Foto omschrijving: Op de voorgrond staat een krat met jonge plantjes. Op de achtergrond is een medewerker bezig met het planten van Amsoi.

Executive Summary

Whereas the Internationalisation Monitor describes particular trends and their consequences for the Dutch economy and society on a quarterly basis, the annual Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures: Export, investment and employment provides an overview of key figures on the internationalisation of the Netherlands. Many figures were already available from various CBS publications and data tables, but had not been bundled into a single publication; at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the CBS Expertise Centre for Globalisation therefore developed Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures, which appeared for the first time in 2019 and is published annually as part of the Globalisation research agenda at CBS. This publication aims to provide a broad target group with objective information on the internationalisation of the Dutch business economy and the national economy in a broad sense. Furthermore, it offers independent data for trade policy decisions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Apart from the data tables with key figures, this publication contains an outline of the major trends behind these figures.

Compared to last year’s edition, a number of adjustments have been made this year. First of all, greater attention has been paid to female entrepreneurship in chapter 3, while chapter 4 focuses more on how much various factors contribute to the growth of goods exports. These factors are the size of an enterprise, which export markets are served, the type of export goods and the export strategy of a firm. With respect to the latter, new destinations and/or new products are distinguished. Chapter 4 furthermore addresses the strategy of exporting manufacturers that involves extending the product range by including products not manufactured by the company itself, the so called carry-along trade (CAT). In chapter 5 the distinction between intra-EU and extra-EU trade receives closer attention, as well as the development of Dutch export market shares in foreign goods markets. On the other hand, the classification of the Dutch private sector into so-called key or top sectors was omitted: the CBS Top Sector Monitor which was compiled on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy was discontinued. There was no more need for this Monitor due to the transition towards more mission-driven innovation policies. Another element omitted this year concerns the regional distinctions within the Netherlands with respect to international trade. In order to make room for the aforementioned new topics, the section on imports of goods and services in chapter 4 was abridged while the section on goods trade flows (imports plus exports) was deleted in chapter 5.

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

Chapter 2: Dutch earnings from international trade

  • In 2018, the value added generated within the Dutch economy as a result of goods and services exports abroad stood at around 262 bn euros, accounting for 34% of the Dutch GDP.
  • Most of the export earnings were generated by exports of domestically produced goods (123 bn euros), followed by exports of services (105 bn euros) and earnings from re-exports (34 bn euros).
  • Most of the goods and services imported into the Netherlands are used to produce other goods and services for exports. The more imports are needed to produce a particular type of good or service; the lower the value added embodied in these exports. Net earnings from every euro earned in exports vary among the different export categories; service exports yield 63 cents per euro while domestically produced goods exports yield 51 cents and re-exports 14 cents.
  • In 2018, 2.4 mn jobs in the Netherlands can be attributed to the production of goods and services destined for exports, of which 1.4 mn were jobs at enterprises that exported directly. The remaining 1 mn were jobs at enterprises that acted as suppliers to the exporting companies.
  • These 2.4 mn jobs involved in exports of goods and services represented 32% of total employment in the Netherlands in 2018.

Chapter 3: Characteristics of the internationally active business economy

  • In 2018, the Dutch business economy comprised 23% one-way importers, 8% two-way traders, 4% one-way exporters and 66% companies not engaged in international trade. Of the independent SMEs, 33% did engage in international trade; for the large enterprises this share was 88%.
  • As for foreign enterprises, 64% are two-way traders and only 13% do not trade at all; among Dutch enterprises these proportions are reversed. Only 7% of Dutch enterprises are two-way traders while 66% are not engaged in international trade.
  • One quarter of internationally active entrepreneurs are female. There is hardly any difference between male and female entrepreneurs in terms of international trade activity. For male entrepreneurs international trading activity increases with age until the age category of 45–54 years; beyond this category, their international trading activity level decreases. For female entrepreneurs international trading activity increases with age.
  • In the group of enterprises that is engaged in international trade the share of enterprises that is older than 10 years increased slightly in the period 2015–2018; on the other hand the share of enterprises younger than 5 years, decreased slightly.
  • The age distribution of internationally trading enterprises not only changes as they continue to exist and get older, but also due to the fact that some start or stop trading internationally. In 2018 most of these starters and quitters were active in two sectors: business services on the one hand, and wholesale and retail on the other hand. These sectors also contain the largest number of born globals.

Chapter 4: Composition of Dutch international trade

  • In 2019, goods exports from the Netherlands were worth almost 516 bn euros, representing an increase of 4% on 2018. Service exports were good for 236 bn euros, an increase of 12% on 2018.
  • Total goods exports include 55% domestically produced exports (285 bn euros) and 45% re-exports (231 bn euros).
  • Most of the growth in goods exports is based on existing trade relations (existing combinations of goods and destinations).
  • Major Dutch export products – constituting 30% of total goods exports – include machinery and transport equipment. Other important export categories are chemical products and mineral fuels.
  • The top imports are also machines and transport equipment, as well as mineral fuels and manufactured goods.
  • In 2018, 22 bn euros worth of goods exports were goods not produced by companies themselves but sold in a bundle along with their own products in carry-along trade.

Chapter 5: Geographic dimension of Dutch goods trade

  • In 2018, the Netherlands’ contribution to global goods imports was 2.7%. The other 27 EU countries combined imported 68% of their products from the Netherlands. The Netherlands has been the largest supplier of goods to Belgium over the past three years. Outside the EU, the Netherlands plays a much smaller role: the Dutch share in non-EU imports is 0.9%.
  • The Dutch contribution to worldwide exports amounted to 3.4% in 2018. Within the EU, this contribution was 5.4%. Outside the EU, the share was 2.5%.
  • The total value of Dutch goods exports over 2019 was 516 bn euros, representing a year-on-year increase of 3.5%. The EU is by far the largest market; 70% of Dutch goods exports goes to the EU.
  • Increasing globalisation has resulted in a slightly diminished intra-EU-share for some years. Intra-EU exports grew by 2.1% in 2019; extra-EU exports by 7.7%. Independent small and medium-sized enterprises accounted for 27% of total exports.
  • Eight out of the ten main export destinations are located within the EU. In 2019, most exported goods went to Germany (22%) and Belgium (10%). The strongest export growth was achieved in trade with the US and China (both non-EU): 16% and 9% respectively.
  • Goods imports were worth 460 bn euros in 2019, 4% up on 2018. More than half (53%) are imports from other EU countries. As with exports, the EU’s share is decreasing slightly each year. Intra-EU imports rose by 3% in 2019 relative to 2018. Imports from non-EU countries grew by 6% in 2019. More than 22% of total imports can be attributed to independent small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • The top ten import countries include four which are outside of the EU: China, the US, Russia and Norway. Most imports still originate from the neighbouring countries of Germany (17%) and Belgium (10%).

Chapter 6: The Netherlands’ participation in global value chains

  • By operating in global value chains, the Netherlands is closely connected with other countries. This is also reflected in the types of goods traded by the Netherlands. Intermediate goods form an important share in both imports and exports; such goods are vital not only for domestic production but in onward trade as well (either via the Netherlands or after production in the Netherlands).
  • In 2018, Dutch goods imports amounted to 419 bn euros. Almost half was re-exported while approximately 37% was imported for further processing into new (intermediate) products; of these imports 61 bn euros were destined for domestic consumption. The total import value grew by 17% between 2015 and 2018 with the fastest growth seen in imports for re-exports and the slowest growth in imports for domestic consumption.
  • In 2018, nearly 40% of total goods imports consisted of intermediate goods such as raw materials, chemical products, machine components and semi-finished products. Consumer goods such as clothing, food and consumer electronics constituted a share of 23%. Capital goods such as robots, trucks and machines for the production process accounted for 19% of total imports in 2018. Mineral fuels such as crude oil, natural gas and refined petroleum products accounted for approximately 15% of the import value in 2018.
  • In 2018, Dutch goods exports amounted to almost 487 bn euros. Exports grew by 16% between 2015 and 2018, slightly less than import growth (17%). Goods exports consist of Dutch-manufactured (domestic) exports and re-exports. Between 2015 and 2018, re-exports grew faster (19%) than domestically produced exports (13%). In 2018, re-exports in 2018 contributed 51% to total exports against 49% domestically produced exports. Intermediate goods form the largest group in both domestically produced exports and re‍-‍exports.
  • Major Dutch export industries in 2018 included food, beverages and tobacco, the chemical industry and the electrotechnical industry. Exports by the food, beverages and tobacco industry mainly consisted of consumer goods such as drinks, chocolate and processed foods. Almost 90% of the chemical industry exports consisted of intermediate goods such as medical and pharmaceutical goods, hydrocarbons and plastics.
  • International trade includes an increasingly large flow of intermediate goods, both to and from the Netherlands as well as the rest of the world. This is an indication that countries and their industries are increasingly operating in international production chains. Intermediate goods produced in the Netherlands – for example, steel, cocoa butter or chemical intermediates – are most often used in goods destined for consumption in Germany, followed by the US.

Chapter 7: Foreign direct investments and multinationals

Foreign direct investments (FDI)

  • In 2019, the Netherlands was the world’s second largest outward investor, preceded only by the US. With regard to inward FDI, the Netherlands ranked fifth after the US, the UK, Hong Kong and China.
  • Excluding investments through Special Purpose Entities (SPEs), in 2018 the United Kingdom was the largest investor in the Netherlands with 213 bn euros in direct investments.
  • In 2018, the US was the largest destination for Dutch outward FDI excluding investments through SPEs.

Foreign-owned multinationals in the Netherlands

  • In 2017, there were around 24 thousand multinational enterprises (MNEs) in the Dutch business economy, 56% of which were foreign-owned. MNEs employ altogether approximately 2.3 million people in the Netherlands. This amounts to 39% of all employment in the Dutch business economy. With this they offered 98 thousand more jobs than in the previous year.
  • Most MNEs are active in wholesale and retail; in 2018, MNEs accounted for 84% of total goods exports and 90% of total services exports.
  • Over 21% of all foreign-owned multinationals in the Netherlands were US-owned (2,875 firms). With approximately 203 thousand employed persons, these US-owned multinationals accounted for 20% of all employment at foreign multinationals in our country.

Dutch multinationals abroad

  • In 2017, Dutch multinationals operated a total of 23,205 subsidiaries abroad, of which 15 thousand in the EU and 8,205 in non-EU countries.
  • 4,221 foreign subsidiaries of Dutch multinationals were operating in Germany, where they employed 356 thousand people.


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


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Leen Prenen

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Khee Fung Wong


Sarah Creemers

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Marjolijn Jaarsma

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We danken de volgende collega’s voor hun constructieve bijdrage aan deze editie van Nederland Handelsland:

Deirdre Bosch

Linda Bruls

Elijah Cats

Richard Jollie

Bart Loog

Pascal Ramaekers

Carla Sebo-Ros

Roos Smit

Sandra Vasconcellos

Gabriëlle de Vet

Roger Voncken

Hans Westerbeek

Hendrik Zuidhoek

We danken ook de volgende medewerkers van het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken voor hun feedback op een eerdere versie van Nederland Handelsland:

Tom Beerling

Laurens den Hartog

Harry Oldersma