Economic importance of domestic exports has declined

Containers in the port
In 2020, the Netherlands’ earnings from domestic exports accounted for 15.0 percent of GDP. This is the lowest share since 2015. The decline in natural gas exports plays a major factor in this development. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this in connection with this year’s English edition of Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures, an extensive overview of the Netherlands’ external trade and investments.

Exports of Dutch-manufactured goods generated 119.8 billion euros in earnings last year, 7.6 percent more than in 2015. However, as GDP grew at more than twice this rate during this period, the contribution of domestic exports to GDP declined from 16.1 to 15.0 percent. Due to sharply reduced natural gas extraction, Dutch earnings from natural gas exports fell from approximately 7 billion to 2 billion euros during this period. If earnings had remained unchanged, the decline in importance of these exports would have been around half.

Earnings from domestic goods exports
 GDP (bn euros)Domestic exports (bn euros)

Declining export share for most goods in 2020

Approximately three-quarters of the earnings related to transport equipment, machinery and appliances as well as chemical products are due to exports. However, the bulk of earnings related to manufactured goods such as clothing, games and printed products is due to domestic consumption. In 2020, the export orientation of agricultural goods, fuels and raw materials was close to the average of all goods, i.e. 61 percent.

Last year, the share of exports in total product earnings (domestic sales and exports combined) declined in nearly all categories of goods; between 2019 and 2020, the contribution of exports to product earnings only increased in the transport equipment category, e.g. ships and boats.

Share of exports in total Dutch domestic product earnings
 2020 (%)2019 (%)2015 (%)
All goods60.862.662.5
Transport equipment78.17673.6
Chemical products75.776.876.2
Machinery and appliances74.174.975.3
Fuels and raw materials62.368.573.8
Agricultural products58.160.659.6
Manufactured goods40.641.941.8

The Netherlands earns from machinery exports in particular

Exports also play a major role in the top ten of domestic products that contribute most to the Dutch economy. In eight out of the ten categories of goods, the product earnings predominantly come from abroad. For two categories - clothing and bread and bakery products - domestic sales prevail. There, the share of exports amounts to only 3 and 21 percent, respectively.

Of all products, machinery and components contribute by far the highest share to Dutch GDP with total product earnings of 21.7 billion euros. Of this amount, 18.2 billion comes from abroad and 3.5 billion is generated through domestic sales (exports holding a share of 84 percent). The highest earnings are generated particularly through the export of specialised machinery such as chip-manufacturing equipment, which go to China, Taiwan and South Korea.

After machinery and components, the Dutch economy receives the highest earnings from meat (products), metal (products), pharmaceutical products, dairy products, clothing, food preparations, vehicle (components), vegetables and seeds, and bread and bakery products. In addition, substantial earnings are received with ornamental horticulture, e.g. flower bulbs, plants, flowers and tree nursery products. The total ornamental horticultural industry is ranked among the top ten.

Top 10 highest-earning domestic exports and domestic sales, 2020
 Exports (bn euros)Domestic sales (bn euros)
Machinery and components18.23.5
Meat (products)5.24.1
Metal products6.91.9
Pharmaceutical products4.13.4
Dairy products42.9
Food preparations3.62.7
Vehicles (and components)3.71.2
Vegetables and seeds3.61.3
Bread and bakery products1.03.7

Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures 2021

Many Dutch enterprises, both large and small, do business across the border. Others are primarily suppliers of exporting enterprises or multinationals without being internationally active themselves. Some Dutch enterprises also have branches in multiple countries or are under foreign control, and as such form part of global value chains either directly or indirectly. All these aspects of external trade and investments are discussed in the publication Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures 2021: Exports, imports and investment.

More information on trade flow interconnections between the Netherlands and the rest of the world up to 2020 inclusive can be found in the publication: Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures, 2021.