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Didier Reynders clashes with Flanders and Wallonia on foreign trade

17th January 2013, Comments0 comments


The promotion of foreign investment and trade is a regional power. The federal government supports the regions in this task, but should leave the initiative to the regional players like Flanders Investment and Trade FIT. Federal minister of foreign affairs Didier Reynders MR ignores this fact in his latest policy note, which calls for the creation of a new foreign affairs function, namely advisors in economic diplomacy. He further calls for business councils providing a local network of key economic contacts at Belgian embassies. Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V expressed his fears in the Flemish Parliament about this being an effort to create diplomatic duplication for the regional diplomacy that will fragment rather than unite resources. “We make huge efforts to attract as much foreign investment as possible. In 2011 I spent 46 days on economic missions and this year I will be on the road more than 40 days. Flemish exports to BRIC countries Brazil, Russia, India and China have increased, making the federal government’s presence on regional territory redundant,” he says. In response, Reynders’ spokesperson pointed to the fact that “Walloon, Brussels and Flemish business leaders themselves requested it, saying, “The minister or an ambassador could open many doors”. Even though Peeters doesn't deny this, he calls Reynders' initiative a “territorial war without added value and a waste of energy and money”. Walloon foreign trade minister Jean-Claude Marcourt PS fully supports his stance. “He’s trying to use his business councils to imperceptibly usurp our tasks. There has been no consultation whatsoever on the matter,” says Marcourt’s chief of office Juilien Compère. “Together with Kris Peeters and Brussels economy minister Benoît Cerexhe CDH we will take a stand on this.”

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