Belgium to open its consulate in Chennai next year

Belgium to open its consulate in Chennai next year

Belgium will set up its second consulate in the country here next year, Belgium Consul General Karl Van den Bossche has said.

"We are considering to set up a Consulate office here in Chennai. It is in the pipeline... Our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders is very concerned in opening it up..", he told PTI.

The member of the European Union has an Embassy in New Delhi and its one consulate office in Mumbai.

One of the reasons for setting up the second consulate office in Chennai was the Mumbai consulate was handling visa applications and related enquiries from several states, he said.He said the during his visit to India next year, Belgium Crown Prince Philippe is expected to inaugurate the Consulate office in Chennai.

Noting that 80 per cent of trade volume between Belgium and India constitute "diamonds", he said the current two-way trade between the two countries stands at USD 15bn.

Inviting Indian entrepreneurs and corporates to establish footprint in his country, he said there were about 60 Indian companies operating in Belgium while it was 120 Belgium companies having presence in India.

He pointed out that the prevailing global economic crisis was an opportunity for an Indian company to establish its operation there.

"The market sentiment may be dull. But it is an systematic crisis. the economy will soon pickup. be there before it(economic) picks up".

The Consul General said the geographical presence of Belgium was one of its biggest advantages, as many European countries can be reached within 24-48 hours by road.

He invited companies from auto-component, pharmaceutical to Belgium and besides these industries they are willing to attract more Indian investors.

"We want to grow the cake. All those companies that need (overseas) distribution (in the European market can come to us)", he said.

Commenting about the free trade agreement with India and European Union in which Belgium is one of its members, he appealed to companies and industrialists to knock the door in New Delhi for opening up the market.

"It is taking a lot of time because of some issues ... We are waiting or dying for the Indian market to open up..", he said, adding the FTA would reduce "tariffs" in all industries including banking and retail. "In general, it will lower all tariffs (provide tax benefits to the two countries)", he said.

Currently, some of the Indian companies that have presence in Belgium is Super Autoforge, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, State Bank of India, Bank of India among others.

On the tourist arrivals in Belgium, he said about 45,000 visas were issued last year and added that they were asking agents to provide, first time visitors, to stay in Belgium for two nights, before proceeding their journey to other European countries. He pointed out that Antwerp is home for the biggest Jain temple in Belgium, outside India. 

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