As the European Union and the United States begin formal talks on a free trade agreement, what does this mean for business in Belgium?
On February 13, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and US President Barack Obama announced the beginning of free trade negotiations between the EU and US. As Belgium has a thriving export and import business, the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade could go a long way in stimulating growth.
Due to its small size and strategic location at the heart of Europe, trade is the hallmark of Belgium’s economic activities. Indeed, Belgium was recently named the fourth most open economy according to a survey by Ernst & Young due to the high quality of the country’s logistics infrastructure, which ensures a steady stream of international trade.
The export industries in both Flanders and Wallonia have proven to be extremely resilient; both having attained and surpassed pre-crisis levels. Furthermore, as Brussels is an important hub in the European market, its links to the rest of the continent make the city an ideal springboard from which to reach Europe’s market of 500 million consumers. Thus, a comprehensive free trade agreement would be an incredible opportunity to increase investment and attract company headquarters.
Although Belgium’s main trading partners remain France, the Netherlands and Germany, according to Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), exports from Flanders to the US increased by 30% last year. Due to the significant amount of trading between Belgium and the US, even small reductions of the existing barriers to trade would give the Belgian economy a big boost. Hence, by eliminating the remaining trade barriers between the EU and US, Belgium stands to benefit from increased business, growth and production.Source: AmCham