Belgium’s top diplomat in the Southeast used the occasion of King’s Day in mid-November to highlight his country’s strong economic ties with the region, even as President Trump’s renewed threats of European auto tariffs fanned trade tensions.
“The President has suggested that the European Union is a threat to the USA,” William De Baets was slated to say in prepared remarks. “That is not true. On the contrary, Europe is the oldest and strongest ally of the USA. And despite negative political rhetoric and economic measures, the relations between the USA and the EU, and Belgium in particular, are excellent.”
Mr. De Baets said that American investment in his country of 10 million has surged past its previous peak since the economic downturn of 2008, supporting 125,000 jobs.
And Southeast-invested Belgian companies that sponsored the event at the Fox Theatre — UCB, Beauflor, Solvay, OM Partners and Barco — show that it’s a two-way street, with Belgium ranking No. 9 among foreign investing nations despite its size, he added. Some 150,000 Americans have jobs thanks to Belgian investment.
King’s Day is celebrated annually on Nov. 15; this year’s event honored King Philippe (or Filip), who took the throne of the constitutional monarchy five years ago upon the abdication of his father, King Albert II. It came with a particular significance this year, just days after world leaders went to Paris to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, which ended World War I.
Given the tumultuous century that ensued even after “the war to end all wars,” Mr. De Baets said it’s always vital to keep the health of the transatlantic alliance front of mind.
“After World War II, the USA took the lead for establishing a new international order based on justice and reconciliation and strong multilateral institutions. The transatlantic cooperation became a model of peace, stability and economic success. It is a model where freedom and democracy are essential.”
Perhaps inspired by U.S. midterms and tense Georgia gubernatorial elections that occurred the week before, Mr. De Baets called for a renewed sense of voter responsibility in the context of supporting democracy globally. He urged all Belgians not to think that living abroad releases them from their responsibility. All Belgians are registered to vote, but those living abroad must register with their nearest diplomatic mission to cast their ballots.
Amid his speech, Georgia State Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) read a proclamation from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office highlighting a Georgia-Belgium relationship that goes back, according to Mr. De Baets’ research, to the first Belgian consulate in Savannah in 1834.
Atlanta will play host next week to ambassadors from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg during a series of high-profile events including a luncheon at the Metro Atlanta Chamber designed to highlight the Benelux region as a precursor to European integration.
Learn more about the event or register: 60 years of the Benelux Union: Luncheon and Panel Discussion