Trade surplus excluding re-exports €20 billion lower

In 2016, the Netherlands posted a goods trade surplus of 52 billion euros. The amount is lower by around 20 billion euros if the substantial re-export flows are not taken into account. Re-exports generate relatively little revenue for the Netherlands. As a result, the surplus is not as lucrative as it may seem at first sight. This is evident from a new statistical analysis conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), based on recent figures over the year 2016 and data from previous years.

Earnings per euro of Dutch goods exports vary. Out of every euro of export value, approximately 11 eurocents are earned in re-exports. Direct exports of domestically produced goods yield around 57 eurocents per euro of export value.

In both imports and exports, 44 percent of the trade value is related to re-exports. Over half of total imports is destined for the Dutch market, while over half of total exports consists of goods manufactured in the Netherlands. As a result, the goods trade surplus is lower after adjustment for re-exports.

Re-exports refer to goods manufactured abroad and imported by the Netherlands which are subsequently exported without undergoing much, if any, industrial processing. The contribution of re-exports to gross domestic product (GDP) was nearly 4 percent in 2015. The contribution made by export of Dutch-manufactured goods amounted to nearly 17 percent.

Trade surplus with European countries

A considerable part of Dutch imports from Asia or the United States is transferred via the Netherlands to the European hinterland, e.g. tablets or mobile phones originating from Asia and reaching Germany or France with an intermediate stop in the Netherlands. After correction for re-exports, the value of imports from Asia and the United States as well as exports to Europe is considerably lower.

As a result, the Dutch trade surplus with Europe excluding re-exports is substantially lower and Dutch trade deficits with the United States and Asia even fully disappear. The trade surplus with European countries including re-exports amounts to 101 billion euros, against 27 billion euros if re-exports are excluded.

Re-exportation also plays a vital role in eurozone trade. For example, the Dutch trade surplus with Spain including and excluding re-exports totals 5.6 billion and 1.7 billion euros respectively. Similarly, the trade surpluses with other southern European countries are much lower after correction for re-exports.

Sharp increase in net trade surplus

Between 2006 and 2016, the total Dutch trade surplus rose from 33.6 to 52.1 billion euros, i.e. an increase of 55 percent. This would be a 79 percent increase if re-exports are excluded. Examples of Dutch-produced goods causing a sharp increase in the net trade surplus include agricultural goods and chip equipment.

The net surplus (excluding re-exports) arising from export of Dutch-made goods and imports for the Dutch market rose from 17.9 billion euros in 2006 to 31.9 billion euros in 2016. This represents a sharper increase compared to a trade surplus arising from only re-exports: 28 percent over a period of ten years, from 15.7 to 20.1 billion euros.