Minister Ploumen to visit California and Arkansas

Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Lilianne Ploumen will visit the United States from Feb. 15-19. The visit will be in two parts. In San Francisco Ms. Ploumen will lead a trade delegation jointly with Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam. She will then fly to Arkansas at the invitation of the CEO of Walmart, the world’s largest retail chain, to talk about her vision and initiatives in the field of corporate social responsibilit

The United States is one of the Netherlands’ principal trading partners. In 2013 total reciprocal trade in goods, services and investments amounted to around 190 billion euros. A major part of this is accounted for by California, which on its own is the eighth largest economy in the world. Ms. Ploumen and Mr. Aboutaleb will be accompanied by representatives of 31 companies and knowledge institutions, with the aim of further promoting economic ties, this time particularly in the water and energy sectors.

The trade mission’s theme is "The Sustainable Urban Delta." It poses the question, "What are the best ways to provide a safe, high-quality living environment for a relatively small but densely populated area?"

Ms. Ploumen explained, "Dutch expertise and industry are very well-placed to deliver a significant and sustainable contribution. Our country’s historical development and the global activities of our business community and knowledge institutions are proof of that."

In Silicon Valley Ms. Ploumen will meet the board of high-tech company Cisco. She will also open the California-Netherlands Sustainability Summit, a major seminar about water and energy. As part of the program, she will meet with California’s environment secretary Matt Rodriquez and visit Sungevity, a solar energy company that is one of the three largest of its kind in the United States and is also active in the Netherlands.

From California, the minister will fly to Arkansas, where her activities will include a meeting with Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart. The retail chain has branches in 27 countries, a worldwide workforce of more than 2 million, and an annual turnover of $405 billion.

The meeting was prompted by Ms. Ploumen’s input in the field of corporate social responsibility. Mr. McMillon has also expressed interest in her strategy – seeking to improve working conditions by setting up dialogues between businesses, government authorities and civil society organizations. Examples include the minister’s support for the Bangladesh Safety Accord, about securing safer working conditions in Bangladesh’s textile industry, and the voluntary agreement with energy companies on corporate social responsibility in the coal supply chain.

Ms. Ploumen commented, "Walmart really is a very big player, not only in the United States but also in the countries where many of its products and articles are manufactured. I’m very interested in how this is done, and in how the company promotes better working conditions and a healthier living environment for the people who make its products. And of course, I’m also looking forward to sharing how we in the Netherlands promote corporate social responsibility."

Ms. Ploumen will also meet other members of the Walmart board, including the vice president of global sourcing and the CEO of Walmart Asia.

Besides visiting Walmart, the minister will meet with local dignitaries, including Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Mayor Mark Stodola of Little Rock, and representatives of local companies. Finally, Ms. Ploumen will deliver an address at the Clinton Presidential Center about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free-trade agreement currently being negotiated by the European Union and the United States.