Rapaport Magazine

Antwerp

By Marc Goldstein
Bridge to China

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) and the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE) have signed an agreement of cooperation for developing an exclusive commercial and trade relationship. The signing of the agreement on March 31 in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping on his first visit to Europe as head of state indicates the high importance of the diamond trade to both Antwerp and China.
   In the past decade, the increasing trade and financial flows between the European Union (EU) and China have considerably strengthened their interdependence, a trend also clearly reflected in the diamond trade between the two. AWDC has for many years placed a special focus on China, with the goal of increasing cooperation between these two natural partners.

Setting the Stage for Trade
   The groundwork for the new agreement was laid in 2009 when a memorandum of understanding for bilateral trade was signed between China and Belgium. In the new agreement, various practical aspects for further cooperation have been outlined. For example, the agreement commits both parties to increase the trade in diamonds between China and Belgium by at least 10 percent annually over three years. In addition, various networking events are going to be organized by both countries in order to facilitate and develop trade. Logistics between both countries will also be reinforced.
   The agreement also assures cooperation between the countries in exchanging market information and diamond knowledge, encouraging free trade of diamonds and cooperating in the field of research and development, especially concerning the preservation and protection of the integrity of the natural diamond pipeline.
   It’s no surprise that Lin Qiang, SDE president, expressed his satisfaction after sealing the cooperative arrangement agreement that will extend for at least the next three years. “The Cooperation Agreement between SDE and AWDC will prove vital in deepening our relationship,” he said. “The scope of the partnership outlined in this agreement is an organic development in the Belgian-Chinese diamond trade, and an important dimension of both countries’ strategic aims. I am confident that the full commitment of SDE and AWDC to the goals outlined in the agreement will be mutually rewarding for both sides.”

Will to Move Forward
   Ari Epstein, chief executive officer (CEO) of AWDC, was pleased that “This is the only agreement of this kind regarding the diamond trade to have been signed in the presence of the Chinese president. And in my opinion, this is the perfect token and symbol of the long friendship that’s binding both countries. It’s also tangible evidence of the political and economic will to move forward.”
   As far as moving forward is concerned, it’s been reported — off the record so far — that the new agreement was only a first step. A second agreement, which is expected to further develop several aspects of the 2009 memorandum of understanding, could be signed in the near future. Most probably, sources say, the new agreement will be ratified no later than October 2014, on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the twinning of the cities of Shanghai and Antwerp.

Sierra Leone
   On April 1, one day after the bilateral trade agreement was signed, the Antwerp Diamond Mile welcomed Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma. First elected president of Sierra Leone in 2007 and re-elected in 2012, he was accompanied by an entire presidential delegation. His presence in the Belgian diamond hub underscored the importance of the trade relations between Sierra Leone and Antwerp’s diamond industry. A significant part of Sierra Leone’s diamond production is already being traded through Antwerp.
   During his visit, President Koroma was given a tour of the Diamond Office, the HRD diamond lab and the Antwerp Diamond Tender Facility. The stop was part of the president’s official five-day visit to the Benelux. He came to take part in the fourth European Union (EU)-Africa summit, which was held in Brussels on April 2 through 3.
   “We were very honored to welcome President Koroma,” said AWDC’s Epstein. “Sierra Leone is an important partner for the Antwerp diamond industry. In 2012, Antwerp imported 42 percent of Sierra Leone’s total diamond production, which translates to 45 percent of the total value of the country’s production. The average price per carat of a diamond mined in Sierra Leone amounted to $301.56 in 2012, which demonstrates the high quality of the country’s diamonds.”
   Epstein and the board of directors of the AWDC are fully aware that although Sierra Leone is a rather small diamond producer, its importance is never underestimated because the quality of the country’s diamonds is high.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2014. To subscribe click here.

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