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14 April, 2010 - 23:00 By Staff Reporter

Export to Belgium

Belgium

Belgium is located at the heart of one of the world's most highly industrialised regions.

As the first country to undergo an industrial revolution on the continent of Europe – in the early 1800s – it developed an excellent transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways, and highways to integrate its industry with that of its neighbours.

Despite the heavy industrial component, services account for 74.9 per cent of GDP. For example, Brussels offers a strategic location, an attractive real estate market and the presence of key European decision-making bodies, making it the ideal headquarters for major corporations.

Hundreds of multinationals – mainly American and Japanese – have their European HQs in Belgium.

Key sectorsBelgium is the perfect location for a logistical base, headquarters or distribution centre in mainland Europe. The infrastructure, skills and IT facilities provide an ideal environment and beachhead for conquering the European market. Wincanton and a host of other household names in logistics have expanded from Belgian foundations.

Belgium is world class in pharmaceuticals. Nearly 30,000 people work in this sector, which alone accounts for 10 per cent of all Belgian exports. Some 36 per cent of all private sector R & D investment is in the pharmaceutical industry – twice the European average.

Another 140 or so companies are active in biotechnology in Belgium. Universities and research centres have forged strong links with economic players to develop this forward-looking sector. Belgian companies accounted for 16 per cent of Europe's turnover in biotech and around 10 per cent of R & D spending.

Belgian industry plays a key role in the aerospace sector. Many aircraft bear the stamp of Belgian know-how: Airbuses, Boeings, the F-16, the Rafale, the Falcon 7X, the Ariane 4 and 5 space programmes, SPOT earth observation satellites among them. In its economic development plan, the Walloon Region specifically promotes competitiveness in the aerospace industry. Foodstuffs comprise a major sector of the Belgian economy. The world's largest food groups are active in Belgium – including Danone, InBev, Coca-Cola, Unilever Belgium, Kraft Foods Belgium, Nestlé, Materne and Ferrero.

Over the past 20 years Belgium has turned out an average of one million vehicles a year, most of them destined for export. Belgium is a key player in vehicle assembly. With plants like Opel Antwerp, Ford Genk, Audi Forest/Brussels, Volvo Europa, Van Hool (busses) and Truco, it has a strong presence in the production market.

Products feature livestock – including dairy cattle – grain, sugar beet, milk, tobacco, potatoes, other fruits and vegetables. Belgium is also developing a world-class capability in the frozen foods sector and this is being evidenced both within Belgium and through Belgian specialist companies based in the UK.

This represents 24.3 per cent of GDP and encompasses engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food & beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass and petroleum.

Given this vast diversity, Belgium is – with huge justification – selling its message to the world. It’s ‘come and join us’ mantra is not based on the shifting sands of empty rhetoric but on the solid ground of proven capability.

Ben De Smit vocalises the argument well: “In the past, some businesses have failed to take the Belgian market as seriously as it deserves, preferring to target the large markets such as Germany and France direct.

“But it is one of the hardest and loneliest jobs in the world to adopt that strategy and try to soft-start an enterprise in this way in those larger countries with linguistic and cultural dificulties. By contrast, launching your business in Flanders is comparatively simple.

“What we are saying to East of England companies and entrepreneurs is this. We can help you find your first general manager in Europe – within Belgium; and we will help you identify a friendly and productive working environment for that general manager – again within Belgium.

“In addition, we will offer a full advisory and support package for newcomers, helping with site selection, benefits, tax incentives, networking with peers, trade opportunities and a whole raft of other helpful services.

“Belgium can offer a multi-lingual, highly educated, productive and loyal employment pool of talent. We can tailor tax-related incentives, especially for companies looking to recruit and train local personnel or to drive their Research & Development strategies.

“Our people are renowned for their cross-border flexibility and fluently combine technology or scientific smarts with entrepreneurial skills. We offer high added value and a genuine partnership approach for companies who want to set up operations in our country.

“When you offer a gateway to trade it is sensible to ensure you first remove as many perceived barriers to entry as possible and we believe our approach offers East of England companies a proven fast-track to new business across the entire Eurozone.”

CONTACT INFORMATION

Ben De SmitEconomic and Commercial Counsellor – AmbassaderaadEmbassy of BelgiumFlanders Investment & TradeFlanders House, 1A Cavendish SquareLondon W1G 0LD, UKTel 44 20 7307 7710

Website: www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com E-mail: news [at] businessweekly.co.uk

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