Qatari LNG at Zeebrugge may lead to Belgian office in Doha

Een Belgische economische missie bevindt zich momenteel in Qatar, onder het voorzitterschap van Kroonprins Filip, Erevoorzitter van het Agentschap voor Buitenlandse Handel. Tijdens deze missie zal de nadruk gelegd worden op enkele sleutelthema’s, zoals logistiek, leefmilieu, bouw, informatica, luxeproducten, uitrustingsgoederen, baggerwerken, havenactiviteiten, energie, diamant- en bankdiensten. In Doha worden de 3 gewestelijke agentschappen voor de buitenlandse handel samen een seminarie organiseren met als titel “Belgium building better”, speciaal gewijd aan de bouwsector. Dit seminarie is opgebouwd rond volgende drie thema’s: Architectuur en Stedenbouw – Sportinfrastructuur – Luchthaveninfrastructuur. Uiteraard staat ook een bezoekje aan de Sports City Tower op het programma. Tijdens het bezoek werd veel nadruk gelegd op het feit dat LNG uit Qatar in Zeebrugge wordt aangeland voor distributie naar de rest van de EU. Gezien de nauwe zakencontacten stuurt ons land aan op een Belgisch kantoor in Doha. Dat schrijft de Gulf Times woensdag.

The forum of major companies in Belgium wishes to see a Belgian trade mission being set up in Qatar soon.The Federation of Enterprises in Belgium, representing some 30,000 businesses, has already taken up the issue with the country’s leadership, its chief executive officer, Rudi Thomaes told Gulf Times yesterday. Thomaes, who is part of the high-level Belgian delegation led by Crown Prince Philippe currently on Qatar visit, said a Belgian trade office in Doha would further boost bilateral trade between the two countries. The bilateral trade between Belgium and Qatar totalled 266.5mn euros in 2006. And in the first six months of this year, the bilateral trade has already touched 199mn euros. Thomaes said though the bilateral trade was currently in Belgium’s favour, it ought to change with increasing LNG supplies to the European country from Qatar. Qatar’s LNG now reaches Distrigas’ Zeebrugge terminal in Belgium.“We are now taking Qatari LNG from Zeebrugge to all corners of Belgium,” the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium CEO said.He said the signing of the agreement between Belgium and Qatar to avoid double taxation would be highly beneficial to businesses in both the countries. “Now we have a situation wherein our products and services are being taxed at both the ends. The net result is inflated prices and the ultimate victims are consumers of the two countries. That situation will change with the agreement signed yesterday,” Thomaes pointed out. He said Belgian companies were now looking forward to increased participation in various sectors in Qatar. They include energy, real estate, banking and medicine. Belgium is a major financial centre in Europe and its banking industry is well developed. It is the base of Swift - the international money transfer tool. The country has also developed some popular banking software programs.“We can provide our expertise to Qatar as it gears up to become a major financial centre in the region,” Thomaes said.In health, he said Belgium’s know-how in in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), orthopaedics, particularly sports medicine, and medical imaging can be effectively used in Qatar.Asked whether the euro’s march over the dollar had come in as a disincentive to Belgium businesses, he said, “We have advantages as well as disadvantages due to the euro’s appreciation. Since oil and gas commodities are priced in dollar, we benefit from our currency appreciating against the greenback. Hence we have not been considerably affected due to the soaring oil price. “On the other hand, our exports have been badly hit due to the euro’s surge. A case in point is Belgium’s aeronautical industry. We supply to both Airbus and Boeing. Since the global aeronautical industry has endorsed the dollar as its currency for trade, we have been affected very badly.”Of the 30,000 member businesses in the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium, some 25,000 are small and medium-sized firms. Together they employ about 1.5mn people.The Federation of Enterprises in Belgium yesterday signed an agreement with the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA) to boost bilateral trade with the active involvement of private sector in the two countries.The agreement was signed for QBA by its chairman Sheikh Faisal bin Qassem al-Thani and for the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium by Thomaes.