Belgian Minister Van Peteghem speaks at the AFF

On 10 January, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance Vincent Van Peteghem was invited to speak at the Asia Financial Forum. We are waiting for approval to share his entire speech with you, for now please find some excerpts from his interesting speech below.

It is a real pleasure to speak at this Asian Financial Forum – one of the most important economic conferences in Asia, if not the most important. Belgium, highly values the trade and finance relations with Asia – as a key driver of global economic growth. And Hong Kong of course plays a crucial role in this story.

Hong Kong itself is home to the second biggest Belgian community in Asia, as well as a substantial number of our companies. To give just one example: Belgian insurance company Ageas has its Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong. It is active in a large number of dynamic Asian markets, that make up an increasingly large part of its global turnover. And, remarkably: through its joint venture with Taiping, it is now the largest European insurance company in Mainland China.

One of the areas where I see the biggest opportunities for cooperation is the green economy, and our common drive towards a more sustainable future. We aim to be completely climate neutral by 2050.

Similarly, I note that Hong Kong has a plan to eliminate greenhouse gases by 2050 – and that China has set the same goal for 2060. As a Minister of Finance, I am dealing with the important question of how to finance this green transition. The European Commission estimated that the EU would need 500 billion euros a year by 2030, in order to reach its emission reduction target of 55%.

Public investments can guide the way, but will not be able to do the job on their own. We especially need private initiatives, we need our industries, our companies and entrepreneurs, all over the world. So we also need you. We all need to face the same direction, and underline the same level of ambition.

Greening an international financial system requires global standards and regulations. We need common global standards and definitions on green finance, in order to fully exploit the potential of our global financial markets.

We need to ensure that companies all over the world can compete to one another on equal terms. One of the challenges to this economic level playing field are the different climate standards across the world. Therefore, the EU is currently discussing a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, some sort of levy on imported goods from countries with weaker climate goals. But of course, the ultimate goal remains to have equally ambitious carbon pricing models all over the world.

The challenges in front of us are big. But so is our shared level of ambition. The intense trade and finance relations between the EU and Asia brought a lot of prosperity, on both sides. We should now use these intense relations to tackle the challenges of the future. We will only solve the climate challenge, by doing this together. And we will only find sufficient resources to do so, by greening our international financial system together.