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Belgium

Executive Summary

According to its most recent report, the Belgian central bank expects gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 2.6% in 2022 despite economic headwinds linked to global supply chain bottlenecks, spiking energy costs, and uncertainty related to COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Experts project that Belgium’s growth rate will slow but remain above potential, dipping slightly to 2.4% in 2023 and further to 1.6% in 2024. The labor market remains strong as overall job numbers continue to increase, and analysts anticipate that the unemployment rate will decline steadily to 5.7% by 2024. The inflation rate will likely continue to increase, largely driven by rising energy prices. The Belgian central bank expects the rate to peak in 2022 at 4.9% and then decline as energy markets stabilize. Belgium’s budget deficit is projected to reach 6.3% of GDP for 2021 – down from a high of 9.1% in 2020 – and will likely remain above 4% of GDP through 2024. The level of government debt will hold steady, with most experts projecting 108.9% of GDP in 2021, 106.3% in 2022 and 107.5% in 2023.

Belgium is a major logistical hub and gateway to Europe, a position that helps drives its economic growth.  Since June 2015, the Belgian government has undertaken a series of measures to reduce the tax burden on labor and to increase Belgium’s economic competitiveness and attractiveness to foreign investment.  A July 2017 decision to lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% further improved the investment climate. The current coalition government has not signaled any intention to revise this tax rate.

Belgium boasts an open market well connected to the major economies of the world. As a logistical gateway to Europe, host to major EU institutions, and a central location closely tied to the major European economies, Belgium is an attractive market and location for U.S. investors. Belgium is a highly developed, long-time economic partner of the United States that benefits from an extremely well-educated workforce, world-renowned research centers, and the infrastructure to support a broad range of economic activities

Belgium has a dynamic economy and attracts significant levels of investment in chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites; environmental technologies; food processing and packaging; health technologies; information and communication; and textiles, apparel and sporting goods, among other sectors.  In 2021, Belgian exports to the U.S. market totaled $27.7 billion, registering the United States as Belgium’s fourth largest export destination.  Key exports included chemicals (37.6%), machinery and equipment (10.9%), and precious metals and stones (5.9%).  In terms of imports, the United States ranked as Belgium’s fourth largest supplier of imports, with the value of imported goods totaling $27.6 billion in 2021.  Key imports from the United States included chemicals (38.8%), machinery and equipment (11%), and plastics (10.7%).

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 18 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 22 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) N/A USD Amount https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 45,750USD https://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Investment Climate Statements
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future