At AmCham Belgium, we continuously work to improve the business and investment climate in Belgium. This mission is largely driven by the dedicated volunteers from our Committees: 250+ Ambassadors of the Chamber who enable us to represent their interests – and those of our broader membership – in the public debate. The AmCham Belgium Committees are also an important forum for knowledge exchange on the most relevant topics for the international business community in Belgium.
Today, we take a look back at some of the most important topics our Committees have been working on since the beginning of this year.
The Antwerp Chapter develops an active program of local and regional activities with the aim of improving business and investment opportunities for the large US-Belgian business community in the greater Antwerp region. As part of its mission, the group organized a Company Visit to Van Hool – Belgium’s largest family-owned manufacturer – in April this year. It was not only a unique visit and a great networking opportunity, but also a chance to learn about the company’s plans for the future in Belgium and in the US, where Van Hool will build a new manufacturing plant.
Through a collaboration between the Antwerp Chapter, the American Women’s Club of Antwerp and the American Club of Brussels, our community had the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful evening of music at the stunning Queen Elizabeth Hall, home of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra. We offered our members a unique concert package featuring the music of Tchaikovsky conducted by one of the world’s leading and most respected conductors, American-born David Zinman, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the Concert Hall.
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS FORUM
The Government Relations Forum (GRF) aims to promote the regular exchange of viewpoints and constructive dialogue between international companies in Belgium and federal and regional policymakers and other stakeholders. The GRF is composed of public affairs experts from our largest member companies and leads an active outreach program.
In the run-up to the 2019 federal and regional elections, GRF members led an extensive program of delegation meetings with the study centers of eight different political parties to discuss AmCham Belgium’s 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium (#PPB19). The GRF’s outreach activities are still ongoing during the current government formations.
A first at AmCham Belgium, the #Yes2Belgium Election Debate on April 3 was driven by members of the GRF and welcomed representatives from 10 political parties who discussed their priorities to make Belgium more attractive for foreign investment.
Following the elections, the GRF hosted Professor Carl Devos, an expert in Belgian politics who provided an analysis of the results and what these mean for Belgium.
HUMAN RESOURCES COMMITTEE
The Committee promotes a Human Resources (HR) environment in Belgium which attracts and develops international businesses and their employees and contributes to their success.
Labor mobility has been a key area of focus for the HR Committee in the first part of 2019, particularly with regard to the new Single Permit legislation and the HR implications of Brexit.
AmCham Belgium’s Immigration Taskforce – an initiative of the HR Committee – led several knowledge-sharing opportunities on the legislative changes related to economic migration at federal and regional level and the regionalization of labor migration policies. The most important of these changes was the introduction of the new Single Permit legislation. As this has an impact on many AmCham Belgium member companies, the HR Committee drafted a letter asking the government to address some of the negative implications of the legislation. The Committee continues to follow the issue closely, both at federal and regional level, and has already received feedback on their letter from the Cabinet of Maggie De Block, which has committed to resolving the challenges related to the Single Permit faced by international businesses.
Brexit has also been top of mind for HR Committee members: On April 5, the Committee organized a meeting to discuss the HR implications of Brexit, and it continues to closely monitor new developments on the topic.
During the last HR Committee meeting before the summer, members tackled the digitization of HR and how employers can address the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation.
INNOVATIVE HEALTHCARE COMMITTEE
The Innovative Healthcare Committee (IHC) is a cross-industry platform which aims to co-create innovative holistic solutions for a sustainable healthcare ecosystem.
This year, the IHC launched a new project focusing on integrated care and the establishment of value-based healthcare. In fact, healthcare was one of the key topics addressed in AmCham Belgium’s 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium (#PPB19) and members of the IHC have been very active in multi-stakeholder outreach activities discussing their priorities for a prosperous healthcare sector in Belgium.
Before the summer break, the Committee welcomed Oscar Día, Senior Manager Associé, Antares Consulting, to present the study Health ProspectING 2019. Mr. Día led a discussion on developing a future-proof vision for the healthcare ecosystem in Belgium and how to promote healthcare integration, a topic very much in line with the mission and goals of the IHC.
LEGAL & TAXATION COMMITTEE
The Legal & Taxation Committee monitors significant legal and tax developments in Belgium and attempts to influence legislative and administrative decisions to promote the best interests of the international business community in Belgium.
The Committee has been working on many important topics in 2019. One such topic has been the new Belgian Companies & Associations Code, and on April 15, the Legal Subcommittee – one of five Subcommittees set up by the broader Legal & Taxation Committee – welcomed Prof. Dr. Hans De Wulf, who led an interactive discussion on the impact of the new legislation for Belgian subsidiaries. Some days later, the Committee heard about the tax aspects of the Code from Daniel Garabedian, Professor at ULB. Given the importance of the topic for AmCham Belgium members, the Legal Subcommittee is organizing a Lunch & Learn event on October 10 on the First Lessons Learned after the Entry into Force of the New Companies & Associations Code.
The Employee Tax Subcommittee continues its important work on making recommendations to reduce labor costs, which remain a key concern for member companies. To this end, the Subcommittee continues to advocate the introduction of a social security cap, one of the key recommendations in our Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium.
More generally, the Committee monitors international and EU tax developments which have a specific impact on Belgian tax and also promotes good working relations with the Tax Administration – continuous improvement in the daily interface between the Tax Administration and its clients in terms of client friendliness can be implemented with no cost to the Treasury.
Alongside its advocacy work, the Legal & Taxation Committee also offers its members opportunities to gain insights on global economic developments. In May this year, for example, Luc Batselier, Fiscal Advisor at the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the OECD, addressed Committee members on the topic of OECD Taxation and Digitalized Economy – an excellent opportunity to learn more about why the OECD advises it is impossible to ringfence the digital economy for tax purposes.
YOUNG PROFESSIONALS COMMITTEE
The Young Professional (YP) Committee’s role is to stimulate and optimize the dialogue between ambitious young professionals and the international business community in Belgium. This is largely achieved through organizing a series of events and activities specifically tailored to help ‘make connections’.
In addition to the well-established YP @ Noon luncheon series, which welcomed Koen Maerevoet of KPMG Belgium and Stef Heylen of Janssen Pharmaceutica in the first part of 2019, our young professionals had the opportunity to speed network with top CEOs at the ‘Leaders of Today & Tomorrow’ event.
The YP Committee also strives to help its members develop new skills: On April 26, Committee members had the chance to learn from Dirk Daenen, Dean of United Business Institutes (UBI) and TEDx curator, who gave a presentation on how TED Talk techniques can be incorporated into one's daily communication style.
Last but certainly not least, the YP Committee welcomed the summer break in style, with golf and networking drinks at Château de la Tournette – a fun way to conclude their activities from the first half of the year!
COMMUNICATIONS AND MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEES
These two Committees play a key role in making AmCham Belgium and its activities a success for the entire member community.
The Membership Committee helps recruit, retain and upgrade members for the Chamber while also contributing to the initiatives we undertake to engage with potential member companies. This year, the Committee has been very active in advising AmCham on how it could update its corporate identity and thinking through the implications of such an update – all in the context of a broader Chamber transformation.
The Communications Committee aims to maintain, protect and promote AmCham Belgium’s brand and visibility, so that the Chamber continues to be the authoritative voice of the international business community in Belgium. Alongside advising on communication and marketing initiatives for the Chamber’s publications and events, in 2019 the Committee drove the Chamber’s #MemberMonday video campaign, which has seen great success and continues to grow.
AmCham Belgium would like to thank all its Committee volunteers for their work and dedication!
Curious to know what our Committees will be working on in the second part of the year? Keep an eye out for the Committee Highlights section in our members newsletter – AmCham Connects – or contact me (email@example.com) with your questions.
About the author
Alex guides members through their journey with the Chamber and makes sure they maximize the value created through their membership.