Refined petroleum products like petrol, diesel fuel and heavy oil constitute the bulk of Dutch exports and are now more important than a decade ago. According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), specialised machinery, like microchip machines and processed food products, like baby milk powder also have become more important for Dutch exports and currently belong to the most exported goods, especially in terms of export value.
Although prices for refined petroleum products are back at the 2005 level, their total export value has risen from 20 to 38 billion euros over the past decade. In 2013, when prices of petroleum derivatives soared sky-high, the export value amounted to a whopping 57 billion euros. Approximately two-thirds of petroleum derivatives are made in the Netherlands and and about one-third are re-exported. The share of crude oil products in total Dutch export value grew from 7 to 9 percent.
Traditionally, natural gas and flowers are important export products made in the Netherlands, but their relevance has diminished, whereas specialised machinery and processed food products have become much more important compared to 2005. This is largely due to the rising demand for machinery for the manufacture of computer chips and a robust export growth of baby milk powder. The share of specialised machinery grew fourfold from 0.5 to 2 percent and the share of processed food products from 0.8 to 1.4 percent.
Cigarettes, on the other hand, have become far less important for Dutch exports. The share of tobacco products in Dutch exports fell from 1.2 to 0.4 percent over the past decade. This partly due the effects from a major closedown in the tobacco industry in 2014.
More re-exports pharmaceutical and high-tech products
Many export products are primarily manufactured outside the Netherlands and are imported and subsequently exported to other countries without having undergone any (significant) further processing. These are referred to as re-exports, mostly pharmaceutical products (e.g. medicines and vaccines) and high-tech products (e.g. smart phones, computers, office equipment and computer components). The share of telecommunication devices, pharmaceutical products and office equipment in total Dutch exports has increased sharply in the past ten years, whereas the share of computers and computer components has decreased dramatically.
How unique are the products exported by the Netherlands?
Are petroleum derivatives and specialised machinery also products typical of Dutch exports or do these products top the export lists of many other European countries? The so-called Balassa index is used to compare the package of products exported by the Netherlands to the export packages of other EU countries.
This index shows that that the degree of specialisation with respect to the export of flowers and plants is more than eight times as high for the Netherlands as for other EU countries. The degree of specialisation of goods typically re-exported from the Netherlands is high for computer components, but below the EU average for pharmaceutical products.