Belgian exports contract for first time in two years, National Bank reports

Belgium's imports grew by 2.7 per cent in February, while exports contracted by 1.4 per cent. This is the first decline since February 2021, the National Bank said on Monday.

During the last three months for which data are available - from December to February - imports and exports grew by 3.6 and 3.3 per cent on average. According to the National Bank, these growth rates have returned to historical averages before the Covid-19 crisis. The trade balance did deteriorate slightly during this period, with a surplus of 0.9 billion euros, down from 1.2 billion euros a year earlier.

Transport equipment and the machinery and electronics sectors had solid growth figures for both imports and exports. The food sector also registered strong growth, partly due to price increases, but its contribution to the total is limited. The chemicals and pharmaceuticals sector, on the other hand, recorded sharp declines.

Finally, the National Bank notes that liquefied natural gas now accounts for a fifth of total Belgian gas imports. Belgium has a major LNG terminal in Zeebrugge, from where it also exports gas to other countries. "Most of these imports come from Qatar, but a not insignificant part from the US and Russia. It appears that Russia uses the Zeebrugge terminal as a 'detour' for its non-EU exports."

For now, no more Russian gas is flowing through pipelines directly to Europe.



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