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Rwanda, Belgium to sign pacts

The New Times (Kigali) | April 13, 2007

Country, Belgium to Sign Pacts

By Robert Mukombozi

The Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Karel De Gucht, is expected in Rwanda this week to seal trade and investment frameworks with the Rwandan government, The New Times has learnt.

A statement from the Belgium embassy in Kigali says Gucht, who will be in the country from April 14th to 16 in the framework of a regional tour, is expected to hold talks with President Paul Kagame in review of the diplomatic and development partnership progress between Rwanda and Belgium.

The minister will meet his counterpart Dr Charles Murigande (Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister.

On his two-day mission before leaving for Burundi on April 16, the Belgian minister will meet different authorities from the foreign affairs, trade and commerce, finance and planning ministries to discuss, forge consensus and append signatures to numerous trade and diplomatic agreements between the Kigali and Brussels establishments.

"He will take the opportunity of his visit to sign the Convention to avoid double taxation with Monique Nsanzabaganwa (State minister in charge of planning in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning) and a Treaty to protect Investments with Protais Mitali (minister for Commerce)," Cartier Sibille, the first Secretary Political Affairs to the Belgian Ambassador in Kigali said in the Wednesday (April, 11) press statement.

Contacted for a comment, the State minister for cooperation, Rose Museminari noted that Gucht’s visit would facilitate strengthening of further bilateral interests between Rwanda and Belgium.

"It is true, the Belgian Foreign Affairs minister will be in Rwanda very soon and we are set to use this opportunity to discuss both national and multilateral issues," she said.

Asked whether Rwanda had a list of specific burning issues to table, Museminari said that there was none but quickly added that ongoing development programmes supported by the European state would be presented for review in the process. "We are also ready to contribute to any issues that will be tabled by Belgium in the course of the dialogues," Museminari told The New Times by telephone yesterday.

Basing on last year’s estimates and terms of trade, Rwanda’s exports have hit $135.4 million realized from tea, coffee, coltan, cassiterite, hides, iron ore and tin.

Rwanda’s major markets include China, Belgium, and Germany.

The New Times has learnt from the ministry of Finance 2006 trade statistics that the country imports figure has shot to $390.4 million spent on foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, cement and construction material and the major suppliers are Kenya, Germany, Belgium, France, Uganda and Israel.

"Basing on available statistics, Belgium is one of Rwanda’s major partners both in imports and exports, and the signing of investment treaty will play a significant role in opening up our markets to allow for expansive investment opportunities," Mitali said.

Citing the process that will see the investment treaty that has taken over four years in the shelves signed, Mitali said both countries will be able to enjoy a reasonably free business partnership, reducing or where necessary cutting stringent requirements that have long served as hitches in the process of both countries’ trading.

"This serves as opportunity enough to access the Belgian markets as well as attract investment," the minister said by telephone yesterday.

In Rwanda, Belgian cooperation is active in health, education, supporting the rule of law and justice, agriculture and food safety, rural development, drinking water and basic infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Gucht’s tour comes immediately after the visit of Armand De Decker, the Belgian minister for Development Cooperation.

During his July, 2006 tour of duty in Rwanda, De Decker assessed the progress made in Belgian cooperation projects and prepared for the Joint Committee meeting, which drew up the next Indicative Cooperation Programme (ICP) that increased financial support from 25 million to 35 million euros per year.