Belgium certainly has a place in Canadians’ collective memory due to the role played by Canadian soldiers in the First (such as in the Battle of Passchendaele) and the Second (such as in the ‘Battle of the Scheldt’) World Wars. In addition there is great interest in what is happening in Belgium in terms of state reform.
Political relations between Belgium and Canada are excellent, as illustrated by the regular official and working visits and bilateral contacts on the fringes of international meetings. Belgium and Canada are partners in numerous multilateral forums and share many foreign policy objectives. Belgium has an embassy in Ottawa and Canada has one in Brussels.
The Belgian Regions and Communities have also developed close economic and cultural ties with the Canadian sub-states (‘provinces’). Economic and trade representatives from the three Regions are represented in Montreal and in Toronto. Furthermore the French Community also has a delegation in Québec City, the capital of the province of Québec; the Brussels Region has opened an office in Vancouver, a port at the Canadian westcoast. The province of Québec also has a representation in Brussels.
In 2012, trade flows between both countries amounted to more than EUR 3.7 billion. In recent years the trade balance has been pretty much in equilibrium, with a small surplus for Belgium. As a Belgian export market, Canada hovers around 20th place. The province of Ontario is our main export destination, followed by the province of Québec. However, the trade in services and mutual investments are even more important than the exchange of goods.
Canada, 325 times the size of Belgium and more than triple our population, is home to a large Belgian community (22,000 Belgian nationals). In addition there are approximately 180,000 Canadians who lay claim to Belgian origin.
The United States of America (USA)
Thanks to Brussels, in the USA Belgium is mainly known as the home of NATO headquarters and the European Union (EU) institutions. Many Americans are aware that Belgium was liberated in both world wars with considerable sacrifices made by American soldiers. Americans also know that life is good in our country; they appreciate our hospitality and the quality of life. However, relations between our countries extend far beyond delicious chocolate and tasty beer.
Our political relations and friendships are as old as our country itself; diplomatic relations were forged in 1832 and, since then, the ties have only grown stronger. Today our political relations are mostly embedded in the transatlantic dialogue, in which the EU and the USA consult on important dossiers of a political, economic or judicial nature, related to both continents, but with today’s globalization, also to the rest of the world. Our tradition of bilateral diplomatic cooperation with the USA is deepening, particularly with regard to the Great Lakes in Central Africa. The USA also values Belgium’s contribution in the fight against international terrorism and in military operations such as those in Afghanistan and Libya.
Economic relations with the USA are very intense.
Mutual trade flows between Belgium and the USA amounted to approximately EUR 42 billion (2012). As America’s trade partner, our country ranks higher than some larger countries such as India, Australia, Russia and Spain. The USA represents our fifth largest export destination, while Belgium occupies twelfth position among the ranks of USA export countries.
The USA is also a major partner in terms of direct investments.
Direct investments from the US to Belgium amount to circa 53 billion, which is more or less equivalent to Belgian investments to the USA.
The number of American enterprises in Belgium, which exceeds one thousand, provides around 130,000 jobs (representing 8% of the Belgian working population). American companies play a special role for example in scientific research; their investments in research and development (R&D) represent 19% of all R&D in the private sector.
Belgian subsidiaries provide some 150,000 jobs in the US. Our country is mainly represented in the chemical industry (including pharmaceuticals) and wholesale sectors (such as Delhaize). Belgium is historically viewed as the 9th largest investor in the US and the 8th foreign investor in terms of employment.
Throughout history, tens of thousands of Belgians have emigrated to the USA and become American nationals. Today, some 22,000 Belgians live in the USA either on a permanent or temporary basis and are registered at the Belgian Embassy or Consulates General. More than 40,000 Americans live in Belgium, on a permanent basis or on temporary assignments for government institutions or enterprises.
The numerous bilateral visits clearly demonstrate our good relations with the USA. We must also mention the royal visit to New York (2007), the Princely Missions to Seattle (2008), New York-Washington-Boston (2011), and to California (June 2013). 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.