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Belgium

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Belgium has traditionally maintained an open economy that is highly dependent on international trade.  Since WWII, foreign investment has played a vital role in the Belgian economy, providing technology and employment.  It is a key economic policy of the government to make Belgium a more attractive destination to foreign investment. Though the federal government regulates important elements of foreign direct investment such as salaries and labor conditions, it is primarily the responsibility of the regions to attract FDI.  Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT), Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency (AWEX), and Brussels Invest and Export are the three investment promotion agencies who seek to attract FDI to Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Capital Region, respectively.

The regional investment promotion agencies have focused their industrial strategy on key sectors including aerospace and defense; agribusiness, automotive and ground transportation; architecture and engineering; chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites; environmental technologies; food processing and packaging; health technologies; information and communication; and services.

Foreign corporations account for about one-third of the top 3,000 corporations in Belgium.  According to Graydon, a Belgian company specializing in commercial and marketing information, there are currently more than one million companies registered in Belgium. The federal government and the regions do not have specific policies that prioritize investment retention or maintain an ongoing dialogue with investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are currently no limits on foreign ownership or control in Belgium.  There are no distinctions between Belgian and foreign companies when establishing or owning a business or setting up a remunerative activity.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Over the past 3 years, the country has not been the subject of third-party investment policy reviews (IPRs) through a multilateral organization such as the OECD, WTO, or UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

In order to set up a business in Belgium, one must:

  1. Deposit at least 20 percent of the initial capital with a Belgian credit institution and obtain a standard certification confirming that the amount is held in a blocked capital account;
  2. Deposit a financial plan with a notary, sign the deed of incorporation and the by-laws in the presence of a notary, who authenticates the documents and registers the deed of incorporation.  The authentication act must be drawn up in either French, Dutch or German (Belgium’s three official languages);
  3. Register with one of the Registers of legal entities, VAT and social security at a centralized company docket and obtain a company number.

In most cases, the business registration process can be completed within one week.

https://www.business.belgium.be/en/managing_your_business/setting_up_your_business  

http://procedures.business.belgium.be/en/procedures-iframe/?_ga=2.174982369.210217559.1555582522-1537979373.1536327711  

Based on the number of employees, the projected annual turnover and the shareholder class, a company will qualify as a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) according to the meaning of the Promotion of Independent Enterprise Act of February 10, 1998.  For a small or medium-sized enterprise, registration will only be possible once a certificate of competence has been obtained. The person in charge of the daily management of the company must prove his or her knowledge of business management, with diplomas and/or practical experience. In the Global Enterprise Register, Belgium currently scores 7 out of 10 for ease of setting up a limited liability company.

Business facilitation agencies provide for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy.

The three Belgian regions each have their own investment promotion agency, whose services are available to all foreign investors.

Outward Investment

The Belgian governments do not promote outward investment as such.  There are also no restrictions to certain countries or sectors, other than those where Belgium applies UN resolutions.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2017 $485 2017 $492,000 https://data.worldbank.org/country/belgium  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2017 $55,000 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2017 $103,000 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2017 122.5% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx    

* Source for Host Country Data:
GDP: https://stat.nbb.be/Index.aspx?ThemeTreeId=41&lang=fr#  
National Bank of Belgium offers different statistics, but it does not match the BEA stats. https://stat.nbb.be/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=INVDIR  


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 582,571 100% Total Outward 689,726 100%
Netherlands 166,767 28.6% Netherlands 247,827 35.9%
Luxembourg 154,808 26.5% Luxembourg 184,845 26.8%
France 148,682 25.5% UK 131,719 19.1%
Switzerland 55,845 9.5% France 45,175 6.5%
Japan 16,404 2.8% Germany 13,245 1.9%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

New link: http://data.imf.org/CPIS   

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 830,102 100% All Countries 426,482 100% All Countries 403,620 100%
Luxembourg  248,149 29.9% Luxembourg 209,411 49.1% France 74,216 18.4%
France 141,086 17% France 66,870 15.7% Netherlands 48,685 12.1%
Netherlands 67,411 8.1% United States 30,333 7.1% Luxembourg 38,738 9.6%
Germany 56,359 6.7% Germany 29,758 7% Spain 27,172 6.7%
U.S 54,123 6.5% Ireland 23,993 5.6% Germany 26,600 6.6%
Investment Climate Statements
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future