2012 Investment Climate Statement - Netherlands

2012 Investment Climate Statement
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
June 2012

Various international surveys rank the Netherlands among the countries in the industrialized world with the most competitive economies and most favorable business and investment climates. The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index places the Netherlands in seventh position among the world's most competitive economies. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranks the Netherlands seventh on its 2008 global business environment ranking for the period up to 2012. The government also maintains an informative website for foreign companies containing information on several aspects of doing business in the Netherlands: http://www.answersforbusiness.nl/.

Openness to Foreign Investment

The Netherlands' trade and investment policy is among the most open in the world, with combined merchandise exports and imports exceeding GDP. In 2010, the Netherlands ranked eighth among recipients of FDI (FDI as percentage of GDP). The government of the Netherlands maintains liberal policies toward foreign direct investment and adheres to OECD investment codes.

The Netherlands has identified a number of strategic sectors in which private investment, including foreign investment, may be subject to limitations or conditions, including: transportation, energy, defense and security, finance, postal services, public broadcasting, and media.

Exceptions to the principle of national treatment are air transport, a sector governed by European Union (EU) regulation and subject to a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the EU, and public broadcasting. According to Annex Four, Article One of the EU-U.S. Air Transport Agreement (effective March 30, 2008), U.S. nationals can invest in Dutch/European carriers as long as the airline remains majority-owned by EU governments or nationals from EU member states. Additionally, the EU and its member states reserve the right to limit U.S. investment in the voting equity of an EU airline equivalent to that allowed by the United States for foreign nationals in U.S. carriers.

The Dutch comply with European Union reciprocity provisions in banking and investment services. Provisions related to government incentives, national rules of incorporation, and access to the capital market are all administered on a non-discriminatory basis. Business laws and regulations are in accordance with international legal practices and standards, and apply equally to foreign and Dutch companies.

Structural and regulatory reforms have long been an integral part of a major reorientation of Dutch economic policy. Product market competition is strengthened through programs aimed at stimulating market forces, liberalization, deregulation, and legislative quality combined with a tightening of competition policy. Although the government has reduced its role in the economy by introducing market forces in formerly public utility sectors it has taken strategic measures to make sure that key infrastructure remains in public hands.

Per EU requirement, the government introduced legislation for ‘unbundling’ of the country's gas and electricity sector, with which energy companies were required to comply before January 1, 2012. Despite a 2010 Dutch ruling that the requirement conflicts with the principle of free flow of capital, the Dutch government maintained its policy in compliance with EU regulation, and all major energy companies have complied. Government-controlled entities will retain dominant positions in gas and electricity distribution, rail transport, and the water sector.

During the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, government intervention in the financial sector included nationalization of Fortis Bank Nederland and the Dutch activities of ABN Amro Bank, and provision of capital support to ING Bank, SNS Reaal bank, and insurance company Aegon. Despite the 2011 sovereign debt crisis, most of the financial institutions have already paid back the government loans. The re-privatization of ABN Amro has been postponed at least till 2013.

Despite relatively high Dutch labor costs and labor market imperfections (e.g., complex labor laws resulting in restrictive hiring and firing practices for employers), foreign investors have found the Netherlands a favorable location for their European investment projects. The Dutch actively solicit foreign investment through the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA, www.nfia.com) and related numerous regional and sectoral economic development companies. Foreign direct investment is concentrated in growth sectors including information and communication technology (ICT), biotechnology, medical technology, electronic components, and machinery and equipment. Investment projects are predominantly in value-added logistics, machinery and equipment, and (luxury) foods. International annual benchmark studies identify the Netherlands as one of the most popular locations for foreign ICT in Europe, while also ranking the Dutch biotechnology sector among Europe's elite.

According to recent statistics by Eurostat, the Netherlands has the highest Internet penetration (94 percent of the households) and the largest number of broadband connections (38.4 per 100 inhabitants) in the European Union. A motion was passed in Parliament in December 2010 to ensure that everyone in the Netherlands can gain access to a minimum of 30 MB/s by 2020 in accordance to the European Digital Agenda.

The 2011 Economist Intelligence Unit Government Broadband Index comparing countries worldwide by planned broadband development ranked the Netherlands eighth in government planning – as opposed to current capability – of speed and coverage of next-generation broadband networks. The Amsterdam Internet hub, AMS-IX, is the largest data transport hub in the world. The Netherlands is the second most densely-cabled country in the world. More than 50 percent of Forbes 2,000 companies active in ICT maintain an office in the Amsterdam region.

Investment surveys indicate that U.S. investors favor the Netherlands as a location for European Distribution Centers (EDCs). The introduction of a more friendly tax regime in the late 1990s and a drop in the corporate tax rate to 25 percent in 2011 make the Netherlands an attractive location for European headquarters. Positive factors include the Netherlands’ stable political and macroeconomic climate, a highly developed financial sector, strategic location, well-educated and productive labor force, and the high quality of the physical and communications infrastructure. There is also no requirement for nationals to own shares in a company (national requirement).

The Netherlands is known for its favorable fiscal climate. Precise tax guidance given to foreign investors provides transparency with regard to long-term tax obligations. To this end, Advanced Tax Rulings (ATR), in combination with Advanced Pricing Agreements (APA), are guarantees given by local tax inspectors with regard to long-term tax commitments for a particular acquisition or green field operation (investment in land or infrastructure to support a new business).

Despite predominantly favorable business and investment conditions, some organizations flag relatively high wage costs, relatively heavy administrative burdens, structural imperfections in the road infrastructure, and a relatively inflexible labor market as potential bottlenecks in attracting foreign direct investment to the Netherlands. In 2003, the European Commission found the Netherlands’ provision to companies of national tax incentives with a subsidy element violated European competition principles. In response the Dutch government passed legislation in 2005 prohibiting companies in the Netherlands from using the Corporate Financing Arrangement (CFA).

There are no formal foreign investment screening mechanisms, and 100 percent foreign ownership is permitted in those sectors open to foreign investment, with the exception of certain limitations in the strategic sectors noted earlier. The rules on acquisition, mergers, takeovers, and reinvestment are nondiscriminatory. All firms must conform to certain rules of conduct on mergers and takeovers. The Social Economic Council (SER), an official advisory body composed of representatives of government, business, and labor, administers Dutch merger and takeover rules. SER rules are intended, first and foremost, to protect the interests of stakeholders and employees. They include requirements for the timely announcement of merger and takeover plans and for discussions with trade unions.

A 2009 survey among European companies ranked the Netherlands second for the transparency of its corporate governance practices (note: this is the most recent data available). Because elaborate corporate protective measures against hostile takeovers may de facto block acquisitions or takeovers by Dutch and foreign investors, the Dutch government continues to work to address corporate governance issues. A corporate governance code of conduct took effect in 2004 aimed at improving transparency in shareholder/management relations, as well as the structure and accountability of management. The voluntary Corporate Governance Code is monitored by a Committee on Corporate Governance, which can also propose adjustments to the Code in areas such as executive salaries, risk management, and shareholders rights and responsibilities. The main responsibility of the Committee, though, is monitoring. In its December 2011 evaluation report, the Committee underlined that the Corporate Governance Code has a self regulatory character, and therefore enjoys wide support. KPMG’s 2010 Competitive Alternatives (Guide to International Business Location) ranked the Netherlands third worldwide and first in Europe both in terms of favorable business costs and in terms of tax costs.

The Netherlands maintains no preferential or discriminatory export or import policies, with the exception of those that result from its membership in the European Union. The Dutch also abide by all internationally agreed strategic trade controls (e.g., the Wassenaar Agreement). In summary, Dutch domestic restrictions on foreign investment remain minimal, with no new restrictions planned. The center-right government that assumed office in October 2010 emphasizes the importance of business and trade, and aims to create a more (international) entrepreneur friendly environment. It has identified nine so-called ‘top sectors’ (creative industries, logistics, horticulture, agro & food sector, life sciences, energy, water, chemical industry, and high tech) at the center of government’s business policy. The new business policy focuses on improving cooperation between businesses, knowledge institutions, and (local) government. At the same time – partially due to government’s austerity measures – there will be fewer business subsidies.




TI Corruption Index



Heritage Economic Freedom



World Bank Doing Business



Conversion and Transfer Policies

There are no restrictions on the conversion or repatriation of capital and earnings (including branch profits, dividends, interest, royalties), or management and technical service fees, with the exception of the nominal exchange license requirement for nonresident firms.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Netherlands maintains strong protection on all types of property, including private property, and the right of citizens to own and use property. Expropriation would only take place in the public interest and with adequate compensation. We have no reason to believe that it would be undertaken in a discriminatory manner or in violation of established principles of international law. The U.S. Consulate General is unaware of any recent expropriation claims involving the Dutch government and U.S. or other foreign-owned property.

Dispute Settlement

The U.S. Consulate General is not aware of any investment disputes involving the Dutch government and U.S. or other foreign companies. The Netherlands is a signatory to the International Convention on Investment Disputes and a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. Although the government has no rules regarding withdrawals of investment, occasionally trade unions go to court over company closures. This has occurred in the case of both domestic and foreign-owned firms.

Performance Requirements and Incentives

There are no trade-related investment performance requirements in the Netherlands. General requirements to qualify for investment subsidy schemes apply equally to domestic and foreign investors. There are no requirements for employment of local capital or managerial personnel. In practice, however many chief executives of major U.S. subsidiaries in the Netherlands are Dutch or other EU nationals. This is because skilled managers are available at a cost less than that of posting an American abroad. Limited, targeted investment incentives have long been a well-publicized tool of Dutch economic policy to facilitate economic restructuring and to promote energy conservation, regional development, environmental protection, R&D, and other national socioeconomic goals. Subsidies and incentives are available to foreign and domestic firms alike and are spelled out in detailed regulations. Subsidies are in the form of tax credits that are usually disbursed through corporate tax rebates or direct cash payments in the event of no tax liability.

Foreign investors are free to apply for government grants; the Dutch government judges applications on a case-by-case basis with no preference for nationality of the bidder. The government will, however, set criteria in terms of benefit for the Dutch economy, for example: job creation for Dutch citizens.

Local investment subsidies are sometimes also available from regional development companies. Regional non-tax incentives are available in the form of cash grants, low interest loans, and local government participation and export guarantees for selected areas.

Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are full rights of private ownership and establishment of business enterprises in the Netherlands, except in some cases in the strategic sectors noted earlier. Despite the fact that service providers must often meet stringent licensing requirements, numerous enterprises in the Netherlands are 100 percent-owned by foreign firms, including many from the United States. Licenses are granted on the basis of competitive equality.

Protection of Property Rights

The Netherlands has a generally strong set of laws and regulations that protect intellectual property rights (IPR). However, the enforcement of anti-piracy laws remains a concern to producers of software and digital media. The Netherlands belongs to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and conforms to accepted international practice for the protection of technology and trademarks. The Netherlands implemented the European directive 98/44/EC in 2006 after significant delay, bringing domestic legislation in line with the WIPO 1996 Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty (WPPT). There is consensus among policy makers on the need for measures aimed at raising awareness of IPR rules and regulations and to strengthen enforcement.

Patents for foreign investors are granted retroactively to the date of the original filing in the home country, provided the application is made through a Dutch patent lawyer within one year of the original filing date. The Netherlands is a strong proponent of minimizing the number of languages in which patent requests have to be filed in the European Union. Patents are valid for 20 years. Legal procedures exist for compulsory licensing if the patent is inadequately used after a period of three years, but these procedures have rarely been invoked. Patent applications can be filed in English, but the conclusion must be written in Dutch. Since the Netherlands and the United States are both parties to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of 1970, patent rights in the Netherlands may be obtained if a PCT application is used. The Netherlands is a signatory to the European Patent Convention, which provides for a centralized Europe-wide patent protection system. This convention has simplified the process for obtaining patent protection in EU Member States; a Dutch patent will be recognized throughout the EU. Infringement proceedings remain within the jurisdiction of the national courts, which could result in divergent interpretations detrimental to U.S. investors and exporters.

The enforcement of anti-piracy laws remains a concern to producers of software, audio and videotapes, and textbooks from the United States. Organized optical disc software piracy and e-commerce piracy are also of major concern to the Dutch. Annual losses to the U.S. motion picture industry due to audiovisual piracy in the Netherlands have been estimated at tens of millions of dollars. The Dutch government has recognized the need to protect intellectual property rights, and law enforcement personnel have worked with industry associations to find and seize pirated software. Dutch IPR legislation currently in place explicitly includes computer software as intellectual property under the copyright statutes. As of December 2011, the Dutch government was pressing ahead with legislation to introduce a ban on the downloading of music and films via illegal websites despite widespread opposition in the Parliament. New legislation would provide copyright holder a right to go to court to claim compensation. This is already the case for games and software but the government wants to extend this also to music and film. A complete ban would replace the current home copy surcharge which consumers pay on blank CDs and DVDs. In November 2011, Dutch anti-piracy foundation BREIN took Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Ziggo and XS4ALL to court to determine whether the ISPs were responsible for blocking the Swedish download website Pirate Bay. Preliminary proceedings concluded the ISP’s were not obligated to block access, and a court ruling in the latest case was expected in mid-January 2012.

Transparency of Regulatory System

Laws and regulations that affect direct investment, such as environmental rules, and health and safety regulations, are non-discriminatory and apply equally to foreign and domestic firms. Dutch tax law facilitates attracting non-Dutch personnel to live and work in the Netherlands. Currently, expatriate staff transferred to the Netherlands on a temporary contract can make use of the “30 percent ruling” providing an exemption of up to 30 percent of gross employment income under Dutch personal income tax laws. However, after 1 January 2012 certain qualifying conditions must be met, including minimum salary (50,000 euro, [roughly $63,861] with exceptions for ‘scientists’); commute across the national borders; and previous residence in the Netherlands

Dutch corporations and branches of foreign corporations currently are subject to a corporate tax rate of 25 percent on taxable profits, which puts the Netherlands in the medium third of the corporate tax bracket in the EU. Profits of up to 200,000 euro (roughly $338,000) are taxed at a rate of 20 percent since 2011. Dutch corporate taxation generally allows for the exemption of dividends and capital gains derived from a foreign subsidiary (participation exemption). Surveys into the corporate tax structure of EU Member States observe that both the corporate tax rate and the effective corporate tax rate in the Netherlands are approximately average European levels. Nevertheless, the Dutch corporate tax structure ranks among the most competitive in Europe given other beneficial tax measures. No local Dutch income taxes are levied on corporations. The Netherlands also has no branch profit tax and does not levy a withholding tax on interest and royalties. Furthermore, the Netherlands maintains an extensive network of tax treaties with a large number of countries. A protocol amending the U.S. - Netherlands 1992 Tax Treaty entered into force in 2004. The protocol modernizes anti-abuse rules to prevent exploitation of the treaty by third-country nationals. The protocol also eliminates source-country withholding taxes on certain inter-company dividends, thereby removing a remaining barrier to cross-border investment in both directions. Finally, the Dutch tax authorities in general have a cooperative attitude and often provide tax opinions in advance of tax issues arising.

Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Dutch financial markets are fully developed and operate at market rates, facilitating the free flow of financial resources. The Netherlands is an international financial center for the foreign exchange market and for Eurobonds and bullion trade. The flexibility that foreign companies enjoy in conducting business in the Netherlands extends into the area of currency and foreign exchange. There are no restrictions on foreign investors' access to sources of local finance. In 2007, the New York Stock Exchange merged with Euronext, which also operates the Dutch exchange in Amsterdam. Dutch financial institutions were hurt by the global financial crisis, leading to the nationalization of Fortis Bank Nederland and the Dutch activities of ABN Amro Bank, and the provision of capital injections and other support measures to other large financial institutions in autumn 2008-spring 2009, including the ING Group, SNS Reaal Bank, and insurance company Aegon.

Competition from State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)

Private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises with respect to market access, credits, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies. The following sectors include companies and organizations in which the government is the majority shareholder (with at least 51 percent ownership): transportation and infrastructure, energy transport, gas trade, nuclear energy, gambling, banking and finance. The Netherlands furthermore has an extensive public broadcasting network, which has its own income through commercials but also receives government subsidies. SOEs are not obligated to consult with government officials before making business decisions. As with any other firm in the Netherlands, SOE’s must publish annual reports, and their financial account must be audited. There are no sovereign wealth funds in the Netherlands.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important concept in the Netherlands. In general, companies closely guard their reputation for CSR, and consumers are increasingly opting for products and services that are less harmful to animals and the environment. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture, and Innovation strongly encourages CSR in Dutch companies, including their foreign supply chain operations. Of the companies listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (the top 10% of sustainable companies of each sector), 2.20% are Dutch.

The Netherlands National Contact Point (NCP) supports businesses in putting the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises into practice. Although compliance with the guidelines is voluntary, a dissatisfied party may submit a well-founded report to the NCP if a company is not acting or investing in accordance with the guidelines. Upon receipt of the report, the NCP investigates it and mediates between the parties involved. (For more information, visit www.oecdguidelines.nl.)

Political Violence

The Netherlands is known for its stable political environment. Although political violence rarely occurs in the highly consensus-oriented Dutch society, a number of politically and religiously inspired acts of violence have recently led Dutch politicians to review integration policies. The Dutch economy derives much of its strength from a stable industrial climate fostered by partnership between unions, employers’ organizations, and the government. Strikes are rarely regarded as the primary means to settle labor disputes, and labor strikes in recent decades have been very rare. As the effects of the crisis and newly-introduced government austerity measures – including increasing the retirement age – have become more tangible, there have been more labor strikes since 2010. Each strike was organized by a single union, and addressed a specific cutback. There have not been any massive, across the board events.


Anti-bribery legislation to implement the 1997 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (ABC) became effective in 2001. The anti-bribery law reconciles the language of the ABC with the EU Fraud Directive and the Council of Europe Convention on Fraud. It makes corruption by Dutch businessmen in landing foreign contracts a penal offense, and bribes are no longer deductible for corporate tax purposes. At a national level, the Ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations as well as Security and Justice have taken steps to sharpen regulations to combat bribery in public procurement and in the issuance of permits and subsidies. Most companies have internal controls and/or codes of conduct that prohibit bribery. The Netherlands signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption and is party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. NGO Transparency International ranked the Netherlands seventh on its 2011 Corruption Perception Index.

Bilateral Investment Agreements

The Netherlands has signed bilateral investment agreements with a large number of countries including: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macau, Macedonia (FYROM), Malawi, Mali, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Surinam, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. (Visit www.rijksoverheid.nl for the official list and legal status of these agreements.)

The Netherlands adheres to OECD codes on capital movements and invisible transactions, with the exceptions mentioned earlier. It maintains a treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States that generally provides for national treatment and free entry for foreign investors, with certain exceptions. The Netherlands is also a member of the EU single market.

OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Dutch companies investing abroad can insure their investments against non-commercial risks through the privately-owned Atradius Dutch State Business N.V., which issues export credit insurance policies and guarantees to businesses on behalf of the Dutch government.

The legal basis for investment insurance is Article 3, Paragraph 2 of the Framework Act for Financial Provisions. Insurance covers assets and cash, as well as loans related to an investment. Both new and (under certain circumstances) existing investments are eligible. The Netherlands is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).


The majority of the Dutch workforce is well-educated and multilingual. As a result of sustained economic growth in recent years, unemployment had been decreasing until mid-2009, when the effects of the financial crisis set in. The annual unemployment rate was estimated to be approximately 4.5 percent in 2011 in comparison to 3.9 percent in 2008, and is expected to reach 5.25 percent in 2012, remaining well below the actual and expected EU averages.

Since 2002, the Netherlands has had the highest part-time work rate in the OECD. This has contributed to greater labor market flexibility. An increase in the participation of women in the workforce led to a 37 percent increase in the share of part-time workers in the total working population. Labor market participation, especially by elderly workers, is slowly but gradually growing from a low of 60 percent in the early 1990s to approximately 70 percent of the potential labor pool now. Increased labor market participation is regarded as critical to ensuring continued economic growth and to coping with the impact of a rapidly aging population. The official retirement age will increase from 65 to 66 in 2020, and increase again in 2025 to 67, however some details are still being negotiated.

The Dutch government's job creation policy is focused on the following elements: reducing the general burden of taxes and social security contributions, moderating growth in wage levels, improving productivity especially through innovation. The government views increased labor market participation as essential to continued economic growth. Together with employees and employers organizations, the government is targeting part-time workers, the elderly, long-term unemployed, and women to increase labor force participation. It should be noted that in the case of staff personnel, however, Dutch (or other EU nationals) must be employed unless firms can demonstrate that a Dutch national cannot perform the job in question. This burden is eased by an existing provision that prior employment with the firm of at least two and a half years amounts to a presumption of unique qualifications for the job.

Workers may be found through government-operated labor exchanges, a rapidly growing number of private employment firms, or directly through, for example: newspaper advertisements. The official average work week has long been 38 hours, but work-shortening programs have effectively reduced the average work week in some sectors of the economy (notably in banking and insurance) to 36 hours. The trend toward shorter working hours (and early retirement) with the objective of creating jobs or avoiding layoffs was first reversed in 2004. Faced with sharply rising costs related to the rapidly aging Dutch population, government labor market policies are increasingly geared toward higher contributions by the productive labor force by expanding working hours. The Netherlands has a maximum amount of working hours per week. In 2004, Parliament reached an agreement to amend current labor laws, allowing the maximum workweek to increase from an average of 50 hours to 60 hours. In a related move, 2007 legislation increased the number of hours a worker must complete before he/she is eligible for a break. New legislation has also been adopted which will increase the flexibility in the operating hours of companies and shops.

The average unit labor cost rose in the Netherlands by 1.4 percent in 2010. According to macroeconomic reports, the average contract wage in the Netherlands increased by 1.3 percent in 2011. Wages rose by 1.5 percent on average in 2010 and by 2.7 percent in 2009. Due to the economic crisis, Dutch labor productivity dropped by 2.8 percent in 2009, but was compensated by a 2.0 percent increase in 2010, mainly as a result of increased international trade and government measures to combat the crisis. For 2011 Eurostat forecasts an increase of 2.1 percent and for 2012 an increase of 0.6 percent is expected. The minimum wage starting January 1, 2012 for employees older than 23 years is EUR 1,446.60 a month. The minimum wage for younger employees is lower.

Labor/management relations in both the public and private sectors are generally good in a system that emphasizes the concept of social partnership. Although wage bargaining in the Netherlands is increasingly decentralized, there still exists a central bargaining apparatus where labor contract guidelines are established. About 80 percent of all Dutch workers are currently covered by ‘collective labor agreements.’ These agreements are negotiated per sector between the union, the employers association, and the government. The results of the agreements apply to all employees in that sector, not only the union members. Some sector labor contracts (e.g., road transport and haulage) are relatively inexpensive, while others (e.g., metal) have traditionally been more costly. To avoid surprises, potential investors are advised to consult with local trade unions to determine which, if any, labor contracts apply to workers in their business sector prior to making an investment decision. Collective bargaining agreements negotiated in the past few years have, by and large, been accepted by the rank and file without much protest, despite only moderate wage rises. The crisis did put extra pressure on all involved parties. In September 2009, negotiations between unions and employers association’s about raising the pension age failed. This failure signified not only a deadlock on that particular issue (parties did compromise later), but mostly it represented one of the few times where negotiations between the social partners were not fruitful. Days lost to strikes are relatively few.

The Dutch have always had an economy that derives its strength from free trade and a stable industrial climate fostered by partnership among unions, employers’ organizations, and the government. There is substantial labor involvement in corporate decision-making on matters affecting workers. Each company in the Netherlands with at least 50 workers is required by law to institute a Works Council, with which management must consult on a range of issues including investment decisions. Legislation implementing the EU Work Council Directive came into effect in 1998. The Dutch government also agreed to introduce legislation governing employee participation of European companies (companies operating in at least two EU member states). Under this legislation, company management and workers must conclude an agreement on employee participation. Trade unions and management are generally receptive to foreign investment, especially where this leads to improved employment possibilities and related benefits. U.S. companies generally perceive Works Councils as contributing to better management-worker relations and a benefit to the company.

Foreign-Trade Zones/Free Trade Zones

The Netherlands has no free trade zones or free ports in the sense of territorial enclaves where commodities can be processed or reprocessed tax-free. There are, however, a large number of customs warehouses and free warehouses at designated places. Schiphol international airport has a control type II free zone, where goods are subjected to a declaration in order to be placed under supervision.

Foreign Direct Investment Statistics

Statistics on the level of FDI in the Netherlands (by country of origin and industry sector), and comparable data covering the stock of Dutch FDI abroad, are compiled by the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) on an ad hoc basis. http://www.statistics.dnb.nl/index.cgi?lang=uk&todo=Balans

The DNB's FDI inflows are based on sources of capital transactions rather than on actual "by country" investment outlays; the DNB's FDI data differ substantially from those published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which are based on historical costs. The FDI to GDP ratio in the Netherlands continues to be among the highest in the EU. The DNB's FDI statistics reveal that the total stock of FDI in the Netherlands amounted to 452 billion euro (roughly $594 billion), about 77 percent of GDP, at the end of 2010. According to DNB data, total net FDI outflow into the Netherlands was about 660 billion euro ($868 billion), or about 112 percent of GDP.

In 2008, foreign companies established in the Netherlands account for roughly one-third of private sector turnout and 17 of total employment. At the end of 2009, an estimated 36 percent of foreign firms in the Netherlands came from the U.S., 11 percent from Germany, 11 percent from the UK, 17 percent from Scandinavia, 3 percent from the rest of Europe, 19 percent from Asia, and the remaining 3 percent from other non-OECD and non-EU countries.

The top fifteen U.S. investors in the Netherlands are: ExxonMobil, PACCAR, Sara Lee, Cargill, Phillip Morris, Nike, Dow, Johnson & Johnson, American Express, Merck, IBM, Boston Scientific, NXP, Mars, and Medtronic.

Other prominent U.S. investors in the Netherlands include 3M Nederland BV, Amgen BV, Abbott Labs, Starbucks, General Electric, Honeywell, Heinz, Arco Chemical, Hewlett-Packard, Ernst & Young, Eastman Chemical, UPS, and Cisco. (For more information, visit www.nfia.com.)

U.S. Direct Investment in the Netherlands: Financial Outflows Without Current-Cost Adjustment, 2010

All industries








Primary and fabricated metals




Computers and electronic products


Electrical equipment, appliances, and components


Transportation equipment


Other manufacturing


Wholesale trade




Depository institutions


Finance (except depository institutions) and insurance


Professional, scientific, and technical services


Holding companies (nonbank)


Other industries


* Suppressed to avoid disclosure of data of individual companies. Negative numbers represent investment inflow.

Source: U.S. Bureau for Economic Analysis (BEA)

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