Belgium is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has been one of the foremost proponents of regional economic integration.
Non Tariff Barriers
At the European level, agricultural products are protected within the Common Agricultural Policy and textile products from China, Belarus, North Korea, Montenegro, Kosovo and Uzbekistan are subject to particular formalities and import licenses or control procedures (export document, monitoring document).
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Operations carried out within the EEA are free of duty. The Common Customs Tariff of the European Union applies to goods originating outside Europe. Generally the duty is relatively low, especially for industrial products (4.2% on average).
The Combined Nomenclature of the European Community (EC) integrates the HS nomenclature and supplements it with its own subheadings with an eight-digit code number and its own Legal Notes created for Community purposes.
Customs procedures include, apart from importing with payment of duties, the following tax exemption procedures: release for consumption, transit or temporary admission, customs warehousing, inward processing, processing under customs control. More details on the website Invest Flanders
As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls, the "Import Control System" (ICS), which aims to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Program eCustomer, has been in effect since January 1, 2011. Since then, operators are required to pass an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union. Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration.
Samples are acceptable to Belgium and will be exempt from all Duty and VAT. A Certificate of Origin will not be required for import; only a standard Air Waybill or Bill of Lading and Commercial Invoice will be needed.
Imported samples of commercial value owned by individuals abroad also may be granted exemption from customs charges. Security is required in the amount of duty and tax chargeable, plus 10%. Samples may be allowed to stay in Belgium up to one year. Such samples are not permitted to be sold, put to normal use (except for demonstration purposes), or utilized in any manner for remuneration.
Belgium are very price sensitive and value for money. It is important to remember that Dutch, French, and (to a very limited extent) German language divisions define consumer characteristics in the Belgian market.
There is a rich population as companies' headquarters and international organizations still have offices in the capital and expatriates have attractive financial packages. Also as there is no tax on the wealth, the country has attracted many rich foreigners who leave in Brussels and its suburb.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
Generally speaking, purchasing power is lower every year with yearly inflation rate of around 2%. On one hand Belgian population has tremendously lost buying power during the last 20 years (-20% in Brussels) and with a rate of 20% of un-employment in the Capital, that market is not high-end.
There is stiff competition within the Belgian market. This is due to the fact that Belgium is largely open to foreign trade. Added to a sophisticated system of distribution and very well developed infrastructure, it turns Belgium into a test market, where many foreign companies launch new products. The main geographic zones of the country are Brussels, Antwerp and Liege. and is regarded as an excellent transit and distribution center.
Despite a noteworthy slowdown of the local economy at the end of the year 2009, retailing continued to demonstrate modest but still positive current value terms growth at a rate slightly higher than inflation. In store-based retailing, the number of outlets continues to decline due to a natural cannibalization of still dominant small independent shops located in towns by more profitable large stores – hence the ongoing increase in selling space. Large retail groups gain ground through expansion in the number of outlets, the assortment of products they carry, and also in their private label offerings.
The dense population and pattern of urban development means that for 91% of Belgian consumers, retail shops and department stores are accessible within a 10-mile radius of their homes.
The distribution of foodstuff is characterized by a high level of concentration (a few chains with many selling points especially for Delhaize and less importantly for Colruyt), and by a strong development of the co-operation among the distributors.
The distribution of other consumer goods, on the contrary, is better carried out through specialized traditional retailers, so much that in recent years chains of branches, often auto-serviced, with diversified products have appeared on the market.
It is also characterized by the increasing part of the "non food" distribution in hypermarkets and, in a lesser way, of department stores (Inno).
The pride for Belgian distributors is the GB group which manages a union of distribution companies, grouped around four sectors: super and hypermarkets together with CARREFOUR, do-it-yourself, fast foods, specialized distribution.
Organizing Goods Transport
Main Useful Means of Transport
The main ports are Antwerp, Gent, Ostend. Antwerp is by far the most important Belgian port and is ranked second in Europe, while Liege is the third largest river port. Belgium has the second most extensive canal network in Europe and benefits from modern road and rail networks.