The two regions have developed nearly entirely separately in terms of bureaucracies and day-to-day operations; Brussels, which is French-speaking, is yet a third, smaller region surrounded by Flanders.
Because Belgium itself is a relatively small market compared to its neighbors (Germany, France and Britain), it has long depended on trade for its economic strength. Belgian companies long ago developed experience in dealing with foreigners and export markets, and most of its citizens are multi-lingual. The government has also fostered both import/export trade as well as foreign direct investment. The country historically has fostered growth in small to medium sized companies (in 1989, only four Belgian companies were listed on the Forbes International 500; Switzerland, with half of Belgium's population, had three times as many companies listed) (Tigner, 1990, p. 56). This tendency toward small companies has both advantages and disadvantages for the country. On the one hand, companies are able to keep production runs short and offer fast turnaround times. On the other hand, companies may lack the financial resources necessary to prosper in high technology fields that may require significant capital investment.
Smaller companies and Belgium companies in particular can also be vulnerable to takeovers. Two holding companies (SBG and GBL) dominated the Belgium economy