Exporting to Belgium

Belgium is an affluent and multicultural country in the centre of Europe. It has a strong and longstanding trading relationship with the UK and is our 8th largest trading partner. English is an accepted business language and for many UK companies Belgium is just a short train ride away.

Strategic location

Belgium is situated in the heart of Europe and is home to many international organisations and multinational companies, making it an attractive location to be commercially active. Belgium’s proximity to the UK is also a great advantage. Its good transport links mean you can get there and back for meetings within a day.

Strong and open economy

Belgium is an affluent and multicultural country with a developed, modern, private-enterprise economy. It’s an open and competitive market and barriers to market entry are low. There are opportunities in most sectors, in particular for high-value products and services.

Similarities to the UK

Belgium has a similar business culture to the UK’s and English is an accepted business language. British products enjoy a good reputation and if your product or service is successful in the UK, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful in Belgium.

Ease of doing business

46th

out of 190 countries, World Bank 2019

Currency

Euro

Business languages

French, Dutch, German, English

GDP per capita

$46,696

UK is $41,030 (IMF, 2019)

Economic growth

1.4%

(IMF, 2019)

Time zone

GMT +1

Opportunities for exporters

There are opportunities for UK companies across a broad range of industries. Our trade advisers in Belgium have identified particular opportunities for UK businesses in the following sectors.

Doing business Belgium

Preparing to export

Taxation

The UK and Belgium have signed a double taxation agreement that ensures the same income is not taxed twice.

VAT

If you’re registered for VAT in the UK, it may be possible to zero-rate the goods you export to Belgium, provided certain conditions are met.

The standard rate of VAT is currently 21%. A reduced rate of 12% applies to social housing and agricultural products. A 6% tax rate applies to basic foodstuffs, water, hotel services, property restoration and certain other supplies.

You can find out more about paying taxes, including VAT, on the Belgian tax authority’s website.

Corporate tax

The corporation tax rate in Belgium is 29.58%, and is set to decrease to 25% in 2021.

Standards

Products and packaging should meet EU standards. The Belgian Bureau for Standardisation is responsible for developing, publishing and selling standards in Belgium.

Labelling

You should provide information for users in Belgium’s official languages of Dutch and French. Textile products must be labelled with information on fibre content. Ask the importer about further requirements for specific products.

Operating in Belgium

Intellectual property

As a first step, we advise you to speak to an intellectual property (IP) lawyer if you think you need patent protection when exporting.

Trademarks, designs, patents and copyright are the principal forms of IP protection available to companies and individuals.

The Belgian Office for Intellectual Property handles queries about IP in Belgium.

Payment terms

The standard period for paying invoices in Belgium is 30 days, this is the scenario where the agreement between buyer and seller doesn’t state otherwise.

Contracting parties however can agree explicitly to shorten or expand the payment period, with expansion topped off to max 60 days.

Business culture

In general, Belgians have good compromise and negotiation skills. They appreciate a direct and logical communication style and have a flexible approach to forging win-win deals. One should avoid any confrontational or high-pressure tactic.

During meetings, it is usual to engage in small talk before discussing business. You should wait for your Belgian counterpart to initiate the business discussion. Belgians are professional and pragmatic and will appreciate a convincing and detailed presentation.

Punctuality and respect for deadlines are paramount. Meetings are usually well structured and efficiently run, and a pre-set agenda is followed.

Business cards are often used as introduction and are exchanged without formal ritual.

Belgian business dress code is conservative.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.