The China International Import Expo (CIIE) “opens doors for us” to show our potential to Chinese investors, partners and customers, Tom Hautekiet, the chief commercial officer of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in Belgium, told Xinhua.
The Port of Antwerp-Bruges has taken part in the CIIE, the world’s first import-themed national-level expo, for five consecutive years, as the expo is vital for China and all participants, Hautekiet said.
“It’s really a deep platform to open relations,” Hautekiet said. “Relations can be between people, but relations can also be between cities as we have a friendly relationship between Antwerp and the city of Shanghai, but also between the port of Antwerp-Bruges and the port of Shanghai.”
Hautekiet said the Belgian port works on building close relations with other Chinese cities and ports such as Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao, Ningbo, Xiamen and Shenzhen.
China is now the Belgian port’s third-biggest trade partner in terms of cargo volume and the largest trade partner in terms of container traffic. The port’s transportation volume with the Chinese mainland in 2021 reached over 19,195,859 tons, a year-on-year increase of over 9 percent.
“I think it’s extremely important to build further on extra relations because we do see that the volumes are growing. Business with China is important for everybody as a lot of cargo comes from China, he said.
Feeling optimistic about future cooperation, Hautekiet said, “I’m still confident that although we know that the worldwide geopolitical situation is a bit difficult and intensive today, I feel that the economic relations between China and Europe, and China and Belgium will continue.”
Having visited China many times, Hautekiet said, “I’m not so surprised that once a decision is taken in China to develop a massive port. We all know the speed which can happen in China, and the dedication they have to roll out a project in a very extreme, fast way. I’m not so surprised that it’s growing this fast now.”
The Port of Antwerp and the Port of Zeebrugge were merged into the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in May this year. As the second-largest European port, it is a major import and export gateway for Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, France and other countries.
Hautekiet said the merger between the two Belgian ports has increased cargo volume between platforms, adding that “everybody from the shareholders and ourselves in the management are quite pleased with the situation after six months.”