The Prime Minister could not have announced Belgium’s comeback any better. Delivering the country’s trump cards, one by one, to a room full of investors, Di Rupo left no doubt in anyone’s mind that Belgium is open for business.
Indeed, one need not look far for proof as just last week Ernst & Young named Belgium as the fourth most open economy in the world in its annual Globalization Index. In his remarks at Davos, Flemish Minister-President Kris Peeters underlined the importance of openness saying simply that it is the “answer to the crisis”. His region is reaping the rewards of this policy; Flanders exported an impressive €217.8 billion worth of goods in the first nine months of 2012, exceeding pre-crisis levels for the second year in a row. This figure represents an increase of 2.3%, well above the global average of 0.8%.
Wallonia is also described as “the place to be to innovate in Health“. The Health competitiveness cluster of Wallonia, Biowin, has been created to bring together all the Walloon stakeholders participating in innovative projects and/or training in the fields of biotechnology and healthcare.
A large portion of Belgium’s exports come from R&D-intensive industries such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Belgium’s impressive track record for innovation is an ongoing testament to the country’s highly skilled workforce and well-developed infrastructure. The country also has unparalleled R&D incentives. Di Rupo emphasized that Belgium’s strength in this area was recently confirmed by a Eurostat report which indicated that Belgium has the highest proportion of innovative companies in Europe after Germany and Luxembourg.
Wallonia has good reason to be proud of its long tradition of excellence in the field of Healthcare biotechnologies. World leaders such as GSK Biologicals (vaccines), UCB(biopharmacy) and IBA (cancer diagnostics and treatments) are companies that have grown out of the local scientific and industrial scene and who have developed in the region. Around 30% of employees of these companies are still dedicated to R&D.Baxter (biopharmacy, medical devices) has been working in Wallonia for more than 30 years (R&D and production) and continues to make long-term investments here. Alongside these large industrial players, there is a rich network of SMEs, including numerous university spin-offs.
As he listed the benefits of doing business in Belgium, the Prime Minister was mindful not to get ahead of himself. Recognizing that there is still much work to be done, he rounded off with promises to build on the country’s progress with creative growth strategies.
The speech was well received as the Prime Minister was subsequently flocked by investors, who joked that they were not there to compliment him on his bowtie. Indeed, Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé, says that the Belgian government offered a “breath of fresh air” and that it was high time the country started to sell itself.Source: AmCham