Tale of two cities symbolises bond

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2012, 12:00am


The ports of Shanghai and Rotterdam may be continents apart, but they share long histories - and a thriving turnover. A significant proportion of the containers shipped in the Netherlands are bound for the mainland, and vice versa.

The emerging economic and global superpower that is the People's Republic of China and the much smaller, but highly developed, Kingdom of the Netherlands are in the process of forging stronger trade and cultural links. The Netherlands sees China as one of the best places in the world to expand its business, while the mainland views the kingdom's strategic location in Europe and general expertise as an ideal conduit into the European Union.

Numerous Dutch citizens have relocated to the mainland to take advantage of the economic boom between the two countries.

'There is a considerable amount of interest in China from the Netherlands at present,' says Maarten Roos, who founded R&P China Lawyers, a boutique law firm supporting international business in Shanghai in 2010.

'While Europe is undergoing some financial problems, a lot of Dutch small and medium enterprises are looking to China, whether to set up a manufacturing base for export or to sell their wares. 'Dutch people are finding that it is easier to do business in China nowadays, it is not so different from any other country.'

Roos has also published a practical guide to Chinese commercial law that has become a legal bible for foreign companies operating in the mainland.

'At the moment, the prospects for trade between China and the Netherlands are excellent - we are at the centre of things here in Shanghai and more Dutch companies are setting up every month.'

The Dutch influx to China is being mirrored by a similar move westwards. Companies from the mainland are increasingly staking a claim in the Netherlands to sidestep trade barriers and to avail themselves of Dutch know-how and technical expertise.

A number of Chinese companies that have set up offices in Amsterdam are expanding, and a Chinese IT company - Huawei Technologies - is setting up shop following a trade visit to Beijing by the city of Amsterdam late last year, led by Mayor Eberhard van der Laan.

Huawei is China's largest telecom and IT company, and is expected to create 100 direct jobs in its first year, taking advantage of the availability of highly skilled and flexible personnel in the Amsterdam area.

Almost 300 Chinese companies are based in the Netherlands, and roughly one third are located in the Amsterdam region.

The Netherlands enjoys a particularly strong economy and has been playing a significant role in European commercial affairs for hundreds of years. As long ago as the 16th century, shipping, fishing, trade, and banking made the Dutch economy one of the most prosperous in the region, and to this day the Netherlands is one of the world's 10 leading exporting countries. Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector, while other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical goods, and tourism.

Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, part of Euronext, is the world's oldest stock exchange and one of Europe's largest bourses. The Netherlands' location gives it prime access to markets in Britain and Germany, with the port of Rotterdam being the largest in Europe, hosting more than 36,000 cargo vessels every year, generating revenues in excess of 525 million euros (HK$5.47 billion) and handling about 11 million TEU - though it is considerably overshadowed by Shanghai, which handled a record-breaking 30 million TEU last year.

Other important parts of the Netherlands economy are international trade - Dutch colonialism started with co-operative private enterprises such as the VOC certificate - banking and transport. The Netherlands successfully tackled the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth well before its European partners. Additionally, Amsterdam is the fifth busiest tourist destination in Europe, hosting more than 4.2 million international visitors a year. Since the enlargement of the European Union, large numbers of migrant workers have moved to the Netherlands from central and eastern Europe, further broadening the ethnic mix of one of the most cosmopolitan - and tolerant - cities in the region.

The Netherlands continues to be one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment, and is one of the five largest investors in the United States.

While making good use of its natural location, the Netherlands is also taking advantage of its natural resources. One of the largest natural gas fields in the world is situated near Slochteren, in the northeast of the country.

Exploitation of this field has produced a revenue of some 160 billion euros in the past four decades. With slightly more than half of the reserves used up and a predicted continued rise in oil prices, the revenues over the next few decades are expected to be similarly healthy.

The Netherlands and China are linked by more than just oceanic trade, and in future years are set to complement each other and prosper together.