Canadian companies are already eager to invest in Flanders. Canada features among the top 10 biggest investors in the region—with Canadian firms funneling a total of EUR 40 million into their Flanders-based assets in 2016. Now that CETA has come into effect, I am confident that even more companies will be crossing the pond to discover the gains of investing in Flanders. The reason? I believe it boils down to a winning combo of empowering benefits for employing talented people and developing innovation in Flanders.
There is no doubt that CETA, the freshly activated trade agreement between Canada and the EU, will strengthen trade activity on both sides of the Atlantic. But can the treaty also benefit Canadian companies with ambitions of setting up a base abroad? The answer is yes! Mieke Pynnaert, Business Development Professional in Montréal for Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), has already tackled the question on LinkedIn. Discover her insights.
“In Flanders—the autonomous northern region of Belgium—Canadian tech firms have a high-potential business ecosystem for the taking. And thanks to CETA, enhancing their presence in the region has never been easier, more cost-effective or more promising.
Now that CETA has come into effect, I am confident that more and more Canadian companies will cross the Atlantic and discover the gains of investing in Flanders.
When you decide to set up or expand your Canadian business in Flanders, chances are you’ll want to send over key staff – from technical experts to researchers and senior executives – to get things off the ground as quickly and smoothly as possible. Thanks to CETA, it becomes a lot easier to temporarily transfer your key staff to the EU, including Flanders.
This only adds to the various other available incentives for employing foreign personnel in Flanders. For instance, if you decide to temporarily assign executives or researchers from Canada to Flanders, they can benefit from a special expatriate tax status and receive tax-free expat allowances as well as tax-free reimbursement of installation costs, school fees, and more. In addition, you can recover up to 80% of the withholding tax on professional income for R&D personnel assigned to Flanders.
With CETA, it’s easier for Canadian firms to temporarily transfer their key staff to Flanders, where they can help investments get off the ground smoothly.
Innovation provides further common ground between Canadian and Flanders-based businesses. In 2016, no less than half of the total amount invested by Canadian firms in Flanders went to R&D activities. Furthermore, both economies are known for their innovative strengths in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and cleantech—all of which are thriving sectors on both sides of the Atlantic and hold vast potential for cross-border collaboration.
This is most evident in the digital industry. Not only does Canada see ICT as one of the main sectors for trade with the EU, the country also has a clear ambition to become one of the world’s prominent knowledge-oriented economies in this respect. Canadian-European ICT-related trade is therefore likely to boom, thanks in a large part to the recent CETA agreement, and investor relations in this domain could benefit greatly as well.
Just like the Canadian ICT industry, Flanders’ digital innovation ecosystem – home to one of the internet’s co-inventors, need we say more? – is nothing short of ambitious. The region gives you access to strengths and benefits found nowhere else, including:
- the world’s leading R&D center for nano- and digital tech: imec. As one of four government-backed strategic research centers, it’s also a telling example of how Flanders’ private, public and academic realms come together in innovative harmony.
- up to 80% of structural funding for innovative projects as well as some of Europe’s finest R&D incentives. These include the innovation income deduction, tax breaks for R&D investments and R&D payroll tax incentives.
In addition to Flanders’ digital fortes – namely cloud computing, the Internet of Things, fintech and so on – there’s another industry branch where Canadian firms in particular can reap the rewards of closer ties with Flanders: the gaming industry. A booming sector in Canada, game development is also a hot topic in Belgium’s northern region.
The reasons behind this include:
- a top-notch digital arts and entertainment education – Howest university college has even been ranked ‘best game design and development school’ by international gaming sector organization The Rookies;
- a vibrant start-up scene to collaborate with in both game development and related hi-tech domains like augmented and virtual reality;
- access to aid from a dedicated gaming industry federation (Flega), as well as a variety of financial and innovation support options;
- a governmental commitment to further boost Flanders’ infrastructure for the development of games, series and cultural services.
The list of business and investment opportunities related to CETA goes on and on. For a complete overview, don’t hesitate to contact Flanders Investment & Trade’s offices in Montréal.