6th edition 2013, October-December

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Chamber News and recent Activities

Last respects paid to Mr. Willy Monfils, former Chairman of the ABLCC Board of Directors

We deeply regret to inform you of the death of Mr. Willy Monfils, former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ABLCC. Throughout a distinguished career, Mr. Monfils was involved in the promotion of foreign trade, including as Director General of the Belgian Foreign Trade Office(OBCE). A renowned specialist in economics and international cooperation, Mr. Monfils was also the founder of the Belgian Association of Chambers (ABEC), while taking up the presidency of our Chamber between 1992 and 2009. His remarkable experience, total commitment and human qualities mark forever the memory of his beloved ones and colleagues.

The Chamber presents its sincerest condolences to the spouse and family members of Mr. Monfils, who will be deeply missed.

 

Seminar “Investment and Business Opportunities in Iraq”

Brussels – 7 October 2013

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On the 7th of October, the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Brussels, the Arab-Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (ABLCC) and the Belgian Federation for the Technology Industry AGORIA organized a seminar entitled “Investment and Business Opportunities in Iraq” with the participation of a ministerial and high level delegation from Iraq, high level representatives of the European Commission, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and business delegations from Iraq, Belgium and Luxembourg.

H.E. Dr. Rowsch Nuri Shaways, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, opened the seminar with an overview of important developments that have taken place in Iraq over the last year, underlining the continuous efforts of the Iraqi government to develop a productive and sustainable economy. Warm words of welcome were also pronounced by the organizers of the seminar, H.E. Mr. Mohammed Al Humaimidi, Ambassador of Iraq to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, Mr. Pieter Jan Provoost, Director of the Carbon Energy Club at AGORIA and Mr. Qaisar Hijazin, Secretary General of the ABLCC.

The reality of Investing in Iraq

seminar-investment-in-iraq-07-10-13 02Moderated by Mr. Ghassan Ejjeh, Vice President of BESIX and member of the ABLCC Board of Directors, the opening workshop tackled the Iraqi Investment environment as well as benefits, guarantees, and exemptions offered in the Iraqi investment laws.

H.E. Dr. Sami Al Araji, Head of the National Investment Commission in Iraq, presented the 2013-2017 National Development Plan outlining the measures that should allow Iraq to benefit to the largest extent possible from the continuously improving macroeconomic situation and tackle obstacles to investment.

According to Mr. Herish Muharam, Head of the Investment Commission in the Kurdistan Region, and Dr. Ali Al Sindy, Minister of Planning in the Kurdistan Region Government, the latter region constitutes a forerunner in the country in terms of macroeconomic developments. The needs of the Kurdistan Region and a plan for action are identified in the Socio Economic Investment Need Analysis released by the Ministry of Planning of the Kurdistan Region and the UNDP in September 2013, and in the Kurdistan Vision 2020.

Investment opportunities also abound in Najaf, as was pointed out by H.E. Mr. Wafy Al-Bahash, Head of the Najaf Province Investment Commission. The province aspires to enhance development in the IT and communications sector, and is heavily investing in the development of infrastructure for cities, hotels, universities and other projects. More information about investing in Najaf can be found on www.investnajaf.com

Presentation of H.E. Dr. Sami Al- Araji, (National Investment Commission in Iraq)
Presentation of H.E. Mr.Ali Al- Sindi (Ministry of Planning - Kurdistan region)
Presentation of H.E. Wafy Al-Bahash (Najaf Province Investment Commission)

seminar-investment-in-iraq-07-10-13 03Front row, fltr: Mr. Christian Berger, H.E. Ambassador Al Humaimidi and H.E. Dr. Rowsch Nuri Shaways, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Iraq and the EU in the light of political developments in Iraq and the region

The EU is the second trading partner of Iraq, accounting for 20.7 % of Iraqi trade, while also ranking second internationally in terms of exports to the country where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet. Financial support from the EU has amounted to almost one billion euro since 2013, covering both reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

Mr. Christian Berger, Director for the Middle East at the European Commission’s External Action Service, explained that the EU has a long-standing commitment to support Iraq in its reconstruction and transition to democracy. EU overall support to Iraq since 2003 has amounted to over 1 billion euro, not counting the bilateral contributions of Member States. Moreover, a new chapter of the bilateral relationship has been inaugurated through the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in May 2012.

In addition to the PCA, the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation called “Horizon 2020” and initiatives such as the EU-Iraq Energy Center will provide a useful framework for the development of business activities in Iraq, according to Mr. Khalid al Khero, Deputy Head of the Department for Europe at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Commenting on the excellent Belgian-Iraqi bilateral relations, Mrs. Michèle Deneffe, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that a Belgian Honorary Consul will be appointed to facilitate business contacts between both countries. Mrs. Deneffe also referred to the MoU on Bilateral Political Consultations that was concluded at the beginning of 2013 and which will allow for the organization of political consultations on questions of common interest at the level of high civil servants once a year, alternatively in Brussels and Baghdad. Meanwhile, high level political contacts continue to take place on an ad hoc basis.

seminar-investment-in-iraq-07-10-13 04Fltr: Prof. Dr. Bichare Khader, Mrs. Michèle Deneffe, Mr. Khalid Al Khero, Mr. Christian Berger and H.E. Mr. Al Humaimidi

Investment in Transportation

Moderated by Mr. Henrik Hololei, Head of Cabinet at the DG Transport of the European Commission, the workshop on Investment in Transportation discussed opportunities linked to the development of the Al-Faw Grand Port and Iraq’s Dry Canal Project, amongst other projects. According to Dr. Al Araji, the former is to become one of the most important ports of Asia over the next 5 to 6 years, and will be embedded in an economic zone covering the chemical, petrochemical and logistics sectors. Investment opportunities also abound in the airport and railroads sectors.

Turning from Iraqi to Belgian ports, Mr. Albert Pegg, Senior Advisor at the Port of Antwerp, explained what the latter has on offer for Iraqi shippers and receivers. Handling 184 million ton per year and harboring a large number of specialized logistic companies, the Port of Antwerp can call itself the primary hub for cargo originating in Europe and the market leader in break bulk to and from all sailing areas. The port moreover offers international training and consultancy.

Presentation of Mr. Albert Pegg (Port of Antwerp)

Investment in Energy

Michael Hager, Head of Cabinet at DG Energy of the European Commission served as ‘Master of Ceremony’ for the workshop on Investment in Energy, in which Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, Mr. Ihsan Al Attar, and his colleague at the Ministry of Electricity, Mr. Adel Hamid, shed light on Iraqi oil contracts, gas investment in the light of the Iraqi-EU PCA, Iraq’s Strategic projects in oil and gas sectors (including the Basra-Haditha-Aqaba pipeline project), the Oil and Gas Law, and the Iraqi Centre of Excellence and the Energy Academy.

Mr. Koen van Peteghem, General Manager at EMEA and in charge of Iraq-related projects at ABLCC member company CG Holdings Belgium, shared with the audience the product portfolio of CG, a global leader in the management and application of electrical energy, covering the entire value chain of engineering offerings.

Presentation of Mr. Koen van Peteghem, (EMEA, CG Holdings Belgium)
Presentation of Mr. Adel Hamid, (Iraqi Ministry of Electricity)

Investment in Iraq: Opportunities and Obstacles

The concluding workshop, moderated by Dr. Al Araji, aimed to shed light on the Iraq Investment Law, the effect of government intervention on the investment process, the security situation, infrastructure required to create an appropriate investment environment, and financial and administrative corruption.

Mr. Waleed Eidi, Director General of the Department of Statistics at the Central Bank of Iraq and Mr. Selim Haddad, Commercial Manager at ABLCC member company Byblos Bank Europe, moreover discussed in detail the Iraqi Economy and the state of the Iraqi banking sector.

Another ABLCC member company that shared its extensive experience in the Iraqi market was environmental solutions provider WATERLEAU. Vice President Sales and Marketing Mr. Willy Gils discussed the opportunities and obstacles encountered by his company when helping municipal and industrial clients in Iraq to go green.

Presentation of Mr. Willy Gils (WATERLEAU)
Presentation of Mr. Selim Haddad (Byblos Bank Europe)
Presentation of Mr. Amer Farhan Al-Mohammedi (Anbar Province Investment Commission)

Wrapping up the seminar, Deputy Prime Minister H.E Dr. Rowsch Nuri Shaways expressed the wish that a mutually beneficial partnership would develop between business communities from both sides in a wide range of sectors. A representative of H.E. Mr. Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs of Belgium, who had to be excused, expressed the Belgian Minster’s wish to witness the creation of a concrete agenda and mutually beneficial cooperation in the framework of the MoU on Bilateral Political Consultations.

The seminar was followed by a reception allowing attendees to continue networking activities over a drink and a bite to eat. Moreover, companies were given the opportunity to engage in bilateral meetings.

More information: A detailed overview of benefits, guarantees and exemptions available under the Iraqi investment laws can be found in the 2013 Investor Guide to Iraq, available through www.investpromo.gov.iq

List of Participants

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Seminar: ICT Outsourcing in Palestine

Brussels - 31 October 2013

seminar-ICT-outsourcing-palestineA look inside the ASAL premises in Ramallah - Palestine

Impressed by the large number of companies who are outsourcing ICT services to Palestine, BIE and AGORIA felt an information session on the booming Palestinian ICT sector has been long overdue. Under the expert eye of Mr. Gino Nale, Economic Attaché for Brussels and the Walloon region in charge of Israel and Palestine, a number of important actors from the field recently gathered in Brussels to outline the advantages offered by the Palestinian ICT sector, which can count Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Mellanox, Volvo and Winbod, to name a few, among its satisfied customers. Well aware of the benefits offered by the sector, Mr. Nale also announced he is considering the organization of a trade mission taking Belgian companies to Ramallah for B2B meetings with Palestine ICT companies.

According to AGORIA, the Belgian Federation for the Technology Sector, companies with experience in outsourcing ICT services to Palestine have established an ability to reduce project and management costs, speed up the market entree of their products, reduce the time span and energy needed for developing soft ware projects, ensure a high output quality, provide services to their own organizations as well as to clients very fast, and reduce costs related to education and start up in the framework of new projects.

The reasons that underlie these findings were outlined by Mr. Mohamed Musleh, Business Development Manager at the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA). According to Mr. Musleh, approximately 250 companies are active in the sector, which has a market size of around USD 500 million and accounts for no less than 10% of the GDP. He particularly stressed the high quality of available human resources, as many Palestinian employees in the sector master multiple languages, including English, French and German, enjoyed a high quality education and are extremely motivated to comply with their clients’ demands. Moreover, as a result of their connections with foreign diasporas, Palestinian employees generally are familiar with the European (business) culture.

The floor was then given to Mr. Murad Tahboub, Managing Director at ASAL Technologies, a leading software development house in Ramallah with over 130 engineers offering software development services to the international market. Mr. Tahboub outlined the main services offered by ASAL, which include software development and software QA and testing, local system integration including on-site support and on-line administration support for international company projects' in the Middle East, and hardware design testing and validation.

Among ASALS’ many satisfied customers we can find Cisco International, whose CSR Manager, Mr. Gai Hetzroni, discussed the collaboration between Cisco Systems Israel and ASAL on ANA platform development and testing. Starting out as a corporate social responsibility project, the collaboration quickly developed into a ‘regular’ business relationship, after Cisco having taken note of the efficiency with which ASAL was able to achieve the goals and deadlines set for the project.

Those who have missed out on the seminar should keep an eye on the next edition of our newsletter, which will include a focus on the ICT Sector in Palestina, featuring interviews with experts from the field.

From 15 until 18 December 2013, the 2013 Expotech Technology Week will be taking place in Ramallah and Gaza. Find our more via www.expotech.ps

For now, you can find more information on ICT outsourcing to Palestine via the following links:
ASAL Company Presentation
www.pita.ps
AGORIA – Mogelijkheden voor IT Outsourcing in Palestina
AGORIA – Les Possibilités d’Outsourcing IT en Palestine

Feel free to contact us and get in touch with important actors in the Palestine ICT sector!

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ABLCC Board of Directors Meeting and Lunch Conference : “Relations between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Arab Countries: New Prospects”

Brussels – 14 November 2013

ablcc bod-meeting 01H.E. Ambassador Samir Addahre, Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps

After the conclusion of the ABLCC Board of Directors meeting, during which the Board Members were pleased to establish that the Chamber enjoys a sound financial situation which allows it to undertake an increasing number of activities, Secretary-General Mr. Qaisar Hijazin opened the lunch conference by assuring ABLCC members of the Chamber’s continuous engagement in offering them a range of high quality services which are regularly evaluated according to their needs. Before leaving the floor to H.E. Mr.Samir Addahre, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Belgium, who was congratulated with his recent appointment as Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps in Belgium, the Secretary General encouraged all members to take very seriously the standard phrase “don’t hesitate to contact us” often used in ABLCC correspondence.

Mr. Addahre started out his presentation by examining trade relations between Belgium and Luxembourg on the one hand, and the Arab world on the other. Noting a positive evolution of exports to Arab countries from Belgium (increase of 11% in 2012 compared to 2011) and Luxembourg, (increase of 8%), the ambassador noted that Belgium realized a particularly important evolution in terms of exports to Oman (increase of 113%), Libya (178%) and Yemen (133%).  

ablcc bod-meeting 02Flrt: Their Excellencies Ambassadors Mr. Al Humaimidi (Iraq), Mr. Adami (Arab League), Mr. Fidail (Sudan), SG of the ABLCC Mr. Hijazin, H.E. Mr. Trad (Saudi Arabia), H.E. Mr. Addahre (Morocco) and H.E. Mr. Al-Zou’bi (Jordan).

The dean also directed his attention to the imports coming from Arab countries, where he established a low evolution. He specified that imports of Belgium in transport equipment knew a three-digit evolution (322% between 2011 and 2012), while other products, most notably animal and food-processing products, witnessed a clear regression. According to the Ambassador, Bahrain was one of the countries that succeeded in giving a firm boost to exports towards Belgium, as it was able to book a 548% increase over the same period.

Although Mr. Addahre sees ample reason to be delighted with the quality of relations existing between both regions, he hoped to be able to further develop ties on economic and political levels through a deepening of political dialogues, which should result in “more mergers of points of view, to tackle the transverse problems we are facing”. According to the Ambassador, this challenge should be confronted through supporting the modernization processes which are currently being set up in several Arab countries, as well as through the promotion of common values.

On his turn, the Ambassador also concluded his presentation by assuring all ABLCC members they would find a willing ear with the Arab diplomatic corps for all their questions relating to Arab countries.

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Arab Delegation Visit to the Audi Factory

Forest – 14 November 2013

Audi-factory

The Arab Members of the ABLCC Board of Directors who courageously traveled to Brussels during those rainy days that sometimes characterize Belgian autumn, as well as the Arab Ambassadors accredited to Brussels, were offered the possibility to participate in a guided tour through the Audi Factory located in Forest (Brussels) to witness from close-by the production process of the Audi A1, a model which is exclusively produced in Belgium.

Participants marveled at the spectacular sights offered by the bodywork and assembly sites of the factory, which has a daily capacity of over 500 units. During the period 2008-2010, EUR 300 million has been invested in the Brussels factory for the production of the A1 model.

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