That dollar amount results from a 35.6% rise from $468.6 billion in 2018.
Year over year, the overall value of Belgian exports grew by 15.7% from $549.5 billion during 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2022, Belgium uses the euro depreciated by -12.1% against the US dollar since 2018 and weakened by -12.3% from 2021 to 2022. The weaker European Union currency in 2022 made Belgium’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively lesser expensive for international buyers.
Belgium’s Main Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that about three-quarters (74.8%) of products exported from Belgium were bought by importers in: Germany (21.2% of Belgium’s global total), Netherlands (13.8%), France (13.1%), United States of America (5.9%), United Kingdom (5.2%), Italy (4.4%), Spain (2.8%), Poland (2.3%), Japan (1.7%), Sweden (1.6%), Luxembourg (1.5%) and mainland China (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, 76.4% of Belgium’s exports by value was delivered to fellow European countries while 10.3% was sold to importers in Asia. Belgium shipped another 7% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to buyers in Africa (4.1%), Latin America (1.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Belgium’s population of 11.6 million people, its total $635.5 billion in 2022 exports translates to roughly $54,700 for every resident in the west European country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $47,300 per capita one year earlier in 2021.
Belgium’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Belgian global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Belgium.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$113.2 billion (17.8% of total exports)
- Pharmaceuticals: $103.1 billion (16.2%)
- Vehicles: $53.1 billion (8.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $39.5 billion (6.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $34.8 billion (5.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $31.8 billion (5%)
- Iron, steel: $24.9 billion (3.9%)
- Gems, precious metals: $22.2 billion (3.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $18.7 billion (2.9%)
- Other chemical goods: $15.9 billion (2.5%)
Belgium’s top 10 exports accounted for nearly three-quarters (72%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 119.9% from 2021 to 2022.
In second place for improving export sales was the miscellaneous chemical goods category, via a 20.6% advance.
Belgium’s shipments of iron and steel posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 15.5%.
The leading decliner among Belgium’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers, incurring a flatlining -0.5% year-over-year drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Belgium’s most valuable exported products were blood fractions including antisera (10.1% of total Belgian exports), petroleum gases (7.9%), processed petroleum oils (7.7%), medication mixes in dosage (5.7%), cars (5.3%), unmounted and unset diamonds (2.1%), automobile parts or accessories (1.21%), ethylene polymers (1.18%), biodiesel (1%), then electrical energy (also 1%).
Products Generating Greatest Trade Surpluses for Belgium
Belgium recorded an overall US$12.3 billion trade surplus for 2022, shrinking by -27.5% from $17 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Belgian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$23.3 billion (Down by -17.4% since 2021)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $14.6 billion (Down by -2.8%)
- Iron, steel: $5.5 billion (Up by 54%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $3.3 billion (Up by 36.8%)
- Other chemical goods: $2.6 billion (Up by 20.9%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $2.6 billion (Up by 8.3%)
- Footwear: $2.5 billion (Down by -3.1%)
- Soaps, washing preparations, lubricants, waxes: $2 billion (Up by 20.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.9 billion (Down by -2%)
- Meat: $1.9 billion (Up by 4.7%)
Belgium has highly positive net exports in the international trade of pharmaceutical products in 2022. In turn, these cashflows indicate Belgium’s strong competitive advantages under the pharmaceuticals category.
Products Causing Worst Trade Deficits for Belgium
Below are exports from Belgium that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Belgium’s goods trail Belgian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$24.2 billion (Up by 27.8% since 2021)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$11.8 billion (Up by 23.6%)
- Organic chemicals: -$9.6 billion (Down by -22%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$3.2 billion (Up by 9.7%)
- Cereals: -$2.5 billion (Up by 19.9%)
- Machinery including computers: -$2 billion (Down by -37.9%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$1.52 billion (Down by -11.8%)
- Oil seeds: -$1.48 billion (Down by -7.1%)
- Vehicles: -$1.2 billion (Reversing a $38.2 million surplus)
- Fish: -$957.3 million (Down by -1.3%)
Belgium has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products, particularly crude oil, petroleum gases and electricity.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Belgium’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Belgium to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Belgian Export Companies
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 global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Belgian export companies.
- BBL Shipping Belgium (mechanical shovels, excavators, shovel loaders)
- DHL Danzas Air Ocean Belgium (rubber/plastic molds, plastic boxes/cases, mechanical shovels)
- Fiat Services Sadi Belgium (automobiles)
- TPSA Co Tupperware Belgium (rubber/plastic molds, plastic boxes/cases/crates)
In macroeconomic terms, Belgium’s total exported goods represent 86.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 ($732.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 86.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2022 compares to 83% for 2021 Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Belgium’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Belgium’s export metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Belgium’s unemployment rate averaged 5.5% in 2022, down from an average 6.258% for 2021 according to statistics from the International Monetary Fund.
Belgium’s capital city is Brussels.
See also Belgium’s Top 10 Imports, Belgium’s Top Trading Partners, Germany’s Top Trading Partners and France’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on May 14, 2023
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 14, 2023
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 14, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 14, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 14, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 14, 2023
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 14, 2023
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Belgium. Accessed on May 14, 2023
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 14, 2023
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on May 14, 2023