Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Netherlands uses the euro which appreciated by 3.1% against the US dollar since 2016 and increased by 2% from 2019 to 2020. The stronger EU currency in 2020 made Dutch exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 70.4% of products exported from Netherlands were bought by importers in: Germany (22.1% of the global total), Belgium (10.1%), France (8.3%), United Kingdom (7.5%), United States (4.4%), Italy (3.9%), Spain (3.1%), Poland (2.8%), China (2.6%), Sweden (2.3%), Czech Republic (1.8%) and Switzerland (1.5%).
From a continental perspective, 78.2% of Netherlands’ exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 11.5% were sold to importers in Asia. The Netherlands shipped another 5.6% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Africa (2.7%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.4%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.7%).
Given the Dutch population of 17.5 million people, Netherlands’ total $675 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $38,600 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 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the Netherlands.
- Machinery including computers: US$103.6 billion (15.3% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $94 billion (13.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $59.1 billion (8.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $49.5 billion (7.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $37.1 billion (5.5%)
- Vehicles: $26.6 billion (3.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $25.2 billion (3.7%)
- Organic chemicals: $18.2 billion (2.7%)
- Other chemical goods: $14.5 billion (2.2%)
- Iron, steel: $12 billion (1.8%)
The Netherlands’ top 10 exports accounted for almost two-thirds (65.2%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Pharmaceuticals represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 64.5% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales was electrical machinery and equipment via a 55.8% gain. Netherlands’ shipments of machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 33.1%.
The leading decliner among Netherlands’ top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -22% drop year over yea.r
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.
The Netherlands earned a $78.9 billion trade surplus in 2020, a positive trade balance that expanded by 27.4% over the $61.9 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$17.9 billion (Up by 18.2% since 2019)
- Pharmaceuticals: $14.4 billion (Up by 22.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $9.5 billion (Up by 15.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $8.4 billion (Up by 2.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $8.1 billion (Down by -0.8%)
- Meat: $5.6 billion (Down by -0.5%)
- Vegetables: $5.2 billion (Down by -0.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $4.8 billion (Down by -2.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $4 billion (Up by 35.2%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $3.2 billion (Up by 13.2%)
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.
- Vehicles: -US$7.7 billion (Up by 50.4% since 2019)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$4.5 billion (Down by -48%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.5 billion (Down by -58.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$2.7 billion (Up by 2.3%)
- Wood: -$2.6 billion (Up by 14.5%)
- Cereals: -$2.5 billion (Down by -3.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$1.7 billion (Up by 164.4%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: -$1.2 billion (Up by 128%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$1.1 billion (Down by -39.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$1.1 billion (Down by -23.5%)
Netherlands has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for vehicles and mineral fuels-related products. The latter product category includes crude oil and, to a lesser degree, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate the Netherlands’ competitive disadvantages in the international automotive and energy markets, but also represent key opportunities for the Netherlands to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
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 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Dutch Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Phone system devices including smartphones||$38,992,801,000||+104.2%|
|2||Processed petroleum oils||$34,763,180,000||-35.5%|
|3||Computers, optical readers||$33,453,336,000||+203.8%|
|4||Medication mixes in dosage||$28,082,626,000||+57.9%|
|5||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$15,290,152,000||+222.3%|
|6||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$15,197,027,000||+10.8%|
|7||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$14,450,357,000||+11.3%|
|14||Miscellaneous live plants||$5,020,952,000||+8.8%|
|15||Computer parts, accessories||$4,924,740,000||+89.9%|
|18||Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)||$4,419,885,000||+1.8%|
|22||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$4,048,366,000||+62.7%|
|24||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$3,891,174,000||+86.7%|
|26||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$3,756,970,000||+15%|
|27||Other food preparations||$3,692,602,000||+10.7%|
|28||Electrical converters/power units||$3,577,548,000||+27.6%|
|29||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$3,530,524,000||-20.6%|
|30||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$3,371,919,000||+7.1%|
|32||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$3,265,325,000||-2.8%|
|33||Medication mixes not in dosage||$3,181,341,000||+319%|
|36||Miscellaneous plastic items||$2,665,554,000||+23.5%|
|38||Fresh or chilled beef||$2,554,816,000||+2.2%|
|39||Iron or steel scrap||$2,548,689,000||-3.1%|
|41||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$2,402,212,000||+8.7%|
|42||Sowing seeds, fruits, spores||$2,378,669,000||+12.1%|
|43||Rubber tires (new)||$2,363,360,000||+6.6%|
|44||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$2,343,180,000||+21.3%|
|46||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$2,204,327,000||+27.4%|
|49||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$2,161,812,000||+17.7%|
|50||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$2,143,050,000||+7.6%|
|51||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$2,109,625,000||+5.8%|
|52||Chemical industry products/residuals||$2,104,768,000||+10%|
|53||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$2,100,576,000||-0.01%|
|54||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$2,095,546,000||+16.5%|
|55||Table games, bowling equipment||$2,042,961,000||+375.1%|
|56||Industrial preparation machinery||$2,042,736,000||-4%|
|58||Liquid pumps and elevators||$2,032,472,000||-2%|
|59||Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods||$2,005,727,000||+118.3%|
|60||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$1,997,889,000||-12.5%|
|62||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,984,420,000||+7%|
|63||Unrecorded sound media||$1,962,073,000||+3%|
|67||Tomatoes (fresh or chilled)||$1,920,369,000||-0.5%|
|70||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$1,866,833,000||-6.2%|
|73||Iron ores, concentrates||$1,846,513,000||+9,407%|
|74||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$1,837,666,000||+295.2%|
|75||Cases, handbags, wallets||$1,822,392,000||-7.8%|
|76||Fruit and vegetable juices||$1,788,454,000||+17.3%|
|77||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,779,218,000||+5.9%|
|81||Other organic cleaning preparations||$1,707,406,000||+10.3%|
|83||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,647,752,000||+11.3%|
|84||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$1,638,474,000||+27.3%|
|85||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$1,635,424,000||-15.3%|
|86||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,603,918,000||-1.3%|
|88||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$1,593,861,000||+12.8%|
|89||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,573,242,000||+3.6%|
|90||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$1,564,583,000||+37%|
|91||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$1,562,609,000||+39.1%|
|92||Cocoa butter, fat, oil||$1,552,076,000||-1.1%|
|93||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$1,549,893,000||+1.9%|
|94||Piston engine parts||$1,513,575,000||-8.1%|
|95||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,485,434,000||-3.5%|
|96||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,480,185,000||-11.9%|
|98||Electric generating sets, converters||$1,451,491,000||+62.6%|
|99||Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys||$1,446,155,000||+15.1%|
|100||Electric storage batteries||$1,440,536,000||+67.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$447.4 billion or roughly two-thirds (66.3%) by value for all products exported from the Netherlands during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, the Netherlands’ total exported goods represent 68.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($986.8 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 68.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 70.6% for 2019. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Netherlands’ total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe. Also, note that 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 3.6% in February 2021, compared to 2.9% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
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 31, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 31, 2021
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Netherlands Import Export Directory. Accessed on March 31, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 31, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 31, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of the Netherlands. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, Netherlands. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 31, 2021