Trade surplus at record high

In 2005 Dutch exports exceeded imports by 31.5 billion euro. Never before was there such a sizeable trade surplus. Compared to the year before, the surplus rose by 4.0 billion euro, and compared to 1999 it was up by more than 20 billion euro. This considerable rise is mainly due to the sharp increase in the trade surplus of chemicals and food. The Netherlands has the second largest trade surplus in the EU-15, after Germany.

Trade balance of goods

Chemicals and food contribute most to the surplus

Almost half of the increase in the trade surplus between 1999 and 2005 can be explained by a growing surplus in chemical products and food. Without these goods the surplus in 2005 would be down by over 29 billion euro, reaching just 3.0 billion euro. The trade balance rose between 1999 and 2005 because the substantial trade deficit in machinery and transport equipment changed to a small surplus within that period. This change was caused in part by the large increase in the exports of machinery.

Trade surplus of some goods

Growing trade surplus through growing trade volume

Between 1999 and 2005 the volume of exports increased by about 38 percent, while the export value was up by 49 percent. In the same period, the import volume increased by almost 33 percent, while import value went up by 40 percent. This shows that the increase in import and export value was mainly determined by volume increases. This implies that the value increase of the trade surplus since 1999 consists mainly of an increase in trade volume.

Increased Dutch contribution to EU trade balance

The Dutch trade balance on goods has registered only trade surpluses since 1980. Between 1999 and 2005 the trade surplus according to the European definition more than tripled. In 1999 the Netherlands contributed 11.7 billion euro to the European trade surplus of 46.5 billion. In 2005 the Netherlands took second place behind Germany with 35 billion. In 2005 the EU-15 saw a trade deficit of 1.2 billion.

Trade balance of goods, including transit

Greater Dutch share in European trade

The Netherlands is a major distribution centre for Europe. The Dutch share in the total trade of the EU-15 has increased since 1995. In 1995 8 percent of the European imports was imported via the Netherlands. In 2005 this share reached 10 percent. Germany, the largest economy in the EU-15, imported 21 percent.

Dutch exports formed 9 percent of the total EU-15 exports in 1999. This share reached 11 percent in 2005. This makes the Dutch contribution to exports in the EU-15 the third largest, after Germany and France.

Stagnating economy, stagnating trade surplus

The stagnation of the Dutch economy between 2002 and 2004 is expressed by the surplus remaining virtually the same during those years. Both import and export values were lower than in 2001. Only in 2004 did the import and export values exceed the 2001 levels and did the volume of international trade expand. This was due to the economic recovery in 2004.

Marjolijn Jaarsma