Brussels: Gateway to govt and investment

Updated: 2014-03-31 07:28

By Fu Chao (China Daily)

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Brussels: Gateway to govt and investment

Headquarters city for many multinationals and diplomatic missions, Brussels offers enormous potential for further growth in trade with China, analysts say.

An attractive investment destination for the world's entrepreneurs, Brussels is home to more than 1,300 foreign companies, according to a report from the foreign trade and investment agency Brussels Invest & Export.

The majority of foreign companies based in the city are from the United States, France, UK, Germany, Japan and China, including big names like General Motors, ICBC, Microsoft and Coca-Cola.

The capital city also hosts most headquarters of Belgian companies, the report said.

Among the city's appeal to businesses around the world, its influence on European policy-making is the most important.

Brussels houses some major EU institutions and the headquarters of 1,750 international organizations including NATO, the Western European Union, the World Customs Organization and Eurocontrol.

Mattias Debroyerd, economic and commercial counsellor for Brussels-Capital Region in China, said the important institutions and organizations employ or attract a large international sector of diplomatic corps, worldwide press, lobby agencies, law firms, NGOs and consulting companies.

"Brussels is second only to New York in the number of diplomats and is also the second-most important conference center," he said.

Brussels: Gateway to govt and investment

This international presence allows companies and organizations in the city to have a direct access to decision-making processes affecting businesses around the world, as well as the most updated information.

"International companies coming to Brussels can also benefit from a variety of subsidies including tax breaks," Debroyerd said.

He said that the city has introduced a series of tax reforms for Belgian companies and Belgian branches of non-resident companies.

Certain foreign executives in management positions, specialists and researchers residing temporarily in Belgium are eligible for a special tax regime that treats them as non-residents.

The city provides other subsidies to support investment, management consulting, R&D, employment and exports, he said.

Brussels' location and transportation also add to its appeal.

It has the second-largest inland port in Belgium and the sixth-biggest in Europe. It is at the center of the European high-speed rail network.

Paris is 1.2 hours away and London 1.55 hours by Eurostar.

The city is also a logistic hub for distribution activities in Europe. It also has an ideal test market at the crossroads of the southern European Latin and northern European Germanic cultures.

Some 25 percent of US export to Europe transit through Benelux - a union of three neighboring countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

And it has four research parks and 30 industrial zones.

The living cost and real estate prices are relatively low in Brussels.

According to a survey from the global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, office rent in Brussels in 2012 was the cheapest in Europe at 435 euros per sq m annually.

The city also has many top universities and a highly educated workforce. People in the city speak both French and Dutch, and English is widely spoken.

Key industrial sectors in Brussels include IT, healthcare, autos, lobbying, NGOs and finances, according to the report.

The report said that there are about 1,100 IT companies in the city that provide employment for some 32,500 employees and generate annual revenues of 3.2 billion euros.

The city has more than 600 companies with 74,000 jobs in the health sector.

It is also home to 47 hospitals, four university hospitals and public research centers, according to the report.

The main economic players in the sector are the large multinational drug companies and small high-tech companies in biotechnology and medical equipment.

The auto industry in Belgium produced around 500,000 cars in 2007, about 10 percent of them from Brussels production lines, according to the report.

The report said that Brussels is the world's second-largest center for NGOs and lobbyists - activists seeking to persuade members of government. In the finance sector, the Brussels Stock Exchange is one of the top 10 stock exchanges in the world, according to the report. The city also has a strong expertise in transaction processing.