is the wealthy southern region of Belgium. Having access to the huge 375 Million European consumer market within an eight hours’ drive, Wallonia has the densest multimodal communication infrastructure and the densest road network infrastructure in the world, and has set a new target to become Europe's most attractive logistics hub by 2020.
• Bilateral trade now reaching $ One Bn, up by 47% in 2011
• ‘Major development in Lanka-Belgium trade relations’ –Minister Rishad
• Medal winning Suinen leading the team
• First top delegation ever from the primary industrial & modern logistics centre of all of Europe
Wallonia is served by four airports and is the platform of upcoming high speed cargo train Carex, scheduled to commence operations in 2015. Wallonia’s Foreign Trade and Investment Agency (AWEX) is the Belgium government’s powerful arm in charge of economic development of Wallonia across the globe. This week’s delegation is led by Philippe Suinen, the medal winning and widely known CEO of AWEX. Also in the delegation are reps from the private sector, Lierge Airport (the seventh biggest cargo airport in Europe), and several AWEX officials including the Trade Commissioner Ms Kathlijin Fruith.
The known Sri Lanka – Belgium relations stretch as far back as 1864 when Duke of Brabant of Belgium (King Leopold II later) was invited to inaugurate the first train in Sri Lanka.
According to the Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka’s trade with Belgium has shown an upward trend for the last few years. The total trade turnover, which stood at US$645.36 Mn in 2010, has increased by 47% to $ 951.98 Mn in 2011.
Sri Lanka has had a favorable balance of trade with Belgium over the years. Diamonds play a key role in bilateral trade with more than 23% of exports and 86% of imports to and from Belgium in 2010. The other main items of exports are gloves, mittens and mitts, T-shirts, singlet and vests, women's / girls' suits, ensembles, and jackets. Other items of imports from Belgium are tobacco, medicaments, plates, sheets and strip of plastics and woven fabrics of cotton.
In November 2010, 50 representatives from 40 Belgium firms visited Sri Lanka for the ‘Belgium Business Week’. Minister Bathiudeen led a business delegation from Sri Lanka to Belgium in November 2011. In March this year, 29 Belgian Business reps visited the Expo 2012 exhibition held in Colombo.
- Asian Tribune -