The Belgian Foreign Trade Agency (BFTA) is a public institution, which is an incorporated body, founded under the Cooperation Agreement (only available in French and Dutch) of 24 May 2002 agreed between the Federal Authority and the Regions. The Belgian Foreign Trade Agency is managed by a Board of Directors whose Honorary President is His Majesty the King.
The Belgian Foreign Trade Agency is at the disposal of these three Regional authorities that promote exports, and also collaborates with the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs. That is how the Agency acts as a vast platform in which the Federal competence of international relations and the Regional competence of foreign trade meet.
The Belgian Foreign Trade Agency makes an effort to provide support to the three Regions and the federal government in promoting foreign trade.
In accordance with Article 3 of the Cooperation Agreement (only available in French and Dutch) dated 24 May 2002 between the Federal Government and the Regions, the Agency is responsible for:
- deciding on and organising joint economic missions linked to an initiative by one or several of the Regions or at the request of the Federal Government,
- organising, developing and disseminating information, studies and documentation about external markets to regional services responsible for foreign trade in accordance with Appendix 1,
- tasks of common interest decided unanimously by the Board of Directors. In December 2014, the Board therefore decided that the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency would, from 2015, contribute to the logistical organisation and the economic aspects of two State Visits abroad by the King and the Queen of Belgium per year.
The first pillar concerns the organisation of two economic missions a year. These are organised together with the Wallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX), hub.brussels and Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). In addition, the BFTA collaborates with the FPS Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for the protocol and political aspects of the programme. Companies from various industries take part in these missions, which chiefly focus on economic growth regions and countries. Belgian business representatives can establish high-level contacts with leading local industrial players, organisations and public bodies during these missions.
A second pillar relates to the collection and distribution of information about the foreign markets. Its Overseas Business Opportunities Centre specialises in the distribution of three types of trade information: overseas public tenders, international projects and trade proposals. The department also offers public procurement guidelines, specifications for a tender at cost, personalized foreign trade statistics subscriptions, newsflashes with economic information as well as market regulations. It organises seminars with experts in public contracts.
On April 1st 2015, a new package named Trade4U was launched, allowing companies to receive personalised business opportunities through an app. The BFTA also publishes econonomic studies, country studies and memos containing comparative national and international statistics about foreign trade. Finally, the agency also provides advice about international trade regulations and legislation.
Strategy and objectives
The Agency's main objective for 2022 is to be able to go ahead with the postponed princely missions and State Visits scheduled for 2022. The successive postponements have led to a very concentrated reprogramming for the first half of the year, with the State Visit to Greece taking place from 2 - 4 May followed immediately by the princely mission to the United Kingdom from 9 -12 May, then the princely mission to the United States from 4 -12 June 2022. This very rapid succession of events means that the Agency's team will be under heavy pressure over a short period of time. Given the small size of the team, a call for reinforcements had to be made to colleagues outside the department. The State Visit to Greece will be a challenge in itself, as it will have to be organised in 3 months instead of the usual 9 months. The princely missions are very popular with companies, with more than 400 participants for the United Kingdom and more than 500 for the United States.
The second half of the year will be a little less hectic with a State Visit to Lithuania from 24 - 26 October, and a princely mission to Japan from 5 - 9 December to end the year on a high note.
At the same time, the Research Department will produce two new sectoral publications: the first will be on “Belgian entertainment technologies” and the second on a theme yet to be defined. The study on the use of Free Trade Agreements will be further developed, including a separate paper on the role of “Logistics Service Providers”.
2022 will also see the launch of the new mobile application dedicated to State Visits. This application will be developed with funds released under the European Recovery and Resilience Plan. The application will be launched during the State Visit to Greece in May.
Also thanks to European funds, there will be reinvestment in the Synergy platform, a vital support for the organisation of State Visits and princely missions, in order to develop new functionalities and perform the necessary migration to Sharepoint 2019.
The database of Belgian exporters will continue to be fine tuned and improved. The Trade4U team will seek out targeted international business opportunities for Belgian companies from various sources around the world.
2022 is shaping up to be a busy year, and the Agency team is looking forward to the challenges ahead.
Source: 2021 Activity report, Belgian Foreign Trade Agency
Date of publication: May 2022
The Belgian Foreign Trade Agency publishes its activity report annually. In addition to the events and noteworthy facts of the past year, this report also contains all the available information about the institutional and financial framework of the agency, its mission and the strategy and objectives of the Directorate General.
Budgetary allocations (2021 - 2022)
The Agency is funded by an indexed federal allocation and by contributions from the Regions based on the distribution scale with regard to taxes on natural persons..
The receipts in the 2021 budget amounted to € 4.214.000:
For 2022, the revenues of the federal and regional institutions will amount to € 4.242.044:
In recent decades, the competence for ‘foreign trade’ has undergone some phases of regionalisation in Belgium. Until 1990, the Belgian Foreign Trade Office (Belgische Dienst voor Buitenlandse Handel - Office belge du Commerce extérieur) was the most important institution for export promotion. In 1990, a Walloon agency - Wallonia Export-Investment Agency was founded, followed by a Flemish equivalent in 1991 Flanders Investment & Trade. That same year, Brussels Invest & Export, now hub.brussels was also founded. The Cooperation Agreement (only available in French and Dutch) of 24 May 2002 between the Federal Government and the Regions laid the foundation for the creation of the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency.
OVERVIEW OF 15 YEARS
BELGIAN FOREIGN TRADE AGENCY