On June 18, Willy Borsus, Minister-President of Wallonia, addressed the AmCham Belgium community during a special luncheon sponsored by the Walloon Agency for Export and Foreign Investment (AWEX).
Mr. Borsus started his political career in 1989 as the Communal Councilor for Somme-Leuze. Ever since, he has held several different roles that paved the way for his current position as Minister-President of the Walloon Government. Borsus took over Wallonia’s leadership nearly one year ago, in July 2017. While the socio-economic situation in Wallonia has improved in recent months, the Minister-President continues to work diligently towards making the region more competitive.
“Is there a future for business in Wallonia?”, asked Borsus. To answer this question, the Minister-President explained the Walloon Government’s plans to attract and retain investment and to boost business dynamism. In talking about the future, Borsus set the scene by emphasizing the already significant relationship between Wallonia and the US, with US companies historically being some of the largest investors in the region.
Rather than talking at length about all of the reasons why Wallonia is attractive, Mr. Borsus strategically steered the discussion towards the ways in which key challenges are being addressed in order to make the region even more welcoming to foreign investors. “As Minister-President, I am aware that relying on one’s advantages is not sufficient. Most of them have to be amplified in order to be able to meet tomorrow’s demands”, he said.
Mobility, one of the main concerns cited by US companies in AmCham Belgium’s Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium, is a key focus area for the Walloon Government. They are addressing the problem with the Vision FAST mobility plan, which aims to reduce congestion on Walloon roads by combining different means of transportation for each trip, all while reducing the environmental footprint. This will be done in combination with a significant infrastructure investment plan.
Alongside improving the mobility issue, the Walloon government is dedicated to boosting economic activity in the region by investing €330 million in projects to restructure many of their business parks. In this context, the Minister-President emphasized his government’s commitment to improving the digital infrastructure in the region.
But the Walloon’s Government efforts do not stop there. Borsus continued by explaining that offering an attractive tax environment, tackling high energy costs and reducing the complexity of the country’s governance model are also at the forefront of his agenda. Moreover, creating a collaborative and forward-looking ecosystem by addressing the social climate is essential to both local and international companies, but especially to those looking to invest further. “There is a mutual responsibility between the social partners and the government to ensure dialogue and the prosperity of our country”, said Mr. Borsus.
In closing, the Minister-President briefly addressed the importance of free trade agreements, which, in his view, represent a significant opportunity for the region. Borsus thus encourages a strong international presence in Wallonia and is committed to creating the conditions for success.