The Netherlands is an open society with a keen eye on international business developments. From the expansion of the earliest trade routes, the Dutch have built a reputation for establishing successful commercial trading partnerships the world over.
This innate ability to develop connections with other trading countries has enabled the Dutch economy to flourish over the centuries. Today, with their world-class shipping expertise, the Dutch continue to show their ability to do business, especially with China.
The Netherlands has been one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment since joining the euro zone 10 years ago. The Dutch economy continues to hold its own, despite the present turbulence in the euro zone, through its substantial current account surplus, excellent industrial relations and moderate unemployment. Petroleum refining, food and agriculture, chemicals and electrical machinery all continue to play important roles within the country's economy. As a transportation hub, the Netherlands remains one of the most important in Europe.
Bordering the North Sea between Belgium and Germany, the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in the European Union. The relatively small nation has successfully developed trade ties with neighbouring countries and key global markets.
Water dominates the Dutch landscape and more than a quarter of the country is below sea level. Three of the major European rivers (Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt) reach the North Sea via Holland.
In order to better manage these waterways, the Dutch constructed a water system consisting of dykes and weirs. In addition to the country's long tradition of world-class water management, the Dutch have also achieved international recognition as a country open to trade through its international maritime industry.
The Dutch have always been proud of their open economy and their status as a reliable trading partner. With a desire to continually increase levels of foreign trade, the Netherlands' maritime industry continues to enable the Dutch to "rule the waves".
Dutch shipping companies are now eager to increase their focus on the growth markets of Asia while recognising the importance of creating a greener shipping industry. Leading this drive is the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners. Representing the interests of the Dutch shipping industry, the organisation promotes an internationally competitive business climate for shipowners in the Netherlands.
Dutch shipowners have always had a desire to improve performance and service in line with innovation and the developments in the shipping industry. Qualified crews, progressive labour policies and the highest standards of safety ensure the Netherlands' shipping industry remains a world leader. With one of the most up-to-date fleets in the world today, the industry is continuously looking towards green shipping and Dutch companies are leading the way in environmental technologies. Lighter ships, which increase fuel efficiency, and power and design innovations are leading to the creation of more environmentally friendly vessels.
The Dutch began to develop trade ties with Asia in the 17th century and remain enthusiastic about their business within the region, particularly with China.
While official relations between the Netherlands and China began in November 1954, the two countries have long enjoyed strong trade ties. The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602 - the world's second multinational corporation following the British East India Company founded two years earlier. Dutch traders with the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie - Dutch East India Company) set up a trading post in Guangzhou, establishing trade between the two countries. Today, the Netherlands is China's third largest trade partner in the European Union and Dutch exports to China include transport equipment, food, petrochemicals, machinery, high technology and fossil fuels. China's exports to the Netherlands comprise computer and consumer electronics, toys and clothes.
The two seafaring nations are continuing to benefit from their strong desire to do business together and share the benefits of a close partnership. With the Dutch maritime industry remaining buoyant and trade with China continuing to bring the two countries closer together, the Netherlands will undoubtedly continue to develop its reputation as a leading player in the global shipping industry.