Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Cao Zhongming pointed to the existing relationship, saying that last year Belgian-China bilateral trade amounted to some $23.3 billion. This, he said, is “1,150 times” more than it was in 1971 when the two sides first established diplomatic relations.
The diplomat, who took up his post last month, said he believes both China and Belgium have an “open door” policy on free trade and global governance, adding that this lays the foundations for even closer ties in the years to come. He told an audience of Belgian businessmen and women that in 2017 Belgian investment in China amounted to $1.8 bn while Chinese investment in Belgium was some $3bn.
“The exact figures could actually be even higher,” he said. He cited two projects as examples of current economic ties: a Chinese/Belgian scientific park which is being built at Leuven and also a factory, owned by a Chinese automobile manufacture, which employs 6,000 people in Ghent. He said, “There are many other examples I could give of successful collaboration between Belgium and China.”
He said that two Flemish ports, Zeebrugge and Antwerp, in particular, hopes to forge closer ties with Beijing. There is “great potential” for “good cooperation” in various sectors, ranging from fashion and food to R&D and high end engineering.
Belgian enterprises, not least SMEs, can offer specialised expertise and know-how, he noted.
“I would now like to see Belgian companies seize these opportunities,” he said. Closer trade and investment, he said, can also “enhance friendship and understanding between the people of Belgium and China.”
His comments were echoed by Bernard Dewitt, chair of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of commerce which hosted the speech. Dewitt said, “I welcome the ambassador and China’s commitment to foreign investment. As he says we faced competition from the Netherlands but I am sure we in Belgium can rise to that challenge.”
Cao Zhongming’s diplomatic career has mainly been concentrated on African Affairs, as he was Attaché, then Third Secretary in the Chinese Embassy to the Republic of Chad; Deputy Director, Director, and then Counsellor in the Department of African Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He later served in the Chinese Embassy to the Republic of Mali.