Netherlands Trade and Foreign Investment

By | July 24, 2022


  • Business Relationships
  • Foreign direct investment
  • FTAs ​​and Treaties
  • Development Cooperation
  • Prospective fields of study (MOP)

Business relations

The Netherlands is a strongly export-oriented economy, with more than two-thirds of its GDP derived from international trade in goods. The main export items are machinery and means of transport (28% of total exports), mineral fuels (23%), food (11%), clothing and footwear (10%) and pharmaceuticals (5%). NL’s main import items are fuel (29% of total imports), machinery (26%) and food and live animals (8.6%).

Trade relations with the EU

The main European trading partners of the Netherlands are its neighboring countries, i.e. Germany (24 percent of total exports and 17 percent of imports) and Belgium (12 percent of exports and 10 percent of imports). Other important trading partners of NL within the EU include France, Italy, Poland and Spain.

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Exports from the EU (million EUR) 207,813.5 219,812.2 229 103.8 217,083.5 253,571.2
Imports into the EU (million EUR) 383 374.9 406,550.6 413 651.3 388 401.2 382,809.7
Balance with the EU (million EUR) 175,561.4 186,738.4 184,547.5 171 317.7 129,238.5

Source: European Commission, Statistics Netherlands

Trade relations with the Czech Republic

In 2021, the Netherlands became the eighth most important trading partner for the Czech Republic from the point of view of Czech exports and the ninth from the point of view of imports, while the trade balance has been significantly positive for the Czech Republic in recent years. From the perspective of NL, the Czech Republic represents the 11th most important export market with a share of 4.1% of total NL exports. The Czech Republic’s share of Dutch imports was about 2.5% (19th place). In absolute terms, according to CZSO data, the turnover of mutual trade for the year 2021 was a record 299.34 billion CZK, while the surplus on the Czech side reached the amount of 62.61 billion CZK. The main items of Czech exports to the Netherlands include equipment for receiving and transmitting voice or data, equipment for automatic data processing and passenger cars. Among the most important import items are devices for receiving and transmitting voice or data, drugs and pharmaceuticals, and processors and control units.

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Exports from the Czech Republic (billion CZK) 103.2 162.3 173.1 180.8 181.0
Imports to the Czech Republic (billion CZK) 147.3 111.4 119 115.1 118.4
Balance with the Czech Republic (billion CZK) 44 -50.9 -54.1 -65.7 -62.6


Trade relations with countries outside the EU

Great Britain, the United States and China have long been the most important trade partners of the Netherlands outside the EU, and Russia and Norway in imports, mainly due to the import of energy raw materials.

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Exports from countries outside the EU (million EUR) 187 111.2 205 371.8 217 290.9 215,050.3 273 235.1
Imports to countries outside the EU (million EUR) 133,785.4 145,491.7 155,700.3 177,319.9 203,650.6
Balance with non-EU countries (million EUR) -53,325.8 -59,880.1 -61,590.6 -37,730.4 -69,584.5

Source: EIU, Eurostat, Statistics Netherlands

Foreign direct investment

The Netherlands is an important investor as well as a recipient of foreign investments. Its strengths include a strategic geographical location, quality infrastructure, interesting tax conditions (including a network of bilateral international agreements), business traditions, logistics and transport know-how and a language-equipped workforce. The Netherlands is home to a number of non-European multinationals’ European headquarters, shared service centers and European distribution centers. NL investment policy is characterized by a strong international orientation and a liberal policy towards foreign investments. Many Dutch companies are multinational in nature and some of them are listed on foreign stock exchanges. On the other hand, the country has a small internal market and is heavily dependent on the economic performance of its partners (especially in the EU). Currently, there is no general foreign direct investment screening regime apart from the assessment of some energy and telecommunications transactions. However, in 2021, a bill was introduced to Parliament to introduce a notification requirement for investments in designated critical companies that operate in the area of ​​sensitive technologies. According to the UNCTAD report, FDI flows to the Netherlands fell to -$115 billion in 2020 due to large-scale equity sell-offs due to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, some large ICT and petrochemical holding companies were liquidated or restructured in several countries. The total value of FDI in the same year was 2.89 billion. USD. Outflows from the Netherlands, usually among the largest investment countries in Europe, decreased by USD 246 billion to -161 billion in 2020. USD as a result of corporate restructuring and liquidation of holding companies. The main foreign investors include the United States, Luxembourg, Great Britain and Switzerland. The vast majority of investments are allocated to financial and insurance services, followed by manufacturing, wholesale and retail.

As is the case with many other countries, the Netherlands is a popular location for a number of Czech companies, mainly due to tax breaks, a favorable business environment and favorable investment protection agreements that NL has concluded with most countries. Over the past few years, a number of important Czech businessmen have left NL due to gradually tightening tax conditions, but they still maintain their holding structures here, for example PPF Group, FTV Prima, LINET or ČEZ Holdings. Furthermore, many international concerns operating in the Czech Republic have their headquarters in NL, e.g. direct owners of Vodafone and T-Mobile operators, České pojišťovna, Albert, Tesco, Makro, IKEA retail chains, as well as companies Avast, UPC ČR or Staropramen Brewery. Investment opportunities for Czech companies in the Netherlands can be found mainly in the automotive industry, electrical engineering,

FTAs and treaties

Bilateral agreements with the Czech Republic:

– Agreement on judicial, arbitration and conciliation proceedings (Geneva, 14 September 1929, No. 141/1930 Coll.)
– Agreement on Dutch interests affected in Czechoslovakia by nationalization, confiscation and national administration (Prague, 4 November 1949)
– Agreement on Czechoslovak interests affected in the Netherlands by Dutch Act No. H 251 of July 18, 1947 (Prague, November 28, 1952)
– Agreement on the Settlement of Financial Questions (The Hague, June 11, 1964)
– Cultural Agreement (Prague, August 3, 1972, no. 92/1973)
– Agreement on the prevention of double taxation and prevention of tax evasion in the field of income and property taxes (Prague, March 4, 1974, No. 138/1974 Coll.)
– Agreement on cooperation in the field of agricultural science and research (Prague, 7 August 1979)
– Memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of the environment (Dobříš, 22 June 1991)
– Agreement on the promotion and mutual protection of investments (Prague, 29 April 1991, No. 569/1992 Coll.)
– Agreement on air services between and for their territories (Prague, 11 August 1993, No. 81/1994 Coll.)
– Agreement between the Ministries of Defense on mutual cooperation (Prague, 11 September 1995)
– Protocol supplementing the Treaty on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Tax Evasion in the Field of Income Taxes and from property and the Protocol to it (Prague, 26 June 1996)
– Agreements on international road transport (Amsterdam, 31.3.1998, in force from 1.1.1999)
– Agreement on exchange of information and cooperation in the field of defense research and technology ( Brussels, 13/04/2000)
– Agreement on the export of social insurance benefits (Prague, 30/05/2001, in force from 01/09/2002)
– Memorandum of cooperation between the Ministers of Social Affairs on the exchange of data and cross-border cooperation in combating fraud in the international posting of workers and combating illegal employment (Prague, November 28, 2007)

Developmental cooperation

The Netherlands has traditionally been a provider of development aid within the framework of bilateral programs and through international organizations. Development cooperation is seen in NL as an important part of foreign policy and one of its main goals is the fight against poverty in less developed parts of the world. At the same time, development aid is an important tool for ensuring the Dutch presence abroad and helps to establish broad political and economic relations with the countries of the so-called third world. In 2021, the Netherlands was in the top ten largest donor countries (both in absolute numbers and in relation to gross national income) among member states of the Committee for Development Cooperation at the OECD, spending USD billion.

The Dutch development policy actively participates in the fulfillment of the new sustainable development goals of the UN (Sustainable Development Goals), but also takes into account its national interests and is specific in its emphasis on the fight against climate change. The Netherlands makes sure that it is spent mainly on increasing the self-sufficiency of the receiving countries and the development of the local business sector. In the future, the areas of cooperation – priority sectors – are to be narrowed mainly to agriculture and water management, i.e. areas in which the Netherlands has world-renowned know-how. The so-called Partner Countries (the largest recipients of aid) currently include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Sudan, Suriname, Uganda and Yemen.

Prospective fields of study (MOP)

Transport industry and infrastructure
The Dutch infrastructure is among the best in the world and supports business growth in the country through sophisticated airports, ports, digital network and rail, road and water connections. Strategically located at the main gateways of Europe, the Netherlands’ first-class logistics hubs facilitate trade and transport to global markets. Providing direct access to 333 destinations worldwide, Schiphol Airport is the 2nd best connected airport in the world and the 4th largest cargo airport in Europe, the largest European seaport is Rotterdam. The country is interwoven with a dense network of cycling infrastructure. The government strategy “National Smart City” then aims to further improve the quality of life in NL cities and introduce innovative solutions to increase their international competitiveness.

Energy industry
The energy sector still accounts for a significant part of GDP and employment in the Netherlands. The NL government is consistently applying the transition to renewable energy sources (currently, however, their share is just over 10%); there is a gradual closure of all coal-fired power plants and the cessation of natural gas extraction. The most important trend is the decentralization of energy sources, i.e. more smaller sources in more places. Nuclear energy is returning to professional discussion (mainly small modular reactors, but also a few traditional ones) and hydrogen technologies are reporting a significant rise. NL also has a long-term ambition to act as a logistics node of the energy infrastructure for the region of Western/Northwestern Europe.

Chemical industry
The Netherlands is the sixth largest supplier of chemical products in the world, with 400 companies operating in the country, covering the entire supply chain; out of a total of 25 leading global companies in the chemical sector, 19 of them operate in some form in NL. The sector employs more than 45,000 people and generates an annual turnover exceeding EUR 60 billion. NL is also home to first-class research and development institutions (e.g. TNO – Organization for Applied Research, Delft University of Technology, Wageningen Agricultural University, etc.), the success of the sector lies in the integrated approach of public-private partnerships and open innovation. The sector consists of corporate clusters that are interconnected, thus organically connecting large companies with small and medium-sized enterprises, but also with university start-ups.

The Netherlands is considered one of the most advanced markets in terms of internet usage, it is probably the most connected country in Europe (almost 98% of households and practically 100% of companies have an internet connection). The country is also a leader in cyber security – The Hague Security Delta is the largest security cluster in Europe, comprising more than 300 public and private organizations. The possibility of application of Czech companies is mainly in the field of ICT services (antivirus protection, integration of information systems and networks, artificial intelligence, security systems, processing of large amounts of data).

Healthcare and pharmaceutical industry
The Netherlands is one of the world’s leading countries in innovation and in connecting the private and public sectors, universities and research institutions. NL has the largest concentration of innovative healthcare companies in the world. Due to the developed healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, there are possibilities for cooperation in many areas, such as translational and regenerative medicine, genomics, oncology, nanotechnology, imaging and monitoring technology or virology. Over 420 biopharmaceutical companies and 3,100 research organizations in the field of healthcare and life sciences operate in the country. Spending on healthcare represents 11% of GDP – this is one of the intensively supported key sectors, the public-private partnership model is widespread in research.

Agricultural and food industry
The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products worldwide after the USA, fifteen of the twenty most important global companies have their production or research facilities here. There is a significant research and development base – research institutes, health universities and public-private partnerships. The country exports a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as renowned dairy products; horticulture, which uses the most modern technologies for its production (energy-neutral greenhouses), is also important. The importance and representation of organic food on the market is growing. In the future, NL also plans to focus significantly on the widespread introduction of technologies to reduce CO₂, methane and nitrogen emissions in this area.

Netherlands Trade