Opening of The Netherlands-Russia Business Meet 2013

Speech by the Minister of Economic Affairs, Henk Kamp, Opening of The Netherlands-Russia Business Meet 2013, Amsterdam, 8 April 2013.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Dutch government I would like to welcome you to the Netherlands Russia Business Meet. A hundred years ago, this building hosted our nation’s stock exchange. Businessmen and investors like yourselves came looking for growth and opportunity.

And there is ample growth and opportunity when it comes to Russia and the Netherlands. Dutch exports to Russia totalled 6,4 billion euros in 2011 and we are the country’s second-largest investor. Meanwhile, one-third of 2011 crude oil came from Russia and Russia has major gas and oil related interests in the Netherlands.

Indeed, energy is of major importance to both our countries and we have been investing in each other’s energy industries. Gazprom and Gasunie have worked on the Nord Stream pipeline, Shell is a key player in Sachalin and Summa is going to build an oil terminal in the Port of Rotterdam.

The Netherlands is the energy roundabout of Western Europe and we are keen to work more closely with Russia. We excel at research and exploitation, as well as renewables and energy efficiency. During today’s session on natural resources I will speak in more detail about my nation’s sustainable energy cooperation.

Today’s event shows that our trade relations are broader than energy. Agriculture, for example, is a promising area. Russia is one of the largest food importers in the world but aims to become self-sufficient by 2020.

We fully support this goal with our knowledge, products and services in areas like animal protein, potato seeds, high-tech horticulture and arable farming. Dutch agri-food exports to Russia were close to 1.6 billion euros in 2012.

Allow me to share some success stories with you.

  • The Livestock Expertise Centre has set up laboratories to improve animal production. They also set up a training centre for dairy managers at Triofarm, a large Russian dairy farm.
  • Wageningen University has set up agriculture MBA programmes at the universities of Kazan, Belgorod and Stavropol. Other universities are interested.
  • Around Leningrad, our northern provinces are transferring knowledge and providing training to improve potato harvests.
  • Dutch companies have constructed greenhouses to increase vegetable and flower production.
  • And finally, the Plus for Progress consortium of Dutch companies is introducing satellite technology to predict harvest developments.

These and other examples show how Dutch businesses, government organisations and academic institutions successfully support their Russian counterparts. My colleague Minister of Agriculture Dijksma aims at further enhancing our cooperation when visiting Russia in October.

In addition to energy and agriculture, the Netherlands Russian Business Meet will also focus on health care. Global demand for and the cost of health care is expected to double in the next 20 years, and this affects both our countries. I am proud of the work done by Dutch health care organisations in Russia.

DSM, for example, is working with the Nutrition Institute and the Russian Ministry of Health around the provision of vitamins in Tartarstan. Lamboo Mobile Medical is constructing a plant in Tver. And the medical centers of the universities of Maastricht and Groningen are sharing their knowledge with Russian counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Task Force Health Care, a platform for the Dutch life sciences and health sector, is bringing together Dutch and Russian companies in the healthcare sector.

The health care session later this afternoon will take a closer look at opportunities in this innovative sector.

So ladies and gentlemen, I have mentioned energy, agriculture, and health, but our interest is broader than that. By focussing on innovation, for example, we can stimulate investments and trade in every sector.

That is why I am proud that the Netherlands is about to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, which will boost investments and cooperation in the area of innovation.

And there is a lot happening on the ground. Last year, for example, Dr. Vekselberg led a roadshow from (Moscou’s Silicon Valley) Skolkovo to the Netherlands; and now the University of Groningen will open a stem cell research lab at the research university of Skoltech.

Innovation is also one of my country’s priorities. Innovation facilitates economic growth and provides solutions to climate change, sustainable food production and the growing need for reliable and affordable energy.

This is why, when it comes to innovation, we focus on the top sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, horticulture, creativity, and high-tech systems and materials. We also excel at energy, logistics, the chemical industry, life sciences and health, and the maritime industry.

Exports and international cooperation are key to our top sector approach, as are R&D programmes jointly created and funded by the government, private sector and academia. Only 25% of Dutch businesses operate in these top sectors, but they account for 96% of all R&D investments.

I believe there are tremendous opportunities for Dutch and Russian companies in these areas. Judging by the large number of participants today, you seem to agree. Large corporations like Philips, Unilever and DSM are keen to invest in Russia, as are SMEs like Ecostyle, which exports environmentally friendly garden products.

There are also cross-industry themes that are of interest, like nano technology, bio-based economy and biotechnology. IT is another lucrative area, particularly in the context of European-wide programmes such as Horizon 2020.

Russia and the Netherlands are natural partners. Russia is leading in fundamental research. The Netherlands is also great at applied research. There is a growing need in the Netherlands for qualified technicians and we welcome Russia’s knowledge workers. Our Netherlands Education Support Office in Moscow is acting like a catalyst in this area.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

This event is an important step towards better business relations between Russia and the Netherlands. We share interests, challenges and opportunities and there are many areas in which we can co-operate.

You are at the heart this relationship. I am grateful for your attendance and I wish you success growing your business. I hope today’s Business Meet will help you build new partnerships, set up new projects and realise your ambitions, both in the Netherlands and in Russia.

Thank you.