Wim Van Cauteren
Investment and Trade Commissioner for Mexico
Flanders Investment & Trade
Expert Contributor

More than Beer:Trade, Investment Opportunities Sizzle in Flanders

By Wim Van Cauteren | Thu, 07/16/2020 - 09:10

Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) is the official Export Promotion and Foreign Investment Agency of the Government of Flanders and has had, since 1994, an office in Mexico, which is located within the Embassy of Belgium in Mexico City. Flanders is the Northern Dutch speaking region of Belgium and is located at the heart of Europe’s economic power base.
Our office in Mexico City assists Mexican companies that are looking for quality suppliers or business partners in Flanders and Brussels and we offer assistance for Mexican companies that are looking to set up or expand operations in Flanders.
We also support Flanders and Brussels-based companies that want to do business in Mexico by providing them with market information, potential Mexican business partners and business visit programs. 
Belgium and Mexico have extensive trade and investment relations. Mexico is Belgium’s second-most important client in Latin America and Mexico is Belgium’s most important supplier from Latin America. Belgium is an important export destination for Mexico’s merchandise exports. In 2018, Belgium was Mexico’s 12th-most important export destination overall and the fifth-most important export destination in Europe. Few people are aware that Mexico exports more goods and merchandise to Belgium than to large European countries like France or Italy. 

With major ports (Antwerp is the second-largest port in Europe) and outstanding logistics infrastructure, a significant portion of the trade between Belgium and Mexico is destined for other countries in Europe. Mexico has excellent maritime connections with Flanders. The Mexican ports of Veracruz and Altamira on the Atlantic are connected with the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and North Sea Port (Ghent) by no less than 10 major shipping lines. 
Since widening and deepening the access to our seaports is of utmost importance, it is no coincidence that Flanders is home to two world-renowned dredging companies, DEME and Jan De Nul. Both companies have an important presence in Mexico and have contributed to expansion projects of several Mexican ports. 

Flanders offers transfer of knowledge on port management through APEC (Antwerp/Flanders Port Training Center), which organizes port-themed seminars to professionals from all over the world. Because of COVID-19, APEC now offers online port courses (https://apecporttraining.com/online-courses/) to Mexican port professionals.

Belgium is also an interesting export destination for Mexican exporters because of its diversity. Belgium sits on the cultural and linguistic border between Germanic and Latin Europe. This diversity makes it an ideal market for Mexican companies to test their products or services before selling them in the rest of Europe. Belgium enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in Europe, and 60 percent of Europe’s purchasing power is within 500 kilometers of Belgium’s borders. 

Flanders’ logistics companies enjoy an excellent reputation. Out of 160 countries, Belgium ranks third worldwide on the World Bank's Logistics Performance Index (LPI). Many international companies have located their European distribution center in Flanders, from where they serve their European clients. One of Flanders most important logistics companies, Katoen Natie, operates several port terminals, logistics terminals and on-site terminals in Mexico. 

The automotive industry also plays an essential role in Flanders’ economy. High-quality cars (Volvo and Audi), trucks (DAF/PACCAR trucks and Volvo trucks), buses (Van Hool and VDL Bus & Coach) and other vehicles are assembled in the region and exported around the world. Surrounding these production sites are over 300 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and aftermarket suppliers. Flanders is proud to host Mexican automotive supplier Tremec, which designs and manufactures manual and mechatronic transmissions and subsystems in its manufacturing facility in Flanders. VLAIO, the Flanders’ agency for innovation and entrepreneurship, supports the research and development activities of Tremec in Flanders. In turn, several tier 1 and tier 2 automotive suppliers from Flanders have factories in Mexico: Aspel Group, VCST/BMT Drive Solutions and DS Fibres.
Flanders is also home to Europe’s largest petrochemical cluster and is No. 1 in the world when it comes to sales of chemicals and plastics per capita. Ten out of the world’s Top 20 chemical companies have a facility in Flanders. Flanders stimulates the development of sustainable innovations for the chemistry of the future and has therefore founded BlueChem, (https://bluechem.be/en/), the first incubator in Belgium that focuses specifically on innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable chemistry.

Another product of natural chemistry is beer and Flanders is a true Belgian beer heaven! Flemish brewers have developed dozens of brewing styles: Lambics, Abbey Ales, Belgian Whites, Strong Golden Ales, and Trappist Ales. The largest beer company in the world, AB Inbev, is headquartered in Leuven, Flanders, where the original Stella Artois brewery is located. Since 2013, Mexico’s Grupo Modelo has been a part of AB Inbev. Apart from Stella Artois, Mexican beer lovers can enjoy dozens of Belgian specialty beers like Affligem, Barista, Brugse Zot, Cornelissen, Delirium, Duvel, Gouden Carolus, Gulden Draak, Hoegaarden, Kwak and Lindemans, which are available in beer pubs in major Mexican cities.

Flanders also houses another delicacy: Belgian chocolates. Nothing quite beats the delicious, creamy taste of Belgian chocolates! Several Belgian chocolate brands like Duc d’O, Gudrun, Guylian, Jacques, Noble and Vandenbulcke are available in Mexico’s retail and department stores. Mexican bakery, patisserie and chocolate chefs and professionals rely on Callebaut chocolate and Belcolade chocolate, which are both produced in Flanders, to create great tasting delights.
Other key sectors in Flanders are the textiles industry, the sector of micro and nanoelectronics, the life sciences and health sector and the IT sector. Flanders is home to Imec.istart, which is considered Europe’s best university-linked business accelerator, according to the UBI Global World Benchmark Study. Flanders’ startup scene is taking on an increasingly international character and foreign expats are, more than ever before, launching new tech businesses in Flanders.

Mexican companies that wish to contact potential business partners in Flanders or Brussels or that are interested in doing business in Flanders are invited to contact the office of Flanders Investment & Trade in Mexico at: mexico@fitagency.be

Photo by:   Wim Van Cauteren