Magazine article Presidents & Prime Ministers

Belgium's Trading Priorities

Magazine article Presidents & Prime Ministers

Belgium's Trading Priorities

Article excerpt

International trade is of exceptional importance for a country like Belgium. Indeed, my country is among the foremost trading nations in the world. The export of goods and services accounts for 70% of its GDP.

International investment is also very important for us. Total direct foreign investment in Belgium amounts to almost half of our GDP and provides employment to half a million of my countrymen.

It is, therefore, no surprise that Belgium has continuously conducted a policy of open market economy and free trade and that, 52 years ago, it was one of the countries that launched initiatives conducive to the liberalization of international trade and the development of a multilateral trading system, from which all members of the international community benefit. International trade is an important driving force for economic development and prosperity.

It is Belgium's sincere wish that a new trade round can be launched in Seattle. In that perspective, I would like to underline five priorities:

1. Our first priority is further substantial trade liberalization. Belgium is among those countries that request the elimination of remaining trade barriers, tariff and non-tariff barriers a like. We advocate a comprehensive tariff negotiation aiming at reducing tariffs, removing all tariff peaks and harmonizing the tariff structures of all. Members across all non-agricultural products. A credible market access negotiation must be accompanied by a comprehensive non-tariff initiative.

Small and medium-sized companies, large in number, dynamic and innovative, constitute the basis of Belgium's economic fabric. Inefficient and often unnecessary procedures hamper their international trade activity. The WTO should be committed to simplifying these procedures at the international level.

2. A second Belgian priority is related to the place of developing countries in the global trading system. Belgium is aware of the problems that these countries face in trying to participate in the international trading system and obtain full benefits from trade liberalization. Belgium has decided to contribute to the efforts of the WTO in offering enhanced technical assistance to developing countries in order to help them cope with the challenges of globalization. My country is also sensitive to preoccupations of developing countries with regard to certain aspects of the application of the TRIPs-agreement.

Special attention should be given to the least developed countries. In this respect Belgium fully supports the EU proposal to grant duty free market access for essentially all products of these countries. I would also like to point out that these countries are already an important priority in Belgium's bilateral cooperation policy.

3. New challenges confront the international trading system. As in a growing number of other countries, liberalization of international trade and rapid modernization of the economy give rise to growing concerns and preoccupations in Belgium.

One of these preoccupations is sustainable development. …

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