Belgian economic mission to Australia kicks off in Sydney
Belgium's ambassador to Australia welcomed Princess Astrid and her delegation to Sydney on Sunday evening, kicking off a week-long economic mission to the country.
The princess is accompanied on the mission by Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib, Flemish Finance minister Matthias Diependaele, Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort and Walloon Economy minister Willy Borsus. The delegation also includes representatives of around 100 companies, associations and universities.
The mission was unofficially launched on Sunday evening with a briefing for the participants and speeches by ambassador Michel Goffin and representatives of the Flemish and Walloon regions.
Goffin stressed on Sunday evening that a trade agreement between the EU and Australia was in the pipeline. "In Belgium, we know what a real boost such an agreement would be for the economy," he said, adding that "Australian companies find an open door in Belgium and create jobs".
"The Australians are determined to be carbon neutral by 2050, and they won't get there without European and Belgian technology"
Goffin also admitted that a few years ago Australia was "not the best student in the class" on climate change but "now, under the new government, the country has joined the international community with ambitious targets. The Australians are determined to be carbon neutral by 2050, and they won't get there without European and Belgian technology. It is important that you bring that technology."
The Belgian delegation has a busy schedule in Australia with several seminars, company visits and signing ceremonies. They will stay in Sydney until Wednesday, before travelling to Melbourne until Friday for a further series of activities.
On Monday, Princess Astrid will be welcomed by the governor-general of the Commonwealth of Australia, the representative of King Charles III.
Princess Astrid of Belgium (middle) at the start of the Belgian economic mission to Australia © BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE