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Characteristics and development of Belgium’s foreign trade


  • W. Melyn

    (National Bank of Belgium, Research Department)


During the past quarter century, the globalisation of the economy has caused international trade to become remarkably dynamic. Over the same period international trade also experienced fundamental changes : intra-industry trade in manufacturing products has dramatically increased and new markets and competing countries have emerged. Belgium has long been integrated into this global framework, and its economic development and prosperity have been largely based on close trading links with other countries. Its degree of openness is among the highest of the euro area countries, due in particular to intense trade with these countries. Since 1980, Belgium has been relatively successful in maintaining its position in international trade. The trade balance has initially improved and has subsequently remained positive at around 3 p.c. of GDP. Global market shares have remained relatively stable in value terms. However, using harmonized foreign trade statistics, a more detailed analysis of Belgium’s export volume over the period 1995-2002 reveals that Belgium has lost 5.8 p.c. of its market share, while the three neighbouring countries have on average increased their share by 3.8 p.c. This negative result can be attributed in part to an unfavourable export product specialisation, in particular the large share of basic chemicals, metal products and textiles in total trade and the under-representation of machinery and data-processing hardware, electronic and telecommunication equipment.

Suggested Citation

  • W. Melyn, 2004. "Characteristics and development of Belgium’s foreign trade," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue iii, pages 7-27, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbb:ecrart:y:2004:m:september:i:iii:p:7-27

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    More about this item


    Belgium; Foreign trade; Globalisation; Intra-industry trade; Trade balance; Market share;

    JEL classification:

    • F00 - International Economics - - General - - - General
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade


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