Belgium Trade

Subchapters:

  • Business Relationships
  • Foreign direct investment
  • FTAs ​​and Treaties
  • Development Cooperation
  • Prospective fields of study (MOP)

Business relations

Trade relations with the EU

In connection with the improvement of the epidemiological situation, it occurred during 2021 up to the first quarter. 2022 to a substantial increase in imports and exports, furthermore, it can be expected that the impact of the RU war against Ukraine will be felt on the trade exchange. EU countries account for three quarters of Belgian exports. Europe as a whole accounted for approximately 75.6% of exports, Asia 10.7%, America 9.8%, Africa 3% and Oceania 0.6%. The development of trade exchange with the EU and trade with countries outside the EU have a growing tendency. In the structure of exports, the main positions belong to sectors with high added value, such as engineering, means of transport and equipment, products of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, and energy. The largest export item is chemical and pharmaceutical products, which accounted for 20.9% of Belgium’s total exports in 2020. The second strongest commodity is transportation and transport equipment. Cars of several world brands are assembled in Belgium.

  • Allcountrylist: Overview of major industries in Belgium, including mining, construction, transportation, tourism, and foreign trade.

Trade exchange with the EU (million EUR)

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Exports from the EU (million EUR) 243,632.5 258,038.0 259,710.3 238,990.2 238 331.2 ON
Imports into the EU (million EUR) 216,337.10 231,039.50 229,497.90 212,999.50 209,503.3 ON
Balance with the EU (million EUR) -27,295.4 -26,998.4 -30,212.4 -25,990.7 28827.9 ON

Source: National Bank of Belgium

Trade relations with the Czech Republic

In the first months of 2022, Belgium ranked 12th in terms of exports of the Czech Republic and 14th in terms of imports of the Czech Republic. The focus of trade exchange was stable – the largest share of imports from the Czech Republic was in the field of engineering and transport, the largest share of exports to the Czech Republic was chemical products and plastics.

Trade exchange with the Czech Republic (million CZK)

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Exports from the Czech Republic (billion CZK) 60.1 94 95.6 93.2 108.3 ON
Imports to the Czech Republic (billion CZK) 97.4 62.4 66.4 60.3 76.9 ON
Balance with the Czech Republic (billion CZK) 37.3 -31.6 -29.2 -33 -31.4 ON

Source: CZSO

Foreign direct investment

Belgium is consistently ranked among the top five EU countries that attract the most foreign investment. In Belgium in 2020, 227 new investment projects were created, which created 5,098 jobs. There was a decrease in the amount of FDI compared to the pre-Covid period, which was not equaled even in 2021. US companies are the largest investor outside the EU: in 2020, US companies launched 27 of the 227 new foreign investment projects in Belgium (11.9% of the total number), which led to the creation of 979 new jobs. The main sectors in Belgium for FDI are business services, transport and logistics, the pharmaceutical industry and ICT. A significant part of FDI goes into innovative projects and start-ups, for example in the pharmaceutical sector. Belgium is attractive for the quality of its workforce and dynamic business culture.

Belgium is an important source of foreign direct investment for the Czech Republic, which, according to CNB data, reached a 3.2% share of total FDI in the Czech Republic as of 31 December 2020. Among the biggest investments is the investment of KBC (ČSOB bank). On the contrary, Czech investments in Belgium are negligible for now. Due to the highly competitive market in Belgium, there are opportunities for Czech investments in Belgium, especially in the area of ​​start-ups and innovative sectors in which both the Czech Republic and Belgium have a strong position: the pharmaceutical industry, electronics and ICT. Other opportunities arise in Belgium’s transition to renewable energy sources: wind and solar energy and the use of hydrogen in transport and its import from non-European countries and subsequent distribution to EU countries.

FTAs and treaties

Belgium has been a member of the EU since 1/1/1958 and a member of the Eurozone since 1/1/1999.

Contracts with the Czech Republic

  • Treaty on the accession of the Czech Republic to the EU (Belgium was one of the contracting parties): entered into force on 1 May 2004, publication: No. 44/2004 Coll.
  • Agreement between the Government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium on International Road Transport (Prague, 17 April 1968), publication No. 110/1969 Coll., entry into force: 31 October 1968
  • Treaty between the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the Kingdom of Belgium on the prevention of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion in the field of income and property taxes (Prague, 16 December 1969), publication No. 95/2000 Coll., entry into force: 24 July. 2000.
  • Agreement on the promotion and protection of investments between the ČSFR-UEBL (Union Economique Belgo-Luxembourgeoise)*, entered into force on 13 February 1992, publication No. 574/192 Coll.
  • Agreement between the Government of the Czech Republic and the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium on Air Transport (Brussels 6/4/1998), publication No. 129/2003, entered into force: 23/6/2006
  • Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the Czech Republic and the Government of the French Community of Belgium and the Government of the Walloon Region on 28/03/2001, entered into force: 22/07/2002, publication No. 114/2002
  • Agreement on cooperation between the Government of the Czech Republic and the Government of Flanders dated 12 February 2002, entered into force on 29 May 2003, publication No. 99/2003 Coll.

Note: The agreements that entered into force before the division of the Czechoslovakia were adopted into the legal system of the Czech Republic on 1 January 1993.

An important agreement from an economic point of view is the Treaty between the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the Kingdom of Belgium on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion in the field of income and property taxes. This treaty complements the provisions of the national tax systems of both states and determines which of these two states has the right to tax the income in question.

Due to the strong role of the regions of Flanders and Wallonia in the Belgian federation, the two above-mentioned Cooperation Agreements with these regions also play a very important role in practice. Their work programs contain specific projects in which cooperation has already been agreed or is expected in the future.

Developmental cooperation

Belgium is a major provider of development aid and this area also occupies an important place in its foreign policy.

For development cooperation, it has chosen 14 countries, the so-called “partner countries”, to which it primarily directs its aid. These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Guinea, DR Congo, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Palestine, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

Belgium focuses in particular on so-called fragile states, least developed countries (LDCs) and the position of women in society.

The main target countries of cooperation were Congo DR, Rwanda and Burundi. 2018 saw the creation of new development plans for 2019-2023 in Benin, Guinea and Senegal.

Belgian Development Cooperation has partnerships with 83 organizations working in 49 countries around the world.

At the beginning of 2019, the Openaid.be website was launched as part of increasing the transparency of Belgium’s development policy. This data portal contains information about projects, programs and organizations.

In fulfilling the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2030), Belgium focuses on peace and security, climate issues and inequalities. A new topic is food security and agriculture.

The area of ​​digitization – Digital for Development (DfD) is also important, which includes the involvement of the Belgian IT sector and could also be an opportunity for cooperation with Czech entities.

Belgium supports the role of the European Investment Bank and is interested in involving the private sector through the European Fund for Security and Development.

For the involvement of Czech companies in cooperation with Belgium, the identification of possible topics requires communication through the Czech Development Agency regarding Belgium’s current project priorities, which may also be in territories outside of its traditional priorities (e.g. the EU’s eastern neighbourhood).

Furthermore, we recommend focusing on projects in the Sahel and Great Lakes region in Africa and looking for points of contact with Belgium and offers that could complement it as an actor already established here.

Prospective fields of study (MOP)

New sector opportunities with the program of the new federal government and its priorities in the transformation of the economy. The original opportunities for Czech exports to Belgium in the transport or chemical industry are still valid. The energy sector has gained importance due to the transition to green energy supported in Belgium and at the EU level, especially in connection with the war in Ukraine, rising energy prices and the urgent need to get rid of dependence on energy imports from Russia. New technologies will be developed mainly for the use and transport of hydrogen. Other possibilities relate mainly to the ICT, electrical engineering, pharmaceutical and transport sectors.

Energy and ICT were also significant areas in the National Recovery Plan, which Belgium submitted in its final version to the European Commission at the end of April 2021.

Energy industry

Due to the emphasis of the new government in its October 2020 program on the transformation to “green energy” and the use of renewable resources, the focus is on wind farms and the construction of wind parks on the North Sea coast, which are to gradually replace nuclear energy in line with the government’s commitment to phase out operation of nuclear reactors after 2025 (two reactors will continue to operate for 10 years). The emphasis is on the conversion of energy obtained from the wind into hydrogen and the use of existing distribution networks to transport this “clean” hydrogen to neighboring countries. The development of technologies for obtaining hydrogen by electrolysis and for its import from non-European countries is newly envisaged.

This is connected to the storage of this energy and the possibility of its transport in Blegia and beyond by modifying existing distribution networks (gas pipelines), even at the regional level (e.g. Wallonia submits projects for hydrogen storage or its production from biomass to the National Recovery Plan). The transformation of the energy industry is thus an opportunity for the supply of equipment for wind power plants, hydrogen technologies, energy transport and technologies related to the termination of the operation of nuclear power plants. This could also be an opportunity for Czech companies and research institutions.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical industry

Belgium is a leader in applied research and development in biotechnology. For this reason, Belgian companies in the field of “biotech” and “medtech” received over 100 million Euros from the European Investment Bank for 2021, which was a third of the EIB’s funds for these fields for the entire EU. Belgian applied research and its associated companies are largely focused on research into cancer treatment and gene therapy. The cooperation of companies and research from the Czech Republic could open up possibilities for the partnership of start-ups and established projects in which Belgium attracts high capital investments and thus connect them with capital-strong partners. The Belgian government invests in the development of the biotechnology sector, which represents a relatively significant part of the GDP of Wallonia (3.2%) and Belgium. In both Flanders and Wallonia there are a large number of smaller companies and start-ups focused on innovation, which also operate within technology parks. The cooperation of Czech companies with these companies could also lead to partnerships and the conclusion of consortia, which would enable, for example, joint drawing from EU programs.

Electrotechnics

In 2021, Belgium was included by the European Commission in the category of “innovation leaders”, in which only a few EU member states were included, and it has top research and development workplaces on its territory. One of them is IMEC, which is one of the global leaders in the fields of nanotechnology and the development of semiconductors and chips, and is to receive 1-billion Euros from the Chips Act of the EU. A partnership with IMEC and other workplaces for the transfer of innovative solutions to industry can open the way for smaller Czech companies to capital-intensive projects and connections with global players. Opportunities are, among other things, in the supply of specialized instruments in the field of electron microscopy or equipment for the development of new types of semiconductors and chips.

ICT

The government plans to digitize state administration, including the healthcare sector and services provided to citizens. In education, there will be a focus on teaching digitization and knowledge of technology, mathematics and engineering (“Éducation 2.0”). Opportunities are offered in the specific areas of cyber security, artificial intelligence and data protection.

Transport industry

The government plans to modernize the railways, their infrastructure and further connection to the high-speed European network. In the National Recovery Plan, Belgium is counting on the expansion of the operation of intercity tram routes or the renovation and construction of the subway. The expansion plans are also valid for freight transport, which would use the already existing airports (Liège, Brussels-Zaventem) and the port of Antwerp as international hubs with the ambition to further transport goods by rail in the wider region.

The pilot project of hydrogen trains will be supported by an investment of 2 million euros. Furthermore, the government plans to support light freight transport. Support will also be provided for the use of electric mopeds, which will become part of the transport electrification plan. For the transport of green hydrogen, Belgium is investing around 300 million euros in the transformation of the existing backbone pipeline for the transport of hydrogen from Belgian ports to industrial zones and on to Germany. The transition to electromobility in Belgium is limited by the lack of the necessary charging station infrastructure for passenger, freight and maritime transport. Here is an opportunity for Czech companies to get involved in supply chains in the modernization and construction of railways, tram networks and electromobility needs (e.g. transformers for private charging of electric cars, hydrogen charging stations).

Belgium Trade