The trade mission headed by Minister Marcourt is forging closer links between Wallonia and the mainland of Asia. After opening an AWEX branch in Hubei, setting up an incubator for Chinese businesses in Louvain-la-Neuve and the visit by the China Entrepreneur Club to Belgium, the Chinese airfreight company Navitrans has launched a new route to Liege Airport.
Trade relations between China and Wallonia are becoming ever closer. There are now several AWEX offices in various cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hubei. The purpose of this short trip was to build links with Zhengzhou, a Chinese megalopolis with 10 million inhabitants which is set to become the future logistics hub for China and Asia. The parallels with Wallonia are clear: impressive logistics facilities, high added value manufacturing and traditional industries.
Navitrans now carries two 100-tonne loads weekly to Liège, which was in the running alongside Amsterdam and Luxembourg. The title of freight airport of the year was undoubtedly a weighty argument in beating off the competition. This route will be used by Foxconn, which manufactures hardware for Apple, to flood Europe with the iPhone 5, confirming Wallonia's status as the ideal logistical platform for the European market.
The Minister of the Economy for Wallonia explains this creative and original commercial strategy, which marks out Wallonia from heavyweights such as the USA or Germany in that it acts as a partner: "We need to be in China, but the competition is fierce. That is why we need to set ourselves apart, particularly from the geographical point of view. That is what Wallonia is doing in Zhengzhou, deep inside China. It is a province of 98 million inhabitants, with an annual growth rate of 35%. It has set up a free trade zone of over 400km² in the vicinity of the airport, and has a GDP of $21 billion.”
Presentations on the logistics (Logistics in Wallonia) and mechanical engineering (Mecatech) industries were made to investors and local dignitaries since they represent Zhengzhou's two main avenues of growth. An official meeting also took place at the city's airport, attended by government officials and their counterparts from Liège. Several trade deals are expected to result from this groundwork.