Our relationship with Belgium

As trading nations with an international outlook, Belgium and New Zealand are like-minded on many global issues. We are also connected by a shared history through New Zealand's role in Belgium in World War I. This involvement has created a legacy of close and warm relationships which continue to this day: Mesen (Messines) is the twin town of Featherston in the Wairarapa, and a twinning relationship was established between Waimakariri and Zonnebeke during the 90th commemorative year of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Remembering World War I 

New Zealand's participation in World War I is still commemorated with warmth in Belgium and this lies at the heart of the relationship between our two countries. Between 1917 and 1918, around 5,000 New Zealand servicemen were killed in battles at Belgium’s ‘Flanders Fields’, a huge loss to a country of little over a million people at the time. More than 4,600 of these servicemen are buried in around 80 cemeteries in Belgium. We have always worked closely with Belgium on common heritage issues, including most recently the laying to rest of unknown New Zealand soldiers on Belgian soil in 2012 and 2013.  Four Belgians were made Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit in June 2015 for their services to commemorating New Zealand’s role in Belgium during World War I.

Two of New Zealand’s major World War I centenary commemorations to be held overseas include two events in Belgium in 2017, marking the battles of Messines (7 June) and the Battle of Passchendaele (12 October).

We have two Shared Memory Arrangements with Belgium, which promote cooperation in preserving and strengthening our shared history of the two World Wars.

Trade

2014 statistics

Total trade in goods 

$534 million

 

Exports to Belgium

$239 million 

Top exports: sheep meat, dairy products, wool and organic chemicals 

Imports from Belgium

$295 million

Top imports: motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products, machinery, plastics, and organic chemicals

GDP

US$447 billion

 
GDP per capita US$43,217 (NZ GDP per capita is US$43,837)
GDP growth  1.1%  

New Zealand traditionally enjoys a favourable balance of trade with Belgium. New Zealand's direct exports to Belgium for the year ended June 2014 were NZ$279 million. A large proportion of New Zealand's exports to the European Union enter through Belgian ports.

Belgium is an important market for sheepmeat, butter and cheese. It is also 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 May 2015 totalled NZD $280 million. Major items included motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products and machinery.

Working Holiday Scheme

New Zealanders aged between 18 and 30 can apply for a 12-month working holiday visa for Belgium.

For more information, read the Embassy of Belgium in Australia's website (external link).

Embassies

Recent official visits

New Zealand to Belgium
  • June/July 2015: Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Todd McClay visited Belgium where he met the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, and represented New Zealand at the 30,000th Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate
  • April 2015: Minister of Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee attended ANZAC Day commemorations in Flanders and Minister of Commerce Paul Goldsmith also visited Belgium and met State Secretary Pieter De Crem
  • December 2014: Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully visited for the NATO Resolute Support Mission Foreign Ministers’ meeting, and the Global Coalition against ISIL Foreign Ministers’ meeting
  • November 2014: Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry attended World War I commemorations at Passchendaele and Messines.
  • May 2012: Prime Minister John Key met with NATO and European Parliamentary officials in Brussels
Belgium to New Zealand
  • November 2012: Crown Prince (now King) Philip, accompanied by the Belgian Defence Minister Pieter De Crem, led a trade mission to New Zealand 

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