The monetary unit of Belgium is the single currency of the European Union (EU), the euro (0.70 euros equal U.S. $1; 2007 average). Belgium is among 12 EU member states to adopt the euro. The euro was introduced on January 1, 1999, for electronic transfers and accounting purposes only, and Belgium’s national currency, the Belgian franc, was used for other purposes. On January 1, 2002, euro-denominated coins and bills went into circulation, and the Belgian franc ceased to be legal tender. As a participant in the single currency, Belgium must follow economic policies established by the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB is located in Frankfurt, Germany, and is responsible for all EU monetary policies, which include setting interest rates and regulating the money supply.
On January 1, 1999, control over Belgian monetary policy was transferred from the Belgian central bank, the National Bank of Belgium, to the ECB. The National Bank of Belgium joined the national banks of the other EU countries that adopted the euro as part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).
Belgium is a major trading country. It is located on the trade route from major European industrial areas to the North Sea. Additionally, it needs raw materials to supply its factories and markets to absorb its excess production. Belgium has historically tried to follow a policy of free trade, but the need for protection led it to join with Luxembourg in a customs and currency union in 1922.
In 1948 a customs union was established between the two countries and Netherlands. It was extended in 1958 into an agreement for full economic integration. In 1960 the Benelux Economic Union became operative, establishing free movement of labor, capital, and services between the three countries. Belgium strongly supported further European economic integration in the EU.
In 2007 Belgium’s exports were valued at $428 billion. Principal commodities were automobiles and other vehicles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, food and food products, nonferrous metals, iron and steel, diamonds, and petroleum products. Annual imports in 2007 had a value of $410 billion. Principal commodities were machinery, chemicals, food products, petroleum and petroleum products, vehicles, rough diamonds, and clothing and accessories. Belgium’s major trading partners were Germany, France, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy. Belgium became a member of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. Six years later, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Luxembourg signed two treaties creating the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). In 1967 the ECSC, the EEC, and Euratom merged to form the European Community, now the European Union, with headquarters in Brussels. "Belgium" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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