The Dutch economy has become more and more interwoven with global trade in the last thirty years. This means that it has become more vulnerable to declining international demand. The strong recession in global trade, for example, is one of the main causes of the historic decrease in Dutch gross domestic product (GDP).
The increasing ties of the Netherlands with global trade are reflected in the increasing shares of exports and imports in GDP. Exports rose from 43 percent of GDP in 1969 to 77 percent in 2008. Imports also rose strongly in this period: from 42 to 68 percent.
Imports and exports, 1969-2008
Strong growth in re-exports of goods
The increasing significance of international trade in the Dutch economy is closely connected to the strong growth in re-exports of goods. Re-exports count both as imports into and exports from the Netherlands. For example, Chinese computers arriving in the Netherlands via the port of Rotterdam and then sold on to Germany have an increasing effect on both imports and exports.
The volume of re-exports has grown by 195 percent in the last ten years. Other trade flows have lower growth rates, from 32 to 83 percent. By comparison, the volume growth of GDP in the same period was 27 percent.
Volume growth of trade flows, 1998-2008
The total value of goods imported into the Netherlands in 2008 was 408 billion euro; the value of exports was 457 billion euro. About four-fifths of both imports and exports consisted of goods, one fifth of services. Nearly half of goods exports (47 percent) were re-exports, the remainder were goods produced in the Netherlands.
Netherlands sixth most open economy
The Netherlands is one of the world’s most open economies. Of all countries with more than ten million inhabitants, only in Malaysia, Belgium, Vietnam, Hungary and the Czech Republic does international trade account for more GDP than in the Netherlands. Total international trade is taken as the average of imports and exports.
Dutch international trade accounted for 70 percent of GDP in 2007. This is considerably more than in Germany (43 percent), the United Kingdom and France (both 28 percent), Japan (17 percent) and the United States (14 percent).
International trade of some countries with more than 10 million inhabitants, 2007
Pascal Ramaekers and Ellen Daems