Belgium is located in one of the most industrialized areas of the world. Its unique geographic location and port structure make it ideally suited as a point for goods to enter Western Europe. The economy remains dependent on trade and any global market disruptions impact Belgium. Nonetheless, the nation's foreign trade bolsters its economy and helps it rank among the world's top economies. Unemployment remains a problem for the economy. The nation has made significant progress in unemployment. In 1984, it declined from a high of 14.3 percent. In the 1990s, the nationwide unemployment rate averaged between 8 and 9 percent, with the lowest rate, 4 percent, in Flanders, and the highest rate, 16 percent, in Wallonia.
Since the last century, Belgium's agriculture has been in decline and currently only accounts for around 2 percent of the kingdom's GDP. Agriculture is concentrated in the northern areas of Flanders. The nation is self-sufficient in a variety of farm products, including various dairy
In the post-World War II era, industry has become less important for the national economy. In contrast, the service sector continues to gain in prominence. Most of the kingdom's natural mineral resources have been exhausted. Steel and textile production have significantly declined. The remaining industry produces finished products from reprocessed materials. After the industrial transformation during the 1970s, a number of new industries emerged, including chemicals, refining, metals and machinery, food processing, and pharmaceuticals. Even newer industries such as automobile manufacturing have faced significant obstacles. Belgium has emerged as the center of the international diamond trade. Traditional manufacturing remains concentrated in Wallonia, while the newer industries tend to be located in Flanders.
As with most of the OECD nations, the service sector dominates the Belgian economy. In fact, service sector jobs now account for 73 percent of the nation's employment. In addition, the service sector is also the main area of growth for the kingdom. Retail businesses and tourism increasingly account for a larger percentage of the nation's GDP, while financial services continue to expand and attract foreign investment.
Belgium is the home to a number of international corporations and has outlets or subsidiaries of many multinational companies such as Ford, Volvo, and Renault. In fact, some sectors of the Belgian economy have come to be dominated by foreign firms. For instance, U.S. software manufacturers now control some 40 percent of the Belgian market while companies such as Compaq, Dell, and IBM dominate the personal computer market.