With its relatively small domestic market, Belgium has developed an open, internationally-oriented economy that depends heavily on foreign trade. According to the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency, the trade of goods – including both exports and imports – was equivalent to 170% of the country’s GDP in 2015.
Most goods produced in Belgium are destined for export, and the country consistently maintains a trade surplus. Belgium exported €359.5 billion worth of goods in 2015, a 1.1% year-on-year increase, which helped push the trade surplus to €20.4 billion. With a 2.4% market share of global exports and a 2.2% share of imports, Belgium is the 12th largest exporter and 14th largest importer of goods worldwide, according to the World Trade Organization.
Belgium is a trading nation, and the country’s success lies in its favorable geographic location, effective logistics and transport networks, strength in R&D and innovation, and export-oriented industries. Among the most successful exporters are the chemical, food & drinks, biotech, automotive, pharmaceutical, aerospace and plastics sectors.
While not as intense as the merchandise trade, Belgium’s trade in services is growing rapidly and reached 44% of GDP in 2014, according to latest figures from the World Bank.
The lion’s share of Belgium’s goods exports is destined for other EU Member States (72%), but outside of the EU, the United States is Belgium’s most important trading partner. Overall, the US is Belgium’s 5th largest export market and 4th largest source of imports. Belgian exports to the US grew by 12.3% in 2015.
Many jobs in Belgium depend on sectors that are, to one extent or another, involved in trade. The business of many large and small companies is contingent on trade, whether as part of a value chain or as direct exporters.
Free-trade agreements therefore present a real opportunity for Belgium: opening or easing access to international markets contributes to the country’s economic growth and prosperity. AmCham Belgium is ready to work in partnership with the federal and regional governments to strengthen the bilateral trade and investment relationship between Belgium and the US.