Toespraak van Maarten Camps, Secretaris-Generaal van het ministerie van Economische Zaken, bij het ASEAN Business Forum

Toespraak van Maarten Camps, Secretaris-Generaal van het ministerie van Economische Zaken, bij het ASEAN Business Forum op 14 september 2017 in Den Haag. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Mr. Ambassador, Excellencies, honourable guests, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, many thanks for offering this unique occasion, in particular to his excellency Dato’ Ahmad Nazri Ysof, Ambassador of Malaysia and Chairman of the ASEAN Committee in The Hague. It’s a pleasure to share my views with you this morning. And congratulations to ASEAN, the ASEAN member nations and secretariat.

You started to cooperate 50 years ago. Economically, culturally, politically. And you have been successful. ASEAN has established free trade arrangements. It has expanded and its members have integrated both in the region and in the global economy.

Your economies have grown steadily. Prosperity is growing. Poverty is being reduced rapidly. Innovation develops at a breakneck speed. And the region is to form a single market.

Comparisons to the EU are often made. Of course, that is not surprising: our ambitions resemble and the EU has evolved similarly. The EU is aiming for cooperation in a similar manner.  

In six decades European countries went beyond issues of sovereignty. Left the Cold War and the Prague Spring. Forged the euro and the single market. Time taught 28 countries to cooperate.

It is therefore highly unfortunate that one of us has decided to leave the EU. For us in the Netherlands, with cooperation in our DNA, this is also incomprehensible. For us the EU is an indispensible pillar of our prosperity and safety. Brexit is a call to intensify the cooperation between the remaining 27 EU countries. We trust the EU27 will be succesfull in bringing European cooperation further.

Today, cooperation within and beyond regional boundaries is more than just a way to optimize competitiveness. I think it is required, needed, inevitable. Required to work together and to learn how to stay flexible, as we have to adapt to climate impact. Needed to act upon rapid economic changes across the globe. Inevitable for companies to tap into the full potential of a digitized economy. And have access to consumers worldwide.

So we are inspired to cooperate with you even more. And I believe there is ground to cooperate with us. Please consider.

The Netherlands is the 4th most competitive economy in the world and the most competitive economy in the EU, a market of 500 million people. In the last few years we have reformed the housing market, reduced the tax burden on labor and continued to nurture our favorable business climate. We are being called a 'high opportunity, low risk'- region. Dutch cities now seem to have a real X factor to foreign companies and start ups. Multinationals have seats all over the country, like in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht and Eindhoven.

Secondly, connectivity is at the heart of our minds and our infrastructure, be it roads, water or air. Our logistics and trade networks bring people and products all over the world. Nearly half of the containers that pass the international port of Rotterdam come from Asia. Schiphol airport has one of the largest networks in the world, with over 320 destinations.

Thirdly, education and innovation are key in our country. Long term investments by public and private partners have resulted in a high quality workforce with educated engineers and scientists, who master foreign languages. Their knowledge and skills and their practical attitude have made us one of the most innovative countries in the world. Focussing on finding answers to the great challenges of our time, related to the sustainable development goals. Excelling in a variety fields: agriculture as well as water management, modern materials as well as quantum computing.

As a result, the Dutch economy has been solid, stable and strong over years.

But the Netherlands would not be as it is, if we would not be aiming for cooperation continuously. Nor would the European Union. Nor would ASEAN and it’s member countries.

Cooperation is required, needed and inevitable, within and across continents. So why not combine the best of two of the world’s largest markets, ASEAN and EU? Why not engage in new projects together? Let’s support each other in solving the great challenges. Let’s refresh our friendship, our ties and trade relations. And extend our cooperation during the fifty years to come. 

Thank you.