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Belgium in the new global economy: Export and international sourcing

August 2012

Vlerick/Solvay study for the FEB/VBO annual conference

The structure of the global economy has changed, with emerging markets including the BRIC countries becoming new centers of growth, consumption and production. These rapidly growing countries have become essential trade partners and have increased their share in world trade, both as importers and exporters.

In addition, rapid technological change in communication and logistics has enabled an increase in cross-border flows of goods, services and financial transactions and a globalization of value chains. The global restructuring process is accompanied by increasing scarcity of resources, forcing firms and governments to think about opportunities for sustainable growth. In addition, developed economies like Belgium are confronted with the costs of an ageing population.

The current economic environment reflects the complex integration of global and national economies. This is particularly evident in Belgium, a country that has developed into one of the most globalized countries in the world, in terms of trade, foreign investment, migration, and as a host country for important international organizations. This openness has an important impact on the behavior and the performance of firms located in Belgium. Rapid changes in the global economy confront firms with a myriad of strategic challenges for successful growth.

In the public debate, globalization is often perceived rather negatively, with increasing attention being paid to the (weaker) competitive position of Belgian firms on world export markets and the direct employment losses as a result of foreign sourcing of goods and services by firms. The direct and indirect gains in terms of more efficient supply conditions and an upgrading of an economy towards higher value activities are often overlooked.

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