The Netherlands rose to power as an economy based on trade, with an outward
looking culture and workforce, and an orientation towards international trade
that has been constant from the 17th century to today's era of value-added
logistics and e-commerce. The Netherlands - being the Gateway to Europe - is an
economic powerhouse: it offers an ideal platform for international trade.
The Netherlands is one of the richest countries in the world with a very stable
economic climate. Historically, the Dutch have valued international trade.
Already at the end of the 17th century they had 4000 ocean-going vessels a year
unloading goods traded with 625 foreign ports. Trade with the Far East brought
prosperity. The Dutch trait of "not sticking one's nose" into other people's
affairs also aided their trading success. When Spanish and Portuguese traders
began converting the Japanese to Christianity in the early 1600s, the Emperor
was swift to eject all foreigners - except for the 'hands-off' Dutch. They were
to keep their monopoly on outside contact with Japan until 1858, and special
business ties between the two countries remain strong. After that, the Dutch
fortunes have ebbed and flowed, but the values and outlook that first created
its wealth have remained the same.
The Netherlands offer an ideal platform for international trade, which is one of
the most important engines driving the Dutch economy. Products and services
delivered to the European Union, America, Asia, and Africa generate more than 50
percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2002, exported goods and
services amounted to 235 billion euros, while imported goods and services
totaled 204 billion euros.
Commercial services - especially transportation and logistics - is the largest
economic sector in the Netherlands. Due to the country's geographic location it
is the gateway to the rest of Europe, with two of the largest ports in the
world, one a seaport, the other an airport.
The service sector has a lion's share of GDP (nearly 70 percent) and produces as
much as half of the net national income. About 80 percent of the Dutch labour
force works in this sector.
The industrial sector plays a smaller, yet important role in the Dutch economy.
The main industrial sectors in the Netherlands are food, beverages and tobacco
industries and the chemicals and petroleum industries.Dutch industry consists of
a lot of small and mediumsized, and a few (very) large concerns. Some of the top
international companies started out in the Netherlands. The best known are
Philips, Unilever, Heineken, Shell, Oce and Akzo Nobel.
The Netherlands has about 300 companies with biotechnological activities,
covering all sectors. Almost 90 percent of these also have one or more bases
abroad, and most companies are export oriented. Additionally. many leading
foreign companies have located their European biotechnology activities in the
Netherlands, testifying to the country's excellent biotechnological
infrastructure, industrial setting and gateway to Europe distribution function.
The Netherlands has been one of the European member states leading the
development towards a careful legislative system. Although this has lead to a
tight legal oversight, government, industry and critical organizations have
constructively aimed to keep it workable and safe.
Because of the open character of the Netherlands, the good legal framework and
the wide acceptation of biotechnological progress, the Netherlands increasingly
serves as a test market for companies seeking successful introduction of their
products on the European market.
Other important sectors of the Dutch economy are the energy and agricultural
sectors. The energy sector is based on the production of natural gas (the
Netherlands produces in excess of 80 trillion cubic metres of gas per year) and
the refining of crude oil.
In agriculture the Dutch are famous for their cheese and flowerbulbs, but are
also major exporters of eggs, other dairy and horticulture products.
Gateway to Europe
The Netherlands has two important gateways: the Port of Rotterdam and Amsterdam
Schiphol Airport. Rotterdam is home to the world's largest and busiest harbour.
Rotterdam is also Europe's largest container seaport. Over 55 percent of all
cargo handled in Rotterdam is transferred to other, mainly European, countries,
with Dutch trucks bringing products as far as Istanbul or Moscow. Amsterdam
Schiphol International Airport is among the top five most active cargo centres
in Europe, providing specialized distribution facilities on a free-port basis.
Together these gateways make up Mainport Europe: one of the largest distribution
hubs, supported by advanced technology and logistics infrastructure. As much as
66 percent of all EU-citizens (244 million consumers) can be reached from the
Netherlands on a 'next day delivery' basis.
Together with a strong physical and service infrastructure, a multilingual and
highly educated workforce and an Internet-ready environment, the Netherlands is
a great economic powerhouse, open to all (international) companies that want to
put even more force into it.