Belgium flag Belgium: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Belgium

Foreign Trade in Figures

The Belgian economy is particularly open, with foreign trade representing 159% of GDP (World Bank, 2020). In addition to being considered an export champion (10th in the world rank - WTO), Belgium plays an important role as a transit and distribution centre for other countries in the European Union. The main export products are medicaments (8%), vehicles (7.5%), blood (6.9%), and petroleum oils (3.4%). The main imports are vehicles (7.6%), medicaments (6.4%), human blood (5.6%), and oil and mineral fuels (3% - Comtrade).

Belgium role as a regional logistical hub makes its economy vulnerable to shifts in foreign demand, particularly with EU trading partners (around 65% of exports and imports). Germany remains the first customer (16.6%), followed by France (13.3%), the Netherlands (11.7%) and the U.S. (8.8%). The main suppliers are the Netherlands (19.2%), Germany (14.6%), France (11.2%) and the United States (5.3%).

According to WTO data, in 2020 exports amounted to USD 419.8 billion, while imports reached USD 396.1 billion. Exports of services totalled USD 113.4 billion, while imports of services stood at USD 115.2 billion. The country’s trade balance is traditionally positive when including services: in 2020 the trade surplus represented around 1.4% of GDP (World Bank). Driven by buoyant world demand, Belgian export growth was strong in the first half of 2021, but came in negative in the third quarter. The National Bank of Belgium forecasts that exports will contribute negatively to GDP in the upcoming years, as continued strong domestic demand should drive up imports and losses in export market shares are projected to continue.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 408,915454,947427,708396,132510,208
Exports of Goods (million USD) 430,554468,650446,944419,892545,284
Imports of Services (million USD) 115,140124,928122,524115,242134,494
Exports of Services (million USD) 117,414121,682119,333113,459136,653

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 157.7165.3166.3163.0160.7
Trade Balance (million USD) 1,9252,706-5043,8541,287
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 5,6855,263-1,2843,2531,944
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 7.55.21.30.8-4.3
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 6.25.50.61.0-4.6
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 78.282.183.381.280.1
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 79.483.283.081.880.6

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 3.71.13.74.03.8
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 3.81.74.14.54.2

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Belgium is a member of the following international economic organisations: Benelux Economic Union, ICC, OECD, European Union, IMF, G-9, G-10, WTO, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Belgium click here. International organisation membership of Belgium is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Belgium can be consulted here.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
Germany 17.1%
France 13.4%
Netherlands 12.1%
United States 7.1%
United Kingdom 6.3%
See More Countries 44.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
Netherlands 21.0%
Germany 15.9%
France 10.2%
Ireland 5.5%
United States 4.8%
See More Countries 42.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

336.5 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and immunological products, whether or not modified or obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 11.9%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 6.3%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 5.8%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.1%
Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted...Diamonds, whether or not worked, but not mounted or set (excl. unmounted stones for pick-up styluses, worked stones, suitable for use as parts of meters, measuring instruments or other articles of chapter 90) 3.1%
See More Products 67.7%
344.7 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and immunological products, whether or not modified or obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 8.0%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 6.0%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 4.8%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 4.7%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 4.4%
See More Products 72.1%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

97.1 bn USD of services exported in 2019
46.92%
25.72%
11.22%
5.42%
3.84%
2.72%
2.70%
1.46%
95.5 bn USD of services imported in 2019
46.40%
27.56%
8.25%
6.51%
3.69%
3.31%
3.06%
1.17%
0.06%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: December 2022

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