Rise in domestic exports to China

In the first four months of 2020, exports of Dutch-manufactured goods to China rose by 500 million euros to a total of 3.5 billion euros. This is 16 percent up on the same period in 2019. Last year, domestic exports to China were worth 9.8 billion euros. This is evident from new figures on goods trade as reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the latest edition of its Internationalisation Monitor, which focuses on the bilateral trade relationship with China.


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The total value of domestic exports fell by 8 percent over the first four months of this year. The decline was caused, apart from the coronavirus crisis, by a slump in oil and gas prices which severely hit the export value. However, oil and gas barely play a significant role in exports offered to China. This is one reason why exports to China have grown more relevant within total domestic exports.

China’s share is expanding

In 2010, China’s share in total domestic exports was still 1.8 percent; by 2019 this was 3.4 percent, rising further to 4 percent in the first four months of this year. These developments boosted China’s position, which advanced to sixth place in the ranking of domestic export destinations at the expense of Italy.

Importance of China in Dutch domestic exports
PeriodenChina's share in domestic exports (%)
20101.8
20112.2
20122.4
20132.4
20142.4
20152.7
20163.3
20173.4
20183.3
20193.4
Jan-Apr 20193.1
Jan-Apr 20204.0

More machinery, less waste

In the period January - April 2020, exports to China of Dutch-manufactured machinery increased by 242 million euros (28 percent) to exceed 1.1 billion euros. Pork exports more than doubled to 334 million euros. This growth was related to outbreaks of swine fever in Asia in 2019; China’s domestic pork production collapsed as a result, while its demand for pigmeat from the rest of the world surged. Exports of baby milk powder and pharmaceuticals increased as well.

Exports of Dutch industrial waste more than halved to 140 million euros. This was due to an import ban imposed by China as of 2018 on various types of waste.

Dutch domestic exports to China, most traded products*
ProductenJanuary-April 2020 (million euros)January-April 2019 (million euros)
Machinery1144858
Baby milk powder486414
Pork334139
Pharmaceuticals169101
Plastics in primary forms150159
Industrial waste140307
Instruments and apparatus94129
Automobiles7297
Fish6864
Milk (products)5352
*provisional figures

The Netherlands second largest EU exporter

Including re-exports and transit trade, in 2019 the 27 member states of the European Union exported nearly 200 billion euros worth of goods to China. The three leading export countries, including Germany, France and the Netherlands, accounted for two-thirds of total EU-27 exports to China last year. Over the first four months of 2020, EU-27 exports to China amounted to over 60 billion euros. This represents a year-on-year decline of 6 percent and was mainly attributable to Germany, France and Italy. As a result of growing Dutch exports and falling French exports to China, the Netherlands has become the second largest supplier of goods among the EU-27 after Germany.

Exports to China, including re-exports and transit trade*
LandenJanuary-April 2020 (bn euros)January-April 2019 (bn euros)
Germany28.831.9
Netherlands4.94.4
France4.87.0
Italy3.34.1
Ireland3.22.3
Belgium2.82.2
Sweden2.72.1
Spain2.32.0
Source: CBS, Eurostat
*provisional figures

Machinery and food exports also important last year

The wide range of Dutch-manufactured goods imported by China is very different from the overall package of domestic exports. In 2019, one-third of domestic exports to China consisted of machinery. This share is twice as high as the share in total exports, where machinery accounts for one-sixth. China also holds a major share in the export of food products. Last year, over one-quarter of industrially processed goods exported to China were produced by the food industry. This is one-sixth in total domestic exports.

Composition of Dutch domestic exports, 2019
GoederenMachinery (%)Food and beverages (%)Chemical products (%)Manufactured goods (%)Raw materials and natural products (%)Transport equipment (%)Mineral fuels (%)
Total171718177716
China33261613741

For more information, including details about the trade interlinkages between the Netherlands and China, check out the latest edition of the Internationalisation Monitor.