‘Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures’: reliable figures to underpin policy

/ Author: Masja de Ree
Port of Rotterdam with containers
© Hollandse Hoogte / Peter Hilz
In 2018, the Netherlands earned nearly 34 percent of GDP through exports of goods and services. Exports provided a total of 2.4 million direct and indirect full-time jobs, which represents 32 percent of total employment in the Netherlands. These and many other facts can be found in the Statistics Netherlands (CBS) publication ‘Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures’. The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, was presented with the publication by new CBS Director General Angelique Berg in September.


This is the second edition of the annual publication ‘Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures’. Project leader Alex Lammertsma: ‘Trade is of great importance for the prosperity of the Netherlands. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to underpin policy in this area with reliable figures. How are exports developing? How many products are processed in our transport hubs Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam? How many existing foreign enterprises are acquired by Dutch businesses? Not only CBS but also De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) and international organisations such as the United Nations have many figures available on all these developments. The publication ‘Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures’, brings together the most important data on the internationalisation of the Netherlands in a clear and comprehensible fashion.’

Of optimal relevance for policy

A number of changes have been made in relation to the first edition of ‘Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures’. Project leader Marjolijn Jaarsma: ‘For example, the publication focuses for the first time on the composition of growth in the trade in goods and carry-along trade. Carry-along trade involves products that enterprises do not make themselves, but which they supply together with their own products. Female entrepreneurship is also singled out for explicit attention. With regard to investment, a distinction is now made between direct investments and investments made through a special purpose vehicle.’ This publication was compiled in close consultation with the client, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Lammertsma: ‘In this way we ensure that the information is of optimal relevance for policy. Moreover, last year’s edition was extensively discussed in a seminar, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, various professors and policy officers. This provided information that was valuable for the improvements and refinements that were carried out this year.’
[video: https://www.cbs.nlen-gb/video/3d4bf539d6694cad890665f2eaac17be] 

Clear picture

Harry Oldersma of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains why it is important to obtain a clear picture once a year of the state of ties between the Netherlands and other countries. ‘This publication gives a good overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the Dutch economy and thus provides reference points for our policy decisions. The power of the figures emerges when they are combined: we do not just consider trade or the size of enterprises, but the whole picture. That gives us a good overview of the structures involved.’

Influence of the coronavirus crisis

The information in the publication relates specifically to figures up to the end of 2018. ‘But because the impact of coronavirus is huge, it was decided in consultation with the Ministry to include a special section on the consequences of the pandemic,’ Lammertsma explains. Oldersma: ‘I think that in a situation such as the current one, you cannot bring out a publication that says nothing about the coronavirus crisis. The situation in 2020 is totally different from what we would have projected on the basis of the 2018 figures and we can learn from those differences.’ In this corona box, CBS provides the reader with preliminary figures for the last few months. These make it clear which areas have been most strongly affected by the pandemic. Lammertsma: ‘We also see that confidence in the economy is recovering for now, but that actual recovery, for example in turnover, is still lagging behind.’

Inspiration for the future

As in 2019, the presentation of the publication to the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation was accompanied by a seminar (this time held online), organised by CBS, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘That was an inspiring afternoon, which also produced ideas for next year’s publication,’ says Lammertsma. ‘For example, we are thinking of giving a more prominent position to the role of imports, because imports also provide a lot of employment in the Netherlands.’ Oldersma: ‘The value chains of goods and services are also interesting, especially when combined with the coronavirus crisis. I think that we will also address that topic next year. This publication provides a sound basis and in the years to come, we will look at how to build on it. For our policy, we have a constant need for publications such as this one. Our cooperation with CBS is good and I look forward with pleasure to the production of the next edition.’