Belgium

Europe’s unofficial capital city has so much to offer - just ask the numerous multinationals headquartered here. But its greatest asset is its people - highly educated, skilled, multi-lingual and the most productive in the world. All the right ingredients for accelerated business growth.

 

Welcome to Belgium

With over 100 years of experience in continental Europe, in-depth local knowledge and financial expertise backed by a global network of 3,800 offices in 66 countries and territories, HSBC is perfectly positioned to help international corporates take advantage of the many opportunities the country has to offer.

Belgium is one of the pre-eminent international business and organisation centres in Europe, and with its world-class infrastructure can serve as the gateway to Europe and to the world. HSBC has deep roots in the region and offers a comprehensive range of cross-border and financial services to suit both your personal and business needs whether you are moving to the region, working in the area, or purely investing or doing business in Belgium.

Tatiana Renko Chief Executive Officer, HSBC France - Brussels Branch

Head office address: Square De Meeus 23, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Essentials

Population
11.5 million1
Size
30,528 sq km
Main languages
Dutch, French, and German with English widely spoken and understood
Capital city
Brussels
Other major cities
Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège, Bruges
Currency
Euro 
Dialling code
+32
GDP
USD46,078.93 per capita2
Top exports
Chemicals, machinery and equipment, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, food and drink3
Top imports
Raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, transportation equipment and oil products.3
Unemployment rate
5.6%4
Corporation tax
29.58%5
Typical office hours
8.30am - 5.30pm, Monday to Friday
Time zone
UTC +1, but from March to October the country observes UTC +2
Emergency numbers
100 (medical emergency & fire brigade) 101 (police), 112 (pan-European emergency services)

1 World Bank Group, 2019
2 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2019
3 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 2019
4 Trading Economics, 2019
5 Deloitte, 2019
* Map shows cities of economic significance according to the CIA, 2019

Belgium: The heart of Europe

  • Small but mighty

    500 million Europeans live within an 800 km radius of Belgium, encompassing one of the world’s highest concentrations of wealth, industry and a staggering 80% of Europe’s purchasing power.

  • Well connected

    Belgium’s high-quality transportation infrastructure offers fast connections across Europe by air, sea or land. All major commercial centres – including London, Paris and Frankfurt – are just a few hours away.

  • Competitive logistics

    Belgium ranks third in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. There are 800 European Distribution Centres in Flanders alone and an average of six per 100 sq km – the highest in Europe.

  • Robust economy

    Belgium has the sixth largest Eurozone economy. Neighbouring countries Germany, France and the Netherlands also have strong economic connections with Belgium.

  • Ideal test market

    Belgium’s diverse society makes the country a mini-Europe and an excellent test-bed for products and services.

  • Political hub

    Brussels is a world capital on a par with Washington DC for political advocacy. It is the lobbying centre of Europe with more than 3,800 diplomats and 10,000 lobbyists.

Country profile

Belgium may be renowned as the home of great beer and chocolate, but it also has significant geopolitical clout.

The country plays host to NATO, several EU institutions and many prominent multinational companies. Strategically situated in the heart of Western Europe, Belgium offers all the benefits of proximity to continental European markets and decision-makers, together with an educated and skilled workforce. The concept of a work/life balance is also well-respected.

Due to the nation’s unique regional and cultural make-up, including its three official languages – Dutch, French and German – business is very much international. That said, it is often conducted in English – an added bonus for many overseas investors.

Ranked

# 45

for ease of doing business (in a survey of 190 measured economies by The World Bank)

Belgium is divided into three regions - the Flemish Region (or Flanders) in the North, the Brussels-Capital Region, and the Walloon Region (also known as Wallonia) in the South.

Read on to discover more about the dos and don’ts of doing business in Belgium. Also find out how trading in or with the country could help boost the future growth of your business.

5 reasons to do business in Belgium1

  1. Gateway to Europe
    Belgium is a key international business hub, providing access to over 500 million European consumers.
  2. Strong transport links
    Excellent transport infrastructure, spanning waterways, roads and railways, equips Belgium with a strong distribution network.
  3. Qualified workforce
    Belgium boasts highly qualified and largely English-speaking employees, with a growing entrepreneurial workforce.
  4. Digital connection
    An advanced digital communications infrastructure enables 98% broadband coverage across the country.
  5. Political powerhouse
    With a robust and open economy, Belgium provides access to EU decision-makers and influencers.

5 key challenges2

  1. 1

    Payment behaviours

    Belgium has a conservative payment culture and prioritises cash over other payment methods. Suppliers rarely grant trade credit. Only 31.8% of B2B sales in the country are conducted on credit and businesses typically ask their clients to pay invoices within 30 days.

  2. 2

    Working in Belgium

    EU citizens do not require a permit to work in Belgium. However, you will need a residence permit if you intend to work and live in Belgium for more than three months. Non-EU residents will require both work and residence permits.

  3. 3

    Obtaining permits

    It can take up to 110 days to obtain a construction permit, although this varies from region to region. Acquiring permission for utility connections can also take time.

  4. 4

    Buying a property

    Although property can be cheaper to buy in Belgium than neighbouring countries, transaction costs are high and this can result in short-term benefits being offset.

  5. 5

    Congestion & transport

    Belgium remains Europe’s most congested country in terms of hours wasted and travel delays, especially around Antwerp and Brussels.

1 Institute of Export & International Trade, 2018
2 TMF Group, 2018

 

All indices represent the latest 2017/18 rankings