A founding member of the European Union, the Kingdom of Belgium borders the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Belgium also lies across the English Channel from the United Kingdom.
Belgium exported US$444.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects an 11.8% increase since 2015 but a -4.7% drop from 2018 to 2019.
Applying a continental lens, 75.9% of Belgium’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 10.4% were sold to importers in Asia. Belgium shipped another 7.5% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (3.3%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.4%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.5%).
Belgium’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Belgium’s top trading partners. These are countries that imported the most Belgian shipments by dollar value during 2019. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Belgian exports.
- Germany: US$79.5 billion (17.9% of Belgium’s total exports)
- France: $62.5 billion (14.1%)
- Netherlands: $53.5 billion (12%)
- United Kingdom: $33.9 billion (7.6%)
- United States: $27.7 billion (6.2%)
- Italy: $22.1 billion (5%)
- Spain: $12.4 billion (2.8%)
- Poland: $9.8 billion (2.2%)
- China: $7.9 billion (1.8%)
- Luxembourg: $7.8 billion (1.8%)
- India: $7.5 billion (1.7%)
- Sweden: $7.3 billion (1.6%)
- Switzerland: $6.5 billion (1.5%)
- Turkey: $5.3 billion (1.2%)
- Russia: $4.6 billion (1%)
Over three-quarters (78.4%) of Belgian exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Among these top importers from 2018 to 2019, the United States increased its import purchases from Belgium the fastest–up 13.9% from 2018 to 2019. The only other top exporters to boost consumption of Belgian exports were Switzerland (up 8.5%), Russia (up 6.7%) and Luxembourg (up 2.2%).
Leading the decliners, India’s purchases of exported Belgian products shrank in value by -20.1%.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Belgium incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Netherlands: -US$20.5 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- Ireland: -$16.5 billion
- China: -$10.8 billion
- Japan: -$8.5 billion
- Russia: -$4.5 billion
- United States: -$4.5 billion
- Switzerland: -$3.3 billion
- Mexico: -$2.7 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$2.4 billion
- Vietnam: -$2.1 billion
Among Belgium’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Belgian deficits with Switzerland (up 308%), Japan (up 18.1%) and China (up 12.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Belgium’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Belgium to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Belgium posted an overall $18.4 billion trade surplus for 2019, up by 12.9% from $16.3 billion in black ink one year earlier.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Belgium incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Germany: US$23.2 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- France: $21 billion
- United Kingdom: $15 billion
- Italy: $6.6 billion
- Luxembourg: $6 billion
- Poland: $3.9 billion
- Spain: $2.6 billion
- Nigeria: $2.5 billion
- India: $2.3 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $1.7 billion
Among Belgium’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Belgian surpluses with United Arab Emirates (up 55%) and Luxembourg (up 16.5%) grew from 2018 to 2019.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Belgium’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Belgium to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Belgian Trading Partners
Belgium placed 11 corporations among the Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of major Belgian export companies that Forbes ranked.
- Anheuser-Busch InBev (beverages)
- Belgacom (telecommunications services)
- Delhaize Group (food retail)
- Solvay (diversified chemicals)
- UCB (pharmaceuticals)
- Umicore (diversified metals, mining)
According to IMPORTERS.com listings for Belgian suppliers, the following are examples of companies that ship products from Belgium to importing customers around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are products that the Belgian business provides.
- ANS Trading (clothing, footwear)
- Aor Trading (alcoholic beverages)
- Biosport (food supplements, vitamins)
- Brussels Trading Company (heavy equipment)
- Lyobel (frozen herbs)
- Medinvents (soft tissue biopsy systems)
- Mskx Company (hunting arms)
- Raw Materials Recycling (paper, plastics)
- VD Management (fresh/frozen seafood)
- Webby’s International SA (educational toys, games)
See also Belgium’s Top 10 Imports, Belgium’s Top 10 Exports and Top EU Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 21, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 21, 2020
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Belgium Import Export Directory. Accessed on March 21, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 21, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 21, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Belgium. Accessed on March 21, 2020