Discovering new worlds: Food innovation in Chile and the Netherlands
‘Discovering new worlds: Food innovation in Chile and the Netherlands’
Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal, at the inauguration of ICE Food on 30 May 2012 in Santiago de Chile
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here at the presentation of ICE Food. I would like to thank the Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism, Pablo Longueira, Vice Minister of Agriculture Álvaro Cruzat, and Hernàn Cheyre of CORFO for being here today. ‘Centre of Excellence’: it’s an inspiring name and couldn’t be more fitting for this shining example of Chilean-Dutch cooperation. Let me take you back to where it all started.
During his eventful life, Dutchman Isaac Lemaire did two things that changed the world. To start with, in the early 17th century he was the first investor in history to speculate on shares falling in value. He lost most of his fortune in the process. His second project was more successful: his son, Jacob, discovered a new route to the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic in 1616. He sailed round Cape Horn, named after the Dutch city of Hoorn where the ship was launched. Jacob’s discovery was important for world trade. In 2016 we will mark Jacob Lemaire’s discovery of Cape Horn, and as it happened, the first Dutch contacts with Chile.
That discovery was the start of an excellent relationship that we are celebrating here today in Santiago in the form of Wageningen University’s new Centre of Excellence in Research and Development for the Food Industry. Or ICE Food, as it is called. ICE Food, again, is all about innovation and discovery.
Chile is a world leader in the copper trade, and the world’s largest fruit exporter. It’s famous for its delicious wine and salmon. It has a free market and stable economy, as well as one of the world’s most attractive investment climates. Chile’s economy has been growing steadily for the past few years. It has successfully weathered the global financial crisis. This year, growth of almost four-and-a-half per cent is expected. That is the largest growth of any member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which Chile is the only South American member. A large proportion of your exports goes to the Netherlands. We rank fifth on your global export list. And we do hope that your imports from the Netherlands – currently worth 275 million dollars – will grow in the future. The potential is absolutely there.
Foreign companies seeking to set up activities in South America often start with Chile. They know that business flourishes there. And if problems do arise, we solve them together. Two months ago, Chile’s Vice Minister for Finance, Julio Dittborn, and his Dutch counterpart, Frans Weekers, reached an agreement on a treaty to avoid double taxation. If we jointly make sure that this treaty is implemented, we will make it even easier for our entrepreneurs to do business together.
Perhaps the relationship between Chile and the Netherlands is so good because we are so similar. The Netherlands, too, is a gateway – in our case to the rest of Europe. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port. And Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was recently voted the best airport in Europe. Thanks to this excellent infrastructure, the Netherlands is still Europe’s main supplier. So for non-European businesses that want to conquer Europe, the Netherlands is an excellent entry point, just as Chile is for South America.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you know, smart ideas often have surprising consequences. Back in the first half of the 20th century, economist Joseph Schumpeter said that the main condition for economic growth is innovation. Today Schumpeter’s words are more topical than ever. In a world in which fuel and raw materials are increasingly scarce and competition fiercer than ever, innovation is crucial. And we can achieve this through public-private partnerships in which scientists, the government and businesses work closely together. Nationally and internationally. ICE Food is an excellent example.
ICE Food aims to strengthen the innovative potential of Chilean food producers. The Netherlands and Wageningen University have a great deal of expertise in this field. Over 600,000 Dutch people work in the food sector. This branch of the economy has an annual turnover in excess of 85 billion dollars. In the Netherlands, 15,000 scientists and 3,000 businesses are constantly in search of new technologies, healthier crops and smarter packaging. Nowhere else in the world are there so many innovations per capita in this sector as in the Netherlands. CEOs Paul Polman of Unilever and Feike Sijbesma of DSM are frontrunners in promoting their cause on a global scale.
Chile and the Netherlands already work together in many areas. Dutch experts are working to improve Chilean flower bulbs. And over the next few years, we will jointly be studying grains, grapes, fish and avocados in our laboratories and our fields. We are already working successfully together in the areas of ports, energy and water. I hope this partnership will ensure that in the future, the Netherlands and Chile will be considered the world’s experts in food innovation.
To be innovative you have to be daring. Isaac Lemaire was well aware of that. Persistence is also important. Even when he suffered huge losses on the stock market, Lemaire didn’t give up. And the Chilean and Dutch scientists, entrepreneurs and administrators who plan to revolutionise the food market have that kind of persistence, as well as an innovative mind. I am confident that, like the Lemaire family, we will discover new worlds.
Ladies and gentleman,
I would like to congratulate Vice Minister of Agriculture Álvaro Cruzat on this promising Centre of Excellence. I wish the institute a brilliant future, in which research leads to discovery, discovery to progress and progress to the conquest of new markets.