Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at Boao Forum for Asia

Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Boao Forum for Asia 2015.

President Xi, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Asia and Europe are getting closer and closer. The classic image is still true: an endless stream of sea containers travelling from Busan and Shanghai to Hamburg and, of course, Rotterdam. But these days it’s certainly not the whole story. Ties between the two regions have become more direct, broader and closer than ever. I see that clearly in the Netherlands. Asian investors active in my country are very careful to choose activities that add value to their own knowledge and experience. Recent examples include the takeovers of a big Dutch waste processing company, a pension insurer and even the football club in my own town – The Hague, the seat of Dutch government and the legal capital of the world.

Compared with shipping freight, investing in football expertise in the country of Johan Cruyff is a whole new ball game. I think it’s a positive trend. After all, the recent economic crisis showed once again how intertwined everything is in the global economy. Bilateral interregional trade flows between Asia and Europe are already the largest worldwide. So we depend on each other – that’s a fact. For example, financial stability in the eurozone directly influences growth rates in Asian countries. And the rise of a prosperous middle-class in large parts of Asia is crucial for Europe’s future. It’s no accident that governments, business and universities are working together constantly – at both bilateral and multilateral level – to enhance economic cooperation.

Along the way, it’s become clear how much those shared economic interests are linked to other major issues of our day. Because looking ahead, Asia and Europe face many of the same challenges. Take our future energy supplies. Or growing demand for safe, adequate food supplies and high-quality, yet affordable medical care for an ageing population. Or the question of social responsibility – overarching issues relating to labour, capital and the environment. Or how to deal with the consequences of climate change, like rising sea level.

So my message today is clear. The theme of the 2015 Boao Forum, ‘Towards a Community of Common Destiny’, transcends the borders of the Asian continent. We must keep building partnerships that link East and West and make us both stronger. We can do more for people’s well-being and prosperity by joining forces than if it we go it alone. That must be our goal in this ongoing process. And there can be no doubt that sustainability – in every sense of the word – is becoming an imperative. So it’s also a very promising business case.

I’m speaking here as the representative of a country renowned for its focus on the future. Dutch businesses are leaders in fields that will determine the future of our planet. Like life sciences, energy, water management and, last but not least, agri-food. Mr. President, our fruitful discussions on food & agriculture during your succesfull State Visit to the Netherlands, has led to the establishment of the Holland Center in China. With the investment of the China Development Center, the Holland Center has set up a 50-km2 project in Beijing FengTai district, a project to help China modernise its food & agriculture, integrated with modern urbanization.

The CEO of Huawei Netherlands recently praised the Netherlands for its ‘culture of openness and innovation’. Conversely, the presence of Huawei and many other Asian companies gives my country great dynamism and innovative power. The resulting growth of people-to-people contacts feeds a permanent flow of ideas that bodes well for our common future. Because as the great philosopher Confucius once said, ‘All people are the same, it’s only their habits that differ.’ In other words, the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. In that spirit, let us continue to invest in our partnership, and let us continue to learn from each other.

I wish all the participants in the Boao Forum many inspiring encounters.

Thank you.