The New Belt Road in the hearth of Europe. Wallonia and China launched on Wednesday a new cargo train route linking the Belgian city of Liege to Zhengzhou, the capital city of China’s Henan province
On the occasion of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the twinning between the Walloon Region and Henan Province, an official delegation led by Vice-Governor He Jinping of Henan Province was invited by her counterpart Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Vice-President of the Walloon Government, and the Wallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX), to visit Wallonia with the aim of strengthening the close friendship and the collaboration between the two regions.
“After 30 years of twinning with this great central province and seeing the evolution of the flow of goods between our two regions, I am delighted to welcome Vice-Governor HE on this day and to launch, together, an initiative that will write one of the most beautiful pages of the story between Wallonia and China, from the heart of Europe until the heart of China”, Pierre-Yves Jeholet praised.
Henan Province, located in the heart of Central China, is one of the most populated region in China, with the second-tier city Zhengzhou leading consumes in the area.
Following “Made in China 2025” strategu, today, the economic profile of the Province is changing thanks to “Central Plains Economic Zone (CPEZ)”, which aims at empowering economically the territorial heart of China. The Province is now particularly specialised in electrical manufacturing, logistics hubs creation at the instigation of Beijing and accentuates the modernisation of its agricultural base. Today, Henan is producing a GDP among the top 5 of the country.
The relationship between Henan Province and the Walloon Region has been boosted ever since the first official meeting in 2013, at the initiative of the AWEX. Delegations have then come in succession between the two regions, which allowed for new projects in the logistics and tourism sectors as well as for cooperation in the agronomics and animal health sectors.
Zhengzhou, capital of Henan, is at the heart of this new dynamic and has benefited from the recent Chinese railway development and the improvement of a large amount of logistics infrastructures for air transportation. The city is to become the future airline and logistics hub from the new central China.
Accompanied by a lion dance, the first logistics train was inaugurated when the first train left the Liege Container Terminal station for Zhengzhou, composed of 29 wagons and 37 containers, for 12 days of travel with a cargo filled with auto parts, agri-food, and pharmaceutical products.
“Henan Province and the Walloon Region have built a strong relationship of cooperation since1988. This year marking the 30th anniversary of this friendship and cooperation between the two regions” said He Jinping Vice-Governor of Henan Province.
Mr. He also explained how “the governments of both regions have led delegations of corporate representatives and have arranged numerous visits. The AWEX, the Henan Province CCPIT and the Henan Provincial Department of Commerce have signed, together, the cooperation memorandum and the framework cooperation agreement which facilitated the strategic cooperation between Air Belgium and Henan Airlines Investment Group.
The active promotion of air freight transport between Xinzheng International Airport (Zhengzhou) and Liege Airport (Belgium) as well as the construction of railway lines is also to be highlighted. The inauguration of the new EU-China railway line between Zhengzhou and Liege marks a new phase in the development of the relationship between our two provinces”.
Michel Kempeneers, General Inspector and COO Overseas Export-Investment at AWEX, highlighted: “The privileged relationship and the continuous contacts between the AWEX and the Henan authorities, the freight rail operator ZIH as well as the airline company HNCA, have borne fruit through the inauguration of the freight railway line Liege-Zhengzhou”. The new line is actually the first of its kind to be used at a regular frequency in Belgium.
“This record of success opens the way to a new dynamic in the logistics relationship between Wallonia and China, and completes the investments in research and innovation recently announced. Something very promising has started a few months ago in this country” said Mr. Kempeneers
The official delegation is also accompanied by a number of companies, including ZIH (the railway operator) and the Henan Airport Group, as well as several players from the tourism sector. A seminar was also on 24th October at Liege Airport, attended by more than a hundred companies from Wallonia, Flanders, the Netherlands and Germany, where the advantages of rail and air freight through Liege Airport site will be presented.
Wallonia and Liègeas a key gateway to the European market? Thanks to the strangers position in the heart of Europe, attractiveness of Wallonia is thereby strengthened and will attract other players to our region,” says Bernard Piette, General Manager of Logistics in Wallonia.
According to Luc Partoune, CEO of Liege Airport, this rail connection is complimentary to the airlines: “Liege Airport has been supporting this project since the beginning, as the rail freight connections strengthens Liege and Zhengzhou as a multimodal bridge between Europe and China”.
With the new rail connection, Liege Airport’s cargo community increases the flexibility of its offering to European exporters and shippers. Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, trade between Wallone and China is increasing very rapidly. “Investments at the airport as well as to our logistics platform are clearly anticipating new freight flows. The combination of rail and air connectivity is a confirmation of the attractiveness and triggering of expansion”, stated Mr. Partoune. A
The seminar, during which the different actors were able to present their activities, was followed by the inauguration of the new Zhengzhou-Liege cargo railway line. But the day was also an opportunity to officially launch the “Belgian Cross-Border e-commerce Association” based in Wallonia, whose objective is to make businesses aware of the benefits of online commerce with China and the rest of the world, to be a platform for meetings between industry players and to organise educational and promotional events in Europe and China.
Cifnews already visited Liegi Logistic Hub last April. The purpose of the Cifnews’ visit was to further facilitate the cooperation with AWEX, and jointly discuss how to use the advantages of European resources to better serve Chinese sellers and provide them with more systematic and complete logistics solutions. From this, Wallonia also joined CCEE Xiamen in summer.
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