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16 marzec 2017

Foreign relations Belgium


International Affairs – Belgium

Belgium as a part of European Union highlights that EU is a political project and with regard to this, Union has an impact on the country’s external relations. For Belgium, is important when EU is paying attention to geopolitical and neighbouring countries. Belgium is also positioning itself as a reliable partner. The country supports external policies related to global challenges such as climate change, securing energy supply, fighting against terrorism.[1]

There few regions which are particularly relevant for Belgium in the case of foreign relations. These regions are specified as follows: Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Southern Europe, Asia and Oceania.


Middle East: Maghreb

Cooperation with region in North Africa based on bilateral agreement between countries. Most considerable are relations with Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Since 1960s Morocco has been an approved partner of the Belgian Development Cooperation. Currently, the new program for 2016-2020 is being prepared; it is also important in terms of concerning the employment of Moroccan workers in Belgium and environmental issues. Belgium has positive reputation in Algeria, which has been the second biggest market in Africa for Belgian Regions in terms of trade. Algeria also occurs as the biggest market in North- Africa.

Between Belgium and Tunisia was signed several direct bilateral agreements. Belgium also supported country in period of democratic transition by given assistance with the constitutional process and supporting security sector. Belgium’s relations with Libya seem to be inactive, since 2012, when official visit by Minister Reynders took place in February the same year.


Bilateral relations with the Near East

Belgium has good bilateral ties with Egypt and Israel, which are supported by the frequent high-level bilateral contacts. Contacts with those countries extend to the political, administrative, professional and cultural area. The official meetings are examining strategies to strengthen economic, technological and trade relations.

Belgium has a good reputation in Jordan because of Belgium's views regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict and cooperation against ISIS. Belgium also supports various local projects related to hosting large groups of Syrian refugees. Trade relation Belgium-Jordan consists mainly of Belgian export, as in Jordan is a demand for high-quality industrial goods.

Lebanon and Belgium have bilateral relations at the level of European Union, for example, the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement. However, Belgium supports country by the humanitarian aid induced by crisis in Syria with 30 million euros.

In the Palestinian Territory, Belgium is contributing to the political and financial support provided by the European Union in case of establishment of public institutions by the Palestinian Authority. The country also belongs to the partners of the Belgian Development Cooperation.

Bilateral relations with Syria are limited due to the fight against ISIS. Bilateral agreement concerned with mutual protection of investments, which has been suspended. It was applied sanctions against Assad's regime by EU.


Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)

Belgium’s position in this situation is in line with the approach of the EU – recall for a complete end to the Gaza blockade. Second, give a provision of the peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Iraq and Iran

The last action which strengthened diplomatic ties with Iraq took place in November 2009 when Belgian ambassador was accredited in Iraq. This caused Iraq authorities to encourage Belgian companies to develop their activities in Iraq.

Belgian's broad lines of approach towards Iraq are support for the fight against Daesh (ISIS); support the Iraqi political process, support for constructive involvement of Iraq's. Belgium's presence in United Nation (UN) is based on supporting Iraq by providing assistance and coordinating humanitarian aid.

Belgium supports convenient relations between the EU and Iraq. Belgium is following closely developments in Iran.


Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC

(Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates)

Belgium has regular and close contacts with the GCC countries in case of the political, administrative, professional and cultural issues. A lot of Belgian companies set its business in this strategic region. Belgium enterprises operate in different branches such as construction, engineering, dredging, transport, medicine and consultancy.

As a part of EU/GCC relations, the last Ministerial Meeting took place on 24 May 2015. The main objective of this meeting was the political dialogue between the EU and the GCC on topics of common interest, for instance, regional crises in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya and the MEPP.[3]



Sub-Saharan Africa

For most of the African countries, Belgium appears as contributor more than business partner. In Sub-Saharan Africa Belgium continues its efforts to support good governance, support fight against corruption and encourages regional cooperation. All these activities are supported by the coalition agreement from 1st December 2011.


Central Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has come a long way since the 2003 peace agreement which marked the end of years of war and the beginning of a period of political transition. In 2006, the first democratic elections organized in over 40 years brought this transitional period to an end, after which the institutions of the third republic were able to get to work to implement an ambitious government agenda. In spite of all the efforts, a large number of challenges still have to be overcome, particularly in relation to maintaining and consolidating democratic gains within a stable state based on the rule of law and offering opportunities for development to the entire population that is as broad as possible.

The cooperation majorly based on multiple bilateral missions, programs and projects, organized with a cooperation of UE and UN.

The issues which are in Belgium’s priority:

•    Reinforcement of democratic development, by supporting the elections between 2011 and 2013. Monitoring of election process takes place under the UNDP’s PACE [Electoral cycle support project] program.

•    Promotion of peace and stability in the country, by proceeding bilateral efforts (in particular the creation of “Rapid Reaction Forces”) and continue to react as part of EUSEC, EUPOL and MONUSCO.

•    The promotion of rule of law and stable state, particularly promotion of human rights. It is worth to mention that Belgium participates in the Stabilization and Reconstruction Plan for Eastern DRC (STAREC).

•    Promotion of proper economic management and transparency. Transparency is particularly in the sectors of mining, transport and public finances. Belgian efforts to combat illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC are also in keeping with this policy.

•    In 2010 DRC was able to secure a discount of over 80% in its external debt. Since then DRC takes the initiative to improve the business climate by, for example, participation in OHADA (Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa) and make the agreement between Belgium and the DRC about double taxation, which comes to force on 1 January 2012.

•    Cooperation program supporting economic and social reconstruction. New cooperation program from 2009 is concentrated on next sectors: rural tracks and ferries (development of rural areas), agriculture and training.



This is a country which seeks for ways of implementation of proactive socio-economic development policies. Because of population density problem, Rwanda is trying to diversify its economy, which is highly dependent on agriculture, and orientate it towards services. Belgium provides bilateral aid under cooperation programs.

An important issue for Belgium is also peace and stability in the Great Lakes region by pushing for cooperation between the countries in the region. This actions will be taken under the CEPGL [Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries], CIRGL [International Conference on the Great Lakes Region]. There is also judicial cooperation between Belgium and Rwanda, because of Rwanda need of legal support.



Belgium and Burundi have long and diverse bilateral relations. Belgium continues its investment in country. Nowadays Belgium is Burundi’s biggest bilateral donor. This support intended for the agricultural, health and education sectors, with good governance being a cross-disciplinary priority. Belgium supports also assisting Burundi’s integration into the regional East African Community organization and calling for an improved business climate in Burundi, which is still dogged by high levels of corruption.

Belgium and other African countries

The ties between other African countries and Belgium are not that deep. Belgium as a part of EU participates in different multilateral forums, which are promoting peace and development in African countries

Such organization as The African Union, region of West Africa, East Africa and the Horn of Africa are also important area for Belgium.[4]


North America


Stable and excellent relations have Belgium with its foreign partner – Canada. These relations supported by permanent official and working visits, bilateral contracts and meetings. Each region in Belgium and community establish close economic and cultural relations with Canadian provinces. There few economic and trade representatives from Belgian regions in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Quebec.[5]

According to Canadian governmental website, those countries have high values of trade flows. For instance, the Canadian exports to Belgium amounted to CAD 3.1 billion in 2015. This is the 5th position in the EU market. Port of Antwerp is one of the main points of entry for Canadian exports goods to whole Europe. In another hand, Canada’s import from Belgium amounted to CAD 2.6 billion, which is the 7th position among EU countries.

An important place in these relations occupies bilateral investments. In 2015 Canadian investments in Belgium was CAD 1.11 billion (ranked as 12th place among Canadian FDI in EU-countries). Apart of that Belgium’s FDI in Canada valued CAD 5.9 billion (Belgium is the 16th largest investor on a global basis). There few of sectors in which countries have strong collaboration. There is microelectronics, environmental, imaging technologies, life sciences. [6]


The United States of America (USA)

Political relations between two countries started when Belgium established as a country. Since 1832, diplomatically relations with the USA are getting stronger each year. Currently, political relations based on the transatlantic dialogue, in which the EU and the USA consult on agreements of a political, economic or judicial nature. Belgium also contributes in the fight against international terrorism and in military operations in Afghanistan and Libya.[7]

Economic relations with the USA characterized as very dynamic. USA occurs as the major trading partner for Belgium outside EU. According to that USA is the 5th export destination and 4th import country for Belgium. In another hand, Belgium is 10th export destinations for the USA ahead of countries like France and India. Since 2011, USA keeps trade surplus in these trade relations. [8]

The USA appears as major partner in terms of direct investments. Direct investments to Belgium are approximately USD 45 billion, which is similar to Belgian investments to the USA. This investment exceeded USA contribution in India, Italy or Sweden. On the global basis, Belgium is the 18th foreign market for the USA. Instead of that, this is the 7th market for the USA in the EU. There are sectors in which USA companies mostly presented. There are chemical automotive, petroleum refining and pharmaceutical sectors. [9]

It is worth to mention, that bigger part of its investments plays a key role in R&D by representing 19% of total R&D in private sector. In another hand, Belgian enterprises in the USA are also belonging to chemical industry and wholesale sector (Delhaize). Historically, Belgium is the 9th largest investor in the US and the 8th in case of employment. [10]


Asia and Oceania


Belgium’s relations with Asia have gradually developed through international institutions. UE has a main role in a creation of framework of the common policies such as foreign and security. Due to this framework, Belgium supports the development of the European External Action Service (EEAS), which aimed to build stronger position of EU in Asia. Belgium is also contributed to a different program which is a part of UN actions and NATO priorities.[11]

China and India are one of the most relevant trade partners for Belgium.

Bilateral trade between China and Belgium reached $23.2 billion, in 2015. Chinese investment in Belgium also exceeded $3 billion (2015). For example, Chinese insurance company, Anbang Insurance Group, which is one of the biggest Chinese investors in Belgium, started a "one million euro" loan program. This program will support Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Europe. [12]

In case of trade relations with India, Belgium is one of India’s most important European partners. Belgium appears as its 3rd biggest trade partner in Europe and the 13th in the world.  It is interesting to note that, diamond trade between two countries accounts for about 80 % of Belgian exports to India. EU is the most important trade partner of India and the negotiation of the India-EU Trade and Investment Agreement is an important priority.[13]

Relations with these island states are generally maintained through the EU cooperation programs within the framework of the African, Caribbean & Pacific (ACP) Agreements.


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Relations with Pacific island states are mostly maintained through the EU cooperation programs. The basis of these relationships is general framework of the African, Caribbean & Pacific (ACP) Agreements.[14]

Australia has positive and constructive relations with Belgium. Countries have similar approaches to many international issues such as arms control, counter-terrorism. Belgium also is a member of the Australia Group on Chemical Weapons.

The bilateral economic relationship is also dynamic. In 2015, total merchandise trade amounted to $2.9 billion. Belgian FDI in Australia valued $2.2 billion. Mostly, Belgian investment into Australia concentrated on infrastructure, mining and resources, transport, financial services, agriculture, food technology, biotech and medical sectors. [15]


Southern Europe

Belgium supports Albania’s, Serbia’s and Turkey’s wish to join the EU. Albania also adopted the Action Plan for European integration. Relations between Belgium and Turkey are good. In Belgium lives large Turkish community (more than 200,000 people. There is also a presence of several elected representatives of Turkish origin in Belgium in various legislative assemblies.

The bilateral relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo are good but limited. [16]

Latin America and the Caribbean

The EU occurs as second-largest trading partner and remains the biggest investor and donor in Latin America and the Caribbean. Instead of that, EU tries to improve its presence in this region. Belgium is looking forward to investing more in Latin America as well as looking for less unilateral flow of trade (because trade is still heavily dominated by commodities). Belgium has most significant bilateral contracts with Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama and Mexico. [17]



For Belgium it is relevant to have cooperation Mercosur members. Mercosur is 5th largest economy in the world and EU’s FDI in Latin America is growing year by year. Total EU exports to Mercosur have also increased. Despite this increase in trade, there has been an ongoing anti-free trade movement in Brazil and Argentina.

Belgium maintains good economic cooperation with Paraguay and Uruguay, especially, in logistics and infrastructure. In case of Brazil, Belgium is the third-biggest investor in global basis. The main areas of investments are waterways, port facilities, energy, and aeronautics.

In the Caribbean region, Belgium focuses mostly on development cooperation. Belgium is also participating in the UN’s MINUSTAH mission. For Belgium, Cuba is a traditional partner of NGOs and of federated entities. In Jamaica is located Belgium’s Caribbean embassy. Belgium maintains an economic significance (transport, Jonckheere buses) and a potential for infrastructure works, while in Trinidad and Tobago gives prospects for renewable energy. [19]





Belgium has variety diplomatic and economic contacts with different countries across the world. Stable and favourable relations are also with EU member states (mostly with neighbour countries: France, Germany and Netherlands). Belgium enjoys excellent bilateral relaxations with Middle East countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, GCC), African region (Central Africa), North America (Canada, USA) and Asia (China, India).

It is worth to mention, that Belgium participates in a range of programs issued by UN, NATO, EU. As highly developed country, Belgium notes stable economic growth and through this improves its relations in trade with foreign partners.

Total Belgian exports are expected to increase 3.8% annually to USD$ 598 billion in 2017, what will make country the 14th largest exporter on the world basis. In another hand, import demand will increase with an average of 3.4% annually to USD$ 568 billion in this year. Taking into account that, Belgium will occupy the 16th position among world’s largest importers. By 2017, Belgium will mainly import fuels, chemicals and other manufactured products. Similarly, Belgium's exports will mainly consist of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and fuels.


Anna Bodnar




[2] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/middle_east

[3] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/middle_east

[4] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/africa

[5] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/north_america

[6] http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/belgium-belgique/bilateral_relations_bilaterales/index.aspx?lang=eng

[7] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/north_america

[8] http://unitedstates.diplomatie.belgium.be/en/economic-information/belgian-us-trade

[9] http://unitedstates.diplomatie.belgium.be/en/economic-information/us-investment-in-belgium

[10] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/north_america

[11] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/asia_and_oceania

[12] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2016-10/31/content_27227012.htm

[13] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/International_trade_in_goods

[14] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/asia_and_oceania

[15] http://dfat.gov.au/geo/belgium/pages/belgium-country-brief.aspx

[16] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/southern_europe

[17] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/latin_america_and_the_caribbean

[18] http://www.coha.org/mercosur-eu-fta-discussions-the-venezuelan-question/

[19] http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/policy/world_regions/latin_america_and_the_caribbean

[20] https://www.ingwb.com/media/230050/belgium.pdf