From a second Suez Canal in Egypt, sharing knowledge on renewable energy with Morocco, gas exploration by Royal Dutch Shell in Tunisia or the export of machinery and chemical products to Jordan: the economic relations between The Netherlands and the MENA region are tight. Trade missions are frequently organized by the Dutch government and businesses. For example, this year the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Lilian Ploumen visited Morocco and Tunisia for a maritime trade mission. She also visited Jordan to share knowledge and to promote cooperation in the field of trade between both counties.
To stimulate further cooperation on trade issues between The Netherlands and the MENA region and to promote regional cooperation, the Clingendael Academy organised a two week training programme ’Trade Promotion and Economic Diplomacy’ for policy officers from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The first part of the course, which was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and developed in collaboration with Berenschot Consulting, took place at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague.
Government as Bridge Builder
The programme was kicked off by the Director General of Foreign Economic Affairs, Marten van den Berg, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday morning. During his opening speech he stressed that role of the government is essential when it comes to trade promotion and economic diplomacy. In his view, the government is the bridge builder between businesses and receiving countries.
How do you organise a trade mission and how can you define and seize trade opportunities for your country? And when is a mission successful? During the first week, the policy officers from the participating countries followed lectures to increase and deepen their knowledge of trade promotion and economic diplomacy. They learned that preparation, timing and networking (and sometimes the invitation of one of your ministers) are essential elements to arrive at a succesful mission. Furthermore, the delegates from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia participating followed skills trainings to improve their presentation and pitching techniques. Hence, to seize trade successfully, you need to be able to promote your country, sector and product.
Next to lectures and trainings, a knowledge carrousel and working visit to the dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs was organized to share best practices. On Wednesday, businesses and NGO’s were invited to learn more about their involvement in the region. Both large and smaller Dutch companies are very active in the MENA region. During the knowledge carrousel, the participants learned that to strengthen relationships with such companies and set up new partnerships, the Dutch embassy can play the role of (inter)mediator. To many, this was an eyeopener.
On Thursday, the delegates had the opportunities to meet and set up new contacts with the country representatives of their home countries. The first week finished with the country representations, in which the participants could not only share and discuss the challenges and opportunities in their countries, but also put the knowledge they obtained in practice. These presentations were very instructive (who knew that Tunisia is the sole producer of the Maltese oranges?) and will form the basis for the second part of the course, when they will have to develop back home action plans.
Their bags filled with fresh knowledge and business cards, the participants took their flights back home this weekend. For the second part of the programme, the delegates will reunite in Rabat, Morocco, in October of this year.
- 14 September 2015