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Preparing to export

Consultation and bespoke research

Visit great.gov.uk at: www.great.gov.uk/uk for guidance on how to research overseas markets as well as a range of other important issues for exporters.

Regional plans and good local research are likely to be needed, using both desk research and market visits.

You should determine whether:

  • there is a market for your product or service

  • your pricing is competitive

  • to localise your product

  • to adapt your business model

The questions listed below should help you to focus your thoughts. Your answers to them will highlight areas for further research and also suggest a way forward that is right for your company. You may then want to use this as a basis for developing a formal Belgium strategy, although this may not be necessary or appropriate for all companies:

Your aims

-  Do you wish to buy from Belgium, sell to Belgium or both?

- Do you wish to establish your own company presence in Belgium (for example through exporting directly, appointing a local partner or distributor, setting up a local subsidiary, operating through a branch or a joint venture)?

- Do you need to be involved in Belgium at all?

- Do you see Belgium as part of a wider plan including e.g. other Benelux or west European markets?

Your company

- What are the unique selling points for your product or service?

- Do you know if there is a market for your product in Belgium?

- Do you know if you can be competitive in Belgium?

- Are your competitors already in Belgium? If so, what are they doing?

- Do you have the time and resources to handle the demands of communication, travel, product delivery and after-sales service?

Your knowledge

- Do you know how to secure payment for your products or service?

- Do you know where in Belgium you should start?

- Do you know how to locate and screen potential partners, agents or distributors?

- Have you carried out any Belgian-specific customer segmentation, and do you know how to best reach potential customers in-market?

It is unlikely that you will have the answers to all these questions at the outset and these ‘knowledge gaps’ should form the basis for further research and investigation. Some of these questions will require quantitative research in your sector, while others involve more contextual and cultural considerations.

Talking to other people in your industry and regularly visiting Belgium will give you access to the most current advice, and such experience can often lead to new insights and form the basis for further research.

There are a number of trade shows held in Belgium each year – these can be useful to test product viability in the market. The Department for International Trade (DIT) Tradeshow Access Programme at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tradeshow-access-programme provides funding in the form of grants for eligible businesses to attend overseas trade shows. The funding helps your business gain:

  • market knowledge

  • experience in attending and getting the most from overseas trade shows

  • advice and support from trade experts

Visit the DIT events portal at: https://events.trade.gov.uk/ to find upcoming events and missions in Belgium.

Find out more about marketing your goods and services for Belgium, at: https://www.great.gov.uk/uk/.

Contact the DIT team in Belgium at: DITBelgium@mobile.trade.gov.uk; or https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-belgium#contact-us for events and company launches at Embassy locations.

 

Start-up considerations

Belgium has simple start-up procedures. The administrative formalities to set up your business can take as little as three or four days.

There are several ways you can do business in Belgium:

  • exporting directly (direct exports and sales)

  • appointing a local partner or distributor

  • setting up a local company – a branch or joint venture

  • online selling

  • licensing or franchising

The Belgian Office for Intellectual Property (OPRI) is a public service where you can find more information. See: http://economie.fgov.be/en/entreprises/Intellectual_property/Aspects_institutionnels
_et_pratiques/OPRI/#.WVJhUOmQzIU

It is recommended you consult local English-speaking lawyers at: https://www.gov.uk/government
/publications/belgium-list-of-lawyers
, to avoid costly mistakes and ensure you start out in the way that is best suited to your sector of activity.

Direct exports and sales in Belgium

Direct exports means you supply your products direct to the customer. You handle all the logistics of marketing, selling, sending overseas and getting paid yourself.

Appointing a local partner or distributor in Belgium

Direct sales are possible to retailers and through online sales, but if you do not have a high level of fluency in business French, Dutch or German, you may wish to use a local partner. Options include using an agent, distributor or wholesaler.

The Department for International Trade (DIT)’s trade specialists can help you identify local representatives for your products in Belgium. See: https://www.gov.uk/overseas-customers-export-opportunities.

Setting up a local company in Belgium

Belgium has simple start-up procedures. The administrative formalities to set up your business can take as little as three or four days.

No prior authorisation is needed to set up a company except for certain specific types of businesses including banking, transport and insurance.

Invest in Belgium provides details on setting up a company and the different company types. See: http://www.business.belgium.be/en/managing_your_business for more information.

Belgium’s three different regions may have differences in the formalities to set up and operate a business. You should check procedures in:

Online selling to Belgium

If you are selling your goods over the internet to private consumers you must be registered for value added tax (VAT) with the Belgian tax office when your annual turnover reaches €35,000.

You can find out about DIT’s E-Exporting programme at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-exporting, which can help you export your products to Belgium.

Check out the online marketplace in Belgium at: https://selling-online-overseas.export.great.gov.uk/markets/, where DIT has negotiated listings at better-than-commercial rates.

Licensing or franchising in Belgium

You can licence your goods or services to be sold in Belgium. Belgium has passed a pre-sale disclosure franchise law. Failure to comply with the law may result in the agreement being unenforceable.

You should undertake due diligence on partners when licensing technology and ensure your intellectual property rights are protected.

Visit the international section of the British Franchise Association at: http://www.thebfa.org/international for more information on franchising.

 

Getting finance to fulfil an export contract to Belgium

Schemes are available to UK companies selling products and services to Belgium to make it easier to fulfil an export contract. Contact your bank or specialist financial organisation for assistance.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) has significant risk capacity to support exports to Belgium. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/country-cover-policy-and-indicators#belgium.  Contact one of UKEF’s export finance advisers for free and impartial advice on your finance options. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/find-an-export-finance-manager.

Getting paid in Belgium

You may wish to talk to a specialist about finance, including how to get paid in Belgium. This could be a bank, an accountant or you can contact the DIT team in Belgium at: https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-belgium#contact-us, to help find a financial adviser in Belgium.

Your contract will specify the terms for payment. If there is any dispute you will need to go through the Belgian legal system for resolution.

Within the EU, many businesses use payment on account in much the same way as within the UK.

Customers in Belgium may require credit terms to buy your products and services.

Payment conditions must be factored into prices. For business-to-business transactions these can range from immediate payments on receipt of goods (often with a negotiated small discount) to a negotiated 60-day payment.

Standard payment terms for business-to-business transactions in the EU are 60 calendar days and 30 calendar days for public authorities. Late payment interest can be claimed when terms are not met.

Find out more about the EU’s late payment directive, at:  http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/sell-abroad/late-payment-fees/index_en.htm.


 

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