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-A message from the Dean-

In academia, September marks a fresh start, a new chapter. We are delighted to be saying hello to our new members at the British Chamber Academy, and to be welcoming back some familiar faces, too. The past few months haven’t been easy, so we have put together a selection of initiatives in order to support our community and help you and your business get the best out of these unprecedented times. 

To start, we are now offering online executive education to individuals and organisations who wish to acquire immediately applicable skills, knowledge and enhance their professional network. The upcoming training schedule offers a wide variety of digital workshops, carefully configured to address the challenges associated with remote working environments and encouraging individuals to maximise the benefits of our digitised world. 

In cooperation with Brussels New Generation (BNG), the academy will be offering digital workshops targeted at young professionals, who aim to enrich their employability and thrive within increasingly competitive labour markets. 

Academy ‘credits’ are being introduced as a method of preventing participant  ‘e-learning fatigue’. This development aims to maximise the digital learning experience of our clients and encourages the purchase of ‘credits’ to allow the completion of  a series of shorter, more engaging workshops as opposed to one less productive training session. 

As part of our long term commitment to improving the quality of work within our business community, we will continue to utilise our extensive network of like-minded professionals and offer specialised courses in support of broader social initiatives such as promoting women in enterprise. 

I look forward to virtually meeting with you soon!

Dirk Daenen

Click here to register for our upcoming trainings!

By César Guerra Guerrero
Partner & Director of Trade Policy at Euraffex

The number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have surged in the last years. It is clear that applied tariff levels and the number of comprehensive trade agreements of a country determine its readiness to constructively engage in ambitious trade treaties. For example, it is relatively easy to strike deals with Singapore or Chile, but it is completely different with Mercosur. In my view, a successful conclusion of a process depends on the political will and the real room for manoeuvre to accommodate each other’s interests.

Most of the time, governments must make important and difficult decisions to bridge gaps, especially in the final stages of negotiations. Trade negotiators have the ability to present results in a way that shows the benefits and minimises concessions to justify their decisions, so that FTAs will always prove positive in countries, or blocks of countries, that are so lined up with the free trade agenda. However, this is not exempted from partisan backfire that would normally use political arguments to prevent moving forward on the trade agenda. As long as negotiators prove that sensitivities were protected by using alternative treatments and specific non-trade concerns were addressed somehow, countries would be inclined to make hard calls to close a deal.

In the meantime, the private sector- whether on the offensive or the defensive side- is faced with uncertainty. It is difficult to know how their products are going to be treated if they are part of the final package that would solve the most difficult issues to clench a deal. The reading and identification of true red lines is crucial for governments. Stakeholders play an important role to influence this vision. Using the example of the EU-UK trade negotiations, is the level playing field a true red line for the European Union or is it just the access to British fishing waters? What are the potential trade-offs all parties can live with? The answer is communication and creativity. The private sector must be part of the solution and governments should be open for feedback as it is in their best interests. The successful outcome for business sectors and individual companies often depends on the engagement with trade negotiators and making the case with sound arguments, whilst providing reasonable alternatives to the ideal outcome.


Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. 
We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period. Click here to register: https://www.britishchamber.be/upcoming-events

BRI_04
James Stevens, EU Committee Chair
A poll of British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium members finds concern about the impact of an UK exit on business, but criticizes the EU’s current momentum on key objectives for business.

British Chamber members in Europe’s capital have given the EU top marks for its progress on completing the single market, but worry that the bloc’s efforts to improve industrial competitiveness are floundering. In a survey of the chamber, members suggested that the impact of the UK leaving the EU would be serious for their own organisations and the UK economy as a whole. They were however split on how likely the UK is to leave the EU in the next ten years.

James Stevens, Chair of the EU Committee of the British Chamber said “British Chamber members are clearly concerned about the possibility of a Brexit and the impact it would have on the UK. They are urging the EU to focus on policies that will deliver the growth and jobs to keep the Union together.”

The British Chamber found that its members’ policy priorities for the next five years were completing the EU’s single market in goods and services and promoting industrial competitiveness. As Tom Murray, director of EUK Consulting, put it, “the single market is one of the raisons d’être of the European Union. Its completion should be central to the objectives of the new Commission.”

The new European Commission, due to be appointed by the end of the year, faces an uphill task to ensure the EU is making progress on the things that matter to business. While 71% of those questioned believed that the EU was making progress on the single market, only 34% of the members surveyed felt that the EU was advancing on promoting industrial competitiveness. For some members, it was clear where the blame lay for the lack of progress and it wasn’t in Brussels. “Most power to do anything lies with national capitals. Some are doing well on things like industrial competitiveness, but others are still living in the 1970s”, said Aaron McLoughlin of FleishmanHillard.

On other policy objectives, British Chamber members judged there to be a strong positive momentum on promoting external trade and protecting the environment and consumers. The environment was however seen as a priority by only 7% of respondents. The EU was said to be stalling on institutional reform and reducing red tape, two areas where criticism of Brussels from the UK has been strong in the past.

On the subject of UK membership of the EU, the British Chamber’s members were clearly worried about the impact of such a move. A quarter of those responding said it would have a serious impact on their own business in the short term, rising to a third who feel it would have an impact in the long term. However, the real impact, according to British Chamber members, was on the UK economy as whole. 68% of British Chamber members stated that a UK exit would have a serious impact on the UK economy.

Opinion was more divided on the question of whether the UK would still be a member of the EU in ten years’ time. A quarter said there was no possibility that the UK would leave, but 62% felt that it was somewhat likely. While only ten percent of respondents felt Brexit very likely, it was also suggested that the issue needed to be addressed in the UK rather than Brussels. One member of the British Chamber commented that “regrettably the state of public opinion is such that Brexit is a distinct possibility.”

The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium’s EU Committee is a platform for business to understand and engage with the EU institutions and other Brussels based EU stakeholders. Members of the Chamber in Brussels include BASF, Indra Systems, BT, Hitachi, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Clifford Chance, Eli Lilly, Renault-Nissan and Alstom. The survey, conducted in May and June of this year, saw 132 representatives of British Chamber member companies provide their views on the basis of a quantitative online survey tool.

What will happen if the Euro falls? Any type of Euro break up would be chaotic causing pandemonium on global markets. Senior Economist at ING, Carsten Brzeski,  gave us his forecast on the current state of the euro crisis and its potential further implications on global markets.

Please see below the following points that were highlighted during the event:

  • 2010 was a good year, however 2011 saw a slow down in Chinese and European markets
  • The economic slow down is troublesome for South European states who need to regain competiteveness when faced with high unit labour costs
  • Markets have somewhat calmed down due to more confidence in the markets further supported by a type of euro crisis “fatigue”
  • Forecast for Greece is not good, further bailouts will result in more loss of Greek Sovereignty. The private sector is too “dry”, and so therefore more cuts would have to be made to the public sector
  • 2012 will see further weakening of China’s economy alongside a more fragile Europe

Many thanks to ING for sponsoring the event.

Topic of the discussion: What happens if the Euro falls? An update on the Euro Crisis by Carsten Brzeski, Senior Economist ING

Speaker: Carsten Brzeski, Senior Economist ING

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Petra

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