dihk-dataGerman enterprises continue to believe in the European integration. The EU and its Single Market are fundamental for business. Based on the free movement of goods, capital, workers and services, which are all intrinsically tied to each other, it provides free trade by overcoming internal borders and regulatory obstacles. The United Kingdom’s decision to depart from the EU has lead to great uncertainty among German companies and must be prevented from becoming a precedent for other Member States. Especially SMEs now fear the setting up of burdensome trade barriers. The Brexit-negotiations thus need to strengthen the European integration while keeping EU-UK-relations as firm and as close to the status quo as possible.

Importance of the EU Single Market

Completing the EU Single Market is one of German businesses and thus DIHK’s top priorities. The further opening of markets combined with the removal of bureaucratic obstacles and barriers to trade in the EU creates prosperity and makes the benefits of the European Union visible to companies and citizens. While abolishing tariff controls nearly 50 years ago has spurred cross-border trade, increased mobility of workers is crucial for businesses to compete and excel with their products and services. An EU-wide level playing field as regards public procurement helps saving taxpayers’ money and the common application of EU-law gives enterprises much needed legal certainty. Furthermore, the Single Market ensures the EU‘s global competitiveness and increases its attractiveness as a place to invest. Given the worldwide emergence of new markets and competitors, this is more important than ever. The basic prerequisite to fully benefit from the Single Market is EU-Membership.

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German-UK relationship

Germany and the UK are closely connected both politically and economically. This close partnership should be preserved. The UK is Germany’s fifth largest trading partner. The total sum of imports and exports between both countries exceeds €127 billion. The UK is Germany’s third largest export-market after the US and France. More than 750,000 Jobs in Germany depend on trade with the UK. The UK-market is of particular importance for car-manufacturers, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. Almost 15 percent of cars manufactured in Germany are sold in the United Kingdom. About 2,500 German companies have branches in the UK, employing about 400,000 British.

Furthermore, the UK and Germany are closely linked in the field of investment and banking. Therefore, investment protection should be a keen interest for both the EU and the UK. At the same time, it is hardly imaginable to have the central financial marketplace of the EU being based outside the Union.

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Which future for the EU-UK economic relationship?

Even with an EU-UK agreement that prevents new tariffs, additional bureaucracy will become necessary, e.g. formal notifications to customs authorities. Year by year, the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry issue millions of certificates of origin and other types of foreign trade documentation. When the UK will leave the EU, this will lead to a steep increase of these numbers. This administrative burden will hit German and British exporters. Especially small and medium-sized Enterprises often lack sufficient human and financial resources to tackle the new bureaucratic trade barriers. Thus, it should be in the interest of both sides, to keep burdensome measures as little as possible.

Furthermore, both sides should continue to pursue a forward-looking and open trade policy. Given the worldwide protectionist tendencies and policies on the rise, there is a mutual interest in a common approach to further expanding the rule-based multilateral system of free trade. Common initiatives for opening up world-wide markets would be excellent opportunities to underline the strong commitment of both sides towards each other.

The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag – DIHK) is the umbrella organization of 79 Chambers in Germany (IHKs) and the worldwide network of 130 business representations abroad. All companies registered in Germany, with the exception of handicraft businesses, the liberal professions and farms, are required by law to join a Chamber. Thus, DIHK speaks for more than 3,6 million enterprises.

We take a look into what a typical day of MEP for West Midlands Daniel Dalton looks like. Daniel has been an MEP since January 2015 and is a member of a number of committees including the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector.

Daniel DALTON

There is no such thing as a typical day as an MEP and I often wake up not entirely sure which city, or even country I’m in.

However when I’m in Brussels each day is fairly similar. It starts around 7:00 when I get my son up and get him ready for school, followed normally by a mad dash in our car to drop him off at school and then a slow crawl in the Brussels traffic to the Parliament. Mornings are always a bit hectic but with a bit of luck I make it into the Parliament for 9.00am.

I am a member of four committees, but my main role is as Coordinator for the ECR group on the Internal Market Committee. On a committee day we typically have votes first thing in the morning so my preparation for that will have taken place late into the night before when my office and I are working with our ECR group advisers to finalise our voting position. The advisers really are the unsung heroes of the parliament.

After votes I will normally remain in committee if I can, as Coordinator I like to try to be present for as many committee discussions as possible. If it is one of the many days when my other three committees are also taking place I may have to leave for another voting session or an item of interest. Keeping abreast of all four committees and making sure I’m where I need to be at the right time takes a lot of work from my office.

Photo: Pablo Garrigos

I have many meeting requests from stakeholders and my view has always been that I should try to meet as many people from all sides of the spectrum as possible on legislation going through the parliament.

Issues can range from those affecting local businesses who are worried about the often unintentional impact of EU legislation on their businesses to pan-European industry coalitions lobbying on issues such as the Digital Single Market proposals.

Of late I have been very busy working on the new type approval regulations in the wake of the emissions scandal so I normally end up holding several meetings in between morning and afternoon committee meetings. I try to grab a quick cooked meal in the canteen, but some days there just is not time and I end up snacking whenever I can. Like many of my  colleagues I have found the MEP lifestyle is not exactly healthy.

In the afternoon I may be hosting a visitors group from the constituency and showing them around the building. Often I will be mixing attending committee items with speaking engagements at events in and around the parliament.  These panel discussions usually bring together experts from various sectors and can prove useful both in increasing my understanding of issues and for publicly highlighting my positions.

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I normally try and make time later in the day to deal with the raft of current casework issues that have come in via email. UK MEPs receive a lot of constituency mail and I aim to answer all of this mail as quickly as possible.

The referendum in the UK has increased public awareness of MEPs and we are now receiving more enquiries than ever before. There has also been a spike in local media interest in what is happening in Brussels and quite often I get an inquiry a couple of hours before to see if I’m available to speak to local radio during the evening news programmes, which I have to juggle around picking up my son from school when I can.

I will try to get my son from school at 6, sometimes I will rush back to pick him up, and then go back into the Parliament for evening receptions or events. If I can, I will spend a bit of family time in the early evening and then I normally spend the last couple of hours of the day writing articles requested by UK websites or updating the blog on my own website (www.danieldaltonmep.co.uk).

The Royal British Legion is a leading Armed Forces charity. Membership is open to everyone; you don’t have to be a serving or ex-Service person or British either, we welcome men and women of all ages. The Brussels Branch of the RBL has a mixed membership made of British and Belgian members working side by side.

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As a member of The Royal British Legion you will be part of a network of like-minded people who care about our Armed Forces personnel, past and present. The Brussels Branch provides Welfare for a number of beneficiaries –   ex-service men or women in need of varying levels of support. This typically includes hospital and home visits as well as financial assistance. We also provide a social aspect for our members; including trips, lunches and other activities. The RBL Brussels Branch, like other branches in Belgium, also provides military representation at many of the ceremonies organised at cemeteries and memorials to the missing in Belgium.

Our main fund raising activity is the Poppy Appeal, which happens on an annual basis– a strong tradition in Belgium where, in the fields of Flanders and Picardy, the blood-red poppies grew around the bodies of the fallen soldiers who lost their lives in the terrible battles of the First World War.

Why not come along to one of our informal Branch lunches and get to know who we are and what we do. Lunches are organised near the Cinquantenaire every second Monday of the month. For further information, please call 02 7674726.

Visit the Brussels Branch website to find out more about the Royal British Legion’s work and activities in Brussels

 

Are you the next winner of a Golden Bridge Trade & Export Award?

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Michel Vanhoonacker, BLCC Chairman
“Former winners and finalists have confirmed that the award has enhanced their image in the UK or Belgian market and at home, and has provided an incentive for their staff. It is particularly encouraging that so many companies, having won the Golden Bridge Trade & Export Award and experienced the benefits, decide to sponsor or support the awards year after year.”

What are they?

The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. The awards celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2016, in which five outstanding companies were presented with awards after impressing a panel of judges from the business community, previous winners, representatives from regional trade bodies and The British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, as well as H.E. Guy Trouveroy, Ambassador of the King of the Belgians at the Court of St James’

Why should your company apply?

  • Celebrate your company’s bilateral successes and reflect with your team on your journey.
  • Raise company profile within your industry, as well as amongst potential customers.
  • Showcase your export credentials at the awards gala which is held at the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce’s unique Victorian Ballroom venue at 8 Northumberland Avenue, just a short distance from Trafalgar Square, London.

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What could your company win?

  • Visibility on the awards night itself.
  • A one-year free membership of the British Chamber. If you qualify under our SME criteria, you receive free membership already if you are shortlisted as a finalist.
  • Participation in our Golden Bridge Awards Winners’ Day programme in Brussels in January 2018 to celebrate your success with fellow chamber members, partners and the British Ambassador to Belgium. The winners day includes an exclusive lunch with the British Ambassador at her Residence in Brussels, tailored content sessions provided by British Chamber and/or BLCC members as well as recognition at our members-only New Year Networking Cocktail, attended by over 100 British Chamber members.
  • Your company featured in the British Chamber’s annual publications and in articles on our social media channels.

For more information on how to apply or for any questions please contact:

Alexandra Trandafir, Business & Trade Executive: golden.bridge@britishchamber.be

Michel Vanhoonacker, BLCC Chairman: mvanhoonacker@blcc.co.uk

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This week the Brussels Chamber of Commerce explore the link between the UK and Belgium in trade and how it is key to both the UK and Belgium going forwards.

There is a strong and longstanding trade relationship between the UK and Belgium. It is without doubt this relationship is of great importance to both countries. UK exports to Belgium were worth 17,4 billion Euro in 2014[1], making Belgium  the eighth largest export market for the UK. In 2015 Belgium exports to the UK were worth 31,9 billion Euro,[2] which makes it the fourth largest export market for Belgium. It is of great importance to maintain this relationship.

The prospect of Brexit gives a great deal of uncertainty for the economy. Negotiations between the mainland and the island are bound to be tense. Both having different visions on Brexit. Today we can only speculate about the scope and impact of Brexit. But whatever the outcome will be, it has already had a huge impact on the economy, causing political and institutional instability. Article 50 has not yet been invoked, but the psychological impact is increasing with talk of a possible ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit.

At this moment, it is unclear which direction it will take. Either way, the impact will rather be mild for most of the European countries, but, along with a few others, not for Belgium. Although there will be a huge direct impact, such as a descending BBP, there will be also be various indirect effects. Think about quality control, labels and certification in all industries. Think about the common CE-marking which are based on a EU decision (93/465/EEG) and is connected to the free movement to lift trade barriers.

Could we have predicted Brexit? It would not have been a surprise knowing the history of economics with its cyclical movements whereby either the government takes charge and setting rules to protect, or capitalism prevails with less rules and more economical freedom. At this moment capitalism seems to be its own victim. Geopolitical threats and economic crises push boundaries of the free movement of people, goods and services. With the backdrop of global insecurity and discontent, such trends it is not surprising citizens come into revolute and demanded for Brexit through the referendum. Brexit could be considered as an indication of a rise in protectionism, deglobalization, nationalism and isolationism in Europe.

Without doubt, protectionism seems the holy grail to have a government intervention to protect your own citizens and build a solid future for the country. However, the purchasing power of citizens will decrease, imports will be more expensive and both importing and exporting will be more difficult resulting in less economic growth and even more discontent of citizens. There is no solid future if the importance of trade is disregarded. Even though we don’t know what consequences Brexit will have, it does not need to be a matter of playing it ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. We would all benefit of a rather pragmatic and sustainable approach.

For example, once the UK leaves the EU, a new trade agreement with the EU will be one of the most important agreements to be negotiate. However, Brexit already gives uncertainty and there cannot be trade without protecting the rules. After all, keeping a good trade relationships works both ways. As both importing and exporting will come with more rules, it is fair enough to protect both exporters and importers to counteract arbitrariness to avoid even more uncertainty. As it would take years to negotiate new agreements, it is obvious that if we want to benefit from trade and avoid more uncertainty, the European Court of Justice needs to be acknowledge by the UK when they leave.

However, there is more than trade for which Belgium – and Brussels in particular – can become even a more important partner for the UK. As Brexit also affects the willingness of companies to stay in Britain and Brussels is just around the corner. A report of the high level expert group of the banking sector, published in January 2016[3], stated that there needs to be an important role for the banking sector in Brussels for companies. The financial sector will invest and develop in this sector which makes Brussels a perfect location nearby London with an excellent connection. Brussels is not only strategically located vis-à-vis London but houses the main European institutions and related lobbies. It is close to top decision makers of the European Union. Thereby Brussels is a buzzing hub of entrepreneurship. All this attracts ambitious, highly educated people who speak different languages and English is widely spoken. Belgium is an interesting place to headhunt for their companies on the mainland.

In this respect it is in all parties interests to maintain the long standing trade relationship between the UK and Belgium. The UK has a lot to win from a partner as Belgium in this changing environment. Belgium, as one of the most important trade partners, will have to keep the excellent relationship and make trade with the UK companies. Both countries have a lot to gain and need to take the opportunity to strengthen their ties in a decade where it needs to be released the importance of such a relationship.

This piece was written by Amy Kessels, Coördinator Strategy at the Brussels Chamber of Commerce.

[1] Agentschap van Buitenlandse Handel  (2016, augustus). http://www.abh-ace.be. Extracted of  http://www.abh-ace.be/sites/default/files/Bilateral_notes/September_16/nota-stat-verenigd_koninkrijk-augustus2016_version_a4_-_ld_2.pdf, p. 5.

[2] Agentschap van Buitenlandse Handel  (2016, augustus). http://www.abh-ace.be. Extracted of  http://www.abh-ace.be/sites/default/files/Bilateral_notes/September_16/nota-stat-verenigd_koninkrijk-augustus2016_version_a4_-_ld_2.pdf, p. 3.

[3] High Expert Group  (2016, Januari). Febelfin. Extracted of  https://www.febelfin.be/sites/default/files/InDepth/hleg_report_-_the_future_of_the_belgian_financial_sector.pdf, p. 3.

The Benelux is a framework for multilateral cooperation between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. The objective is to promote cross-border cooperation to help find solutions for common problems and if possible to act as a precursor for Europe. Next to the classical economic cooperation, the Benelux is also active in the field of security. On the basis of a political declaration, close cooperation between the Benelux and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is possible. This enables the Benelux countries and Germany – in particular NRW – to work jointly to tackle organized crime together.

beneluxThe Benelux has chosen to make the promotion of the so called administrative approach to organized crime one of its priorities. This means that the partners promote an integrated multi-agency approach that includes judicial as well as administrative measures. In a common project the Benelux and NRW focus on an administrative approach to crime related to outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine, the border region between Germany and the Benelux. Recently there has been a notable increase of crime related to OMG. But application of administrative measures on one side of the border causes a displacement effect; OMG try to avoid these measures by shifting their activities across the border. Therefore, cross-border information exchange is the key to an effective approach to crime related to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Tackling crime together 

The cooperation has resulted in the publishing of the report Tackling crime together. In the first half of 2016, the project, the report and its conclusions and recommendations have been presented to the European Union, which has endorsed them in the Council Conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs ministers of June 2016. In these conclusions the Member States, the European Commission and Europol are called upon to stimulate, support and facilitate activities concerning cross-border multi-agency cooperation with administrative and law enforcement authorities and further develop cross-border projects, such as the Benelux pilot in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine, in order to better identify opportunities and obstacles for cross-border information exchange for administrative purposes in the fight against serious and organized crime, including crime related to Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The Benelux partners endeavor to follow-up the recommendations of the Benelux report ‘Tackling crime together’, especially the call for a pilot project regarding a cross-border multi-agency information and expertise center in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine to prevent and tackle organized crime.

Benelux multi-agency center 

Besides the project partners, other EU Member States and Europol will be invited through the Informal Network on the administrative approach to act as an observer or deliver expertise based on their experience with multi-agency cooperation. Furthermore, the outcomes of this project will be disseminated and reported to other Member States and EU institutions through both the channels of the Informal Network on the administrative approach as well as the Standing Committee on internal security (COSI).

Tasks 

The foreseen tasks of the Benelux multi-agency center can be divided into an operational, awareness, policy/judicial and dissemination track:

1) Operational: information broker in cross-border cases and signaling difficulties in sharing information for administrative purposes,

2) Awareness: sharing best practices on how to implement the administrative approach, developing concrete instruments (e.g. cross-border barrier models on priority crime phenomena) and share expertise on how to set up a multi-agency cooperation.

3) Policy/judicial: analysis of judicial difficulties in sharing information in cross-border cases for administrative purposes, provide recommendations for adjustments of bilateral or trilateral treaties and EU legislation

4) Dissemination to EU institutions: include observers from EU institutions (Europol) and interested EU Member states (in addition to the project partners). Present the outcomes to all relevant EU fora.

Conclusion 

The desired starting date of the project is 1 September 2017 and it will have a duration of 3 years. In a later stage it is the explicit wish to extend the pilot project to other EU Member States and Europol. In order to provide guidance, direction and control to this project a steering committee will be established.

Through a cross-border multi-agency approach to organized crime the Benelux-countries and Germany aim for more efficiency and effectiveness in fighting crime. Paramount for success is realizing that common problems are tackled best through a common approach.

Being born in Bruges, the relevance of bilateral trade has always seemed normal to me as its beauty and the signs of its middle ages’ wealth are still very much apparent today. Bruges has many streets and quarters called after its original residents – English Street and Spanish Street e.g. where the merchants from all parts of Europe used to live and trade with each other, long before the emergence of the nation states. My parental home was owned at some point and lived in by several ‘foreign’ merchants – and probably less relevant in this case, even an English Reverend. Wool was shipped from Beverley in Yorkshire where I live now to Bruges and Flemish bricks were sent back on the returning boats which needed ballast. Flemish weavers turned wool into cloth which was then sent to Italy and beyond. It did not make the people of these different places any poorer, quite on the contrary. A French queen once complained on her visit to Bruges that this was the only place where the local ladies were better dressed than herself.

And the same can be said today. As small countries, Belgium and Luxembourg depend heavily on exports and many of the companies I meet export often more than 90% of their production as the domestic market is simply too small to survive. Vice versa, Belgium and Luxembourg also import lots of goods, mainly from their neighbours such as Britain and they add value before exporting them again. The only way any country without any substantial natural resources can become wealthier, is by attracting foreign investment and by exporting. Bilateral trade is hence crucial to achieve our other aims such as creating a fairer society where we can look after the weak and old, where we can give our children the best education and the best chances in life.

Naturally some countries are better or more efficient at producing certain goods or services than others. Sometimes they have gained this advantage over time or sometimes it has historical or cultural reasons. German cars, French cosmetics, British creative industries, American smartphones and so on. This is great news as bilateral trade allows other countries to buy the best or more efficient products and services from each other which can only benefit us all.

Bilateral trade remains as relevant in today’s quickly evolving technological world. Start-ups actually get involved much sooner in bilateral trade than traditional industries as they expand internationally within a few years – sometimes less – all over the world, setting up shop in different continents. This is a fantastic, relatively new phenomenon and it also shows that physical barriers like crossing the North Sea on a sailing boat are becoming less relevant.

Bilateral trade is not only a B2B affair. The internet has made it possible and much easier for it to become B2C – think Amazon, Apple and Samsung – or even C2C. Great Britain is particularly apt at the latter. Using platforms such as eBay have turned ordinary Brits into bilateral traders working from their kitchen table and although not officially registered, it now accounts for a huge part of British exports to other countries.

All the above show that bilateral trade is good for everyone – from the employees, their families to the company’s shareholders and ultimately the government tax revenues.

It is therefore primordial that the current isolationist and protectionist forces which potentially will be unleashed in different countries and regions are not taking over. People have and will always trade, it is simply part of our genes and suppressing it, will only temporarily work. Iran and South Africa suffered embargos for perfectly legitimate reasons but it only made their people more determined in finding creative ways to trade. And trade they did.

The same will happen with regards to Brexit. Whatever our politicians will come up with, I am happy to bet – and I am not a gambler – that bilateral trade between our countries will not only survive but continue to thrive. After all, it has done so for the last 1000 years.

This piece was written by Michel Vanhoonacker Belgian Luxembourg Chamber Of Commerce Chairman. The Golden Bridge Awards 2016, held to celebrate and recognise those who succeed in trade between the UK and Belgium, winners were announced recently, click to here read who won.

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