Benelux-Kazakhstan Trade Talks: Exploring Opportunities for Mutual Growth

ASTANA — The inaugural meeting of the BeNeLux-Kazakhstan Trade Talks on Feb. 15 at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business marked a significant step to fostering closer ties and exploring new avenues for economic collaboration between the BeNeLux countries and Kazakhstan.

The distinguished speakers, including Henri Vantieghem, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium in Kazakhstan, and Nico Schermers, Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Kazakhstan, shared valuable insights. Photo credit: The Astana Times.

Organized by BeNeLux Chamber of Commerce, uniting the trade circles of the Kingdoms of Belgium and the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, QazTrade Trade Policy Development Center and Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business, the forum concentrated on crucial aspects of trade and investment relations.

The distinguished speakers, including Henri Vantieghem, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium in Kazakhstan, and Nico Schermers, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Kazakhstan, shared valuable insights.

Belgium’s perspective

Ambassador Vantieghem highlighted the immense potential to develop the Middle Corridor between the BeNeLux region and Kazakhstan. Emphasizing the strategic logistics hubs near Maastricht, he underscored the ease of connectivity from BeNeLux to various European countries. 

“If you are in the BeNeLux you are at the heart of Europe: from Portugal to Poland and from Sweden to Italy. BeNeLux is really the center of it,” he said.

He stressed the importance of unified norms and standards, particularly in agriculture, to facilitate seamless trade. Regarding legal aspects, ambassador Vantieghem expressed optimism about Kazakhstan’s progress in adopting new laws. 

“Since Jan. 22, the new laws that have been adopted are really promising. And we hope that the laws will be implemented as quick as possible because when they will be implemented, there won’t be any obstacles for investors to be very willing to come here,” he concluded.  

Insights from the Netherlands

Netherland’s ambassador Schermers acknowledged the challenges in logistics and emphasized the need to address them for smooth trade. He highlighted the importance of a stable legal system, transparency, and adherence to human rights, underscoring their role in attracting businesses and fostering trade relationships.

Regarding agricultural products, ambassador Schermers pointed out the growing interest in sunflower production, which can be promising in Kazakhstan, considering the market dynamics since the conflict in Ukraine. He stressed the need for clear regulations and legal frameworks to instill confidence in investors coming to the country.

Panel discussion on trade cooperation

The trade panel, featuring Denis Van den Weghe, president of the BeNeLux Chamber of Commerce, Ainur Amirbekova from QazTrade, Anuar Kurzhikayev, general director of the Benelux Chamber of Commerce in Kazakhstan, delved into opportunities for cooperation between BeNeLux countries and Kazakhstan.

President Van den Weghe noted the chamber’s commitment to facilitating joint research collaborations and promoting diversified trade opportunities between the BeNeLux region and Kazakhstan.

“Kazakhstan with its strategic location and abundant natural resources, presents immense opportunities for growth. (…) Together, we can unlock the full potential of our economies and create lasting benefits for businesses and communities alike,” he said.

The panel discussed the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Benelux countries, showcasing the significant role of rare materials and crude oil in this trade relationship.

Belgium and the Netherlands emerged as pivotal trading partners for Kazakhstan within the EU. Bilateral trade turnover and direct investment figures underscored the robust economic ties between the regions. 

In 2023, trade turnover between the Netherlands and Kazakhstan reached $4.4 billion, with substantial investments in crucial sectors such as technology and infrastructure. Similarly, Belgium’s bilateral trade turnover with Kazakhstan stood at $523.7 million, reflecting a growing economic partnership.

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