Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a dinner on the occasion of the visit by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, Rotterdam
Prime Minister Abe,
I am delighted to welcome you to the Netherlands, and to Rotterdam in particular.
It's fitting that we're meeting today in a port city.
The sea is a key link in the long shared history of our two countries.
In 1600, the first Dutch sailors reached the Japanese coast.
In the two centuries that followed, the Dutch trading post on the island of Deshima, off the port of Nagasaki, was the centre of trade between the Netherlands and Japan.
Countless tonnes of sugar, spices and textiles were traded across the narrow Omotemon-bashi bridge.
But it didn't stop there: knowledge, experience and ideas also travelled back and forth across the bridge.
And that is still true today: shared knowledge and innovation are at the heart of our countries' bilateral relations.
Our common aim is to find high-tech solutions to major issues like climate change and demographic ageing.
From cybersecurity and the Internet of Things to nanotechnology and sustainable agriculture: we are working together on the challenges of the 21st century.
International cooperation has brought us many achievements.
Not only at bilateral level, but in the multilateral arena too.
A case in point is the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the world's biggest free trade agreement, which covers almost one-third of the global economy.
The agreement means that mutual trade will increase by tens of billions of euros.
In even more concrete terms, it will mean more growth and more jobs.
Unfortunately, the multilateral order is under pressure.
Some countries are choosing their perceived self-interest over necessary compromise.
The only correct response to that is to improve and bolster the multilateral system and the institutions we've built up over the years.
That's exactly what we're doing with the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the EU.
And of course, in the context of the G20.
We are delighted that you have invited the Netherlands to take part in the G20 during the Japanese presidency.
We thank you for that.
And just as we have fostered unity and built bridges in the past, you can also count on us now, in the present.
Prime Minister Abe, let us raise our glasses.
To your visit to our country.
To the excellent relations between Japan and the Netherlands.
And to a successful G20.
Cheers! [Or, as we say in the Netherlands, Proost!]