Toespraak van minister-president Rutte bij de opening van de China-Dutch Business Forum in het Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag

De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I too would like to welcome you all to this splendid location in my home town of The Hague.

When this building - by the famous architect Hendrik Berlage - was completed in 1935, it was considered state of the art, and it still feels as fresh and modern as ever. So it's a fitting venue for this forum on 21st-century innovation and sustainable connectivity.

A special welcome to you, Premier Li. It's an honour to be opening this forum together with you.

I'm delighted to see so many Chinese and Dutch entrepreneurs here today. After all, this forum is about you, and about promoting business-to-business cooperation as a source of prosperity and progress for the people of China and the Netherlands.

Of course, at first glance, our countries seem rather asymmetrical. China is about 230 times larger than the Netherlands. It has 80 times more people, an economy 10 times bigger, and growth figures that are consistently at least three times higher than ours.

But alongside these contrasting figures, there are other numbers that highlight the strong links between us.

There are around 900 Dutch companies active in China. Some 650 Chinese companies have a base in the Netherlands. And these days, another 40 are joining them every year.

When it comes to our trade relations, 3 seems to be the magic number. Within Europe, the Netherlands is China's 3rd-largest trade partner, its 3rd-largest investor and its 3rd-largest export destination. And conversely, China is the Netherland's 3rd-largest export destination. The growth in our 2 countries' goods trade has also been spectacular, rising from 2.5 billion euros a year in the mid-1990s to over 45 billion last year.

In short, there's no shortage of evidence to illustrate our outstanding bilateral relations. And this goes well beyond trade alone.

Not least, we can see it in your visit to our country, Premier Li, and in the many reciprocal visits between us in recent years. I'm thinking especially of the state visits by President Xi in 2014 and by our King and Queen in 2015. And there is also the biggest Dutch trade mission in history, which I had the honour to take to China this spring.

But perhaps the ultimate proof was China's kind offer to place two pandas in our care. They've been with us for 18 months now. And I can assure you that Wu Wen [WOE WEN] and Xing Ya [SJING JAA] are the most popular residents of Ouwehands Zoo.

All these examples illustrate the close contact between our 2 countries. Between our authorities, cities, companies and universities.

Not to mention the contact between people on a personal level. So the connectivity between China and the Netherlands can already be seen in a wide range of people-to-people contacts. And we hope these will continue to grow.

This year it is 40 years since China embarked on a path of reform and opening up to the world. And the Netherlands has watched with admiration for what has been achieved in that time. Swift economic growth. And rapid poverty reduction.

And we're still watching, with great interest and high expectations, as China takes on the challenge of climate change. Here, too, the Netherlands and China are working together.

That's only logical, because we all share the same climate-related challenges. I am proud that today the Netherlands is launching the Global Commission on Adaptation in the Hague, and that China is represented in this important body.

Our aim is to accelerate the global agenda on climate adaptation. And for that, we also need the international business community as a source of innovation. After all, adapting to climate change is as much a business opportunity as it is a problem we need to solve.

In the long term, both our countries will benefit from a connected world that is rules-based, and environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. In recent years we've seen innovative and sustainable Dutch solutions meeting a real demand in China, in areas like energy, healthcare, care of the elderly, food security, logistics, water management, the environment and urbanisation. And of course we want to build on that.

I also believe that we both benefit most from a world trade system that is fair, free and transparent. Protectionism stands in the way of progress. But on a level playing field we can all be winners.

The Netherlands has always been - and will always remain - an open economy, a champion of free trade and a super-connective logistics hub, with the Port of Rotterdam serving as the gateway to Europe for many Chinese companies. You, as entrepreneurs and business people, understand better than anyone what opportunities have yet to be explored in the relationship between China and the Netherlands. We, Premier Li and I, are keen to help you seize those opportunities and create new ones as well. That's what today is all about.

I wish you all an excellent meeting and every success in your future business endeavours. [And now it is my honour to hand over to Premier Li.

Premier, the floor is yours.]

Thank you.