Belgian economy at a glance (2015)
|Export (billion €)||359.5|
|Export world ranking (goods)||12|
|Import (billion €)||339.1|
|Import world ranking (goods)||14|
|GDP (billion €)||410|
|GDP world ranking||25|
|GDP growth (%)||1.4|
|% export to EU||72|
|Public debt (% of GDP)||106.9|
|U.S. as Belgian Export destination||5th|
|U.S. as source of Belgian imports||4th|
Source: National Bank of Belgium, Belgian Foreign Trade Agency
Belgian-U.S. Economic Relations
Belgium is probably best known in the U.S. for its peerless “art-de-vivre”. And its chocolate, cookies, beer and mussels have no better ambassadors than the many Americans having visited or lived in Belgium. Others know Belgium for its diamonds, for its technology industry, or for its huge pharmaceutical and chemical sector. From waffles to (silicon) wafers, and from gems to polymers, these products all illustrate a genuine Belgian tradition of quality, reliability and innovation, also typical of Belgium’s ever growing services sector.
The Belgian-U.S. economic relationship itself is heavily focused on modern, high-end goods and services. Leading Belgian sectors for U.S. export and investment also include aerospace, automotive, energy, environmental technologies, biotechnology, information and communication technologies, green building, medical and dental equipment, safety and security, logistics. Though only the size of Maryland, but with a population of well over 10 million inhabitants, Belgium is well in the top 20 of America’s trade partners.
Within a radius of 300 miles, 140 million EU consumers can be reached (almost 50% of the U.S. population) representing 60% of Europe’s purchasing power. About 80% of Belgium’s GDP is exported. Belgium’s location at the economic and logistical heart of wealthy Europe makes the country the ideal gateway for exports to Europe, as well as to Africa and the Middle East. As a result, Belgian- U.S. exchanges have always been well developed. The first bilateral “trade, commerce and navigation” treaty was signed in 1846, while the Belgian American Chamber of Commerce in the United States was formed as early as 1918, making it one of the oldest and most established such bodies in the country. More recently, the recent tax treaty between the United States and Belgium is among the very first of a new generation of tax agreements guaranteeing transparency and information exchange.
Attaining top marks in international productivity, and science and language proficiency scoreboards, and with business-friendly incentives to boot, Belgium has over the years been a magnet for many North American companies eager to establish a presence in Europe. Currently, more than 1500 U.S. companies are located in Belgium, and U.S. companies employ about 130.000 people locally.
Belgium is also an excellent “test market” for U.S. companies. Small but yet diverse and competitive enough to offer a representative sample of sophisticated buyers, Belgium enjoys a cosmopolitan and multilingual nature making it an unmatched marketing laboratory for American products and services.
Another well-known feature of Belgium is its capital city of Brussels, and the significant role it plays as host to EU institutions, NATO and other international bodies. Brussels has indeed become the second city in the world for diplomats, behind New York, and the second city for foreign journalists, after Washington, DC. Most U.S. Federal Departments are represented in Brussels, with also a handful of States maintaining a permanent presence in the City. With also offices of the largest American and Pan-European trade entities (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Europe, Eurochambres), law firms and business services companies, Brussels is the place to be in Europe for U.S. companies seeking to monitor and influence EU decisions and regulations. U.S. companies in Belgium will therefore have access to AmCham Belgium and to AmCham EU, a separate entity specifically working with the European institutions on behalf of American companies.
This business, press, diplomatic and military U.S. presence in Belgium contributes to the country’s hosting of a resident American community in Belgium that is now in excess of 20,000 people, with an ever-growing number of clubs, sporting and cultural groups, schools and outlets answering specific needs of that community. Add to that countless U.S. political and business executives regularly visiting the country for short or less-short stays, and tens of thousands of American tourists, and you will easily understand why most U.S. citizens in Belgium do not only enjoy the quintessentially European “art-de-vivre” it offers, but at the same time the pleasure of feeling “home away from home”.