A small but mighty player in international trade, Netherlands shipped US$709.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 62.2% increase since 2015 and a 21.1% gain from 2018 to 2019 for the powerhouse European Union member.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Netherlands uses the euro which appreciated by 0.9% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.5% from 2018 to 2019. The weaker EU currency in 2019 made Dutch exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers compared to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 69.3% of products exported from Netherlands were bought by importers in: Germany (21.8% of the global total), Belgium (10.5%), France (8.1%), United Kingdom (7.9%), United States (4.6%), Italy (3.7%), Spain (3%), Poland (2.4%), Sweden (2.2%), China (2.1%), Czech Republic (1.7%) and Switzerland (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, about three-quarters of exports by value from the Netherlands were delivered to fellow European countries while 10.4% were sold to importers in Asia. The Netherlands shipped another 5.7% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Africa (2.7%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.9%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.6%).
Given the Dutch population of 17.2 million people, Netherlands’ total $709.2 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $41,200 for every resident in the northwest European country with a northern coastline along the North Sea.
Netherlands Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Dutch global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the Netherlands.
- Machinery including computers: US$101.8 billion (14.3% of total exports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $91.3 billion (12.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $90.8 billion (12.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $48.4 billion (6.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $36.9 billion (5.2%)
- Vehicles: $30.4 billion (4.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $25.6 billion (3.6%)
- Organic chemicals: $20.4 billion (2.9%)
- Iron, steel: $14 billion (2%)
- Other chemical goods: $12 billion (1.7%)
The Netherlands’ top 10 exports accounted for roughly two-thirds (66.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Pharmaceuticals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 69.8% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was electrical machinery and equipment via a 54.2% gain. Dutch shipments of machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 33.9%.
The year-over-year decliners among Netherlands’ top 10 export categories were organic chemicals (down -3.5%) and plastics including articles made from plastic (down -1.9%).
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Most Valuable Dutch Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Overall the Netherlands earned a $73.3 billion trade surplus in 2019, a positive trade balance that expanded by 14.2% over the $64.2 billion surplus one year earlier.
The following types of Dutch product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus.
Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Machinery including computers: US$16.8 billion (Up by 25.4% since 2018)
- Pharmaceuticals: $15.8 billion (Up by 32.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $9 billion (Up by 29.4%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $8.3 billion (Up by 0.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $8.1 billion (Down by -18.8%)
- Meat: $5.6 billion (Up by 13.2%)
- Vegetables: $5.2 billion (Up by 1.9%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $4.9 billion (Down by -3.3%)
- Organic chemicals: $3.4 billion (Down by -49.3%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $2.8 billion (Down by -0.7%)
Netherlands has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machines including computers. In turn, these cashflows indicate strong competitive advantages for the Netherlands under the machinery product category.
Below are exports from the Netherlands that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country goods trail Dutch importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$7.2 billion (Down by -45.6% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$6.5 billion (Up by 91.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.5 billion (Down by -53.5%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.7 billion (Up by 39%)
- Cereals: -$2.7 billion (Up by 0.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$2.6 billion (Up by 11.4%)
- Wood: -$2.3 billion (Down by -1.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.2 billion (Up by 43.9%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.7 billion (Up by 190.8%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$1.5 billion (Up by 0.5%)
Netherlands has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products particularly crude oil and, to a lesser degree, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate the Netherlands’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for the Netherlands to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially in alternative energy sources.
Dutch Export Companies
Twenty-seven Dutch corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Dutch export companies headquartered in the Netherlands that Forbes included.
- Ageas (diversified insurance)
- Akzo Nobel (diversified chemicals)
- ASM International N.V. (semiconductors)
- ASM International N.V. (semiconductors)
- ASML Holding (semiconductors)
- DSM (diversified chemicals)
- Gemalto (electronics)
- Gemalto (electronics)
- Heineken Holding (beverages)
- LyondellBasell Industries (diversified chemicals)
- NXP Semiconductors (semiconductors)
- Philips (industrial conglomerate)
- Royal Dutch Shell (oil & gas operations)
- Unilever (food processing)
According to IMPORTERS.com listings for Dutch suppliers, the following are also examples of relatively smaller companies that ship products from the Netherlands. Shown within parenthesis are products that the Dutch business provides.
- Bless Ya, Inc (young girls apparel)
- Ciparo (paper, plastics)
- Daqso International (toiletries, cosmetics, perfumes)
- Floorkinderkleding (children clothing)
- Holland Metals & Raw Materials (non-ferrous metals, steel scrap)
- King-Boats (inflatable craft)
- Lagwo Trading Inc NV (crude oil, petroleum)
- Powerview Technology BV (surveillance products)
- Raisina Exports (dried fruits, nuts)
- Shipside Tax Free Cars BV (automobiles)
Searchable List of Most Valuable Dutch Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the Netherlands during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Dutch Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Processed petroleum oils||$53,843,977,000||+0.2%|
|2||Phone system devices including smartphones||$35,989,581,000||+91.7%|
|3||Computers, optical readers||$28,000,382,000||+147%|
|4||Medication mixes in dosage||$26,454,727,000||+61.5%|
|6||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$14,105,479,000||+23.7%|
|7||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$13,732,343,000||+22.4%|
|8||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$13,472,183,000||+253.4%|
|14||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$5,194,908,000||-19.4%|
|18||Computer parts, accessories||$4,839,557,000||+68.5%|
|19||Miscellaneous live plants||$4,649,575,000||-0.9%|
|20||Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)||$4,532,106,000||+5.4%|
|24||Medication mixes not in dosage||$4,159,763,000||+794.9%|
|26||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$3,698,874,000||+76.8%|
|28||Other food preparations||$3,443,369,000||+6.5%|
|29||Electrical converters/power units||$3,435,112,000||+29.3%|
|30||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$3,411,489,000||+5.1%|
|31||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$3,346,236,000||+26.5%|
|33||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$3,148,393,000||-0.5%|
|34||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$3,138,740,000||+350.5%|
|35||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$2,835,007,000||+26.9%|
|38||Fresh or chilled beef||$2,780,397,000||+5.4%|
|40||Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods||$2,740,316,000||+244.3%|
|41||Iron or steel scrap||$2,734,561,000||-13.9%|
|43||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$2,603,159,000||+21.9%|
|44||Unrecorded sound media||$2,570,627,000||+17.4%|
|45||Miscellaneous plastic items||$2,518,270,000||+15.9%|
|46||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$2,488,891,000||+8.6%|
|47||Rubber tires (new)||$2,467,185,000||+7.4%|
|49||Table games, bowling equipment||$2,386,327,000||+452.1%|
|52||Cases, handbags, wallets||$2,287,283,000||+16.3%|
|53||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$2,287,167,000||-8.7%|
|55||Chemical industry products/residuals||$2,179,295,000||-3.8%|
|56||Industrial preparation machinery||$2,165,459,000||-0.6%|
|57||Sowing seeds, fruits, spores||$2,163,382,000||+1.3%|
|58||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$2,128,372,000||+2.1%|
|60||Liquid pumps and elevators||$2,121,077,000||+7.2%|
|62||Iron ores, concentrates||$2,082,218,000||+11704%|
|64||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$2,026,445,000||-0.6%|
|65||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$2,026,178,000||-1.3%|
|67||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$2,006,223,000||-0.5%|
|68||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$1,975,201,000||+9.5%|
|69||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$1,941,988,000||+16.5%|
|70||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$1,940,605,000||-0.8%|
|71||Tomatoes (fresh or chilled)||$1,934,824,000||+0.8%|
|73||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$1,909,346,000||+15.2%|
|75||Fruit and vegetable juices||$1,888,867,000||+12%|
|76||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,871,948,000||-0.8%|
|78||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,839,348,000||+6.5%|
|80||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,795,061,000||-3.1%|
|84||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,712,281,000||-7.1%|
|85||Piston engine parts||$1,690,506,000||+1%|
|86||Other organic cleaning preparations||$1,677,580,000||+2.2%|
|88||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$1,623,912,000||+23.8%|
|89||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,614,740,000||+12.4%|
|90||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,609,109,000||+16.2%|
|91||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$1,605,617,000||+106.7%|
|92||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,585,409,000||+2%|
|94||Cocoa butter, fat, oil||$1,576,979,000||+2.6%|
|95||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$1,525,471,000||+21.3%|
|96||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$1,525,246,000||+3.1%|
|97||Milk-derived fats, oils including butter||$1,524,402,000||-13.7%|
|99||Fish fillets, pieces||$1,486,837,000||+44.8%|
|100||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$1,474,102,000||+29.5%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$462.9 billion or almost two-thirds (65.3%) by value for all products exported from the Netherlands during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, the Netherlands’ total exported goods represent 70.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($1.005 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 70.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 74.6% for 2018. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Netherlands’ total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe. Those percentages include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. The average unemployment rate for the Netherlands was 3.339% for 2019, compared to 3.839% one year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund.
See also Netherlands Top 10 Imports, Netherlands Top 10 Major Export Companies and Netherlands Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 24, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 24, 2020
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Netherlands Import Export Directory. Accessed on March 24, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 24, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 24, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 24, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 24, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 24, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of the Netherlands. Accessed on March 24, 2020
Wikipedia, Netherlands. Accessed on March 24, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 24, 2020