What could be the mid-to-long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on foreign direct investment? Although it may be too early to talk about it as we are still at an early stage of recovery, the following changes are often mentioned.
• Supply chains will become shorter and simpler in order to make them more resilient.
• Automation will be accelerated in order to reduce human intervention where possible.
The latter is not new in countries where labour cost is high or labour force is in short supply. When combined with the former, however, it could mean to locate production facilities closer to customers or market. Would Belgium be competitive if these changes take place? According to the BJA’s ‘Research & Innovation in Belgium’, this country has a competitive edge in advanced manufacturing. In addition, Belgium seems to be well placed by focusing research and innovation activities on life sciences and biotechnology, and digital economy and security technology, the sectors that are likely to receive more investment as a result of the pandemic.
Furthermore, one could expect the deepening of the integration of the EU as a result of the pandemic. The German government seems to have changed its mind and now supports the fiscal integration of the EU to proceed.
The EU-Japan EPA will facilitate export from Japan to the EU by gradually eliminating customs tariffs. Shorter supply chains and automation suggests, however, the growing importance of locations in the EU. It should be noted that, unlike the US-Japan relationship, the EU-Japan relationship is primarily economic and lacks security dimension. It implies that business community should raise profile in order to support and reinforce the EU-Japan relationship.
BJA Investment Committee Chair and Founder Nomura Consulting Europe
Extended Call for projects - Marilo Fund & 150 Years Fund
Deadline 23 September 2020
Who is it for?
Journalists who work in Belgium and who, thanks to their passion for Japan, will contribute to strenghten the good relationships between the two countries.
What is it about?
The Marilo Fund is a unique initiative that promotes relations between Japan and Belgium. By partnering with the King Baudouin Foundation and the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce, the Marilo Fund has been supporting individuals and projects that contribute positively to the mission of the fund by means of a yearly award.
In addition, the 150 Years Fund is a special initiative of the Celebration Committee of the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium. The 150 Years Fund will be specifically allocated to scholarships for journalists who work in Belgium who will contribute to articles and broadcasts on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics from 2017 to 2020-2021.
The Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce welcomes Newcom Com V (Oh!My Saké), Takeda Belgium, Daldewolf, Wunderman Thomson, Makita Europe, Epiq, Nippon Gases
For more information and contact details, please click on more.
A message from Philippe Borremans, BJA Membership Committee Co-Chair and International Affairs Manager at Group S - HR & Management Solutions (30/06/2020)
Dear BJA Members,
First of all we hope that this message finds you well. We all have been impacted at different levels by the COVID-19 crisis. Given the drastic changes our way of life has undergone in the past few months the companies had to adjust and turn their virtual workforce into a competitive asset.
Employers had to manage the shifting work patterns and were fortunately helped by support measures implemented by the Belgian Government. For instance, all cases of temporary unemployment requested from March 13 to August 31, 2020, attributable to the Coronavirus, fall under the regime of temporary unemployment due to "force majeure".
Many companies implemented telework policies and had to upskill their staff in order for them to still be efficient. Networking during these difficult times has been reduced to the bare minimum. Telework forced companies to suddenly adapt their IT and work processes but meeting people during real life events will always be vital even if employers will have to adapt to new ways of working.
To organize professional meetings such as conferences, trainings... is authorized, provided that the social distancing rules will be followed. The organizers should pay attention while participants enter and exit the meeting because the risk of transmitting the virus is at its highest.
To organize social events with interaction between participants, such as a reception, may take place again starting on July 1st. The maximum number of attendees is set at 50. It is the responsibility of the organizer to strictly respect the hygiene and social distancing rules. We can only hope that the post lockdown will continue to bloom and allow us to network together in real life.
Since June 15, Belgium has lifted the restrictions on its borders to and from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the four non-EU Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway). Nevertheless, each country decides independently on whether or not to reopen its borders. Travelling to Belgium from the aforementioned countries is thus authorized, without restriction or any particular measure (quarantine...), whatever the purpose of the trip. On the other hand, if you have to travel to these countries from Belgium, you will have to pay attention to the conditions set by each of them.
At least until July 1st, non-essential travel to and from countries which do not belong to the EU, the United Kingdom or the four EFTA countries continue to be suspended. Afterwards, restrictions will be lifted according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation as well as discussions at the European level.
Each BJA Membership Committee member has a particular set of skills that can help BJA members navigate through this new era. Fortunately, webinars and virtual meetings organized by BJA gave us the opportunity to stay in touch with the members of our Chamber of Commerce. Networking will slowly and hopefully go back to normal but will also evolve with new ways to connect and interact between companies and individuals. While a printed BJA Directory will be postponed to 2021 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the advertisement market, the upcoming new interactive and dynamic BJA website will allow us to connect even more closer.
So don't hesitate to reach out. We will continue to support our members and expand our network.
BJA Membership Committee Co-Chair and International Affairs Manager at Group S - HR & Management Solutions
The BJA Membership Committee is co-chaired together with Vincent Schepens of ANA
BJA Legal & Tax Committee News Loss carry back reserve approved by Parliament
On 18 June 2020 Belgian Parliament adopted a law introducing the so-called "loss carry back reserve" aimed at supporting businesses facing losses during the COVID-19 crisis.
This newly introduced loss carry back reserve will allow companies to offset taxable profits related to tax year 2019, 2020 or 2021 (relating to financial year closed between 13 March 2019 and 31 December 2020) with losses expected to be incurred in the subsequent tax year, i.e. tax year 2020, 2021 or 2022.
In this respect, it is important to note that an important amendment was adopted during the legislative process. In the pre-draft law submitted to Parliament it was initially foreseen that companies would only be able to offset taxable profits related to tax year 2019 or 2020 (relating to financial year closed between 13 March 2019 and 12 March 2020) with losses expected to be incurred in the subsequent tax year, i.e. tax year 2020 or 2021 implying that companies with a financial year end as per 31 March would only be able to carry-back losses incurred during the financial year as per 31 March 2020 to the financial year as per 31 March 2019 whereas the most important COVID-19 losses will be incurred during the financial year as per 31 March 2021. This important amendment is a welcome technical improvement of the law allowing many Belgian subsidiaries and branches of Japanese groups to effectively benefit from this new measure.
The loss carry back reserve will allow companies to claim a temporary exemption for all or part of the tax year 2019, 2020 or 2021 result, corresponding to estimated tax losses (to be) incurred during the financial year related to tax year 2020, 2021 or 2022.
This measure will allow companies, depending on their situation, to pay no or less tax for tax year 2019, 2020 or 2021, or to obtain a (quick) refund of tax prepayments or tax already assessed and paid. The carry-back reserve will thus improve the solvency and liquidity of companies in the very short term.
This exemption will be granted through the creation of a temporary tax-exempt reserve, to be deducted from the taxable results of the financial year closed between 13 March 2019 and 31 December 2020. This reserve will have to be reversed in the financial year in which the losses have been incurred, i.e. the financial year linked to tax year 2020, 2021 or 2022.
Companies will be free to choose the carry-back year but carry-back will obviously be limited to one year.
The law provides for an additional taxable basis increase for the year of recapture, in order to neutralise the potential impact of differing corporate tax rates in the tax years involved (e.g. 29.58% for tax year 2020 vs. 25% for tax year 2021).
This tax-free reserve should not exceed the taxable period result following the so-called "first operation", subject to adjustments for income benefiting from dividend received deduction, innovation income deduction and patent income deduction. In addition, the exempted amount will in any event be capped at a maximum EUR 20 million.
To benefit to a maximum extent from this new rule, taxpayers will have to estimate as precisely as possible their potential losses, as only a 10% variance tolerance will apply and excessive variations will be penalised by a separate tax.
A number of companies subject to a special tax regime will be excluded from this measure, such as investment companies, pension financing organisations, cooperative participation companies and tonnage tax companies. Also excluded are companies executing prohibited equity distributions as of 12 March 2020, such as repurchase of own shares, dividend distribution or capital reduction, as well as companies that have certain links with those in tax havens (i.e. companies holding shares in a tax haven company or having made payments of at least EUR 100,000 to such company, without meeting the required business purpose test. Companies that could already be considered as distressed enterprises on 18 March 2020 are also excluded from this measure.
This loss carry back reserve could result in an important decrease of companies' cash tax exposure, which would be a welcome benefit for companies suffering from the financial consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. The monitoring of taxable results and interaction with other Belgian tax rules, such as the group contribution rule and the 30% EBITDA interest deduction limitation rule, will be needed to effectively benefit from these rules.
BJA Legal & Tax Committee Chair and International Tax Partner, Deloitte
BJA Vice-Presidency News
We would like to inform you that Mr Genichiro Higaki, President of Sumitomo Benelux and BJA Board Member, has become the new Nihonjinkai President and has kindly accepted to become our new BJA Vice-President. We look forward to working together for the best of Belgium-Japan relations.
On behalf of the BJA, we would also like to express our sincere gratitude for our departing Vice-President Mr Kiyohito Morimoto, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Europe, for his great support to the BJA during his BJA Vice-Presidency. His presence and encouragement to reinforce the cooperation between the Belgo-Japanese community was truly appreciated by all of the BJA.
BJA Cultural Committee News - BJA Cultural Channel BJA Virtual Forum on Philosophy video series
The BJA Cultural Committee launched the ‘BJA Cultural Channel’ on YouTube and we hope you have enjoyed the first series ‘Delicious life of Japan in Belgium’ – our virtual cooking school by Mr Kamo, Master Chef of Restaurant Kamo, presented in the previous BJA Newsflashes.
Now we welcome you to the first episode of the "Virtual Forum on Philosophy” series. The Head of European Affairs of the Japan Management Association, and BJA Cultural Committee Chair, Mr Koh Ichi Masaki, will open the series with a brief introduction highlighting the general idea of the series, and discuss the significance of philosophy and culture for both our everyday life and our business practices.
Dr Takeshi Morisato, a specialist in comparative and Japanese philosophy, will host this series. In this episode, Dr Morisato will discuss the notion of “wa” (和) or “harmony” in reference to the history of Japanese philosophy, especially in the works of Prince Shōtoku, and highlight its relevance to the cross-cultural community of the BJA. This is the first of many sessions to come: so, please make sure to subscribe to our channel, hit the like button, and share the video with anyone who might be interested in Japanese philosophy and culture.
We are also interested in collaborating with BJA Members for future episodes. If your company recognizes the significance of culture and/or philosophy in the company’s practice, we would love to conduct interviews with you and your company and introduce this to the BJA members. Please contact BJA for any additional information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A Message from Pierre Bonneels, BJA Friendship Committee Chair (23/06/2020)
Dear BJA Friends,
Starting with the period of hanami beneath the cherry blossoms, celebrating the new energy provided by the powerful mother nature straight through the season of early summer time.... personally, I feel I am still walking on eggshells. As if I risked committing an odd move at every step: defying the city rules by taking a "static position" enjoying the transient beauty of flowers in my favorite public parc, shocking my neighbors by walking with the kids in a freshly disinfected Metro, that feeling still lingers on...
Are we all doing well? I fear that if the lockdown felt odd, the continuing deconfinement might be feeling even more strange in the future. Surrounded by constant ethical dilemma, we have a hard time to enjoy a freedom that we took so much for granted before. Any of our future actions seem to require greater responsibility. What if the second wave hits us because of our communal incapacity to control the human-to-human spread of the COVID-19?
Even before I can act, whether it is forbidden or not, each of my actions seems to be necessarily facing some ethical questions or else I might have a guilty conscience. What about having a happy hour drink with friends at home while not meeting anyone else? Why not, after all, that seems to be basic. We all need human warmness to go on and pursue our dream. But can I do the same with my old mother? Do I have to decide for her whether or not she can meet me? Do I have the right to judge whether she is strong enough to meet my children or do things with other family members?
How do we know the difference between irresponsibility and paranoia? In a way, we are currently required to act even though things unfold in our everyday life as unknown to us and we have to do this without being able to anticipate how things are afterwards. What instrument or technology can show us the right way to make right decisions today? It's called "bad luck" in ethics. It means that you never really know where you are going. There is no static North Star by which we can navigate the course of our journey and what we can do the best is for us to avoid the reefs that may break our ship. Not having the absolute rules to apply to but still being able to act according to a context gives a form of wisdom that Aristotle called Phronesis. In Japanese we use the common expression "watch out" (kiotsukeru 気きを付つける) or the more elaborate term of "prudence" (shinchō 慎重) and "discernment" (shikibetsu 識別) all of these elements are the proof of an Aristotelian "middle way," which does not require to bring our actions to a complete halt; but it is simply a question of not falling into excesses that lead us nowhere. This is very similar to what the "middle path" (chūdō 中道) in the Buddhist tradition. It is the first teaching that the Buddha delivered after his awakening or satori. Finding solutions tailored to the specific situations we are in is an old and universal teaching we should never forget especially in the time of a crisis.
Whether you are a medical staff, a company director, a kaishain or a jogger, more than ever ethical questions are now part of your daily routines. But this should not stop us from finding solutions to ever new cases of conscience we face. The Friendship committee and its committee members are here to think with you about any of the questions you may have today; for friends are made to listen and our Friendship café (this time online) is especially designed for that purpose. So, please do not hesitate to join us whenever you feel alone in facing life's questions or simply feel like sharing your insights. Once the deconfinement releases us to go walk with a group of friends, we will go out and enjoy once again together all the beauty of nature and each other.
BJA Friendship Committee Chair
BJA Cultural Committee News Special BJA Video Series: Delicious Life of Japan in Belgium: Japanese cuisine with Master Chef Kamo: Ichiju Sansai – Part 4
We hope you have enjoyed the previous videos of this special series, 'Ichiju Sansai'by Master Chef of Restaurant Kamo, from which you have already mastered a main dish 'Shusai', a side dish 'Fukusai', and a soup 'Ichiju'.
We are now very pleased to present the last part where Mr Kamo introduces us the 2nd side dish called 'Fuku Fukusai' - the smallest dish of this set of 'Ichiju Sansai'. As he explains in the video, this dish can also be served as appetizers – a perfect recipe to add to your cocktail party menu!
After this video, you have now completed a set of 'Ichiju Sansai' on your table to be served to your family and friends. So let's savor the delicious menu by saying 'Itadakimasu' (Bon Appétit/Smakelijk)!
We would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to Mr Kamo for his precious time and effort in creating these videos for the members of BJA. During these challenging times, we wish him all the best in such an admirable profession - to spread happiness for people through delicious cooking.
Thank you Mr Kamo for your generosity and thank you dear members for watching the videos!
Available: Recording of BJA Webinar: Japan and Belgium – An ongoing Friendship, on 10 June 2020
The BJA was honored to co-organize with Linklaters LLP an exclusive dialogue between HE Ambassador Makita Shimokawa, Japanese Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium & NATO, and Tanguy Van Overstraeten, BJA Vice-President & Partner, Linklaters LLP.
During this webinar, HE Ambassador Shimokawa and Mr Van Overstraeten discussed the current Japan-Belgium relations during these challenging times, mainly from an economical point of view, adding some political and cultural outlooks, and extending a few perspectives for our future.
Questions from the audience were addressed as well.
A Message from Koh ichi Masaki, BJA Cultural Committee Chair and Head of European Affairs, Japan Management Association-JMA (11/06/2020)
At last, the long confinement is starting to be eased. Many of you might be thinking of meeting family members and friends again, and to finally plan day trips and summer vacations.
Unfortunately, activities or events with larger groups of people are still restricted for the moment. We all look forward to hearing more good news from the experts and the government soon in the coming weeks. It is frustrating but we are still in a critical period.
Due to the lockdown measures against COVID-19, the BJA Cultural Committee was obliged to cancel our planned events during all these months. I do hope we will be able to meet sooner than later again.
In the meantime, we have launched our YouTube “BJA Cultural Channel” enabling to dynamically maintain the connection with our members through cultural activities but with respect to physical distancing. The BJA Cultural Channel provides the same level of interesting and fascinating contents as usual onsite events. I suppose many of you have started to enjoy watching our “Virtual Cooking School” with the Japanese Michelin Star Chef Mr Kamo, a series of 4 videos to entice your taste buds!
To continuously provide interesting cultural events and activities, the Cultural Committee members are devoting time to find ideas and subjects from each their own fields of expertise and experiences with Belgo-Japanese relations.
Using this opportunity, I would like to introduce the team of the committee members: Mr Robert Lievemont: Advisor and appraiser of art. / Me Eric Resler: Lawyer, Japanese commercial law. / Mr Pierre Bonneels: Philosopher, Cool Japan member. / Dr Takeshi Morisato: Philosopher. / Mr Jan Lambrechts: Management consultant, Tax advisor for Japanese Co. / Mrs Minako Kono: Japan Information and Cultural Center, Embassy of Japan. / Prof Andreas Thele: on Japanese Philosophy. / Prof Dimitri Vanoverbeke: on Japanology – Law and Society. / Prof Willy Vande Walle: on Japanology, Sinology. / and myself, joined by the BJA Office.
The next theme to be presented soon via the BJA Cultural Channel is the “Virtual Forum on Philosophy”. It sounds heavy. But it is not to pick trivial matters or a narrow approach in deep academic subjects of philosophy. On the contrary, it leads us into thinking about the values of daily life. How the COVID-19 crisis has influenced our way of life; private and business life – the different reactions of people, behavioral changes in Japanese society and in western society. During this lockdown, business has been communicated through internet and mobile links. Restrictions on face to face contacts and a ban on mobility have created huge losses in business and personal revenues. But at the same time, it gave us an opportunity to be more creative and efficient. Thanks to teleworking, office workers could eliminate commuting time: no exhaustion by traffic jam or rush hour with public transportation. Thanks to the rise of tele-meetings, total hours spent for discussions diminished and efficiency increased. After the COVID-19 crisis, we will most probably not go back to NORMAL as before. With all the lessons learned, we will not only live with the potential risk of virus contamination but also will maintain gains obtained from the creative invention pushed by the hard times during the crisis.
I am sure that the coming “Virtual Forum on Philosophy” will provide meaningful opportunities to think and prepare post COVID-19 strategies and plans for each audience.
Moreover, we are planning to organize a series of different themes for broadcasting through the BJA Cultural Channel: comparative socio-culture behavior themes between Japanese and Westerners / I Ai Do居合道 / and many more…
It would be our pleasure if the BJA Cultural events and activities via physical distancing means or hopefully soon again through onsite venues, could be of our members’ support to understand both Belgian and Japanese people and society from cultural viewpoint.
The BJA Cultural Committee is also interested in knowing more about the cultural movements in the member companies. “What does culture mean to your company?” in terms of Inclusive diversity / Gender equilibrium / Work-life balance / CSR (corporate social responsibility) / Environmental friendliness / Energy efficiency /...We would like to know more about these kind of engagements within your company, so we would be grateful if you could inform us by contacting the BJA Office. The Cultural Committee members would then like to visit you for an interview to introduce your companies’ dedication to culture through our Cultural Channel.
Lastly, on behalf of the Cultural Committee, I express my gratitude for your continuous participation to our events. Your suggestions for a future event or ideas of improvement (KAIZEN改善) are always appreciated.
Koh Ichi Masaki, BJA Cultural Committee Chair and Head of European Affairs, Japan Management Association-JMA
BJA Cultural Committee News Special BJA Video Series: Delicious Life of Japan in Belgium: Japanese cuisine with Master Chef Kamo: Ichiju Sansai – Part 3
We hope you have enjoyed the last two parts from the special cooking video series of ‘Ichiju Sansai’ by Mr Kamo, Master Chef of Restaurant Kamo, in which he introduced to us two dishes from the ‘Sansai’ – one recipe for ‘Shusai’ (main dish) and another for ‘Fukusai’ (side dish).
Now we are pleased to present Part 3, featuring ‘Ichiju’ (one soup) from ‘Ichiju Sansai’. This ‘Ichiju’ is usually referred to as ‘Wanmono’ and plays a significant role in the well-balanced and healthy Japanese cuisine as to keep the body hydrated - highly essential especially in warmer days.
In this video Master Chef Kamo shows us how to make ‘Kenchin jiru’ – a hearty soup with full of healthy vegetable ingredients. So enjoy and stay healthy!
A message from Wim Eynatten, BJA Legal & Tax Committee Chair & International Tax Partner at Deloitte (03/06/2020)
Dear BJA Friends,
I hope that you, your families, colleagues and friends are all well and safe during these unprecedented times, and that your companies are navigating these challenging times and starting to recover.
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, it is clear that thinking is now firmly focused on recovery, and the steps required as we are emerging from lockdown.
As the COVID-19 pandemic radically disrupted work environments, the first priority has been crisis response: emphasising health and safety, essential services, and the virtualisation of work and education.
Now, companies are focusing on reopening and/or restoring the workplace effectively, efficiently, and especially safely. Yet the abundance of “unknown unknowns” - everything from changes in the social contract, to macroeconomic impacts, to local health ordinances, to individual employee preferences or fears of populated work environments – further complicate what is already a significant challenge.
The transition out of the lockdown starts to feel more real and further deconfinement in Belgium is expected as from 8 June 2020 with restrictions easing on travel, restaurants and bars. However, the journey out of lock down may be a potentially long one. Until there will be a vaccine we will have to get used to a new way of living and working. The BJA and Deloitte, like many other organizations and companies, are undergoing a transition in the way in which they engage with members, clients and stakeholders.
The COVID-19 crisis is not only impacting our personal lives, but it is also affecting our economy. Certain industry sectors are heavily impacted by this crisis and many companies are facing liquidity and/or solvency issues.
The Belgian Government acted very quickly at the beginning of the crisis and introduced support measures to mitigate on the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The BJA expresses its strong appreciation for the measures taken so far by the Belgian Government. Now that companies are starting to recover from the crisis additional tax & legal measures will be required to ensure a successful recovery.
As you may have read in the Belgian press, the Belgian Government is currently working on new COVID-19 Belgian support tax measures, i.e. (i) tax-free loss carry-back reserve; and, (ii) tax-free recovery reserve. The objective of these new measures is to allow companies to restore their liquidity and solvency positions. The recovery reserve should allow companies to maintain future profits in the company by exempting these profits from corporate income tax, so as the restore the company’s pre-Covid-19 equity; this regime will be subject to the company maintaining its equity and employment level. Both tax-free loss carry-back reserve and tax-free recovery reserve regimes are optional and subject to certain conditions and limits. These proposed support tax measures may still be subject to change during the legislative process. We will inform you on the details of these new measures in the upcoming BJA Newsflashes once they are final.
The BJA Legal & Tax Committee remains in close dialogue with the Unified Belgian Tax Alliance for a Successful Recovery and the Cabinet of the Minister of Finance and will keep all BJA members updated on further developments and any new tax or legal measures.
We hope that the Legal & Tax Committee updates in the weekly BJA Newsflashes are of interest to you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us in case you would have a specific request for the Legal & Tax Committee; we will be glad to help you.
Until we meet again, please stay safe and healthy.
Wim Eynatten BJA Legal & Tax Committee Chair & International Tax Partner at Deloitte
BJA Cultural Committee News Special BJA Video Series: Delicious Life of Japan in Belgium: Japanese cuisine with Master Chef Kamo: Ichiju Sansai – Part 2
We hope you have enjoyed the 1st part of the special cooking video of ‘Ichiju Sansai’ by Mr Kamo, Master Chef of Restaurant Kamo.
We are pleased to present now the 2nd part of the video series in which he introduces how to prepare a very refreshing vinegared dish of Okra called, ‘Okura no sunomono’, a perfect dish to savor during these warm days.
As the Master Chef Kamo mentioned in the 1st video, ‘eating small portions from a variety of dishes is the fundamental of Japanese cuisine’, there will be more dishes to come, so stay tuned!
A message from Danielle Vermaelen, BJA EU Committee Chair & Partner at EY (27/05/2020)
Dear BJA friends,
We were last together on March 3 for our BJA luncheon with His Excellency Kazuo Kodama, Ambassador of Japan to the European Union, and with Mr Marco Chirullo, who has been the Deputy Chief Negotiator of the EPA on the European side and now serves as Deputy Head of the Far East unit at DG Trade.
We were fortunate that this event still could take place; no mouthmasks, only handgel and a declaration on honour of being Corona Free. We all enjoyed the event and went home with the positive message that the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is a balanced, comprehensive agreement signed between 2 likeminded partners who believe free trade supports economic growth, and which aims at a positive overall outcome for both Japan and the EU; that this agreement - as the world's largest bilateral free trade deal, between partners covering nearly one third of global GDP - shows to the world that cooperation, not protectionism, is the way to tackle the current global challenges. The EU-Japan EPA is a game changer, that will serve as an example for new generation trade agreements.
Since then the world has changed. But we have shown resilience, flexibility and motivation to beat the crisis. The European Union as well has been acting to help its citizens and companies to cope with the new reality. Although one might think that the Union's reaction has been slow and uncoordinated across the different countries, we must admit that the challenges are unprecedented.
Protecting the health and safety of its citizens has been the EU's top priority. In addition, the EU and its member states are taking resolute action to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the outbreak and sustain jobs. The EU is mobilising all resources available to help member states coordinate their national responses, and this includes providing objective information about the spread of the virus and effective efforts to contain it.
EU leaders have agreed on a number of priorities to coordinate the EU's response to COVID-19 on both health and socio-economic areas: limiting the spread of the virus, ensuring the provision of medical equipment, boosting research for treatments and vaccines, and supporting jobs, businesses and the economy.
With respect to the latter, the EU is preparing a recovery plan, based on a revamped proposal for the next long-term EU budget (Multiannual Financial Framework). This includes enabling the transition towards a greener and digital society, and drawing all lessons from the current crisis for the EU's preparedness and resilience. In their 'Roadmap for Recovery'*, European Council President Charles Michel, jointly with European Commisson President Ursula von der Leyen, called for the new MFF to be agreed as soon as possible to avoid delays in essential investment and ensure resources can be directed to where they are needed as quickly as possible. We can only share their concern and support their action.
Japan has adopted his own model, less intrusive, allowing for a certain level of economic activity and maintaining people's freedom to move about; as such the model is more sustainable over the long term. It makes it a viable strategy to fight the long-term battle.** The Japanese government also organised an emergency package to fight the crisis and minimize its impact on the economy.
Let's be confident and have trust that all these actions taken in Europe and in Japan, but also elsewhere in the world, will allow for a back to a 'new' normal in which fair and balanced trade can serve people's health and welfare globally!
We hope that the EU news updates in the weekly BJA Newsflash are of interest to you. Furthermore the EU Committee is working on several initiatives for activities, business luncheons, etc. for the last quarter of the year. Do not hesitate to reach out to us in case you have a specific request for the EU Committee; we will be glad to help you.
The EU Committee and the BJA wish you to stay safe and healthy!
BJA EU Committee Chair & Partner at EY
** From 'The Diplomat', 24 April 2020, by Kazuto Suzuki, 'COVID-19 Strategy: The Japan Model Has Japan found a viable long-term strategy for the pandemic?'
BJA Cultural Committee News Announcement of Special BJA Video Series: Delicious Life of Japan in Belgium: Japanese cuisine with Master Chef Kamo: Ichiju Sansai – Part 1
We hope you are all well and safe!
As an association with deep roots within the people-to-people framework, the BJA believes in humanity, generosity, cooperation, and friendship. Staying side-by-side with all our members is of utmost importance to us.
We are determined to focus on supporting all of us, any way we can. With this intention, we have recently approached Mr Tomoyasu Kamo, the Master Chef of Restaurant Kamo and a member of BJA, to exceptionally show our members how to cook simple but healthy, delicious Japanese dishes that you can easily do at home.
To this request, Mr Kamo spontaneously responded positively and kindly created a very special series of cooking videos based on the fundamentals of the Japanese cuisine -「一汁三菜」"Ichiju Sansai".
We are so blessed with his kindness and are very pleased to share his videos in 4 parts with you in this and the upcoming BJA Newsflashes. We hope that these videos will bring you not only additional cooking skills but also extra joy to your eyes, to your taste buds, and to your appetite!
A message from Kiyohito Morimoto, BJA Vice-President, Nihonjinkai Chairman & Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor Europe (13/05/2020)
Almost two months have passed since we started to face the lockdown measures in Belgium, due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus. We should have been spending an exciting moment with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games about to start, but unfortunately the games are postponed to next year. Moreover, we can not predict when we will be able to go back to a normal life, or even go back to where we were at before the pandemic.
We, as Toyota Motor Europe, are not an exception. We needed to stop the operation of all European plants shortly after we faced the lockdown. We cannot make the cars, and the dealers cannot even sell the cars. I imagine that most of the members of BJA are suffering in a similar situation.
But it is always darkest before the dawn. I strongly believe that if we keep on continuing what we can do at this situation, we can reach a good dawn. Let me introduce what we are doing as Toyota, under this lockdown situation.
Toyota has nine plants in seven European countries. Immediately after the governments of each country entered the lockdown, we were forced to stop our operations one after another. TME employees were also forced to work from home.
Under such circumstances, employees worked on two major things. One is to support those who are fighting against coronavirus at the front line. And the other is to rethink our way of working and prepare for a big leap when we return to the office, factory or sales site.
At the factory, we have created face guards, and door openers which can open and close the door without touching it by hands, by using a 3D printer that was not in operation at the factory. We also helped to implement the concept of the Toyota Production System, to improve the transportation system at medical sites to improve efficiency. And most of our dealers provided vehicles for medical personnel or people in societies to commute to hospitals. For ourselves, employees at factories gathered through video conferences to study Toyota Production System again and worked on “Kaizen” proposals that could not be made while the factories were in operation.
Although it is little by little, the situation of virus spread has begun to settle down, and lockdown measures in each country are gradually being lifted. The dark night is almost over and the sun is ready to start shining. We are almost there. Let's work together and lead the economic recovery.
In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.
Kiyohito Morimoto, BJA Vice-President, Nihonjinkai Chairman & Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor Europe
Government of Japan - 2020 Spring Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals
The BJA would like to congratulate Andreas Thele, Professor at the Universities of Mons and Liege, Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of Liege and Member of the BJA Cultural Committee for receiving the "Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon" for his contribution to promoting academic exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and the Kingdom of Belgium.
We are indebted to his generous sharing of his knowledge and time to our association.
You can find the original news on the website of the Japanese Embassy by clicking on 'more'.
BJA Legal & Tax Committee News European Commission proposes an extension of DAC6 reporting deadlines in response to Covid-19 pandemic
On 8 May 2020 and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission published a proposal to postpone the deadlines for reporting and exchanging information under the EU Directive 2018/822/EU (also known as “DAC6”).
Click 'more' to view or download the full article.
A message from Edward De Beukelaer, BJA Vice President & Editorial Committee Chair (06/05/2020)
Challenging times are upon us. While being guided safely out of a most difficult and dangerous situation, we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. We are hoping the light will be brighter as we go and not dim down again, here and across the oceans.
Although these past months have proven at many occasions to be beyond our imagination, it will be our imagination that will support us, not only on our way out, but also beyond in our growth and our development as a human being, a society, economy and as an association.
Next to being the BJA Vice-President, I have the honor and great pleasure to serve the Editorial Committee as its Chair as well. The BJA Trade Flows & Cultural Newsletter, the BJA Directory, and some other workings cross our committee’s eyes. Often we encounter the world of imagination in our endeavors and our search for interesting stories to be conveyed. We witness how without it, the world would be colorless, and there would be no art, no sciences, no creativity – so much needed right now right here.
With imagination, we understand that there is the ability of the mind to be creative and enterprising – and as humans, there is always the hope to be resourceful.
In this confronting period, we are venturing ourselves into a digitalized world, full force. Our upcoming Newsletters will be more and more digitized – of course we still like to offer you something to touch as well in your postal box in June – and a new interactive BJA website is about to be born. It is on its way out of imagination.
We are heading into new landscapes, navigating terrain not walked before as an organization, because we know that it will perhaps take a lot of time to return back to our ordinary reality. So we might as well use what we have discovered and experienced to assist us all in enriching our daily lives from now on, pushing us forward into different adventures to be created, off- and on-line. We are polishing our navigation skills as we float our boat.
As all good things in life, together we will always find our way through the toughest times.
Special thanks go to Anja, Mika and Joachim. They are constantly developing suggestions and constructing information bridges between all of us.
Stay safe, stay well, stay in touch with us,
Edward De Beukelaer
BJA Vice-President and BJA Editorial Committee Chair
The BJA Welcomes a new Sponsor Member
We would like to welcome TAKEDA BELGIUM as new Sponsor Member of the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce.
A message from Tanguy Van Overstraeten, BJA Vice President & Chair BJA Executive Committee(29/04/2020)
We are living in unprecedented times. In Belgium, we are now in the sixth week of confinement and in Japan, most people are going to spend the Golden Week at home.
We are anxiously watching the news and have all unfortunate stories relating to our beloved ones, friends and colleagues who have been affected by the disease one way or the other.
We know that this crisis is not only impacting our personal lives, it is deeply affecting our economy.
Yet, it is impressive to see how resilient and determined we are. Within a few days, we have adapted to a largely new working environment with everyone being connected and continuing to work together, where possible. The online holding of our annual general assembly and our recent communications are illustrations of what our Association has been able to deliver in such a crisis situation.
At global level, researchers are working around the world to find a vaccine or a cure largely relying on Big Data and AI technologies. Our governments are using or deploying technologies to reduce the spread of the virus, from the use of location data to monitor compliance with confinement rules to apps being developed to trace contacts of contaminated citizens.
This is undoubtedly raising issues in relation to privacy and personal data protection that will need to be addressed and resolved. However, it is also shaping Europe’s digital transformation. It will create further opportunities and foster innovation for the benefit of all.
Working from home for so many weeks is also likely to impact our professional lives with some positive aspects however. It will likely lead to a better recognition of agile working that should have a sustainable effect creating more efficiencies, increasing diversity (e.g. helping young parents to stay active while taking care of their families) and reducing the need for travelling which should also positively impact our environment.
These are all important subjects which our Association is exploring thanks to the hard work of its Committees. We look forward to discussing them with you in our upcoming events which we will hold first virtually and then physically as soon as this will be feasible.
We welcome your views and ideas and look forward to rewarding discussions on the ways to go through these difficult times.
Anja, Mika and Joachim as well as our Committees’ Chairs and Members are building our future activities with the support of our Board. We are pleased to present the upcoming ones soon. We look forward to your participation.
Meanwhile, please stay safe and healthy,
Tanguy Van Overstraeten
BJA Vice President
Immigration: Update on the single permit scheme
The Single Permit immigration process introduced in 2019 has created a number of challenges for Japanese companies seeking to employ foreign employees in Belgium. Most importantly, longer processing times led to delayed start of employment jeopardizing efficient human resources and business planning.
The BJA Tax and Legal Committee, in collaboration with the BJA Investment Committee, took a number of actions to address the issues with governments at federal and regional levels. This article provides an update on progress made over the last few months.
Click on 'more' to access and download the full article.
A message from Professor Gilbert Declerck, BJA President (21/04/2020)
This unprecedented crisis turned our lives upside down. The impact on our countries, our societies, our citizens, our families and friends, our hospitals, our companies and colleagues - it touches all of us on multiple dimensions.
Although many things are crumbling down, we can also see our people rising up to face the immense challenges. They show flexibility, a drive to keep going and a tremendous team spirit. Just as our Japanese friends have shown over and over again during natural disasters, we witness the resilience of people. We are creative and capable in adopting to the situation. I believe and I know that we will surmount this crisis to come out stronger and wiser.
As the President of the BJA and Board member of imec International I witness an intense cooperation inside of our multinational companies to work together. I am confident this will lead to more innovative waves of industrial work, connecting people more than ever with an accelerating trend of adopting new digital ways of work. Belgium has an open economy, located in the heart of Europe. The solidarity among all people in Belgium has proven amazing, and I am touched by it.
I am equally touched by the work delivered by our BJA Office and BJA Committees and Chairs, to remain in control and make constant adjustments. As a membership organization we thrive by bringing people together and serving them. Postponing events has been heartbreaking, but necessary. We cannot wait to welcome you all again once this crisis situation is over and meetings are allowed again in a safe environment.
Our tasks in the months ahead will adapt to the reality: we would like to continue serving our members and the broader Belgium-Japan relations to the best of our capabilities in these difficult times and beyond - even when physical meetings are and will be restricted for the foreseeable future. We will start organizing virtual events such as webinars, workshops and talks, etc.
We are also committed to communicate whenever and wherever necessary. The BJA Office invites you to contact them and have a BJA Virtual Tea Time Talk with all your questions for them or for the BJA experts in the different committees - or to just share your stories.
I can tell you they miss seeing each and all of you.
So do I.
Until we meet again, on- or off-line, please stay safe and healthy.
Job offers 人材募集
Please have a look at the latest job offers from JETRO, Daikin, MUFG,...Interested? Click on more.
We hope our message finds you and your families, colleagues and friends in good health despite the very difficult circumstances.
Following the Federal Government's most recent measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, the BJA has set up home office and closed temporarily the door at Avenue Louise. We have turned the AGM on March 23 into a tele-conference event, and currently all our planned physical events are postponed until further notice. We however continue to support the Belgian-Japanese community and conduct business and committee meetings remotely online.
Do not hesitate to contact us. We are here for you!
Please send us your messages, your questions, your suggestions, your stories:
We can set up a phone call or a remote live meeting.
We welcome you to join our page Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce on LinkedIn as well. Please keep an eye on this, in addition to our www.bja.be .
We will gather in the coming days helpful links from our members concerning the COVID-19 situation on our BJA website.
Last but not least, we would like to invite you to send us your articles for our BJA Trade Flows and Cultural Newsletter, if any.
The deadline is April 15. You can also send it earlier, if time allows.
The date of publication is end of May.
Please stay safe and take good care of yourself and each other,
The BJA Office
新型コロナウイルス感染拡大と，それに伴うベルギー政府の方針に従い，BJA事務局はテレワークに切り替え、当面の間Avenue Louise のBJA事務局オフィスは閉鎖となりますので、何卒ご理解の程，よろしくお願い致します。
It is with deep sorrow that we, at the BJA, have been informed of the recent passing of Honorary Ambassador Patrick Nothomb.
Baron Nothomb has been a Belgian ambassador in Japan for many years, as well as a dedicated member of the BJA for many more. He put himself at the service of Belgium-Japan relations with whole his heart. It has always been a pleasure to have him and his wife in our midst, and he will be missed very much.
The BJA presents to the wife of Patrick Nothomb, his children André, Juliette and Amélie and to his grand-children our deepest condolences.
Picture of the BJA VIP Luncheon: One year after the EU-Japan EPA: where are we now?
The Pictures of the BJA VIP Luncheon: One year after the EU-Japan EPA: where are we now? are online. You can see the pictures by clicking on "more".
As you are aware, the introduction of the ‘single permit’ in Belgium since the beginning of 2019 has been difficult. Its processing time has become very long, which impacted negatively on the business and HR planning of Japanese companies with activities in Belgium.
On 3 December 2019, the BJA issued a letter to the Federal and Regional authorities and proposed several recommendations to streamline and shorten the process of issuing single permits. The letter was co-signed by Nihonjinkai and JETRO. Furthermore, the BJA has contacted the authorities at both Federal and Regional levels in order to follow up the recommendations in the letter and to improve the situation swiftly.
The BJA is happy to inform you that Mrs Maggie De Block, Federal Minister of Immigration, announced certain reforms yesterday, which reflect the recommendations in the letter and which will positively contribute to the improvement of the processing time of single permits.
The main reforms are:
- 20 additional staff at the Federal level (Ministry of Internal Affairs), which will spread the workload and decrease the processing time;
- Internal streamlining of the process at the Federal level (Ministry of Internal Affairs), which will also decrease the processing time;
- Building a digital platform that will link applicants and their proxy holders with the Regional & Federal authorities; and,
- Allowing to continue employment upon the approval by the Regional authorities without waiting for the approval by the Federal authorities.
The implementation of the first two measures should decrease the processing time to 6 to 8 weeks.
The BJA will further closely follow up this matter and will keep you informed as more information becomes available.
BJA & FEB Press Release: EU - Japan Economic Partnership Agreement: first positive evaluation!
The Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) and the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA) welcome the first positive evaluation of the agreement and call on Belgian and Japanese companies to tap into areas where the EPA's potential has not yet been realised.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (July 24th until August 9th 2020) are fast approaching, performance, innovation, emotion and the discovery of a unique culture will be at the heart of the greatest sporting event in the world.
As the official and exclusive agency of the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee, EVENTEAM is your only official access to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for Belgium.
EVENTEAM is a member of the BJA since 2019 and official agency for major events such as Roland Garros, F1, the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, which will be a first expertise in the Nippon country.
EVENTEAM allows you to live this experience thanks to a 100% customizable offer available. The ticket sales started Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 10 am on www.eventeam.be/tokyo2020.
The EU and Japan have signed an unprecedented free trade agreement which will create one of the world's largest trading blocs.
Japan's Prime Minister Abe met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk in Tokyo on Tuesday 17 July 2018 to sign the EPA at the 25th EU-Japan Summit.
The result of four years of negotiation, the EPA was finalized in late 2017 and is expected to come into force by the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in autumn 2019. The EU has called the agreement "highly ambitious and comprehensive." The total trade volume of goods and services between the EU and Japan is €86 billion.
Government of Japan - 2017 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals
Dear Members and Friends,
We would like to share with you the wonderful news of the honor bestowed upon our BJA Vice-President, Mr Tanguy Van Overstraeten.
The Japanese Embassy informed that on November 3, 2017, the Government of Japan decided to confer decorations on 149 foreign nationals for the Autumn 2017. From Belgium, Mr. Tanguy Van Overstraeten, Vice-President and Director of the Belgium-Japan Association and Chamber of Commerce (BJA) received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his contribution to strengthening economic relations between Japan and Belgium.
You can find the original news on the website of the Japanese Embassy: http://www.be.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/news_171103.html
Government of Japan - 2016 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals
Dear Members and Friends,
We would like to share with you the wonderful news of the honor bestowed upon our President, Prof. Gilbert Declerck.
We were informed by the Japanese Embassy to Belgium that on November 3rd, 2016, the Government of Japan announced the 2016 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals that included one Belgian citizen among the 96 recipients. Prof. Gilbert Declerck, President of the Belgium-Japan Association and Chamber of Commerce and former President and CEO of the IMEC, received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon for his outstanding contribution to the enhancement of economic relations between Japan and Belgium.
You can also find this message on the Japanese Embassy’s website: http://www.be.emb-japan.go.jp/english/archives/news_161103.html and http://www.be.emb-japan.go.jp/japanese/archives_j/news_161103.html
Foreign Chambers of Commerce - Joint Response - Belgium Bashing International business community supports Belgium
Belgium’s image has seriously suffered in the weeks and months following the terrorist attacks in Paris last November. In response, a group of 13 Chambers of Commerce, representing the largest and most active foreign investors in Belgium, have signed an open letter re-affirming the commitment of the international business community to Belgium as a place to live and work. We have a strong, positive message about Belgium that we would like to share to help start correcting some of the misrepresentations.
Please kindly find the open letter of the Chambers by clicking 'more'.
The Government of Japan announced the names of foreign recipients of the 2015 Autumn Imperial Decorations - Mr Thomas Leysen, Honorary BJA President
On November 3rd, 2015, the Government of Japan announced the names of foreign recipients of the 2015 Autumn Imperial Decorations. Among the 100 foreign recipients are two Belgian nationals. Mr. Thomas André Leysen, President of Umicore N.V. / S.A., Former President of the Belgium-Japan Association and Chamber of Commerce, will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star for his contribution to the enhancement of economic relations and mutual understanding between Japan and Belgium. Mr. Daniel Ost, a Flower artist, will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his contribution to the promotion of cultural exchanges and mutual understanding between Japan and Belgium.
The Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate all the bestowed, but especially Mr Thomas Leysen, former BJA President, on the conferment of decoration “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star” to him by the Government of Japan.
The BJA is honoured to have him as BJA Honorary President, and indebted to his expertise and wisdom he gladly shares to the benefit of Belgium-Japan relations. His continued efforts to strengthen the bonds of the community will lead us to take example in contributing to the friendship between our two nations.
On December 10th, an awarding ceremony of the Ambassador‘s Commendation was held at the Ambassador’s residence. The following three persons were awarded the commendations for their valuable contribution to promoting friendly relations and enhancing economic and cultural exchanges between Japan and Belgium.
1. Mr. Tanguy VAN OVERSTRAETEN (Vice President of Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA))
Mr. VAN OVERSTRAETEN has contributed to promoting economic relations through working on legal issues related to Japan’s and Belgium’s investment for more than 20 years, particularly by establishing and managing the Legal and Tax Committee at BJA.
2. Prof. Andreas THELE (Director of Japanese Studies Centre, University of Liège)
Prof. THELE has contributed to promoting cultural and academic relations through research and lectures in Japanese Studies for more than 20 years at the University of Liège and through Japanese language education at the University of Mons.
3. Prof. Dimitri VANOVERBEKE (Professor of Japanese Studies, Catholic University of Leuven)
Prof. VANOVERBEKE has contributed to promoting cultural and academic relations through research and lectures in Japanese Studies at Catholic University of Leuven for more than 15 years and through activities in various areas of exchange between Japan and Belgium.
The Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate all the bestowed of a certificate of commendation by His Excellency Ambassador Mitsuo Sakaba, Japanese ambassador to Belgium.
His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium bestowed upon the BJA the Royal title. This honour comes as the BJA prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. During these 50 years, the BJA has promoted closer ties between Belgium and Japan, both at the economic, cultural and personal level.
On March 20th, the Royal Diploma was handed over during an Official Ceremony by the Governor of Brussels, Mr Jean Clément, to Mr Thomas Leysen, the President of the BJA, in presence of BJA Vice-Presidents, Mr Edward De Beukelaer, Mr Atsushi Sudo and Mr Tanguy Van Overstraeten.
The title "Royal" may be granted by the King to Belgian associations that have been in existence for more than 50 years. Other criteria taken into account include good management, the not-for-profit purpose of the association, its vitality and soundness.
The BJA is most grateful for the honor granted by His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium - a historical moment for the association and its members.
Certificate of Commendation by H.E. Ambassador Jun Yokota, Japanese ambassador to Belgium
The Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate all the bestowed, but especially Mr Thomas Leysen, BJA President and Mrs Anja Oto-Kellens, BJA Executive Director on the bestowment of a certificate of commendation by His Excellency Ambassador Jun Yokota, Japanese ambassador to Belgium.
Pictures of Commendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan to the BJA ＢＪＡ平成20年度外務大臣表彰受賞のレセプション写真集
The Japanese Embassy in Belgium officially informed the BJA that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan awarded in Tokyo on July 15, 2008 the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce a commendation for the outstanding role the BJA plays in fostering the relations between both nations.
The certificate of commendation was bestowed upon the BJA during a reception at the residence of HE Ambassador Hayashi on Thursday 2 October in Brussels.