the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

FACT SHEET: Bilateral Relations between the United States and Belgium

Belgium is a valued and reliable NATO ally, and our countries have enjoyed strong bonds of friendship and close cooperation since 1832.  Our long-standing ties are based on shared values, and the United States and Belgium work together across the globe to promote security, human rights, and prosperity for all. 

Standing Together For Generations 

Belgians and Americans have fought side by side and paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom and liberty for generations, including during the fifth Battle of Ypres in 1918, during World War I, and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-1945, during World War II.  When World War I brought famine to Belgium, ordinary Americans led by future U.S. president Herbert Hoover, sent food and medical aid that help saved millions from starvation, and after World War I, the United States assisted with Belgium’s recovery.  After World War II, Belgium participated in the Marshall Plan, which helped to restore Europe’s post-war economy.  On September 12, 2001, Belgium joined with our NATO Allies to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Treaty – a powerful statement of solidarity with the United States. 

Strengthening Shared Security At Home and Abroad

The United States and Belgium are founding members of the NATO Alliance; as allies, we have a shared responsibility for advancing our shared security.  Belgium hosts the NATO Headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, NATO’s Strategic Command for operations.  Belgium is also a key contributor to NATO operations, such as its participation in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011.  Belgium has made important contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, and has pledged to support Afghanistan during its post-2014 transition.  Belgium also contributes to key capabilities initiatives.  It has provided three rotations to Baltic Air Policing operations and pledged a fourth.

U.S. and Belgian humanitarian and development efforts in Africa and the Middle East are complementary, and serve to promote stability and security for the region’s inhabitants.  Belgium also has provided much-needed emergency airlift assistance during international crises, which the United States values.  Through its participation in EU and NATO counter-piracy operations, its demining mission in UNIFIL in Lebanon, contributions to the United Nation’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the EU Training Mission in Mali, Belgium is demonstrating its commitment to advancing human rights and promoting peace and security in some of the most challenging environments around the world. 

The United States and Belgium share a mutual interest in creating safe communities in the United States, Belgium, and elsewhere by cooperating on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism.  Ongoing consultations and visits by senior U.S. and Belgian counterparts reinforce the high level of law enforcement and judicial cooperation between the two countries.  The Belgian government collaborates closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on the Container Screening Initiative and with the Department of Energy on the Megaports Initiative to ensure dangerous cargo and nuclear fissile material are not smuggled through Belgian ports.  Belgium and the United States announced at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit that they have jointly completed the removal of a significant amount of excess highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium from Belgium, as part of their commitment to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism.

Enhancing Economic and Commercial Ties 

The United States and Belgium have deep, reliable, and longstanding economic and commercial ties.  In 2013, the United States exported nearly $32 billion worth of goods to Belgium; around 50 percent of U.S. exports to Belgium transit to the rest of Europe.  In 2013, Belgian exports to the United States totaled $19 billion, including precious stones/metals, mineral fuel/oil, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment, and machinery.

The United States and Belgium are also significant investment partners.  Belgium is the 9th largest investor in the United States with $88.7 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) on a historical cost basis.  In 2011, U.S. subsidiaries of Belgian-owned firms employed some 160,000 U.S. workers, invested $246 million in research and development in the United States, and contributed nearly $3.4 billion to U.S. goods exported.  FDI flows from Belgium to the United States reached $11.9 billion in 2012.  The U.S. FDI position in Belgium stood at $53.8 billion in 2012.  Belgian affiliates of U.S. firms employed approximately 138,100 people as of 2011.  Thirteen representatives of Belgian businesses and trade organizations attended the SelectUSA conference in October 2013, which the President addressed.

The United States seeks to strengthen economic cooperation with Belgium even further, and the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) presents an opportunity to further expand this relationship, creating more jobs and greater prosperity for Americans and Belgians alike – especially as foreign trade represents 65 percent of Belgium’s gross domestic product (GDP).  Today, more than 13 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic are already supported by U.S.-EU trade, and it is estimated that such an agreement would increase exports by tens of billions of dollars and support hundreds of thousands of additional jobs.  It would also build a lasting foundation for our efforts to promote growth and the global economic recovery and serve as a powerful demonstration of our determination to shape a free, open, and rules-based world and create new opportunities for small and medium sized firms that are engines of growth across the world.

Partnering through educational and cultural programs

Belgian and U.S. universities partner on a variety of activities, and the Fulbright program supports 50 students and scholars from Belgium annually.  In 2013, 894 Belgian students were enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education, and 1,300 Americans studied in universities in Belgium.  Cultural bonds formed through immigration and solidified after the wars of the early 20th century, and they continue to be strengthened through education, travel, and tourism today.