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Annual Dinner with Didier Reynders

Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, was the guest of honor at the 2015 edition of our Annual Dinner on December 15 in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. Over 180 guests from the US-Belgian international business community gathered to hear Minister Reynders speak on US-Belgian relations.

In his introductory remarks, AmCham Belgium’s President Howard Liebman highlighted how important it was for AmCham members to improve and counter the increasingly negative image of Belgium, as portrayed by many international media publications, to assure continued US and international investment in the country.

Starting his speech on the historical relations between the US and Belgium, Minister Reynders picked up on this and emphasized that Belgium is the place for doing business, thanks to the country’s central location on the European continent, to Belgium’s open and tolerant society and to the fact that the country’s economy is amongst the top three most open economies according to an EY study.

“Belgium has always worked closely with the United States and is therefore strongly committed to negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. As an outward-looking country, we thrive on exchanges and free trade, and the dismantling of protectionist barriers and are therefore staunch defenders of TTIP,” said Minister Reynders.

The Minister also reminded the audience that one of Belgium’s strongest assets is to be part of the largest trading bloc in the world, the European Union, and he briefly addressed the genuine concerns raised by the public, such as the lack of transparency of the negotiations. He stressed that it was important for the US and Europe to come to an agreement, in order for the two blocs to have a strong partnership before starting worldwide trade negotiations. As Minister Reynders said, “Ultimately, what we want is a better worldwide system for trade benefiting each and every state. We believe that TTIP, which will help raising the global standards, is a step in this direction.”

Mr. Reynders also illustrated the US-Belgian trade relation with some impressive figures. Total US investments in Belgium stand for no less than $48 billion and the US provide almost 130,000 jobs within Belgium. The thriving bilateral trade between both countries in 2014 came to $62 billion for goods and services combined. And the US remains Belgium’s fifth export destination worldwide and the first destination outside the European Union.

Finally, Minister Reynders concluded that the US-Belgian business community “should be proud of [its] close alliance and we should cherish the people and the companies that contribute to our successful relations on the ground, day by day.” He highlighted that this does not only contributes to government revenue and the creation of jobs, but also leads to many “projects benefitting the well-being of the Belgian people,” as demonstrated by AmCham Belgium’s latest policy publication “The Importance of US Companies: Community Impact.”

The full text of the Minister’s speech ‘Belgium-US relations, tracking the outlook’ can be found on Mr. Reynders website.

Thank you to Brussels Airlines for donating two round-trip economy class tickets from Brussels to any of their US continental destinations, and congratulations to the winner, John Largent, of Magic Monkey!