ALLIED CAUSE

Sharjah 2015 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Lilianne Ploumen, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on aligning national interests, collaboration, and meeting international humanitarian assistance goals.

Lilianne Ploumen
BIOGRAPHY
Lilianne Ploumen was appointed Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in the Rutte-Asscher government in November 2012 and was Chair of the Labor Party (PvdA) from October 2007 to January 2012. Minister Ploumen served as the Head of Quality and Strategy for the development organization Cordaid besides founding Ploumen Projecten, an organization specializing in market research and innovation for commercial and non-profit clients. Minister Ploumen previously held the position of Vice Chair of the Evert Vermeer Foundation, and was a member of the Labor Party’s South-North Committee (advising on international cooperation). She has also been a board member of feminist organization Opzij and Women Inc. and member of the Stop Aids Now! Supervisory board.

How is the Netherlands strengthening its trade relationship with the UAE?

One could say that we want to strengthen our relationship with the more traditionally important sectors of the economy, but that we are also very interested in the strategy of the Emirates to diversify its economy and to look for innovation. What I find quite interesting is that the authorities look for innovation within the traditional oil and gas sector, but they are also looking to invest in renewable energy. Investing in renewables is about investing in the hardware and technology, but also in investing in changing the mindset of the people. When you are as resource rich as the Emirates, the first challenge is to acknowledge, which they did, that they need diversification in order to keep up a strong economy for the longer term.

What role can Dutch companies play in assisting the development of the renewable energy sector?

I would say that I am impressed by the ambitions of the Emirates in this respect. We have a lot to offer within the gas sector. There are a lot of opportunities where we not only have companies, but we also have consortia of knowledge institutions working together. In the field of renewables, of course, there is wind; moreover, here in the Emirates there is tremendous opportunity for the development of solar energy. It is within both of these segments that we see Dutch companies playing an important role as a partner for development of the UAE.

How would you describe the opportunity for further collaboration between the Netherlands and the UAE in the agriculture sector?

We are the second largest exporter of agricultural goods on a global scale. Of course, we have strong ties to the Emirates in that sector, but there are still a lot of opportunities in the areas of fresh fruits, for example, and other places where we have not really explored the market enough to take all the opportunities. Here is a very well developed market with a strong demand for quality products and also the logistics are very well organized, which makes an excellent market for our fresh fruits and vegetables.

What role does the UAE play in offsetting the effects of the EU sanctions on Russia concerning agricultural products?

Regardless of the sanctions, we are always looking for new markets and opportunities for deepening our relationships with international markets. Our agricultural market has felt some impact, albeit minimal, from the sanctions. The agricultural sector has managed to look for new markets, so all in all the numbers game is still very good. Obviously, the UAE represents a good opportunity for us for future collaboration. In October 2015 there will be a trade mission with agricultural companies coming here and I think that would be a good moment for Dutch companies to look into more specific opportunities here as well as to team up with businesses already present here.

What opportunities exist for collaboration with the UAE in the distribution and development of international humanitarian aid?

I think it's right to say that the UAE is one of the key players on the humanitarian development front. Actually, in 2014, it ranked first in the world. That's a wonderful achievement and I am glad that they are very interested to work with us to continue their success along the lines of trilateral cooperation. I think the days of the concept of a donor-recipient paradigm are more or less over. We want to look at how we can work together using a new model. For the Emirates and us to work in a third country would be very interesting; for example, we could work together in Africa, Asia, or even the Pacific. Equally important to trilateral cooperation is knowledge exchange.