Eliminating e-commerce in Belgium, nonsense?

Paul Magnette, president of the PS, wants to put an end to online shopping in Belgium in favor of “real stores” and independent companies. However, Belgian e-commerce consists mainly of small independent companies and represents tens of thousands of businesses.

“After the abolition of nuclear energy, I would like to get out of e-commerce“Paul Magnette struck the spirits this Monday during an interview he gave to the magazine humor. The president of the Socialist Party very seriously explains that he intends to (re) make Belgium “a country with real shops and lively cities”.

This surprising exit comes at a time when the federal government must investigate labor market reform, especially night work. Particularly strict laws on this last point would cause many businesses to flee to neighboring countries.

For Paul Magnette, this is not a problem. “Why do we have to have workers working at night in these warehouses?” Because people want to shop 24 hours a day and have their packages delivered within 24 hours. Are we really looking forward to two days for the book? ”The mayor of Charleroi wonders.

Independents vs Amazon

In this way, the president of the PS claims to defend “local businesses and small independent businesses“in the face of liberal followers” of Amazon model and (from) his working conditions worthy of the 19th century “, we can read in the exchange of tweets with the president of MR Georges-Louis Bouchez.


98% of e-commerce companies active in Belgium have less than five employees.

Is e-commerce then the prerogative of American and Chinese mastodons? Not really. In Belgium, four of the five largest companies in this segment were European in 2020: Coolblue, Bol.com, Zalando and Veepee. Amazon was only in fourth place in this market with more than 11 billion euros.

The argument for defending small independents also does not stand the test of the second figure: 98% of e-commerce companies active in Belgium have less than five employees and 80% of their managers have been declared independent.

More than 11,000 direct jobs

According to Retis, the sector was no less represented 11,000 direct jobs in Belgium at the end of 2020. The figure to which indirect jobs should be added: freelancers, external service providers and logistics workers, but for which there is no data.

bpost has made e-commerce one of its growth areas for several years. The public company thus makes 51% of online sales in Belgium.

In addition, many businesses in Belgium depend on online sales companies located outside Belgium. The most famous examples are the positions created by Alibaba at Liège Airport or the people employed in the ports of Zeebrugge or Antwerp, who process packages ordered online. In the same way, bpost has made e-commerce one of its areas of growth for several years. The public company achieves that 51% delivery online sales in Belgium.

Feasible measure?

Another question justifiably arises: would the authorities decide to “exit” e-commerce, would that be possible at all? It seems unrealistic to say the least. For example, access to Belgian and international e-commerce sites should be blocked for anyone connecting from Belgium. An easily circumvented measure that only countries like China or India have introduced to block certain sites or social networks.

Belgium could too control and block every arrival of goods from abroad to confirm that it is not ordered online. Unthinkable in the single European market. Less unrealistic, an e-commerce tax system could be set up to deter Belgian consumers from buying online. However, it is difficult to imagine when the federal government aims to make Belgium a “smart nation”.

Politicians and the business world were stunned

Paul Magnette’s release reacted, and the least we can say is that we don’t find many people who would support his idea.

In the political world, the first to fire was his greatest enemy. Georges Louis Bouchez, the president of the MR (which his passing socialist colleague in an interview with Hum). “The 19th century cannot be a social project,” tweeted Mr. Bouchez, who then joked at the expense of Paul Magnett proposing the reopening of the coal mine.

Egbert Lachaertthe president of the Open Vld, also shot an arrow at Mr. Magnette, believing that “the Minister of Employment (Socialist Pierre-Yves Dermagne, ndla.) must provide jobs, not permanent unemployment.”

Not even on the left, Paul Magnette’s idea doesn’t evoke enthusiasm. the Green MP Gilles Vanden Burre reminded him that “thousands of traders, small and medium-sized enterprises and cooperatives anchored in our economy” make up Belgian e-commerce.

PTB doesn’t seem more convinced. Walloon Deputy Germain Mugemangango he therefore considers the “return to the past to be completely illusory.”

Entrepreneurship is clearly no longer enthusiastic. Pieter TimmermansThe head of the Belgian Business Association, meanwhile, pointed out that for 100 euros of purchasing power, more than 30 go abroad because e-commerce is more developed and sought after there, which was a signal that even more is being spent abroad.

ComeosThe trade and service federation also reacted, estimating that Belgium, if it wants to become the first country without e-commerce, would become the first country without trade.

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