The Humpty Dumpty Institute worked with Voka – Chamber of Commerce and Industry Antwerp-Waasland in Belgium to have a large delegation from the U.S. Congress visit Antwerp, Belgium April 5th-8th, 2019. The focus of the program was a review of the operation of the Port of Antwerp and discussions on how to increase trade and investment between Belgium and the United States. The delegation was led by the Co-Chair of the Port Caucus, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). Other participants were Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA), Rep. Gregorio Sablan (I-MP), Rep. Amata Radewagen (R-AS). Dr. Al Khalafalla and Mark Epstein, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of HDI also participated.
The program started immediately after arrival in Antwerp the morning of Friday, April 5 with a visit to the Chamber of Commerce and a welcome by Mr. Luc Luwel, the Chamber’s CEO. This was followed by a meeting with the leadership of the Chamber and a discussion on strategic business interest for U.S. commerce with the Port of Antwerp and corporations involved in petro-chemical, port and infrastructure. A highlight of the visit occurred on the afternoon of the first day with a visit to the Antwerp refinery of Exxon Mobil. There was a working meeting with Exxon Mobil management, with a focus on the importance of Antwerp as a partner for U.S. petro-chemical and refining businesses.
On Saturday morning after breakfast with the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz, the delegation visited the iconic Port House designed by Zada Haddid. The group then had a tour of the port. The CEO of the Port of Antwerp, Mr. Jacques Vandermeiren, discussed the role of the Port in trade between the United States and European countries. Later in the day the delegation held talks with Visit to Deme, one of the world’ s largest players in dredging and environment technology where they explored opportunities for U.S. businesses related to dredging, port mobility & efficiencies. The Members of Congress also had the pleasure of meeting U.S. Coast Guard service members. There has been a contingent of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed at the Port of Antwerp since the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
On Sunday April 7, the Mayor of Antwerp, the Honorable Bart De Wever invited the delegation to be his guests at the opening of the Tour de Flanders one of the most important events in world cycling. The Mayor used this opportunity to stress the importance of Antwerp as an international city and to forge business and cultural ties with the individual Congresspeople with the intent of developing business relations between Antwerp and cities across the United States.
The delegation departed Antwerp on Monday, April 8 with an understanding of the importance of the Port of Antwerp in international trade and ideas to consider on how to improve trade, business, and cultural contact between Antwerp and cities their individual districts.