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Story Highlights

  • The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Honourable A.J. Nicholson, paid an official visit to Belgium from 4 to 6 March 2015.
  • He discussed with officials at the federal and regional levels the strengthening of bilateral relations including commercial relations between Jamaica and Belgium.
  • The possibility of a trade and investment mission to Jamaica in the near future was explored.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Honourable A.J. Nicholson, paid an official visit to Belgium from 4 to 6 March 2015, during which he discussed with officials at the federal and regional levels the strengthening of bilateral relations including commercial relations between Jamaica and Belgium.  The possibility of a trade and investment mission to Jamaica in the near future was explored.

The Minister held meetings with his counterpart, Mr. Didier Reynders, the Minister of Trade, Mr. Pieter De Crem and the Minister President of Flanders, Mr. Geert Bourgeois. Minister Nicholson was accompanied by Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Paul Robotham and the Ambassador of Jamaica, Her Excellency Vilma McNish.

A number of areas for cooperation between the countries were identified in the discussions including sustainable development, renewable energy, security and port management. Minister Nicholson highlighted Belgium’s support for infrastructural development in Jamaica especially in the transport sector through the supply of buses, the construction of the Half-Way-Tree transport centre and the future construction of a centre in Portmore by a Belgian company. He referred to plans to develop a logistics hub to position Jamaica to benefit from the expansion of the Panama Canal and invited the interest of Belgian investors.

In his meeting with Foreign Minister Reynders, the two discussed the special situation of Small Island Developing States, climate change and regional integration.  They expressed optimism for a tangible outcome of the Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year with binding commitments on the reduction of greenhouse gases. It was emphasized that the major issue for SIDS is support for adaptation and building resilience to deal with the consequences of climate change.  In this regard, the Belgian Foreign Minister referred to his country’s expertise in solar and wind energy and the possibilities for cooperation in these areas.  The meeting with Trade Minister De Crem focussed on ways in which the two sides can trade and on investment relations including through greater business-to-business contacts between the countries.

Cooperation in port management and logistics was among the issues discussed with the Minister-President of the Flanders region where the fourth largest port in the world, Antwerp, is located.  Jamaicans have benefited from training at the Antwerp/Flanders Port Training Centre (APEC).   Minister Nicholson congratulated the Flanders region for spearheading the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War and recalled that almost 10,000 Jamaicans volunteered to fight in the war many of whom died and are buried in cemeteries in Flanders. The establishment of a Flanders Fields Memorial Garden in Jamaica was proposed as a tribute to Jamaica’s involvement in the war.

Minister Nicholson paid a courtesy call on the newly installed Secretary General of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, Dr. Patrick Gomes, at APC House. The two exchanged views on the future of the Group in the context of the expiry of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement in 2020.

The Foreign Minister had an opportunity to meet with Jamaican nationals living in Brussels at a reception hosted by the Ambassador of Jamaica.  He encouraged their continued support for Jamaica and expressed pleasure that there will be representation for the first time from the Diaspora in Belgium at the 6th Biennial Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay in June.