The geographical size of the Netherlands, less than forty-two thousand square meters, belies its huge commanding position in global trade. To facilitate the movement of goods valued at trillions of dollars, the Netherlands has constantly expanded the Port of Rotterdam, the largest in Europe, as well as Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the world’s fourth-busiest in passenger traffic.
“If you are looking for a foothold in continental Europe where business culture is similar to that in the United States, and for a global hub for the United States with excellent logistics possibilities for the rest of Europe and the world, then the Netherlands is the place to be,” said Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans.
Over fifty percent of all port activity in Europe is covered by the Netherlands, and the majority through Rotterdam.
“The country is a gateway to the European market, a market with over 500 million wealthy consumers. We have always been dependent on international trade and the business attitude is very much geared towards international business,” explained Bas Pulles, commissioner of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency.
The Netherlands’ global commercial success is evident in its economic ties with the United States. From 2009 to 2012, the country has been the top destination for U.S. FDI with over 645 billion U.S. dollars, or 14 percent of total U.S. FDI, destined for the Netherlands last year.
“The United States has been by far the largest foreign investor in the Netherlands for the last thirty years. Of six thousand eight hundred companies investing in the Netherlands, there are about one thousand eight hundred from the United States. The Netherlands is the third-largest investor in the United States, providing about seven hundred thousand jobs. These are huge figures for both the Dutch and the U.S. economies,” Pulles said.
“I think we in the Netherlands have market leadership in computer vision and computer graphics technology. We’re leveraging that knowledge base,” said Pieter Aarts, CEO of Nedsense, a Dutch technology and design company responsible for the highly successful NedGraphics and the pioneering LOFT technology.
“The connection between the United States and the Netherlands is unique. The United States brings scale, success, and leadership in e-commerce, as well as leadership in winning omnichannel strategies.
What we provide is leadership in technology. That’s why I think that this relationship between the Netherlands and the United States is successful,” Aarts added.
Nedsense recently launched its LOFT technology, a 3D experience tool that allows users to customize existing living and office spaces on their computers, tablets, or mobile devices.
Through LOFT, Nedsense brings together home furnishing makers, real estate companies, and consumers, diversifying sales channels and enhancing customer experience. Naturally, Nedsense looked to the United States as a launching point for their pioneering technology. (See next article.)
“The U.S. market is our primary market to sell LOFT technology. In terms of ecommerce, the U.S. market has been successful, and it’s still growing rapidly, especially in home furnishing,” Aarts said.
Innovation in the Netherlands’ biggest and fastest-growing sectors has showed no signs of slowing down. Given the collobarative culture among government, education, and industry, the country has remained a preferred destination for business and investment, particularly for U.S. firms.
- Note: This Special Report on the Netherlands originally appeared in Foreign Affairs in November 2013. (Credit: Janine Ramirez)