The Belgians are coming!

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By Jose Antonio Buencamino / Commercial Counselor, Philippine Trade and Investment Center-(PTIC)-Brussels & Jeoffrey Houvenaeghel / Trade Assistant, PTIC-Brussels

IF plans push through, a Belgian business mission will be coming to town in the first quarter of 2017.  It will not be a huge delegation accompanied by high officials and ministers and led by Belgian royalty—like the last that came some 20 years ago, and the first that graced the inauguration of the first light-rail transit system more than 30 years ago.  But it will, nonetheless, be one that will be hungry for opportunities in this more than 100-million-strong market, the Philippines.

Without necessarily whetting anyone’s appetite for the business mission, we take a look at available data to see how Belgium has traded with the Philippines. Just to warn the reader, the numbers can be underwhelming,  although they could also portend higher values and deeper trade flows in the future. That is, precisely, the challenge.

Belgium in international trade 

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the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency said Belgium was the 12th-largest exporter and 14th-largest importer of goods in the world in 2015. Data provided by Eurostat indicate Belgium’s two-way global trade reached €695.9 billion in 2015 (roughly six times that of the Philippines) and has been steadily, albeit marginally, growing each year on average by 0.7 percent from 2011 to 2015. Two-way trade with the European Union (EU) in 2015 accounted for 67 percent of the total, while 33 percent was with the rest of world.

Belgian exports increased by an average of 1.2 percent while imports increased on average by 0.2 percent from 2011 to 2015. Belgium had an overall trade surplus of €19.7 billion in 2015.

But Belgium’s international bilateral trade mainly relies on a large part on its EU neighbors (Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Italy) and the United States. These six countries combined accounted for roughly 61 percent of Belgium’s total global trade from 2011 to 2015.

Analyzing Belgian bilateral trade with non-EU countries reveals Belgium has been importing more than it is exporting every year (average growth of 3.79 percent from 2011 to 2015) and its exports have been far from consistent, having declined in 2014, but performing exceptionally well in 2012. Belgium has built a considerable trade deficit with non-EU countries over the years. In 2015 it had a trade deficit of €25 billion with non-EU countries. Belgium’s trade performance revealed it is a strong exporter to its EU neighbors, but it is increasingly importing from non-EU countries.

Belgium-EU trade

AS mentioned above, Belgium’s trade relies heavily on six countries of which five are EU neighbors (Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Italy). These five EU countries combined represent an annual average of 80 percent of Belgium’s total bilateral trade with the EU from 2011 to 2015. To be continued