Entering the Belgian Market

The Belgian market offers many business opportunities for foreign companies. Entering the Belgian market simultaneously means new export and growth opportunities. A successful market entry requires good preparation and legal advice. Especially in Belgium, there are legal and fiscal peculiarities that foreign companies should be aware of and make use of.

In order to realise your export project in the best possible way, we offer you on this page an overview of how to proceed when entering the Belgian market. We are your first point of contact for all legal and tax issues that foreign companies face when entering the Belgian market.

Business opportunities for foreign companies in Belgium

There are several reasons why Belgium is interesting for foreign market development. Belgium has a robust economy with high purchasing power and a wealthy population. In addition, Belgian workers are among the most productive and best educated in the world. Due to its small size, Belgium has an accessible market that is very open to foreign trade. Also, the recent adaptation and flexibilisation of Belgian company law makes it more attractive for foreign companies to invest in Belgium.

In addition, Belgium has a favourable strategic location in the heart of the European Union and Brussels, the capital of Europe, hosts almost all European institutions. Therefore, for many foreign companies, a presence in Brussels has become strategically essential. Not least thanks to its central location in Europe, Belgium is also the logistical hub of Europe with a modern infrastructure. This means that Belgium can also serve as a gateway to the neighbouring markets of France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands.

Belgium also has excellent research & development facilities with interesting incentives such as subsidies and tax incentives, as well as some strong economic sectors such as the transport sector and the (bio)chemical, medical and pharmaceutical industries.

The Belgian economy offers foreign suppliers many opportunities, because the most important economic driver in Belgium remains the exchange of goods and services with foreign countries. This opens up good business prospects for foreign suppliers.

Belgium has a high import demand for many products. Exports are concentrated in certain sectors, especially chemical products. For foreign manufacturers, there are a wide variety of sales opportunities in Belgium, especially in the construction sector as well as in the areas of mechanical engineering, medical technology, life sciences, environmental technology and food. Specialised medium-sized companies with sector expertise enjoy a good reputation and are in demand, whether as subcontractors, suppliers or as cooperation partners of Belgian companies.

It is therefore clear: Belgium offers interesting market potential for foreign companies.

Choice of distribution system: an overview of the options in Belgium</span

Once the decision has been made to do business in Belgium, the question arises as to how it should be organised. The next step is to determine an adequate distribution system. There are various forms of distribution available for entering the Belgian market. They are usually closely correlated to the size of the company, the product or service and the general marketing strategy of the company. Roughly speaking, there are two different ways.

1. Distribution to Belgium

The easiest way to enter a foreign market is to export. Successful distribution on the Belgian market stands or falls with a reliable distributor or cooperation partner in Belgium who knows the Belgian market well. Many small and medium-sized enterprises initially venture into Belgium through a Belgian sales partner. Depending on the product to be marketed and the customer groups, cooperation with an importer, a distributor or a commercial agent is the best option. The foreign company remains practically invisible in the background.

It is therefore not always necessary to set up a company in Belgium. The step abroad via distribution is not so big. With a good cooperation agreement, you can already get very far. But be careful: The legal framework and contractual options vary depending on the form of the sales partnership!

Of course, you can also distribute your products to Belgium via your website or webshop. Although this may seem like a simple distribution method at first glance, you have to observe certain rules of Belgian legislation, such as general terms and conditions and data protection.

You can find more information about this way to Belgian success on the page Distribution, contracts & T&C in Belgium.

2. Entering the Belgian market

In some cases, however, the Belgian market potential can only be effectively exploited through a local market presence. You can then consider entering and gaining a foothold in the Belgian market yourself. This can be done in various ways, e.g. by sending your own employees, hiring a Belgian employee or setting up a Belgian subsidiary or branch.

Establishing a Belgian entity has its advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage is that your foreign company gets a Belgian face, which brings it closer to the Belgian customer. In addition, the Belgian branch will improve market knowledge and facilitate compliance with sector-specific regulations.

On the page Establishing your business in Belgium you will find more information about setting up a company or a branch in Belgium and about the support services that our firm and our partners can offer.

If you would like more information on employing personnel in Belgium or the secondment of foreign workers to Belgium, we would like to refer you to our pages Personnel in Belgium and Secondment of personnel to Belgium.

The question of whether a Belgian branch is useful when expanding your business to the Belgian market cannot be answered in a general way. Each company must decide for itself which option is most suitable. This decision depends on various factors, such as the sector in which you operate, the objectives of your company in Belgium, the resources available in the form of capital and personnel and the liability risks of your activity. Of course, tax aspects also play a role in determining your strategy for entering the Belgian market. After all, whether your Belgian activities are taxed in Belgium or in the country of origin under the double taxation treaty also depends on your company structure (see our page on international tax). Our tax lawyers can advise you on this.

Our practical experience teaches us that employing a Belgian worker and setting up a Belgian subsidiary or branch is often chosen, but also has far-reaching consequences, as the foreign company then becomes partially or even completely “Belgian”. You will then come into contact with various Belgian bodies, e.g. a notary, a payroll office or an insurance company. It is not always easy to keep track of everything. We work closely with partners in all relevant areas so that we can act as a single point of contact and handle all aspects of doing business in Belgium for you (see One-Stop-Shop and Establishing your business in Belgium).

Market entry | Euregio Law & Tax