Photo description: The Capital Gas Aristos I is an LNG tanker capable of carrying 174,000 m3 of liquefied gas. At the Maasvlakte, the tanker will be pumped empty to replenish the gas supply in the Netherlands.

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Executive Summary

The whole world is affected by the war in Ukraine, not only geopolitically, but also in terms of inflation, food security and the economy. In a globalised world, everyone is connected and everyone is affected. As a small and open trading nation, the Netherlands is strongly connected to other countries and is therefore sensitive to international developments. In February of this year, the second year of the war in Ukraine began. Due to the war and the sanctions against Russia, Dutch trade with Russia and Ukraine has declined. Moreover, prices of especially imported mineral fuels and raw materials have skyrocketed, partly as a result of the war.

China and the EU have increasingly traded with each other since reducing reciprocal import tariffs in the 1990s. This has led to ever greater mutual interdependence, which entails benefits, but also risks. We have become more dependent on China and the country has therefore gained more geopolitical power. Trade with China is an important topic of discussion when it comes to strategic dependencies. Some of the products for which the Netherlands and other European countries rely on imports from China are important for the green transition challenges Europe is facing.

Production problems in China, sanctions against Russia, devastation in Ukraine, increased transport costs: these and many other factors may have a negative impact on Dutch trade in goods and services. Following the recovery from the coronavirus crisis and the first price increases in 2021, the value of Dutch goods trade rose again in 2022. This was due to the sharply higher prices of many goods, such as mineral fuels, food and materials. The size of trade volume also increased, but much less strongly. At the onset of the coronavirus crisis in 2020, Dutch trade in services showed a significant contraction. Recovery already started in 2021 and continued through 2022.

The latest news and other reports on globalisation, such as the Internationalisation Monitors, can be found in our Globalisation dossier.

Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures 2023: Exports, imports and investment is a publication developed by the CBS Expertise Centre for Globalisation at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It aims to provide a broad target group with objective information on internationalisation trends in the Dutch business economy and the national economy at large. Furthermore, it offers independent data for trade policy decisions by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Apart from the data tables with annually recurring key figures, this publication contains an outline of the main current events behind the figures.

Listed below are some of the main findings presented in this editionnoot1:

Chapter 2: Major developments in 2022 and 2023

  • Due to the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, inflation, current events surrounding the climate crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 2021, 2022 and 2023 were atypical years. In order to do justice to all these developments, a chapter has been devoted to the most recent developments. Where possible, the aforementioned developments are also mentioned in other chapters.

One year of war: trade implications

  • The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to the war against Ukraine. More than a month after the start of the war and the first sanctions, the value of Dutch imports from Russia began to decrease. The Russian share in Dutch imports fell from 4% in Q1 2022 to 1% in the same quarter of 2023. The value of Dutch goods exports to Russia has decreased every month since March 2022 relative to the same month in 2021. The Russian share in Dutch exports fell from 0.6% in Q1 2022 to 0.3% in the same quarter of 2023.
  • Since the import ban as of December 2022, Dutch firms have imported considerably less crude oil from Russia. Instead, imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, the US, Kazakhstan and Iraq have increased.
  • In Q1 2023, exports of domestically produced goods to Russia collapsed by 47% compared to the first three months of 2022, while those to Kazakhstan (+136%), Armenia (+121%) and Kyrgyz Republic (+99%) increased sharply.

Volume developments in Dutch trade in goods

  • According to the National Accounts figures, the price development of Dutch imports in 2022 compared to 2021 was no less than 24.9%; the volume development was around 1.8%. Prices of export goods were 21.0% higher in 2022 than in 2021. The volume of goods exports only increased by 2.3%. In Q1 2023, price development was already more limited with an increase of 4.7% in imports and 5.8% in exports. The import volume in that period was 4.0% higher than one year previously, the export volume 3.9%.
  • The price and volume development for our most important trading partners is dominated by mineral fuels. Without this commodity group, the picture looks different: volume developments were mainly positive, both for imports and exports, and price increases were more limited.

Dutch goods trade with China

  • Since 1996, total Dutch imports of goods from China have increased 55 times: from €2.3bn to €125.0bn (including quasi-transit trade) in 2022. No less than 89% of total imports from China return abroad as a result of transit flows or export after processing in the Netherlands; 11% of imports remain in the Netherlands (direct domestic expenditure or domestic expenditure after processing in the Netherlands).
  • Exports to China have also increased sharply in recent decades, albeit at a significantly lower level than imports. Total exports to China have increased 31 times since 1996, from €0.6bn to almost €19bn in 2022 (including quasi-transit trade).
  • If we exclude all re-exports and quasi-transit trade, the large trade deficit with China disappears.

Import of raw materials and products for our green transition

  • The import of transitional goods (i.e., goods needed for the energy transition) from China (€4.6bn) is slightly larger than the import from Germany (€4.5bn), making China the largest supplier of transitional goods. The Netherlands mostly imports solar panels from China, but also lithium-ion batteries and magnets.
  • Russia is the largest supplier of transitional raw materials. In 2022, more than €1bn worth of transitional raw materials were imported from Russia, mainly copper and nickel.
  • An important difference between China and Russia is that only transitional raw materials are obtained from Russia, while China supplies a wide range of transitional goods (which already contain those critical raw materials, such as rare-earth elements). If you include this indirect import, China is much more important than Russia for our green transition.

Women entrepreneurs at internationally operating firms

  • In 2021, one third (475 thousand) of all entrepreneurs in the Dutch business economy were in charge of a firm that imported and/or exported services and/or goods. Out of those 475 thousand entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs accounted for 27%. These shares are comparable to 2019 and 2020.
  • The degree of international orientation is closely related to the industry in which the firm operates; differences between male and female entrepreneurs mainly reflect differences between industries.

Chapter 3: International trade in goods: composition and geography

Dutch goods exports in 2022

  • In 2022, Dutch goods exports increased by 30.4% to €731.4bn. The increase in export volume was 2.3% compared to 2021. This indicates significantly higher export prices.
  • The value of Dutch re-exports grew more rapidly than domestic exports in 2022. This was due to a relatively large increase in re-exports of mineral fuels.
  • More than half (55%) of Dutch goods exports are destined for the five largest export partners: Germany, Belgium, France, the UK and the US. Germany is the largest export destination in every product category, with a particularly large share for mineral fuels.
  • Two-thirds of the exported transport equipment consisted of domestic exports. In addition, more than half of the exported chemical products, mineral fuels, food and beverages, and raw materials were domestically produced. In exports of machinery and equipment and of manufactured goods, over 60% of the value concerned re-exported goods. Goods exports to other EU countries are mostly re-exports; goods exported to the UK, the US, China, Taiwan, and South Korea are mainly domestically produced.
  • Petroleum products form the largest group of export goods, followed by natural gas, telephones, modems and routers, and machinery and appliances.

Dutch goods imports in 2022

  • In 2022, total goods imports rose by 36.8% year on year to more than €677bn. The import volume rose much less strongly, by 2.3%.
  • The relative importance of the US as a country of origin has increased, due to more import of natural gas (LNG). Russia’s relatively much weaker position as a supplier since the war in Ukraine has paved the way for other countries.
  • Slightly less than half (49%) of Dutch imports come from the five largest import partners: Germany, Belgium, China, the US and the UK.
  • The largest import commodity groups are natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products. The value of these product groups has grown enormously relative to 2019, in particular due to price increases. In addition, most of the consumer electronics (telephones, modems, computers, laptops and tablets) are imported, some of which is (re)exported.

Importance of the Netherlands in world exports and imports

  • In 2021, the Netherlands accounted for 3.1% of world exports. In ranking order, the Netherlands was the sixth largest exporter in the world. Since 2015, the Dutch share has grown by 0.3 percentage point in the global export market of goods.
  • In 2021, the Netherlands was the eighth largest importer of goods worldwide. In 2021, the Netherlands contributed 3.2% to global goods imports. The Dutch contribution to world imports decreased by 1.1 percentage points between 1970 and 2021.

How important is the Netherlands as a trading partner for other economies?

  • The Dutch share in Belgian goods imports amounted to 18% in 2021, making Belgium the country most dependent on goods from the Netherlands. For Germany, the Netherlands is the second most important supplier of goods. The Dutch share in British goods imports was about 0.9 percentage points lower in 2021 than in 2019.
  • The Netherlands is also important for many countries as an importer of goods, for example, Iceland, Belgium, and Ivory Coast. The Dutch share in Norwegian and Russian goods exports shrank in 2021.

Chapter 4: International trade in services

Dutch service exports in 2022

  • In 2022, the Netherlands exported nearly €261bn in services, 22% more than in the previous year and 20% above the 2019 level. Fewer services were exported in 2020 and 2021 due to restructuring as a result of tax changes as well as the coronavirus crisis and associated travel restrictions.
  • Extreme price increases in 2021 and 2022 are also reflected in the volume of international trade in services. Compared to 2019, the volume of service exports increased by 1.5% in 2022 while the export prices of services were 10.9% higher.
  • The fastest growth compared to 2021 was in tourism expenditure in the Netherlands (+91% growth). Travel services therefore gained in importance as a service type in 2022.
  • Germany was the main destination for Dutch services in 2022, followed by the UK, the US and Ireland. Despite Brexit, the UK received more transport services in 2022 than in 2021 and 2019. Ireland became a more important export destination for Dutch services year on year (42% growth in 2022 compared to 2021). For telecommunications, computer and information services and intellectual property fees, Ireland was the most important export partner in 2022.

Dutch service imports in 2022

  • Dutch imports of services were 19% higher than in 2021, amounting to €250bn. This is also above the level of 2019.
  • Although the volume of trade in services was still below the 2019 level, the price increases in recent years have led to a substantially higher import value.
  • Business services are the largest services import while there was significant growth in travel services, which includes spending by Dutch nationals abroad. The growth in travel services can be explained by the fact that travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic were phased out in most countries at the beginning of 2022.
  • Just as in 2021, the US was the most important supplier of services to the Netherlands. The Netherlands imported €47.3bn worth of services from the US. More than 60% of all Dutch cross-border payments for intellectual property ended up in the US.
  • The UK and Germany are also among the main service providers. Imports from the UK were up by 11% on 2021 while imports from Germany were even 27% higher. The top 10 of most important partner countries has remained stable since 2019.

The Netherlands as an international service provider in 2021

  • The Netherlands was in 2021 the seventh largest service exporter in the world, but has almost been overtaken by Singapore. The US has been the largest exporter of services for decades.
  • In Belgium, the Netherlands was the second largest service provider with a share of 13.7% in 2021. The Netherlands mainly provides transport and business services to its southern neighbour.

The Netherlands as an international service consumer in 2021

  • In terms of value, the Netherlands is the seventh largest service importer in the world. Annually, our country accounts for 4% of the globally imported services.
  • The Netherlands is the most important destination for Belgian services, with Belgium mainly exporting transport services and business services. The Netherlands is also a major consumer of services from Barbados and Suriname.

Chapter 5: Foreign direct investment and multinationals

Foreign direct investment (excluding SPEs)

  • As in previous years, in 2022 the Netherlands was one of the countries with the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide. This applies to both inward FDI and outward FDI.
  • Just as in 2021, the US and the UK were the most important partner countries for both Dutch inward FDI and outward FDI.
  • The total inward FDI position of the Netherlands increased by 3% in 2022 compared to 2021. The total outward FDI position of the Netherlands decreased by 1%. The FDI position is still below the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

Multinationals in the Netherlands

  • In 2021, the Dutch business economy had approximately 25.1 thousand multinational enterprises (MNEs), 64% of which were under foreign control and 36% under Dutch control. This amounted to 1.8% of the total Dutch business economy.
  • MNEs provided work for almost 2.3 million people in the Netherlands, accounting for 35% of total employment in the Dutch business economy in 2021. Compared to 2019, multinationals had 26 thousand fewer employed persons in 2021.
  • 35% of all MNEs are active in the wholesale and retail sector. With 666,000 employed persons, these MNEs provide almost 40% of employment in wholesale and retail trade.
  • One in five foreign multinationals (almost 3 thousand firms) in the Netherlands were US-owned in 2021, followed by German control (almost 2.4 thousand firms). In 2021, the US was also the largest foreign employer in the Dutch business economy with approximately 250,000 employees.
  • In 2021, MNEs were responsible for 78% of goods imports and 83% of goods exports. In service imports and exports, 91% of the value was accounted for by MNEs.

Dutch multinationals abroad

  • Dutch multinationals have the most subsidiaries in Germany and that number increased from 2018 to 2019.
  • The manufacturing and agricultural sectors have the largest share of vertical investments in relative terms, in contrast to the trade and services sectors, where the share of vertical investments is significantly smaller.
  • Of the firms that invest horizontally, a relatively large proportion are non-exporters. Manufacturers, where investing and exporting seem to go hand-in-hand, form an exception.

Chapter 6: Dutch earnings from exports

Contribution of exports to GDP

  • The Netherlands exported €711bn worth of goods and services in 2021: 14% more than in 2020 and 5.9% more than in 2019. Exports of domestically produced goods were 8.7% higher than in 2019 and re-exports 14.7%. However, exports of services had not yet recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and were 10.3% lower in 2021 than in 2019.
  • Domestic exports yielded almost €138bn, re-exports almost €36bn and service exports more than €106bn. In 2021, export earnings averaged 39 cents per euro: with 55 eurocents per euro in domestic exports, 65 eurocents in service exports and 12 eurocents in re-exports.
  • Total export earnings (€279bn) accounted for 32.6% of GDP in 2021. That share is smaller than in 2019, because the domestic components of GDP grew faster than export earnings.
  • Business services earned less from exports in 2021 than two years previously. Just as it applies to the entire flow of service exports, the decrease was due to the slow recovery of travel and therefore of travel-related services on the one hand and changes in the Dutch tax system (as a result of which firms implemented restructurings) on the other.
  • In 2021, the Netherlands earned the most from exports to Germany. Domestic exports yielded the most, but re-exports also played a relatively large role in total export earnings. Earnings from exports to China mainly came from domestic exports. The Netherlands earns a relatively large proportion from the export of services to the US, the UK, Ireland and Switzerland.
  • The Dutch economy grew by 4.9% in 2021. Of this, 2.3 percentage points were due to the export of goods and services. Domestic exports contributed 1.1 percentage point, re-exports 0.5 percentage point and service exports contributed 0.6 percentage point to GDP growth.

Export-induced employment

  • In 2021, almost 2.4 million full-time jobs (FTE) in the Netherlands were related to exports: more than 1 million direct jobs and more than 1.3 million indirect jobs. Together, this was approximately 30.4% of total employment (in FTE) in the Netherlands. Domestic exports accounted for about 14.0% of total employment (+2.5% compared to 2019), re-exports 3.7% (–‍3.2% compared to 2019) and service exports 12.7% (–‍7.9% compared to 2019).
  • Occupations that are largely dependent on the export of goods (measured in hours spent on exports compared to domestic expenditure) are agricultural occupations and transport-related occupations.
  • The self-employed work relatively more hours for export (37% of the hours) than employees with a permanent contract (30%) and employees with a temporary contract (28%).

Chapter 7: Use of imports in the Dutch economy

  • In 2021, the total import value of goods and services amounted to €622.7bn, of which €485.8bn was related to goods and €136.9bn to services. This was 5.3% higher than in pre-pandemic year 2019. Imports of goods recovered strongly, while imports of services fell further.
  • The Netherlands plays an important role in European intra-regional trade. A large part of the imports that are processed in exports (€38.5bn, representing 22.5% of total intermediate imports) came from within the EU-27 and went to the same or another EU-27 country. Much of the trade still takes place within the EU, but noticeably less than before Brexit.

Distribution of goods imports

  • About half of goods imports (€243.4bn) in 2021 were destined for re-exports, and this share has been increasing in recent years. Goods imports directly destined for domestic expenditure had a value of €69.1bn in 2021. Intermediate goods imports amounted to €173.3bn in 2021: 36% of this was further processed by Dutch enterprises into goods or services that are sold on the domestic market and 64% ends up abroad after processing in the Netherlands.
  • In 2021, electrical appliances were the most important category of goods imported for re-export. Crude oil and petroleum products were the largest category of intermediate goods imports: 84% were further processed into exported goods or services. Imports of goods for domestic expenditure were dominated by vehicles and computers.
  • Imported goods destined for re-export in 2021 mainly came from Germany and China. Germany and Belgium were the most important import partners for intermediate goods imports and imports intended for domestic expenditure.

Distribution of service imports

  • Nearly 4% of service imports (€5.5bn) in 2021 was destined for re-exports. Service imports directly destined for domestic expenditure had a value of €18.2bn, 32.1% less than in 2019. Intermediate service imports amounted to €113.3bn in 2021. 38% of this was further processed by Dutch enterprises into goods or services that are sold on the domestic market and 62% ends up abroad after processing in the Netherlands.
  • Business services was the largest category of intermediate service imports, with 61% further processed into exported goods or services. Service imports directly destined for domestic expenditure amounted to €4.7bn in ICT services and €4.3bn in business services.
  • For intermediary service imports, the US and the UK were the most important import partners. Services intended for domestic expenditure mainly came from Germany and the US.
  • In 2021, a total of €33.1bn in imports of raw materials and mineral fuels and €16.9bn in industrial products were needed to realise exports.
  • There is a high degree of dependence on the EU-27 for imports incorporated into exports in industrial products (69% from EU-27), chemical products (66%) and machinery and transport equipment (62%).
  • In 2021, a total of €22.6bn in imports of business services and €11.4bn in transport services were needed to realise exports.
  • Half of the imported services came from the EU-27 in 2021, an increase compared to 2020. The increased EU importance is mainly due to the sharp contraction of imported royalties from the US in 2021.

Footprint of Dutch imports

  • The total greenhouse gas footprint of imports in 2021 was 441 megaton CO2 equivalent, slightly more than in 2019. The footprint of goods imports is almost fifteen times larger than that of service imports.
  • Almost half of the import footprint is related to re-exports; service imports play a very minor role. Intermediate imports constitute 45% of the total greenhouse gas footprint of imports. The remaining 10% of the greenhouse gas footprint of imports is accounted for by imports for domestic expenditure.
  • With 189 megaton CO2 equivalent (43% of the total) most of the import footprint is made in Europe. Asia and the Americas follow with 30% and 15% respectively. Almost 60% of the total import value comes from Europe, which is considerably more than the share of the greenhouse gas footprint that lies in Europe. The reverse is true for imports from Asia and Africa.
  • Energy supply, agriculture, mining and quarrying were the foreign industries that contributed the most to the Dutch import footprint in 2021.

Noten

Chapter 1 comprises a dashboard with the key findings from Chapters 2–7 and is not included here.

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Explanation of symbols

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* provisional figure
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0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
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2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
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CBS responds to developments in Dutch society by providing statistical information as facts that matter, and communicates on these facts with the outside world. In doing so, CBS offers insights into current developments in society and helps answer policy questions. Research at CBS is focused on broad trends in society and how these are interrelated.

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Contributors

Authors

Nieke Aerts

Arjen Berkenbos (DNB)

Timon Bohn

Sarah Creemers

Daniël Herbers

Bas Kerckhoffs

Dio Limpens

Tom Notten

Davey Poulissen

Leen Prenen

Pascal Ramaekers

Janneke Rooyakkers

Anne Maaike Stienstra (DNB)

Manon Weusten

Editorial team

Sarah Creemers

Daniël Herbers

Janneke Rooyakkers

Manon Weusten

Editors in chief

Sarah Creemers

Daniël Herbers

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following persons for their constructive contributions to this edition of Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures:

Fintan van Berkel

Dennis Cremers

Anniek Erkens

Bert Eykelenkamp

Loe Franssen

Marjolijn Jaarsma

Kasper Leufkens

Bart Loog

Angie Mounir

Tim Peeters

Hans Ponsteen

Roos Smit

Adam Walker

Khee Fung Wong

CBS CCN Logistiek

CBS CCN Redactie en Visualisatie

Translation:

Taalcentrum VU

CBS Vertaalbureau

We would also like to thank the following members of staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their feedback on a draft version of Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures:

Jan Pieter Barendse

Vasant Bhoendie

Jeroen Jacobs

Harry Oldersma