Kris Peeters, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs, was the guest of honor at our 2018 Annual Dinner held on June 19 at the Crowne Plaza Brussels Airport Hotel. Members of the international business community gathered to hear Minister Peeters speak about how to keep US-Belgian trade relations on track in times of turmoil.
The Minister started his keynote speech by praising Belgium’s open economy, which is fueled by international trade and investments, and drives welfare and prosperity. However, nowadays this open economy is threatened by an increase of unilateral actions that distort trade.
The US tariffs on steel and aluminum are a major concern to Belgian and European governments. According to Mr. Peeters, the tariffs are “the wrong answer to the right question” – the right question being how to deal with overproduction of steel and aluminum on the global market. The Minister stressed that new trade barriers can never be the solution: “20th century protectionism … has no place in the 21st century global economy”. He stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation and called upon all involved to work together towards common solutions, avoiding a trade war. “Transatlantic cooperation has always been a win-win relationship, and never a zero-sum game”.
“Transatlantic cooperation has always been a win-win relationship and never a zero-sum game. The era of global growth is at risk of collapse if unilateral actions become the norm.” @AmChamBE
— Kris Peeters (@peeters_kris1) June 19, 2018
The Minister welcomed AmCham Belgium’s Year of Logistics initiative, as this sector will be one of the first to be hit by protectionism. Belgium has a lot to offer to logistics companies, but the country needs to respond to changing patterns of work and consumption. The Belgian Government has already taken steps to tackle the challenges that this industry faces, including specific reforms to facilitate ecommerce and nightwork.
In times of turmoil on the international scene, the Belgian Government strongly believes in the power of the European Union: “It’s at times like these that the true value of a strong and united EU is shown”, Mr. Peeters said, stressing the EU’s commitment to open a genuine dialogue on bilateral trade, which is needed to avoid further uncertainty and prevent the outbreak of a global trade war.
To conclude, the Minister thanked AmCham Belgium members for being important job creators, investors and innovators in Belgium. He also expressed his gratitude for the Chamber’s continuous efforts to boost cooperation between our two countries.
Thank you to Brussels Airlines for donating two round-trip tickets from Brussels to the US, and congratulations to the winner, Benjamin Baelus of AbbVie!