Financial boost for international traders as exports fall by 7.5%


Flanders Investment & Trade have launched a €3.3 million support package for Flemish exporters, who are seeing a serious dip in figures this spring due to the corona crisis

Biggest decrease since credit crunch

Flanders’ foreign trade activity has dropped sharply during the coronavirus crisis, according to an analysis by Flanders Investment & Trade (Fit), based on figures released today by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB).

Flanders’ exports were good for €26.6 billion in March, a decrease of 7.5% compared to the same month last year. At the same time, the region’s imports had a price ticket of €24.5 billion, an 11.5% decrease.

These are dips that haven’t been seen since the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. What’s more: April is expected to be a worse month for exports than March.

More than half of Flanders’ export loss in March can be linked to four of the region’s main export markets: the Netherlands, France, Italy and the UK. It is no coincidence that these markets were hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis at an early stage.

An export region like Flanders is particularly sensitive to these kinds of shocks

- Minister-president Jan Jambon

Compared to neighbouring countries, Flanders’ March export figures rank somewhere in the middle. The Netherlands saw its exports fall almost 5%, while Germany recorded an export loss of 8%. In France, the decline was much more pronounced at nearly 19%.

In response to the figures, the government of Flanders has allocated an additional €3 million to Fit for support measures for exporters. “As expected, international trade is being hit by the Covid-19 crisis,” said Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon (N-VA). “An export region like Flanders is particularly sensitive to these kinds of shocks. That’s why we are taking the necessary measures to back companies and start-ups that focus on export activities. I am confident that we will get through this crisis together.”

Fit’s Corona Exit plan includes a Corona subsidy, a Starter package for internationalisation and a Reboot your export programme. “Due to the Covid-19 crisis, many national borders closed,” says Fit CEO Claire Tillekaert. Fortunately, many export restrictions have now been lifted, and international trade is restarting. Fit is now expanding its Corona Exit plan and adapted services with additional support measures for international entrepreneurs.”

The Corona subsidy package will support up to 1,000 exporters in Flanders with a one-off financial injection of €5,000. The Starter package will see 300 companies get €7,000 to help launch export activities. The ReBoot package, finally, allows Flemish companies to participate with Fit in international trade fairs and other events at a lower cost.

Interestingly, some export markets did better in March this year compared to last year. Exports to Russia increased by nearly one-third and by a whopping 85% to Ireland. Canada imported one-quarter more Flemish goods and services in March, while the US was good for 5% more. While a solid reason for this isn’t evident, Fit did note that most of the growth markets were in pharmaceuticals.

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