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Belgium's economy is highly integrated into the global marketplace. The foreign trade ratio (the sum of exports and imports to GDP) amounted in 2013 to an impressive 181 percent. Germany is one of the main economic partners of Belgium, along with the Netherlands and France.
In terms of GDP growth, Belgium achieved a growth of real gross domestic product of 1 percent in 2014; growth of the same proportion is expected in 2015. Thus, Belgium has the phase of acute economic weakness to overcome.
In the Belgian economy the service sector dominates with about 70 percent share. Despite the great industrial tradition of the country's processing industry, it only represents about 15 percent of the gross domestic product. The main economic activities in the country are observed in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors, as well as the food industry. The share of construction is about 5 percent in the GDP, while that of the agricultural sector is under 1 percent.
Unemployment remains a major problem for Belgium: the unemployment rate has risen steadily over the years from 7.6 percent in 2012 to 8.5 percent in 2015, a relatively high figure among developed European economies.
The labor costs in Belgium are considerably higher than the EU average, which affects the country's competitiveness. However, the Belgian government is working to rectify this by introducing limitations on wage raises. However, all such talks are currently being annulled by the lack of cooperation from the country’s powerful trade unions.
Belgium is fairly stable when it comes to inflation. In 2013, the inflation rate was 1.2 percent which reduced to a mere 0.5 percent in 2014. With the drastic fall of prices in the current year, the inflation is expected to further fall to the 0 percent mark.
Why invest in Belgium?
- Nestled in the heart of Europe, Belgium provides ready access to the most densely populated and richest region of the continent. Major business centres such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid are a few hours’ drive from Brussels, the country’s capital.
- The Belgian workforce is regarded by international entities, like OECD and the International Labour Organization, as one of the most productive in the world. An important facet of this nature of the Belgian staff is their inherent multilinguism. In Belgium, a considerable portion of the educated population speaks two or more of the following languages: French, English, German and Dutch. Thus allowing for adequate communication with foreign staff.
- Belgium follows a smart taxation regime that is tiered in nature according to the taxable profit of the enterprise in question. In addition, foreign investors can expect further incentives like reduced wage costs for expatriate workers, tax credit for research and development, among others.
- Belgium also has impeccable infrastructure. Its seven international motorways and one of the densest rail systems in the world, allow for seamless linkage to major European economies. In addition, the country has a widespread inland waterway network that allows for environment-friendly and cost-effective transportation of goods. Finally, the port of Antwerp in Northern Belgium is the 2nd largest in Europe and handles close to 200 million tonnes of cargo annually.
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