Economic Mission to London: After Covid and Brexit, Four Days to Renew Ties

Twice postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Principality’s Economic Mission to the United Kingdom, chaired by Princess Astrid, will finally take place from 9 to 12 May. A particularly important mission, given that it is the first since the pandemic, but also after the country’s official exit from the European Union. It brings together at least 406 participants.

The program of this mission, organized by the Agency for Foreign Trade, FPS Foreign Affairs and regional foreign trade agencies (Avex, Hub Brussels and FIT), promises to be very intensive with many meetings and visits planned. The mission will take participants to London, Oxford and Cambridge. Led by Princess Astrid, the mission will also count on Tin van der Straeten, the Federal Minister for Energy – who replaces Sophie Wilmes, who is on leave from her post of Foreign Affairs – Walloon Minister, Economy and Foreign Trade Willie Borsus. , Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, Flemish Minister for Economy Hilde Kravits and Brussels Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pascal Smet. According to Foreign Affairs, 214 companies and organizations, including representatives from academia, are on the visit, making the mission “one of the most important events ever”.

The mission is conducted at a time when economic ties between Belgium and the United Kingdom are on the decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has slowed the world economy as confinement and disrupted supply chains. Economic relations are also suffering from Brexit, which is synonymous with new rules that companies must adopt. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has dealt another blow to the world economy, strengthening ties between Western allies.

Thus, Belgium’s exports to the United Kingdom fell 7% last year compared to 2020, according to data from the Federal Agency for Foreign Trade. The British territory nonetheless represents a major partner for Belgium, while the United Kingdom was in 2021, Belgium’s fifth customer (26 billion euros of Belgian goods) and its eighth supplier (15.5 billion euros) after covid-19. It was a year of rebound. imported British goods). Belgium was the seventh participant of the United Kingdom (4.6% of British exports), and Shakespeare was the country’s sixth supplier (4.9% of British imports).

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The two countries share many interests, especially in the biopharmaceutical sector – for example, the British GSK is one of the largest employers in Wallonia – but also in energy, a hot topic since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and in security. , whether in the fight against terrorism or in the management of immigration.

Chemicals, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, agri-food and food industries, architecture and construction, transportation and logistics as well as cleantech are presented as areas of activity highlighted during this mission.

On the diplomatic side, the mission is also important, as Western countries have strengthened their ties with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine and a new page should be written after Brexit. After a period of waiting during talks between the EU and the United Kingdom on Brexit, Belgium is actually part of a strategy to resume cooperation with its neighboring country. The two countries also adopted a joint declaration on 30 November, redefining their partnership and reaffirming their common values.

Regarding the program, the mission will get to the bottom of the matter on Monday, merging multiple areas of activity and allowing companies to hold multiple meetings. The visit of the Ghelamco company, the opening of the Belgian Landscape Garden and the official reception at the Belgian Embassy in the United Kingdom are part of the programme.

The program of this mission, organized by the Agency for Foreign Trade, FPS Foreign Affairs and regional foreign trade agencies (Avex, Hub Brussels and FIT), promises to be very intensive with many meetings and visits planned. The mission will take participants to London, Oxford and Cambridge. Led by Princess Astrid, the mission will also count on Tin van der Straeten, the Federal Minister for Energy – who replaces Sophie Wilmes, who is on leave from her post of Foreign Affairs – Walloon Minister, Economy and Foreign Trade Willie Borsus. , Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, Flemish Minister for Economy Hilde Kravits and Brussels Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pascal Smet. According to Foreign Affairs, 214 companies and organizations, including representatives from academia, are on the visit, making the mission “one of the most important events ever”. The mission is conducted at a time when economic ties between Belgium and the United Kingdom are on the decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has slowed the world economy as confinement and disrupted supply chains. Economic relations are also suffering from Brexit, which is synonymous with new rules that companies must adopt. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has dealt another blow to the world economy, strengthening ties between Western allies. Thus, Belgium’s exports to the United Kingdom fell 7% last year compared to 2020, according to data from the Federal Agency for Foreign Trade. The British territory nonetheless represents a major partner for Belgium, while the United Kingdom was in 2021, Belgium’s fifth customer (26 billion euros of Belgian goods) and its eighth supplier (15.5 billion euros) after covid-19. It was a year of rebound. imported British goods). Belgium was the seventh participant of the United Kingdom (4.6% of British exports), and Shakespeare was the country’s sixth supplier (4.9% of British imports). The two countries share many interests, especially in the biopharmaceutical sector – for example, the British GSK is one of the largest employers in Wallonia – but also in energy, a hot topic since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and in security. , whether in the fight against terrorism or in the management of immigration. Chemicals, pharmaceutical industries and life sciences, agribusiness and food industries, architecture and construction, transportation and logistics as well as cleantech are also presented as areas of activity highlighted during this mission. On the diplomatic side, the mission is also important, as Western countries have strengthened their ties with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine and a new page should be written after Brexit. After a period of waiting during talks between the EU and the United Kingdom on Brexit, Belgium is actually part of a strategy to resume cooperation with its neighboring country. The two countries also adopted a joint declaration on 30 November, redefining their partnership and reaffirming their common values. Regarding the program, the mission will get to the bottom of the matter on Monday, merging multiple areas of activity and allowing companies to hold multiple meetings. The visit of the Ghelamco company, the opening of the Belgian Landscape Garden and the official reception at the Belgian Embassy in the United Kingdom are part of the programme.

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About the Author: Forrest Morton

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