In 2017, Flanders exported goods worth 317 billion euros, an absolute record. And an increase of 5% of goods exports compared with the record year 2016. The 317 billion euros of goods exports equals 83.22% of total Belgian exports. Flanders Investment and Trade announced the figures on 9 April.
Although Flanders can look at a new record high, it should be noted that export growth levels in Flanders remained below the average growth rate of the European Union (+ 7.53%). This means that the European Union, the most important market for Flemish goods, has overcome the crisis and that many European member states are now also looking at a positive trade balance. This is also reflected in the Flemish figures: 70% of Flemish exports are destined for the European single market. Flemish export growth within the European Union increased by 4.7%, with more than 50% of Flemish exports destined for neighbouring countries. It is remarkable however that the exports to the UK decreased by 0.4%. The explanation probably lies in the weakened British Pound since the Brexit is not yet a fact.
Outside the European Union, Flanders exported very strongly to Switzerland (+ 22.2%), Turkey (+ 18.9%) and Russia (+ 11%). Exports to the African continent rose by 13% while exports to Asia only increased by 3.7%. Exports to the United States fell by 13.9%, mainly in organic chemicals and pharmaceuticals, while trade to Canada increased by 23.2%. Trade to Brazil even increased by 40.44% and shows why a free trade agreement with MERCOSUR can make this market even more interesting for goods coming from Flanders.
Flanders remains strong in the export of chemicals and pharmaceutical products as well as in the export of transport equipment. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that Flanders also exports particularly strongly in mineral products, plastics and electrical and electronic equipment.
The results confirm the Flemish export vision, which also seeks to make foreign markets more easily accessible for the highly competitive Flemish export products. CETA has provisionally entered into force and the negotiations with Mexico and MERCOSUR have reached a final stage. Flanders also hopes for the rapid ratification of the agreements with Japan, Singapore and Vietnam and, finally, hopes that trade relations with the United States can quickly run smooth again.
Minister-president Bourgeois emphasized once again the importance of internationalisation of the Flemish economy, but also the need for diversification, not least with Brexit in mind. In this context, the Minister-President will organize a second Brexit round table on 17 April. "The first took place on 14 December 2016. On that day we will propose a number of measures. I would already like to emphasize that it is essential for Flanders that the Flemish position should become the European position, in particular with regard to our opinion that a zero rate on goods should be maintained after Brexit. "
Flanders Investment and Trade