, Chief Executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium By Bore Kedober Marcel Claes has been serving as the Chief Executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium since 2004. Prior to his time at AmCham Belgium, he worked as country and unit manager at KBC Bank (Brussels and New York) and Bank of America (Belgium and Switzerland) and as a strategic consultant with Cap Gemini Consulting and PA Management Consultants. Holding an MBA from the KU Leuven, Mr. Claes speaks Dutch, English, French and German.
Q. What does AmCham Belgium do? A. We are a non-profit organization that have been around for 65 years and are dedicated to improving business and investment opportunities for the US-Belgian business community. With approximately 900 US groups operating in Belgium, AmCham plays a pivotal role in an evolving business environment by focusing on three key areas: policy advocacy, knowledge sharing and networking. We are open to all companies from all countries. At the moment 55% of our members are US companies, 30% Belgian and 15% from other countries.
In total, US companies in Belgium directly employ about 140,000 people. This accounts for approximately 5% of the total private sector employment in Belgium.
Throughout the year we hold about 50 networking events to bring the members together. We also do advocacy work with the Belgian government where we share knowledge and best practice advice in order to make the Belgian business environment as competitive as possible. In this respect, we hope that after the upcoming elections, the Belgian government will be willing to take more political risk, lower taxation and reduce administrative complexities and “red tape” in order to attract more US companies to Belgium and retain those that are here already.
Q. Belgium is unique in that so many political institutions are headquarted here. How much of AMCHAM’s work is dedicated to working on a European level compared to with Belgian business opportunities and at a local level? A. We don’t do that much work on a European level. There is another organization in Brussels which is called AmCham EU and they deal exclusively with the institutions and EU affairs. It was set up 10 years ago and was in fact voted the best trade association in Belgium on EU affairs for the last 3 years.