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 Policy Blog

Lack of bold reform threatens US businesses in Belgium

Date: 26/10/2012 08:47:00

In light of recent announcements by several large multinational corporations which are restructuring their operations in Belgium, the American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium (AmCham Belgium) calls for courageous and visionary leadership from the country’s policymakers. Drastic reforms are urgently needed to improve Belgium’s international competitiveness.

“The important and longstanding investments of US companies in Belgium are at risk, as shown by the developments of the past few weeks. Belgium suffers from an image of being uncompetitive, especially for industrial activities. AmCham Belgium has been vocal about improving competitiveness, insisting year after year in our Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium on the need to reform, above all, the labor market,” says Marcel Claes, Chief Executive of AmCham Belgium.

But labor costs are only part of the story. There is also the wider context which has had a cascading effect on Belgium: the world economy is still struggling to recover from the financial crisis; compared to other regions of the world, Europe is performing poorly; and even in Europe, Belgium is lagging behind according to many indicators. Belgium is not taking the same steps as its European neighbors, which are showing more resilience in the face of economic difficulties.
What is needed now are bold, forward-looking reforms which will ensure the competitiveness of the Belgian economy, now and in the future, and that focus on creating employment for everyone. Broadly, these include:
  • A stable regulatory and fiscal environment
  • Sound public finances and efficient public services
  • Lower – and predictable – labor costs
  • Support for innovation
On November 14, AmCham Belgium will publish a new study entitled “The Contribution of US Companies to Belgium”. It will highlight the significance of US investment in Belgium, with an updated listing of US companies by number of employees and, more important, contribution to public finances. The report is based on the most recently available data from 2011. With the developments of the last few weeks, however, there is a very real concern about what these figures will look like next year. The government must take urgent action to reverse these trends and create a stable investment climate in Belgium.


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