BUILDING BRIDGES

Oman 2014 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment of the Netherlands, on the history between the two countries, regional prominence, and future agreements.

Melanie Schultz van Haegen
BIOGRAPHY
Melanie Schultz van Haegen has been Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment for the Netherlands since 2010. She previously served as State Secretary for Transport, Public Works, and Water Management from 2002 until 2007. She was also a Member of the House of Representatives in 2003. She retired from politics after the completion of her term as State Secretary in 2007 and became Corporate Director at the financial services company Achmea.

In April 2013, I paid a visit to Oman and saw with my own eyes just how strong and prosperous a country it was. It is a country boldly moving forward to consolidate its prominent position in the world market.

Around 250 years earlier, in 1763, Dutch sailor Cornelis Eyks of the Dutch East India Company wrote in his ship's log, “Muscat is considered to be the most powerful of the Arabian principalities." Even in those days, Dutch merchants recognised Muscat as a crossroads of global trade—a crossroads where the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa meet. At the time, the Dutch East India Company was the world's largest trading company. Engaging in trade and searching for new markets is what unites Oman and the Netherlands and drives our economies.

Since the days of Cornelis Eyks, trade relations between our two countries have grown ever stronger. As early as the 19th century Oman and the Netherlands signed a free trade agreement (FTA). Trade has continued to flourish thanks to the close relationship between Oman and the international port of Rotterdam, the largest port outside of Asia. Its prime geographical location makes Rotterdam the gateway to Europe—and its 500 million consumers—for oil, steel, and consumer goods.

“ Sohar's new port is actually a 50-50 joint venture between the Government of Oman and the Port of Rotterdam. "

Oman, too, has become a major player in its region, growing rapidly into a prominent trading nation. And as the country's seaports and airports expand at an unprecedented rate, Oman is looking to collaborate with experts from abroad—a challenge that a trading nation like the Netherlands, with its logistics knowledge and age-old maritime tradition, is keen to grasp with both hands.

Because, like Oman, we realise that in these turbulent times our lead could evaporate overnight, we must continue to invest in solid and efficient ports and infrastructure. This is especially important in transit countries like our own, with state-of-the-art multimodal connections to our hinterlands, which are vital to our economies.

If one thing has become clear in recent decades it is that we cannot go it alone in global trade. Countries like Oman and the Netherlands need to join forces and share knowledge with each other and with their partners around the world. Only then will we be able to stay ahead of the competition.

That is why I believe strong trade ties with Oman are so important—ties based on a long tradition of friendship and enterprise. And why I am stressing the importance of the Port of Rotterdam's involvement in the development of Oman's ports at Sohar and Duqm. Sohar's new port is actually a 50-50 joint venture between the government of Oman and the Port of Rotterdam, forming the gateway for the Netherlands to the Middle East and the rest of the Asian continent. Through collaboration of this kind, Oman and the Netherlands can maintain and consolidate their already strong position in logistics and supply chains.

Of course, trade cooperation between the two countries goes beyond logistics and port development. There are many more industries in which economic collaboration can open up new opportunities. Dozens of Dutch companies are already active in Oman, in everything from airport baggage handling, to desert water management, and waste processing, all areas in which the Netherlands is an international leader.

In 2014 and beyond, I am confident that Oman and the Netherlands will continue to invest in close and flourishing trade relations, just as they did in the 18th century, that not only foster innovation in logistics and supply chains, but also success in other sectors. In this way, Oman and the Netherlands can strengthen each other's economies even further and make our countries and people even more prosperous.