VICTORIA – British Columbia and Alberta will host Belgium’s Princess Astrid and more than 200 business and state leaders during a week-long visit, starting Sunday.
Canada and the European Union reached a free-trade deal earlier this year, and Raoul Delcorde, the Belgian ambassador to Canada, said Belgians view B.C. as an ideal place to launch business opportunities into the Asia-Pacific region.
The royal business delegation will make stops in Vancouver and Calgary
“British Columbia could become a bridge for our Belgian companies wanting to develop their operations in the Asia-Pacific region, and Belgium could become a bridge to Europe’s large market for many companies from British Columbia,” said Delcorde in a statement released Wednesday by B.C.’s government.
International Trade Minister Teresa Wat said in a statement the European Union is B.C.’s fifth-largest export market and the Belgian port of Antwerp is a major point of entry for Canadian goods into Europe.
“As the gateway to Europe, building strong ties with Belgium would give us access to a market of 500-million people, and as the gateway to the Asia Pacific, we can help Belgium make inroads in the Asian market,” said Wat.
Belgium’s Foreign Trade Agency said the mission includes officials from ports, chambers of commerce and more than 100 businesses, representing such industries as liquefied natural gas, shipping, film, technology, research, agriculture and manufacturing.
While in Vancouver, the Belgian delegates will visit the aquarium, fuel-cell innovator Ballard Power Systems, power-solutions company Alpha Technologies and ASCO Aerospace Canada.
The delegates will participate in business seminars that examine opportunities stemming from the Canada-EU trade deal. They will also meet B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Princess Astrid will also bestow Wat with the Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown, one of the highest decorations from the Kingdom of Belgium.
Louise Arbour, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal and justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, will also receive an Order of the Crown.
The honour dates back to 1897 and is awarded for services to Belgium, including distinguished artistic, literary, scientific or commercial achievements. It is frequently awarded to foreign nationals and military and diplomatic personnel stationed in or providing support to Belgium.
During the Second World War, the Order of the Crown was granted to Allied military personnel who helped liberate Belgium from Nazi occupation.
Princess Astrid, 53, is known for focusing her energy on marginalized citizens and she often visits and encourages organizations that help those who are in need.
She is married to Lorenz, Arch-Duke d’Autriche-Este. The couple has five children.
Canadian investments in Belgium totalled $1.11 billion in 2014, ranking 10th among Canadian direct investment destinations in the EU , says B.C.’s trade ministry.
Belgian direct investment in Canada was worth $5.7 billion in 2014, the 11th largest foreign direct investor in Canada on a global basis.