Belgian foreign trade certainly did not escape the impact of the Corona crisis in 2020. As in many other countries, exports and imports of goods also fell sharply in Belgium. But mainly thanks to the pharmaceutical sector – think of the production of corona vaccines – our country has risen in the global ranking of the most important trading countries. Belgium is now among the top 10 exporters of goods worldwide. The Foreign Trade Agency said on Tuesday.
This indicates that the Corona crisis dealt a strong blow to trade, especially in the second and third quarters of last year. Over the year, total Belgian exports of goods fell 7.9% – or more than 31.6 billion euros – to 367.5 billion euros, while imports rose 9.3% (or more than 35 billion euros), falling to 346.5 billion euros. Within the European Union, Belgium ranked fifth, both for exports and imports, with a market share of 7.7 percent each time.
“Belgium may not be the best student in the class in terms of foreign trade in 2020, but for a country that is very open and relies on importing and exporting goods and services, it hasn’t done poorly yet,” the study said. . In many other countries, trade has been further affected.
This result is even more surprising on a global level. For example, Belgium rose from number 13 to number 10 in the list of the most important exporters of goods in the world. In the ranking of the largest importers, Belgium moved from 14 to 12. In terms of trade in services, Belgium ranks 11th in both exports and imports. This is three and two times higher in a row than in 2019.
The absolute mainstay was the pharmaceutical sector. He has performed well during the Corona crisis. Belgian exports of pharmaceutical products amounted to 40.5 billion euros, an increase of 6.5 billion euros or more than 19 percent over 2019. This is due to the product categories “human vaccines”, “immune products” and “pharmaceuticals”.
Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical sector is doing well, according to the study. “After all, our country has an excellent reputation for research in medicines and vaccines. At least 29 pharmaceutical companies from the top 30 global companies have a foothold in Belgium. ” “In addition, our country has also established itself in recent years as one of the most important centers in the world for the distribution and supply of medicines and vaccines.”
By contrast, the sector that suffered the hardest export hit in absolute numbers was the “mineral fuels” sector. This is due to the decline in demand for oil and gas, especially at the beginning of the Corona crisis, along with the decline in prices. Exports in this category decreased by €7.1 billion (or 34.9%) compared to 2019.
The first part of the study by the Foreign Trade Agency had previously shown that the auto sector was hardest hit during the first shutdown. From March to May, exports of cars and parts fell by €3.2 billion. In the following months, there was a slight recovery, it seems now, although exports for the whole of 2020 were still €2.5 billion, or 7.5 percent below the 2019 level.
“On the positive side, there was a clear growth in the export of ‘gearboxes’, ‘electric cars’ and ‘electric hybrids’, but the increase proved to be more than enough to offset the decline in the export of petrol and diesel cars,” according to the study.
It is also remarkable that during Corona 2020, exports to neighboring countries were hit hard. The value of exports to the Netherlands, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, which accounted for half of all Belgian exports in 2020, fell by about €21.9 billion.
In terms of exports outside Europe, the Americas has become the main export destination for Belgian goods. Thanks to the pharmaceutical sector, exports to the countries of the American continent increased by 2% to more than 36 billion euros.
In this way, America overtook Asia, because exports to that continent fell by 6.8% to 33.7 billion euros. A fifth of the increase was exported to China, but this cannot compensate for declines in other countries. For example, far fewer diamonds were exported to India, in particular, and to a lesser extent to Hong Kong. “Since diamonds are a luxury product, this type of thing is the first to come in handy during a crisis,” says the book. Total Belgian exports of diamonds and related products fell by 15.5 percent or nearly 2.5 billion last year compared to 2019.
“Total coffee specialist. Hardcore reader. Incurable music scholar. Web guru. Freelance troublemaker. Problem solver. Travel trailblazer.”