Speech by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, On the Road to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Kansas

Sustainability is everybody’s business

Thank you very much, and of course thanks particularly to Secretary of State Pompeo, for having us here in his Heartland, that is very clear, his home state of Kansas. 

But of course I would like to also very much echo the words of the Secretary to just say a few words about the awful event that struck my country, actually my home province of Utrecht today. The Netherlands was shocked by an attack in the city of Utrecht, and of course our thoughts, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones, and of course from here as well I would like to extend warm wishes for the speedy recovery of those who have been injured. Fortunately, our police services have caught the assailant and the authorities are currently investigating. Now of course in bridging, listing to the Secretary and his enthusiasm, to speak to the quality and the tremendous, the excellence of the staff of the State Department, I realize we were also part of a recruitment mission, so let me say from my experience with all the US State Department staffers all over the world I can only echo from the experience what he said and I certainly hope that many people from Kansas and other states will join. We see ourselves of course as being on an equal par, so I would have to compliment my staff as well that are here today and in other countries. And of course it speaks very much to the message we have today which is in the preparation of our Global Entrepreneurship Summit, that will be hosted in The Hague, the city of peace and justice, on the 4th and 5th of June, this year. We considered this concrete deliverable that Prime Minister Mark Rutte and I were able to take away from our very important discussions with President Trump in July, last year. But if we go back in history, ever since Henry Hudson sailed to America from old Amsterdam, if I may call it that way, in 1609, we have been valued partners in trade as well as innovation. More than four hundred years later, Dutch trade and investments in the United States alone amounts to 825,000 jobs in this country. And our aims are also ambitious, similar to yours. We want to increase our share in jobs created in the United States to one million - we are ambitious, but also we love doing business with you – This will not change, this will only deepen in a more profound manner, certainly also after the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. It is this common journey that we share with the United States that we also wish to celebrate here today and at the GES. Our common journey of course is more than ‘just business’.  As important as business is to the United States and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Because business - international business - can only thrive within a broader climate of international predictability and sustainability. It’s the ideal we have worked so hard together to establish in past decades, following two devastating world wars, and under the invaluable guidance of the United States: where we established a rules-based order, a rules-based world where international cooperation, collaboration remains highly valued and preferred as means of solving problems or conflict and serving our shared interests. It’s an ideal where we will continue to work towards, not in a naive manner, but in a smart manner, with our trusted allies. Within a multilateral, international system and based on treaty-based order, systems that are in need of reform, as we agreed with our American friends, and renewal, that they remain vital and important, more than ever. After all, many of our global problems transcend national borders. We look forward to continue to work with our American friends on reform and renewal to build the new system. A system where business, international business, will thrive, where issues of sustainability are addressed, and where we create new jobs for future generations. Building coalitions as we proceed. Improving our institutions where needed. Following the global roadmap that we developed together, the Sustainable Development Goals, we strive for that common goal: A world where freedom will thrive, prosperity can arise, stability and democracy will flourish. Where women and men truly have equal chances. Where economies keep a firm eye on the sustainability of the planet and our ways of living. Where it is great doing business together – precisely because we have been able to maintain predictability and transparency in our international conduct of business.

And now indeed we have started from Heartland to Holland, I would like to illiterate, but of course we are called The Netherlands, but the Heartland is a nice part in this story. And if the journey and the road towards the Summit in June tells us one thing, it reminds us how much we share in values, in determination, in ambition, and how we can build and inspire others, other countries, entrepreneurs, young people, start-ups, scale-ups, women and men, and of course all of you in this very room. The great news is of course we have also defined the challenges for which we seek the solutions on which we have build the agenda of the GES. And no single sector can tackle them alone. We have looked precisely with great alacrity at areas of Food and Agriculture, of course Kansas, Water, Energy, but also Connectivity and Health. We all need to work together: academia, entrepreneurs, and governments. 

Because of course, the complexity before us is significant. We face questions in The Netherlands, and I am sure it is similar in The United States: How can we make healthcare affordable for the future? Accessible and high quality. Can we approach digitalization in a smart way in order to develop smart hospitals? What technologies are available to be given to older people and to give them the confidence to live at home for a much longer period of time? How can we produce affordable and nutritious food to feed the world? How can we assure sufficient drinking water for all inhabitants of this planet? And how can we reduce micro-plastics and pollutants in water? 
These may appear as very specific questions, but they are real time business problems. They are consumer problems, and they are even bigger entrepreneurial challenges with profit at the end of it. 

So we aim to connect. Not only as we connect continuancy as governments, but we want entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, corporations, and government staff to discuss, to meet and to come up with bigger and better ideas. So it is solutions to market with buyers to boot. 

So maybe you call us ambitious, but as Mike already has shown us in his life story, without ambition you don’t go very far. But ambition, determination, hard work is really part of the ultimate process to arrive at solutions. Global challenges with smart business models for even smarter solutions. We know it can be done. And the Government of The Kingdom of the Netherlands really wants to play its part. We have been working to improve our digital infrastructure and reduce red tape for companies to start and grow businesses. We’re organising trade business and trade missions, and we invest in research and in the education of our workforce. And for all of you American entrepreneurs in this room, I certainly hope you know where to find our economic attachés, our business liaisons, our consulate-generals, all the points to connect and provide answers to your questions on how to invest in The Netherlands, find the right Dutch counterpart, because they are waiting for you to knock on their door, to send them an email. I am sure, knowing the Americans, you are not shy, and if you have a problem call me. Because we want to succeed together. This is a message in an era, in a time of great insecurity, instability in many parts of this world. But if we can lead the way, the Government of The United States of America, the Government of The Kingdom of The Netherlands, I think we can demonstrate, we can inspire, and prove of example is always the best way to bring others along. So the marketplace for solutions for global challenges starts right in the city of The Hague, peace and justice, but also the country of innovation, together with you. I hope the weather will be kind, our skies are not necessarily as bright as in Kansas, but we will do our very very best to succeed together in June, 2019. 

It has been a real privilege and honour to address you. And we are even more honoured that we are asked to host together with the United States, the GES 2019. 

Thank you very much.