For many years now, Belgium and the Netherlands have been successful trading partners. A shared border and language means that many companies in one country view the other as the perfect first step into international trade. ‘In business terms, the two countries are a good fit for each other,' says Herlinda Wouters, general manager at KBC Netherlands.
Belgium has for years been the Netherlands' second-most-important trading partner. Annual exports to our northern neighbour represent around 38 billion euros.
In the other direction, the Belgians import as much as 40 billion euros worth of goods a year from the Netherlands. Mainly in sectors like energy, chemicals, transportation, logistics and agriculture/horticulture, the mutual interests are significant.
‘Business relations are good between the Belgians and the Dutch,’ says Wouters. ‘Although there are cultural differences — such as that the Dutch are more outspoken and the Belgians more reticent — the Dutch trading spirit dovetails very nicely with the Belgian mentality.
This includes the fact that, in the Netherlands, they're crazy about the Flemish way of saying things.’ Our neighbour has even set up a National Department for Enterprise Netherlands, a special ministry to promote international trade, including with Belgium.
But, though we Flemings relate closely to the Dutch market and culture, there are still some major differences.
And that's why KBC Netherlands offers bespoke assistance. ‘In a team along with our Belgian colleagues, we assist mainly Belgian clients who have plans involving the Netherlands.
Plus, in the other direction, we support companies doing business in Belgium,' says Wouters. ‘Because we work within a narrow focus area, we can provide clients with personalised support: from opening local accounts for cash pools and taxes to info on country-specific finance.’