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Recap: AmCham Belgium’s policy work in 2020 so far

David Gaier, Public Affairs Officer, AmCham Belgium

As the COVID-19 crisis hit many sectors and generated a lot of uncertainty for companies and their employees, AmCham Belgium’s policy Committees were more active than ever in defending the interests of the international business community during these challenging times. Our Committees quickly adapted their work and moved all activities online, ensuring our policy efforts do not stand still. Discover what they have been working on since January and how they are contributing to the Chamber’s mission of making Belgium a better place to invest and do business.

Government Relations Forum

AmCham Belgium’s Government Relations Forum (GRF) gives public affairs professionals from our member companies the opportunity to meet on a regular basis and directly discuss issues of concern with policymakers from all levels of government. The first half of 2020 was no different in this regard, as the GRF welcomed the Chiefs of Cabinet of Walloon Vice-President and Minister of Economy Willy Borsus, of Flemish Deputy Minister-President and Minister of Economy Hilde Crevits and of Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Pierre Wunsch, Governor of the National Bank of Belgium, gave a presentation on the effects of the crisis and the Belgian economic outlook. Moreover, GRF members had the opportunity to engage in a discussion with the new Chief of Staff of Open VLD’s Party Leader Egbert Lachaert in June.

The GRF also led the way in organizing delegation meetings together with members of our other policy Committees to discuss our priority recommendations with a series of political stakeholders, including N-VA Members of the Federal Parliament, Ecolo-Groen Federal MPs, the PS study center and the PS Fraction Leader in the Federal Parliament.

Furthermore, the GRF put forward a position paper on the implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive in Belgium and played a key role in drafting AmCham’s overall response to the COVID-19 crisis.

GRF position papers in 2020

  • Paving the way towards a low-carbon future: AmCham Belgium’s recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Read the position paper here.
  • Position paper on the transposition of the ‘Single-Use Plastics Directive’ in Belgium. Read the position paper here.
  • AmCham Belgium’s policy response to the coronavirus outbreak: international companies are part of the solution. Read the position paper here.

Innovative Healthcare Committee

AmCham Belgium’s Innovative Healthcare Committee (IHC) is a unique cross-industry platform which aims to be a reliable and effective partner to all healthcare stakeholders. Its goal is to create a sustainable healthcare ecosystem while empowering patients and improving the quality of care. This year, one of the IHC’s top priorities has been to launch our thematic Year of Healthcare – initially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – which, among other goals, aims to strengthen Belgium’s position as a global leader in healthcare. We will officially kick off the Year of Healthcare with a virtual event taking place on September 24 where the IHC’s new report on integrated care will be presented. The report will include policy recommendations based on feedback from organizations representing patients, hospitals, healthcare professionals and other healthcare stakeholders. As the IHC members want to help build a sustainable and innovative healthcare future in Belgium, the Year of Healthcare will feature several other events with policymakers and industry leaders and experts.

Since the beginning of the year, IHC members have continued their outreach efforts to policymakers. For example, members of the Committee met with the Vice-Chair of the Federal Parliament’s Health Committee to discuss our priorities and issues of concern to the international business community in Belgium.

The COVID-19 crisis exposed the importance of health for all citizens while highlighting the contributions of innovative healthcare companies, but more needs to be done to strengthen Belgium’s healthcare system. The IHC therefore shared its top six recommendations, a document which generated enthusiastic reactions among political stakeholders. As a follow-up, AmCham Belgium launched a survey for member companies represented in the IHC to better understand the impact of the crisis on their activities and further improve our policy priorities. The document was finalized in June, and the IHC already had the opportunity to discuss it with several political stakeholders. After the Parliament’s summer recess, more meetings will take place with other MPs who have already indicated that they look forward to discussing our healthcare priorities.

IHC position paper in 2020

  • AmCham Belgium Innovative Healthcare Committee’s policy response to COVID-19: let us seize this opportunity to transform and improve the healthcare system in Belgium! Read the position paper here.

Legal & Taxation Committee

AmCham Belgium's Legal & Taxation Committee (LTC) is responsible for monitoring significant tax and legal developments in Belgium, taking into account relevant EU and international aspects. Together with its various topical Subcommittees, the LTC plays an essential role in our policy efforts. So far this year, numerous position papers have been published and sent to political stakeholders, with positive feedback and even some policy successes already (for instance with regard to cross-border workers during the COVID-19 crisis). LTC and its Subcommittees held virtual meetings several times per week during the COVID-19 lockdown to discuss policy developments, work on concrete proposals and continue to promote the best interests of the Chamber's members and, more generally, the international business community in Belgium. 

For instance, as immigration and employee mobility is crucial for many international companies in Belgium, our Employee Tax Subcommittee, in close collaboration with members of our Human Capital and Talent Committee and its Immigration Taskforce, actively worked on that issue over the past months. Their efforts resulted in the organization of meetings with ministerial Cabinets in Wallonia and Brussels to reflect on how to improve the current implementation of the EU Single Permit Directive in these Regions.

Given the serious impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Belgian economy, the LTC leadership formed the “Unified Tax Alliance for a Successful Recovery” with other sectoral organizations and consultancies to agree on urgent measures to support companies in Belgium during these uncertain times. Several Alliance position papers were drafted, and LTC organized frequent calls to discuss the Alliance’s position papers with political stakeholders, giving our members the opportunity to share their concerns with the authorities.

LTC position papers in 2020

  • Flemish Property Tax on Mat & Out. Read the position paper here.
  • COVID-19 measures: Legal & Tax Committee. Read the position paper here
  • International tax implications related to “cross-border workers” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the position paper here
  • Real-estate taxes and the COVID-19 recovery in Flanders. Read the position paper here
  • Proposal for an enhanced immigration policy for the Walloon Region. Read the position paper here
  • COVID-19 measures: Indirect Taxes. Read the position paper here
  • Digital Service Tax – will the benefits outweigh the economic cost? Read the position paper here
  • Tax Horizon 2025. Read the position paper here
AmCham Belgium would like to thank all Committee members for their impressive work during a challenging first half of the year. We look forward to the coming months, during which you can expect new policy recommendations from AmCham Belgium. Stay tuned!

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David Gaier

David Gaier

Public Affairs Officer