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The modern, private enterprise economy of Belgium has capitalised on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. The first country to undergo an industrial revolution on the continent of Europe in the early 19th century, Belgium developed an excellent transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways, and highways to integrate its industry with that of its neighbors. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flanders in the north, around Brussels and in the 2 biggest Walloon cities, Liège and Charleroi, along the sillon industriel. Belgium imports raw materials and semi-finished goods that are further processed and re-exported. Except for its coal, which is no longer economical to exploit, Belgium has virtually no natural resources. Nonetheless, most traditional industrial sectors are represented in the economy, including steel, textiles, refining, chemicals, food processing, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, electronics, and machinery fabrication. Despite the heavy industrial component, services account for 74.9% of GDP, while agriculture accounts for only 1% of GDP. With exports equivalent to over two-thirds of GNP, Belgium depends heavily on world trade. Belgium's trade advantages are derived from its central geographic location and a highly skilled, multilingual, and productive work force. One of the founding members of the European Community, Belgium strongly supports deepening the powers of the present-day European Union to integrate European economies further. About three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Belgium's public debt is about 99% of GDP. The government succeeded in balancing its budget during the 2000-2008 period, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth and foreign direct investment dropped in 2008. In 2009 Belgium is likely to have negative growth, growing unemployment, and a 3% budget deficit, stemming from the worldwide banking crisis.


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