Photo description: The final seagoing vessel leaving Rotterdam Port’s oldest container terminal. Located In an urban area, it is being returned to the Rotterdam Port Authority.

International trade

Small, open economies such as the Netherlands and Belgium are heavily dependent on international goods flows, more so than many other European economies. How large were these goods flows in 2018, and what are the main export products, for example?

Meetlat-19-goederenhandel_ENG C Y GR UK FR M T ES I T L U HR FI P T SE DK RO DE IE A T PO L V BG EE L T NL SI HU CZ SK BE 83% of GDP Exp o rt v a l u e , 2017

In 2018, Dutch goods exports stood at 612 billion euros. This made the Netherlands the second largest goods exporter in the European Union, following Germany (1,334 billion euros) at a great distance. France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Belgium together account for one-third of all exports from the EU. The remaining 22 countries take up a combined share of one-third as well. Croatia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta each exported less than 15 billion euros in goods last year. At more than 2.5 billion euros, Malta was the smallest goods exporter within the EU.

Large transit and re-export flows

The relatively high level of Dutch exports is mainly due to significant transit trade and re-export flows. Some explanations for the large flows of transit goods – with or without minor processing in the Netherlands – include the country’s favourable geographic location, the Port of Rotterdam and the experience with complex logistical processes. But even without these transit and re-export flows, Dutch exports are substantial compared to other EU countries. Around 55 percent of Dutch exports consist of products manufactured domestically.

€ 612 bn in goods exports from the Netherlands in 2018
75% of these goods went to another EU country

EU-oriented goods exports

More than most other EU countries and partly due to the transit flows, the Netherlands is focused on the European Union. Three-quarters of its exports are destined for another EU country, while this share is 64 percent for the EU as a whole.

With the exception of the United Kingdom (47 percent) and Cyprus (28 percent), all EU countries export more than half of their goods to other EU countries. Most EU-oriented are Slovakia (86 percent), the Czech Republic and Luxembourg (both 84 percent).

Over the past decade, however, the Netherlands has shifted its focus more and more towards non-EU markets. This trend is even more pronounced in its domestic exports: in 2008, 73 percent of these exports were intra-EU but this share had dropped to 63 percent by 2018. The domestic goods package manufactured for the EU differs from the goods that are shipped to other countries. Intra-EU exports are dominated by agricultural goods (28 percent) and chemical products (22 percent). With a share of 31 percent, machinery and transport equipment are the main export goods with a non-EU destination.


Eurostat – Export value

Eurostat – Product groups


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2018-2019 2018 to 2019 inclusive
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