Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management, The Netherlands, says that trade between her country and India will change with the UK leaving the European Union. On a visit to India this week, Nieuwenhuizen spoke to BusinessLine on what the Dutch can offer India on maritime and water projects, areas that her country has expertise in. Excerpts:

The Dutch are experts in many aspects of maritime…

We have a long tradition as a maritime and trading country and the initiatives related to the ‘Make in India’ programme combine very nicely with our main knowledge and expertise that we have in maritime, including port management and dredging.

We have been struggling ourselves with congestion and pollution and inland waterways is a way out. There is no congestion, no traffic jams on the water. You can fully use that.

For example, one barge can take 250 trucks off the road. It is not just less CO2 emissions and less congestion, but it is also cheaper and quicker. So, there is also a business model behind it.

It’s for a good reason your government wants to invest in inland waterways, it’s the same reason we invest in it.

For the whole of Europe, The Netherlands has the biggest inland shipping fleet and if you combine it with Belgium we have more than 80 per cent and we can with our inland waterways in combination with all the ports, short-sea shipping etc, reach the hinterland of 500 million Europeans. But here, you have even more than double that population, so I think we can help and learn from each other.

What are the areas of co-operation being discussed?

We have had discussions on education because we also have the problem that you have: how to find enough skilled workers. We discussed e-learning; the possibilities of simulators, for example, in dredging and other maritime professions. The new way is with simulators, so you don’t really have to go to sea to experience it; it can be in simulators.

Yet another area is the ease of doing business. We can also work together on security, physical security as also cyber security. India has a lot of very talented IT professionals and we have a lot of talented technicians, so we can also combine the hardware and the software together in the new business models.

We also talked of waste management. We see opportunities not only for Dutch companies to join tendering for different projects but also government to government or PPPs.

But trade between India and The Netherlands is nothing to rave about...

That will change simply with the UK leaving the European Union because of Brexit. A lot of trade was between India and the UK, which was the starting point to Europe. After Brexit, that is no longer possible. The Netherlands, because of its location, is the most logical gateway to Europe not just for India but for the rest of the world too.

Because, entering the UK will no longer mean entering the EU. There is a free flow of goods in the European Union, but the UK will no longer part of it, once it leaves.

Do you like the Brexit move?

No, it’s not a good development for the EU nor for the UK. But, if it is happening, we will make the best of it.

Water is another core area for the Dutch...

The Dutch are famous for water safety and also have expertise in water quality. We are in the delta.

We have three big rivers in Europe all ending in The Netherlands, so we get all the pollution from all the other countries and we have to clean it.

You have lot of problems with pollution in the Ganga river. We discussed some of the projects we have from Dutch companies in cleaning the Ganga river and on water quality.

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