Belgium definitely has a place in Canadians’ collective memory because of the role played by Canadian soldiers in the First (e.g. in the Battle of Passchendaele) and the Second (e.g. in the Battle of the Scheldt) World Wars. In addition, Canada is strongly interested in what is happening in Belgium in terms of state reform.
The political relations between Brussels and Ottawa are excellent, as evidenced by the regular official working visits and bilateral contacts in the margins of international meetings. Prime Minister Charles Michel made a visit to Ottawa and Montreal in June. Further visits were made by delegations from the Regions and Communities, as well as by business people. In 2015, a princely trade mission went to western Canada.
Belgium and Canada are partners in numerous multilateral forums and share many foreign policy objectives. Canada has an embassy in Brussels, while Belgium has one in Ottawa. 16,000 Belgians are registered at the Belgian Consulate General in Montreal, which provides, among other things, consular services to our fellow Belgian citizens. They are part of the approximately 150,000 Belgians or Canadians of Belgian origin residing in Canada, according to Canadian statistics.
The Belgian Regions and Communities have also developed close economic and cultural ties with the Canadian provinces. Economic and trade representatives from the three Regions are present in Montreal and in Toronto. Furthermore, the French Community also has a delegation in Quebec City, the capital of the province of Quebec, while the Brussels Region has opened an office in Vancouver, the port city on the Canadian West Coast. The province of Quebec also has a representation in Brussels.
Bilateral trade over the last decade represents an export rate fluctuating between 1.86 and 2.37 billion euros. Canadian imports have fluctuated between 1.08 and 2.82 billion euros over the last 10 years. In 2016, Canada achieved a trade surplus with our country of just over half a billion euros.
Trade primarily revolves around chemical products, although diamonds, accounting for 23% of Canadian exports to Belgium, are also important. Canada is the third largest producer of rough diamonds in the world, with more than half of these diamonds being sold in Antwerp. This makes our country the biggest trading partner of the Northwest Territories, where the diamond mines are located.
Belgium is the sixth-largest EU investor in Canada and the sixteenth foreign investor in the world. Belgian investments in Canada amount to around 4 billion euros per year. There are about fifty Belgian subsidiaries in Canada and about the same number of Canadian subsidiaries in Belgium. The best-known are Bombardier Transport and McCain Foods.
The United States of America (USA)
Belgium and the US first established diplomatic relations in 1832 and the ties between the two countries have only strengthened ever since. Today, our political relations are mostly embedded in the transatlantic dialogue, in which the EU and the US discuss important political, economic or judicial dossiers concerning both continents and, given today’s globalization, the rest of the world. Belgium is a reliable NATO ally and cooperates with the US in the fight against terrorism and in other security issues.
Economic relations with the US are very intense. Within the European Union, Belgium is the sixth-biggest exporter of goods to the US and the third most important supplier of services. The total value of trade in goods and services between Belgium and the US amounts to approximately 66 billion euros annually. Belgium runs a trade surplus in services, but has a negative trade balance in goods. Belgium is the twelfth-largest investor in the US. In terms of employment, Belgium is even the tenth investor in the US with more than 150,000 employees in 2015, mainly in the chemical industry and wholesale trade. The total value of Belgian investments in the US (47 billion euros) is slightly higher than that of US investments in Belgium (46.9 billion euros), which account for some 126,000 jobs.
Throughout history, tens of thousands of Belgians have emigrated to the US and became American nationals. Today, approximately 25,000 Belgians are living in the US, either on a permanent or temporary basis, and are registered with the Belgian Embassy in Washington or the Consulates General in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. More than 40,000 Americans are currently living in Belgium, on a permanent basis or to work temporarily for government institutions or enterprises.
The numerous bilateral visits clearly demonstrate our good relations with the US. We must also mention the royal visit to New York (2007) and the princely missions to Seattle (2008), New York/Washington/Boston (2011), California (2013) and Texas (2016). Both Vice President Pence and President Trump came to visit Brussels in 2017. There are also countless visits by members of federal and federated governments, by delegations from Parliament and the Administration and, of course, by business people.
The relationship with Mexico, which has 120 million inhabitants, dates back to the sixteenth century. Pedro de Gante (Pieter van Gent, 1480-1572) was one of the first Christian missionaries in the New World and founded the first European school in Mexico City. Although both the Belgian community in Mexico and the Mexican community in Belgium are relatively modest, relations between the two countries are excellent.
Some eighty Belgian investors are currently active in Mexico. Among EU countries, Belgium is one of Mexico’s most important trading partners. Our trade balance with Mexico is traditionally negative. The majority of Belgian investments are located in the services sector, as well as in trade and industry. In 2015 and 2016, five regional economic missions to Mexico were organised.
Belgium and Mexico also maintain active cultural and scientific ties. Since 1990, the University of Antwerp has an Center for Mexican Studies.
The political relations between Belgium and Mexico are excellent, as evidenced by the regular official visits and bilateral contacts in the margins of international meetings. The most recent bilateral political consultations took place in Mexico in November 2016. Our monarchs met the Mexican President for the last time in Brussels in June 2015.
In addition to the federal government, Flanders (FIT) and Wallonia (AWEX) are also represented. The Flemish representation also defends the interests of Brussels Export.