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Number one export sector for more than 10 years

  • Belgium’s chemical and life sciences industry is highly export-oriented. More than 75% of its production is exported. In 2013, the export of chemical, plastic and life sciences products amounted to 111 billion euro. That is one-third of Belgium’s exports, making it Belgium’s number one export sector. Belgium accounts for nearly 11% of total EU-28 exports.
  • The chemical and life sciences industry generated a positive trade balance of more than 23 billion euro in 2013. This trade balance has nearly doubled in the last ten years.
  • Neighbouring countries are the sector’s main trading partners: 40% of exports go to Germany, France and the Netherlands, with Germany alone accounting for one-fifth. Outside Europe, North America (in particular the USA) remains, with a 10% share, the biggest trading partner.
  • The chemical and life sciences industry contributes to the development of international trade with fast-growing countries. Today, about 6% of the sector’s products are exported to Brazil, Russia, India and China in particular (BRIC). Exports to those countries increased by more than a factor of 4 between 2003 and 2013.

Sector initiatives

Chemical industry reinforces collaboration with Shanghai

handelsbalans MoU Shanghai

In October 2014, essenscia Flanders and the Shanghai Chemical Industry Association (SCIA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This means that both sector federations are committed to continuing their intensive collaboration, and to extending this further.

The chemical, plastics and life sciences sector is the largest Flemish exporter to China, accounting for 30% of total exports. Moreover, the export of chemical and life sciences products to China has increased by more than 50% in the last ten years.

The agreement aimed at encouraging Chinese chemical companies to invest in Flanders. The extensive chemical cluster in the port of Antwerp – accounting for 11.000 direct jobs and 60% of the port’s total industrial activity – is furthermore a major asset.

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International promotion of Belgian chemical and life sciences sector

The central position at the heart of Europe, employees’ high level of education and workforce productivity, the energy efficiency of production installations, the high quality of scientific research, and the extensive network of universities and knowledge institutions – each one of these are significant assets for the chemical and life sciences sector in Belgium.

Three quarters of the world’s largest 15 chemical companies operate a production facility in our country. Along with numerous home-grown SMEs, these multinational companies are turning Belgium into the largest chemical and pharma cluster in Europe.

Thanks to intensive collaboration with the regional investment and export agencies Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), Awex and Brussels Invest & Export, essenscia is promoting these assets to potential trading partners during various economic and princely missions.

  • Organisation of two seminars to highlight the sustainable innovations of Belgian biotechnology in the food chain during the World Expo in Milan (June 2015).
  • Participation in the economic mission to Japan of the federal government (May 2015), to extol Belgium as an investment location. During this visit, chemical company Nippon Shokubai announced a major investment project at its European headquarters in Zwijndrecht.
  • Organisation of a Chemistry Power Breakfast during the princely mission to Malaysia and Singapore (November 2014) with the focus on Belgian biopharma.
  • Participation in a Belgian Power Breakfast to mark the ‘circular economy’ during the World Economic Forum in Davos (January 2014).
  • Organisation of a seminar ‘From Belgium to the US, world leaders in biotech’ during the Belgian economic mission to the West Coast of the United States (June 2013), in collaboration with FlandersBio, VIB and BioWin. The US is the Belgian pharma sector’s most important trading partner.
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