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Flanders’ growing technology exports break record

Flanders-based technology companies are exporting more than ever. Agoria, Belgium’s tech industry federation, attributes the positive results to the recent tax shift and index jump.

Record-breaking growth out of Flanders

2016 was a fantastic year for technology companies in Flanders. With EUR 61.7 billion in technology products exported, the industry breaks all previous records. Flanders’ technology exportation figure has grown 5% compared to 2015. The previous record dates from 2007, when exports amounted to EUR 60.1 billion.

According to Agoria, the success is in part due to the improvements made in labor cost issues. Peter Demuynck, CEO of Agoria, explains: “Thanks to the index jump and tax shift, Flanders is more competitive and able to expand its market share. We have grown a lot compared to our trade partners.” The region’s exports have increased 2% yearly since 2005. “These numbers confirm that we have moved beyond an era of financial crisis and corporate restructuring,” Demuynck claims. “The persistent focus on innovation and internationalization, as well as several government efforts, are clearly paying off.”

Exporting to Europe, US and… Japan!

Technology companies account for almost one third of all Flanders-based exports. Most of these companies are active in the transport sector (EUR 26.3 billion), machine construction (EUR 14.3 billion) and electrical engineering and ICT (EUR 12.8 billion). The numbers also include exports from foreign companies producing in Belgium, such as Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks in Ghent. 

So, where do we export to? These products are mainly destined for neighboring countries (i.e. Germany, the Netherlands and France). Three quarters of Flanders’ technology exports remain within the European Union. Outside of the EU, the US is Flanders’ main trading partner. The growth of exports to BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has stabilized over the last several years, but a remarkable trade partner is on the rise: Japan.

To support the increased exports, Flanders-based companies are looking for almost 900 extra people for their branches abroad. Demuynck: “We want to motivate talented job seekers to seize the opportunities created by Flanders’ successful export efforts.”

Map of Flanders (Belgium) in Europe

Exports climb across diverse industries

Several companies confirm Flanders’ exportation potential. In 2016, environmental company OWS landed EUR 50 million in international contracts. The company will build a waste reduction installation in Japan. Californian company Recology also showed interest in the Flanders-based company.

In early 2017, dredging company DEME signed new contracts for dredging and land reclamation in India and the Maldives worth EUR 100 million in total. In India, DEME will carry out dredging activities around marine bases on the west coast. In the Maldives, the company will be involved in land reclamation activities for the construction of ten tourism islands.

In a completely different industry, loom manufacturer Picanol exported EUR 639.8 million in products last year. Due to the rising demand for quality loom, Picanol sold thousands of weaving machines, thus increasing its market share in Europe and Asia.

This year already, Flanders-based bus builder VDL, part of the Netherlands’ VDL consortium, landed a contract for the construction of 100 electric buses, a deal worth EUR 65 million. 

More info

Reported by
De Tijd newspaper
16 May 2017

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