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New Zealand 's participation in the Flanders battles during the First World War is still commemorated with warmth and lies at the heart of the relationship between the two countries. It was marked by a series of special commemorative events for the 90th anniversary of the Battles of Messines and Passchendaele in 2007. New Zealand has signed Shared Memories Arrangements with both the Belgian Federal Government and the Flanders Government, designed to promote cooperation in preserving and strengthening our shared history of the two World Wars.
Mesen (Messines) is the twin town of Featherston in the Wairarapa, and another twinning relationship has been established between Waimakariri and Zonnebeke (which contains the site of Passchendaele).
People-to-people ties have been strengthened by the conclusion in April 2003 of a reciprocal Working Holiday Scheme for 18 to 30 year olds, which came into operation on 1 November 2004.
New Zealand traditionally enjoys a favourable balance of trade with Belgium. New Zealand direct exports to Belgium for the year ended June 2010 were NZ$408 million. These figures are likely to be distorted, however, as a large proportion of New Zealand's exports to the European Union enter through the Belgian ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge. The use of Belgian port facilities and infrastructure by New Zealand exporters gives Belgium a vested interest in encouraging bilateral and EU/New Zealand trade. New Zealand companies based in Belgium include Meat New Zealand, Richmond Europe, Zespri International Europe, eServ Global and Tourism Holdings Ltd.Belgium is an important market for sheep meat and butter. Other major exports are cheese and wool (Belgium is an important market for New Zealand coarse wool, most of which goes to supply Belgium's large export-oriented carpet manufacturing industry). Imports from Belgium for the year ended June 2010 totalled NZ$26806 million. Major items included motor vehicles, medicaments, and diamonds. A Belgian trade mission, led by the Belgian Crown Prince and representing a wide range of Belgian export sectors, visited New Zealand in November 2002.
Land Area 30,528 sq km
Population 10.5 million (2008)
Capital City Brussels
Languages Dutch (59%), French (40%) and German (0.7%)
Political system Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
National government Christian-Liberal-Socialist coalition of four parties
National legislature Chamber of Representatives (150 members), Senate (71 members)
Last election June 2010 (legislative/federal)
Next election 2014
Head of State King Albert II
Head of Government Prime Minister Yves Leterme (caretaker)
GDP US$321 billion
Real GDP growth -1.5%
Exports US$250 billion
Imports US$253.4 billion
Main exports Chemicals, machinery, road vehicles and equipment, food and live animals, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, oil products
Current account balance US$- 18.9 billion
Inflation 2.9% (Aug 2010)
Unemployment 8.1% (Jan 2010)
NZ Exports (FOB) NZ$408 million (year ended
Main Exports Sheepmeat; butter; cheese; wool; venison
NZ Imports (CIF) NZ$268.6 million (year ended June 2010)
Main Imports Motor vehicles; medicaments; diamondstop of page
The Belgian Embassy in Canberra is responsible for bilateral relations with New Zealand, following the closure of the Wellington Embassy (31 January 2002). New Zealand is represented in Belgium by an Embassy in Brussels, [external link] and an Honorary Consul in Antwerp.
TheSafetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Belgium [external link].