Due to robust growth following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dutch economy has outperformed other eurozone economies. The Central Planning Bureau (CPB) attributes this success to the country’s resilience during the crisis and its strong recovery driven by export growth in 2021 and 2022. Furthermore, the Netherlands’ dependence on Germany, its primary trading partner, is gradually being reduced.
The well-known saying, “If Germany sneezes, the Netherlands catches a cold,” expresses the Netherlands’ historical reliance on Germany for economic stability. However, Germany’s importance for Dutch export market is diminishing. The COVID-19 crisis made this trend apparent, as Dutch exports continued to grow in spite of the German economy’s stagnation.
In 1980, 30% of Dutch exports were accounted for by Germany, but by 2021, this figure showed a 23% decrease. Brexit became a significant factor causing the decline of the share of Dutch exports to Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom. Belgium (11% of Dutch exports), France (8%), the United Kingdom (6.5%), the US (5%), Italy (4.5%), and China (2.5%) are now the most important trading partners of the Netherlands after Germany.
Dutch exports grow beyond Germany. Three types of exports are highlighted by the CPB: goods and services produced or processed in the Netherlands, re-exports (goods of foreign manufacture that are imported and then exported without substantial processing), and transit of goods passing through Dutch territory. The Netherlands’ exports and re-exports to other European countries increased, particularly to Eastern and Northern Europe, as well as to the US and Asian nations like China. Dutch economy got a significant benefit from the expansion of the EU and China’s rising economic importance.
A crucial role was played in international trade by Dutch-made products as they generated substantial earnings for the country. In 2020, 56 cents were earned by the Netherlands for every euro of export value on goods (totally 120 billion euros). The service sector contributed 100 billion euros due to the added value of 63 cents per euro. 14 cents per euro of export value were yielded by the re-exports (totally 34 billion euros in 2020).
The CPB called the Netherlands, particularly Rotterdam, “the world’s gateway to Europe,” due to its flourishing trade economy in Europe and beyond, recognizing the country’s significant role in facilitating international trade and commerce.