Short speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Investment Lunch, Houston, 9 July 2013

Short speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Investment Lunch, Houston, 9 July 2013. Rutte and Flemish First Minister Kris Peeters lead a joint economic mission to Texas from 7 to 9 July 2013.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

At first glance, Texas and the Netherlands don’t seem to have a lot in common. For us, faraway Texas evokes images of cowboys, saloons and vast plains. And to you, perhaps, the Netherlands is a land of wooden shoes, tulips and windmills. While Texans jump in their cars, the Dutch hop on their bikes. While the Netherlands is small, everything in Texas is big, bigger, biggest. 

Yet two Dutch families by the name of Rienstra and Doornbos, who settled in Texas in 1897, saw something of their country here. In fact, they felt so at home that they founded a town called Nederland, an hour-and-a-half away from here. The town still exists today, complete with a tulip festival, windmill and dyke, or so I’ve heard.

Perhaps the town’s founders sensed that one day the Netherlands and Texas would establish close ties. Because our differences aren’t as big as they may seem. In fact, we have a lot in common. Texas is world famous for its oil and gas, and the Dutch-Flemish delta region has an unrivalled position in the petrochemical industry. The Dutch chemical industry, for example, has a positive trade balance of 24 billion euros. One reason for this success is our long tradition in this field, which has helped us build up an excellent knowledge base. Together, the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam form the gateway to Europe. Excellent connections to the rest of Europe make the delta region a major hub for imports and exports. And many companies, including businesses from Texas, make use of it for their raw materials and for logistics. Just as the Port of Houston is the gateway to America. 

The success of our petrochemical cluster is partly due to our close relations with companies from Texas. We are proud of this success and we want to build on it. That’s why we’re investing more in innovation and expanding our port facilities and logistics services. To achieve this we are stepping up partnership between government, businesses and universities. In the Netherlands and Flanders, and here in Texas. 

Some 110 Dutch companies are already active in your state, including big names like Shell, AkzoNobel and Heineken. And Flemish people can be found in senior positions at ExxonMobil. The Belgian-Dutch region is the second-biggest investor in the United States, investing 17 times more in your country than China, Brazil, India and Russia put together. Incredible, really, when you look at a map of the world. We may be small in size, but when it comes to trade and investment we can match almost any country. 

At the same time, the United States is the biggest direct investor in the Netherlands, with Texas as the number-one state.

Let me give you a few more figures. Dutch investment and trade has created 680,000 jobs in the US, with no fewer than 100,000 in Texas. The total trade volume between Texas and our delta region is 15 billion dollars. So the Lone Star State is vital to trade relations between our countries. 

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. And that’s why we’re here. Kris Peeters and I have brought along some of our colleagues and a large business delegation from Flanders and the Netherlands. Our aim? To make this relationship even better and more profitable for everyone involved.

With this in mind, I am very pleased that the United States and the EU have decided to start negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. We want to achieve even lower tariffs for importers and exporters. We want to create more uniform standards and procedures to make things less complicated for American and European entrepreneurs. And we want to provide better access to each other’s markets. The result will be more growth, more jobs and more prosperity for Texas, Flanders and the Netherlands. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I understand that the name Texas comes from the Caddo tribe word ‘tejas’, meaning friends or allies. We’ve been friends, or tejas, for a long time now. It’s no coincidence that we were among the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with your state when it gained its independence. The Dutch flag flying at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio is evidence of this. Cooperation between Flanders, the Netherlands and Texas and between our companies has solid foundations. I have no doubt that this joint mission and this gathering here today will make our friendship and our partnership even stronger. 

Thank you.

I shall now give the floor to my Flemish colleague Kris Peeters.