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Oman 2015 | DUQM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and European Affairs of Belgium, on bilateral relations and maritime cooperation between the two states.

HE Didier Reynders
BIOGRAPHY
HE Didier Reynders is a Belgian politician and a member of the Mouvement Réformateur. He was the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Institutional Reforms in the Van Rompoy government, which took office on December 30, 2008. He was born in Liège as the youngest in a family of three children. He studied law at the University of Liège, and from 1986 to 1991 served as Chairman of the NMBS/SNCB. He is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, after serving as Finance Minister since 1999 and has been Deputy Prime Minister since 2004.

How would you assess the bilateral relations between Belgium and Oman?

Over the years, Belgium and Oman have developed an excellent and strong relationship, which we maintain through regular high-level political contacts, and to which the cordial bonds between our Royal Houses contribute as well. Increasing business flows underscore the growing importance of our relations. However, a strong relationship is just as much built on people working toward achieving common goals. Therefore, it was a great pleasure to see a small but growing, dedicated and happy Belgian community contributing to the realization of Oman's development plans during my latest visit to Oman, in company of HRH Princess Astrid and Belgian businesspeople.

HRH Princess Astrid, Representative of HM King Philippe of the Kingdom of Belgium, has recently visited the Sultanate. What were the main highlights of this event?

Every year, Belgian federal and federated entities organize four economic missions abroad together. These missions introduce businesspeople to new markets, facilitate partnerships, and can boost bilateral trade substantially. Traditionally, these missions are presided over by the Crown Prince. But Crown Prince Philippe became King Philippe in 2013. Hence, in March 2014, HRH Princess Astrid, as representative of the King, lead an important delegation of 200 businessmen and women to Oman. This demonstrates the great interest from Belgian companies to do business in Oman. I am certain the royal welcome we received, the promising contacts we had and the interesting sites we visited, have made a positive impression and will entice more businesspeople to consider Oman as a partner.

The delegation visited Muscat and Duqm. Of course, the port of Duqm is an exceptional project and it comes as no surprise that the visit to the site was an absolute highlight. The sheer ambition of the endeavor, combined with the potential of the project for the overall development of Oman and even the region is just fascinating. I visited the site in 2012 and the progress that has been made is remarkable. I am proud that through our companies involved, Belgian expertise is contributing in such a significant way to the development of the port.

Can you elaborate on the importance of the Port of Antwerp's involvement in the development of the Port of Duqm?

The Port of Duqm will be one of the key factors in the town's economic growth, and will handle general and bulk cargo, as well as containers. The Port of Antwerp, as one of the most important ports in Europe at the crossroads of international supply chains, has invaluable expertise to offer. This expertise is now put to use in Duqm, where a joint venture between the Omani government and Antwerp Port Consortium will operate the port.

What areas of bilateral trade have the most potential for growth?

Given our connection to the port of Duqm, infrastructure and logistics are important areas for growth, and energy remains a strong traditional sector. But I see promising opportunities in healthcare, education, and sports technology as well.

How do you envision the future relations between Oman and Belgium?

I have returned from a satisfying and invigorating visit, believing that we can develop this relationship that rests on solid and longstanding foundations, into a dynamic partnership to the benefit of both countries.