Executive Summary

The Netherlands consistently ranks among the world’s most competitive industrialized economies. It offers an attractive business and investment climate and remains a welcoming location for business investment from the United States and elsewhere.

Strengths of the Dutch economy include the Netherlands’ stable political and macroeconomic climate, a highly developed financial sector, strategic location, well-educated and productive labor force, and high-quality physical and communications infrastructure. Investors in the Netherlands take advantage of its highly competitive logistics, anchored by the largest seaport and fourth-largest airport in Europe. In telecommunications, the Netherlands has one of the highest internet penetrations in the European Union (EU) at 96 percent and hosts one of the largest data transport hubs in the world, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange.

The Netherlands is among the largest recipients and sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world and one of the largest historical recipients of direct investment from the United States. This can be attributed to the Netherlands’ competitive economy, historically business-friendly tax climate (although tax issues continue to develop as the EU attempts to harmonize tax polices across member states), and a large number of investment treaties containing investor protections. The Dutch economy has significant foreign direct investment in a wide range of sectors including logistics, information technology, and manufacturing.

In the wake of the worldwide financial crisis a decade ago, the Dutch government implemented significant reforms in key policy areas, including the labor market, the housing sector, the energy market, the pension system, and health care. Dutch reform policies were crafted in close consultation with key stakeholders, including business associations, labor unions, and civil society groups.

After years of recovery since late 2013, the macroeconomic outlook in the Netherlands has improved significantly. The Dutch government projects GDP growth of 3.2 percent in 2018, and 2.7 percent in 2019. Projected drivers of growth include increased exports and business investments, as well as invigorated domestic consumption by both households and the public sector.

  • The Netherlands is a top destination for U.S. FDI abroad, holding just over USD 847 billion out of a total of USD 5.3 trillion U.S. FDI worldwide – or about 16 percent of outstanding U.S. FDI.
  • Dutch investors contribute USD 355 billion FDI to the United States – or about ten percent of the USD 3.7 trillion of inward FDI to the United States originates from the Netherlands.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 8 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2017 32 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
rankings
Global Innovation Index 2017 3 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in Partner Country (M USD, stock positions) 2015 USD 847,391 http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2016 USD 46,610 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Related to Foreign Direct Investment

The Netherlands is the sixteenth-largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in the European Monetary Union (the Eurozone), with a gross domestic product (GDP) of nearly USD 800 billion (EUR 700 billion). According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Netherlands is consistently among the three largest source and recipient economies for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world, although the Netherlands is not the ultimate destination for the majority of this investment. The government of the Netherlands maintains liberal policies toward FDI, has established itself as a platform for third-country investment with some 145 investment agreements in force, and adheres to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Codes of Liberalization and Declaration on International Investment, including a National Treatment commitment and adherence to relevant guidelines.

The Netherlands is the recipient of eight percent of all FDI inflow into the EU. Of all EU member states, it is the top recipient of U.S. FDI, at over 16 percent of all U.S. FDI abroad as of 2015. The Netherlands has become a key export platform and pan-regional distribution hub for U.S. firms. Roughly 60 percent of total U.S. foreign-affiliate sales in the Netherlands are exports, with the bulk of them going to other EU members.

In 2014, foreign-owned companies made inward direct investments worth USD 15.8 billion (EUR 14.2 billion) – just over 30 percent of total corporate investment in durable goods in the Netherlands. Foreign investors provide 19 percent of Dutch employment in the private sector (860,200 jobs). U.S. firms contribute the most among foreign firms to employment, responsible for 214,000 jobs. In its 2017 investment report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) identified the Netherlands as the world’s fifth largest destination of global FDI inflows and the third largest source of FDI outflows.

Dutch tax authorities provide a high degree of customer service to foreign investors, seeking to provide transparent, precise tax guidance that makes long-term tax obligations more predictable. Advance Tax Rulings (ATR) and Advance Pricing Agreements (APA) are guarantees given by local tax inspectors regarding long-term tax commitments for a particular acquisition or Greenfield investment. Dutch tax policy continues to evolve as the EU seeks to harmonize tax measures across members states. A more detailed description of Dutch tax policy for foreign investors can be found at http://investinholland.com/incentives-and-taxes/ and http://investinholland.com/incentives-and-taxes/fiscal-climate/.

Dutch corporations and branches of foreign corporations are currently subject to a corporate tax rate of 25 percent on taxable profits, which puts the Netherlands in the middle third among EU countries’ corporate tax rates and below the tax rates of its larger neighbors. Profits up to USD 240,000 (EUR 200,000) are taxed at a rate of 20 percent. In October 2017, the new Dutch government announced it would lower its corporate tax rate to 21 percent in 2021, with profits up to USD 240,000 taxed at a 16 percent rate.

Dutch corporate taxation generally allows for exemption of dividends and capital gains derived from a foreign subsidiary. Surveys of the corporate tax structure of EU member states note that both the corporate tax rate and the effective corporate tax rate in the Netherlands are around the EU average. Nevertheless, the Dutch corporate tax structure ranks among the most competitive in Europe considering other beneficial measures such as ATAs and/or APAs. The Netherlands also has no branch profit tax and does not levy a withholding tax on interest and royalties.

Maintaining an investment-friendly reputation is a high priority for the Dutch government, which provides public information and institutional assistance to prospective investors through the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) (https://investinholland.com/). Additionally, the Netherlands business gateway at https://business.gov.nl/ – maintained by the Dutch government – provides information on regulations, taxes, and investment incentives that apply to foreign investors in the Netherlands and clear guidance on establishing a business in the Netherlands: https://business.gov.nl/guides-for-doing-business/starting-a-business-or-carrying-out-an-assignment/general-guide-for-starting-a-business-in-the-netherlands/.

The NFIA maintains six regional offices in the United States (Washington, DC; Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; New York City; and San Francisco). The American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands (https://www.amcham.nl/) also promotes U.S.-Dutch business interests.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

With few exceptions, the Netherlands does not discriminate between national and foreign individuals in the establishment and operation of private companies. The government has divested its complete ownership of many public utilities, but in a number of strategic sectors, private investment, including foreign investment, may be subject to limitations or conditions. These include transportation, energy, defense and security, finance, postal services, public broadcasting, and the media.

Air transport is governed by EU regulation and subject to a bilateral agreement between the United States and the EU. 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 on a reciprocal basis that the United States allows for foreign nationals in U.S. carriers.

The Netherlands has no formal foreign investment screening mechanism. It has certain limitations on foreign ownership in sectors that are deemed of vital national interest (transportation, energy, defense and security, finance, postal services, public broadcasting, and the media). There is no requirement for Dutch nationals to have an equity stake in a Dutch registered company. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (MOE) announced in mid-April that it will submit to Parliament a proposal for an investment screening law in the telecommunications sector in fall 2018.

In concert with the European Commission, the Dutch government is considering how to best protect its economic security and at the same time continue as one of the world’s most open economies. A law that establishes investor screening in the telecommunications sector is expected to come into force in late 2018.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Netherlands has not recently undergone an investment policy review by the OECD, World Trade Organization (WTO), or UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

All companies must register with the Chamber of Commerce and apply for a fiscal number with the tax administration, which allows expedited registration for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 50 employees: https://www.kvk.nl/english/ordering-products-from-the-commercial-register/.

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) from 1956 gives U.S. citizens preferential treatment to operate a business in the Netherlands, providing ease of establishment that most other non-EU nationals do not enjoy. U.S. entrepreneurs applying under the DAFT do not need to satisfy a strict, points-based test and do not have to meet pre-conditions related to providing an innovative product. U.S. entrepreneurs setting up a sole proprietorship need only register with the Chamber of Commerce and demonstrate a minimum investment of EUR 4,500. DAFT entrepreneurs receive a two-year residence permit, with the possibility of renewal for five subsequent years.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The Netherlands has bilateral investment treaties (BITs) or treaties that include investment chapters with more than 95 countries or regions 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, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, 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.

Follow these links for a continuously updated list, the legal status, and texts of these agreements: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/rijksoverheid/documenten/rapporten/
2010/02/22/ibo-landenlijst/IBO+overzicht+Nederland+update+jan+2016.pdf
.

The Netherlands has a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. See: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/international-businesses/netherlands-tax-treaty-documents.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Dutch commercial laws and regulations accord with international legal practices and standards; they apply equally to foreign and Dutch companies. The rules on acquisition, mergers, takeovers, and reinvestment are nondiscriminatory. The Social Economic Council (SER)–an official advisory body consisting of employers’ representatives, labor representatives, and government appointed independent experts–administers Dutch mergers and acquisitions rules. The SER’s rules serve to protect the interests of stakeholders and employees. They include requirements for the timely announcement of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and for discussions with trade unions.

As an EU member and Eurozone country, the Netherlands is firmly integrated in the European regulatory system, with national and European institutions exercising authority over specific markets, industries, consumer rights, and competition behavior of individual firms.

Financial markets are regulated in an interconnected EU and national system of prudential and behavioral oversight. The domestic regulators are the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) and the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Market (AFM). Their EU counterparts are the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA).

Traditionally, public consultation in the drafting of new laws is achieved by invitation of various civil society bodies, trade associations, and organizations of stakeholders. In addition, the SER has a formal mandate to provide the government with advice, both solicited and of its own accord. New laws and regulations are subject to legal review by the Council of State and must be approved by the Second and First Chambers of Parliament.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Netherlands is a member of the WTO and does not maintain any measures that are inconsistent with obligations under Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Dutch contract law is based on the principle of party autonomy and full freedom of contract. Signing parties are free to draft an agreement in any form and any language, based on the legal system of their choice.

Dutch corporate law provides for a legal and fiscal framework that is designed to be flexible. This element of the investment climate makes the Netherlands especially attractive to foreign investors.

The Dutch civil court system has a chamber dedicated to business disputes called the Enterprise Chamber. The Enterprise Chamber includes judges who are experts in various commercial fields. They resolve a wide range of corporate disputes, from corporate governance disputes in a firm to high-profile shareholder conflicts over mergers or hostile take-overs. In 2017, as part of its takeover bid of AkzoNobel, U.S. paint manufacturer PPG appealed the Akzo board’s decision to reject PPG’s takeover offer in the Commercial Court, but was unsuccessful.

In mid-2018, the Enterprise Chamber will establish an English-language chamber. The Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC) and its appellate chamber (NCCA) will offer parties the opportunity to litigate in English and will provide judgments in English. Both the NCC and NCCA will focus primarily on major international commercial cases.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

In April 2018, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy introduced a proposal that, if it becomes law, will make it mandatory for foreign investors who seek to acquire significant ownership of corporations active in the telecommunications sector to notify the Dutch government. The government expects to submit the proposed law to the Parliament for a vote in late 2018, and the proposed law could come into force by the end of 2018. This is the first law to establish an investor screening mechanism in sectors of vital interest to Dutch national security.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Structural and regulatory reforms are an integral part of Dutch economic policy. Market competition is strengthened through laws aimed at stimulating market forces, liberalization, deregulation, and legislative quality, along with a tightening of competition policy.

As an EU and Eurozone member, the Netherlands is firmly integrated in the European regulatory system with national and European institutions exercising authority over specific markets, industries, consumer rights, and competition behavior of individual firms.

The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) provides regulatory oversight in three key areas: consumer protection, post and telecommunications, and market competition.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Netherlands maintains strong protection on all types of property, including private and intellectual property, and the right of citizens to own and use property. Expropriation of corporate assets or the nationalization of industry requires a special act of Parliament, as demonstrated in the nationalization of ABN AMRO during the 2008 financial crisis (the government returned it to public shareholding by IPO in 2016). In the event of expropriation, the Dutch government follows customary international law, providing prompt, adequate, and effective compensation, as well as ample process for legal recourse. The U.S. Mission to the Netherlands is unaware of any recent expropriation claims involving the Dutch government and a U.S. or other foreign-owned company.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

As a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the Netherlands accepts binding arbitration between foreign investors and the state. The Netherlands is one of the initial signatories of the New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (UNCITRAL) and permits local enforcement of arbitration judgments decided in other signatory countries.

The Hague is the seat of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), an intergovernmental organization that is not a court, but like the ICSID, is a facilitator of independent arbitral tribunals to resolve conflicts between PCA member states, including the United States.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Netherlands has maintained a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation with the United States since 1957 that provides for national treatment and free entry for foreign investors, with certain exceptions. The Embassy is not aware of any American company raising an investment dispute with the Netherlands over the last 10 years.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Dutch bankruptcy law is governed by the Dutch Bankruptcy Code, which applies both to individuals and to companies. The code covers three separate legal proceedings: 1) bankruptcy, which has a goal of liquidating the company’s assets; 2) receivership, aimed at reaching an agreement between the creditors and the company; and 3) debt restructuring, which is only available to individuals.

The World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business Index ranks the Netherlands as number 8 in resolving insolvency. The Netherlands ranks better than the OECD average on bankruptcy time, cost, and recovery rate.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

General requirements to qualify for investment subsidy schemes apply equally to domestic and foreign investors. Industry-specific, targeted investment incentives have long been a tool of Dutch economic policy to facilitate economic restructuring and to promote economic priorities. Such subsidies and incentives are spelled out in detailed regulations. Subsidies are in the form of tax credits disbursed through corporate tax rebates or direct cash payments if there is no tax liability. For an overview of government subsidies and investment programs, see: http://english.rvo.nl/subsidies-programmes.

FDI tends to be 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 food.

Since 2010, the government has shifted from traditional industrial support policies to a comprehensive approach to public/private financing agreements in areas where investment is deemed of strategic value. Government, academia, and industry work together to determine recipient sectors for co-financed (public and private) R&D. The government’s industrial policy focuses on nine “Top Sectors”: creative industries, logistics, horticulture, agriculture and food, life sciences, energy, water, chemical industry, and high tech. For more information, see paragraph five and https://www.government.nl/topics/enterprise-and-innovation/contents/encouraging-innovation.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Netherlands has no free trade zones (FTZs) or free ports where commodities can be processed or reprocessed tax-free. However, FTZs exist for bonded storage, cargo consolidation, and reconfiguration of non-EU goods. This reflects the key role that transport, transit, logistics, and distribution play in the Dutch economy. Dutch customs authorities oversee a large number of customs warehouses, free warehouses, and free zones along many of the Netherlands trade routes and entry points.

Schiphol Airport handles over 1.75 million tons of goods for distribution, making it the third largest cargo airport in Europe. Specific parts of Schiphol are designated customs-free zones. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport by volume, handling over 37 percent of all cargo shipping on Europe’s Le Havre–Hamburg coastline and processing nearly 467 million tons of goods in 2017. Many agents operate customs warehouses under varying customs regimes on the premises of the Port of Rotterdam.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

There are no trade-related investment performance requirements in the Netherlands and no requirements for employment of local capital or managerial personnel. General requirements to qualify for investment subsidy schemes apply equally to domestic and foreign investors.

The Dutch government does not follow a “forced localization” policy, and does not require foreign IT providers to turn over source code or to provide access to surveillance. The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) monitors and enforces Dutch legislation on the protection of personal data (https://autoriteitpersoonsgegevens.nl/en). The Dutch DPA is active in the EU’s Article 29 Working Party, the collective of EU national DPAs. The primary law on protection of personal data in the Netherlands is the Dutch law implementing EU directive 95/46/EC. The new European General Data Protection Regulation, which is directly applicable in member states, entered into force May 25, 2018, as part of the EU’s comprehensive reform on data protection.

The Dutch DPA recognized U.S. firms that registered and self-certified with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor program that began in 2000 and focused on safe transfer of personal data between the European Union and the United States. The Dutch government strongly supports the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (https://www.privacyshield.gov/welcome), the agreement that has replaced Safe Harbor, although the DPA joined other EU data protection bodies in requesting resolution of concerns and further clarifications before its implementation.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Netherlands fully complies with international standards on protection of real property. The World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business Index ranked the Netherlands 32 out of 190 countries in terms of property registration. The number of procedures involved is at the OECD average, while the processing time of 2.5 days is nearly ten times faster than the OECD average.

The Netherlands’ Cadaster, Land Registry, and Mapping Agency (Cadaster) was established in 1832 to collect and register administrative and spatial data on real property. The Cadaster is publicly available and can be accessed online (https://www.kadaster.com/).

Intellectual Property Rights

With the implementation of EU Directive 2004/48 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), IPR holders have a number of instruments at their disposal to enforce their rights in civil court.

The Netherlands is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and generally conforms to accepted international practice for the protection of technology and trademarks.

Despite its participation in negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty, the Netherlands, like other EU member states, has stated it will not sign the treaty in its current form. The EU has requested the European Court of Justice to advise on the compatibility of ACTA with existing European treaties, in particular with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The Netherlands is not listed in United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Report, but it is listed as hosting infringing websites in USTR’s Notorious Markets list: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Reports/2017%20Notorious%20Markets%
20List%201.11.18.pdf
. USTR also notes that Dutch law enforcement has assisted in seizing infringing domain names, thereby bringing down some infringing sites.

Copyright

The Netherlands has implemented European Directive 98/44/EC in 2006, bringing domestic legislation in line with the WIPO 1996 Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty (WPPT). Policymakers agree on the need to raise public awareness of IPR rules and regulations and to strengthen enforcement.

The Dutch government has recognized the need to protect IPR, 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 (IP) under copyright statutes.

The Netherlands has resisted criminalizing online copyright infringement for personal use, instead placing a surcharge on the sales of blank media such as CDs, DVDs, and USB storage devices to remunerate rights holders. However, a 2014 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union requires the government to change this policy and ban online infringement. Although the Dutch government has affirmed it will comply with the ruling, it has yet to provide details on how it will do so.

Patents

The Netherlands is a signatory to the European Patent Convention, which provides for a centralized Europe-wide patent protection system. The Netherlands has been a staunch supporter of the forthcoming single harmonized European patent procedure that will allow for easier application, in three languages.

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. Dutch patents are valid for 20 years, in line with EU regulations. 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.

Because 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. In addition to possible civil remedies, all IPR laws contain penal bylaws and reference to the Criminal Code. In 2012, the Dutch Parliament passed legislation that strengthened oversight and coordination of seven different collective institutions that oversee control, administration, and remuneration for commercial use of IP.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at American Embassy The Hague:
David Swalley
Economic Officer
John Adams Park 1
2244 BZ Wassenaar
Telephone: +31 (0)70 310 2270
E-mail: SwalleyDA@state.gov

Country-Specific Resource:
BREIN Foundation
http://www.anti-piracy.nl/english.php
P.O. Box 133
2130 AC Hoofddorp
The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0)23 799 7870

American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands:
P.O. Box 15783
1001 NG Amsterdam
Telephone: +31 (0)20 795 1840
Email: office@amcham.nl

Local lawyers list: https://nl.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Netherlands is home to the world’s oldest stock exchange – established four centuries ago – and to Europe’s first options exchange, both located in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam financial exchanges are part of the Euronext group that operates stock exchanges and derivatives markets in Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, and Paris.

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, 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.

Netherlands Money and Banking System

The Dutch banking sector is firmly embedded in the European System of Central Banks, of which the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) is the national prudential banking supervisor. AFM, the Dutch securities and exchange supervisor, supervises financial institutions and the proper functioning of financial markets and falls under the EU-wide European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA).

The highly concentrated Dutch banking sector is over three times as large as the rest of the Dutch economy, making it one of Europe’s largest banking sectors in relation to GDP. ING, ABN AMRO, Rabobank, and Volksbank hold over 80 percent of total assets. The largest bank, ING, has a balance sheet of USD 938 billion (EUR 1.03 trillion).

The DNB does not consider Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies to be a meaningful form of money, as they do not fulfill the traditional purposes of money as stable means of exchange or saving. The DNB does not consider Bitcoin to have any implications for monetary policy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU and one of the first members of the Eurozone. The European Central Bank supervises monetary policy, and the president of the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) sits on the European Central Bank’s Governing Council.

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 requirements for nonresident firms.

Remittance Policies

The Netherlands does not impose waiting periods or other measures on foreign exchange for remittances. Similarly, there are no limitations on the inflow or outflow of funds for remittance of profits or revenue. The Netherlands, as a Eurozone member, does not engage in currency manipulation tactics.

The Netherlands has been a member of the FATF since 1990 and – because of the membership of its Caribbean territories in the Caribbean FATF (C-FATF) – strongly supports C-FATF.

With the promulgation of additional, preventative anti-money laundering and counterfeiting legislation, the Netherlands has remedied many deficiencies that were revealed in a 2011 Mutual Evaluation Report. As a result, FATF removed the Netherlands from its “regular follow-up process” in February 2014. The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) has listed the Netherlands as a “country of primary concern,” largely because the country is a major global financial center and consequently an attractive venue for laundering funds generated by illicit activities. More information can be found at: https://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2016/vol2/253421.htm.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Netherlands has no sovereign wealth funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The Dutch government maintains an equity stake in a small number of enterprises and some ownership in companies that play an important role in strategic sectors. In particular, government-controlled entities retain dominant positions in gas and electricity distribution, rail transport, and the water sector. The Netherlands has an extensive public broadcasting network, which generates its own income through advertising revenues but also receives government subsidies.

For a complete list of all 34 government-owned entities, please see: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/staatsdeelnemingen/vraag-en-antwoord/in-welke-ondernemingen-heeft-de-overheid-aandelen.

Private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises with respect to market access, credits, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies. Government-appointed supervisory boards oversee state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In some instances, SOEs must consult with the cabinet ministry that oversees them on large investment decisions. As with any other firm in the Netherlands, SOEs must publish annual reports, and their financial accounts must be audited.

The Netherlands fully adheres to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs.

Privatization Programs

There are no ongoing privatization programs in the Netherlands.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The Netherlands is a global leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Principles of CSR are promoted and prescribed through a range of corporate, governmental, and international guidelines. In general, companies carefully guard their CSR reputation and consumers are increasingly opting for products and services that are produced in an ethical and sustainable manner.

The Netherlands adheres to OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy houses the National Contact Point (NCP) that promotes OECD guidelines and helps mediate concerns that persons, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and enterprises may have regarding implementation by a specific company. For more information, visit http://www.oecdguidelines.nl.

The Dutch government strongly encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which states that businesses have a social responsibility to respect the same human rights norms in other countries as they do in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has no special government programs that promote women empowerment or women’s access to investment. Under the law, there is no differentiation for men and women regarding equal access to investment. Furthermore, no groups are excluded from participating in financial markets and the financial system.

The Netherlands has strong standards for corporate governance. Publicly listed companies are required to publish audited financial reports. As of 2017, the EU requires these companies to include a chapter on Responsible Business Conduct.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs established an independent networking organization on CSR called MVONederland in 2004. MVONederland currently has over 2050 members, including SMEs, multinational corporations, NGOs, as well as local and national administrative bodies. See: https://www.csreurope.org/mvo-nederland.

The Dutch government also encourages companies to engage in CSR through incentive programs and by setting high standards. Examples include:

  • The government reviews CSR activities of more than 500 corporations annually and presents an award to the company with the highest transparency score.
  • The government boosts the development of sustainable products through its own sustainable procurement policy.
  • Dutch companies can only join government trade missions if they have endorsed OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
  • Companies that observe the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are eligible for financial support for their international trade and investment activities.
  • The government supports the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), which helps companies make their international production chains more sustainable.
  • The government conducts sector-risk analyses to identify where problems are most likely to occur and target improvements.
  • The government has completed five of 13 sector-wide agreements it intends to make with the private sector in the area of International Corporate Social Responsibility. The five agreements cover textiles, banking and insurance, promotion of vegetable proteins, sustainable forestry, and gold.

The 2018 National Trade Estimate of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) does refer to the fact that some sustainability criteria developed in the Netherlands can bring about trade impediments: “The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) have developed standards for soybeans and wood pellets, respectively, that have been supported by the Dutch government and effectively require U.S. producers to meet onerous certification requirements… In particular, the criteria include a requirement for sustainability certification at the forest level, which effectively precludes reliance on the U.S. risk-based approach to sustainable forest management. As a result of the implementation of the criteria, wood pellet exports to the Netherlands have dropped from 7 percent of total U.S. wood pellet exports in 2014 to currently less than 1 percent.”

9. Corruption

The Netherlands fully complies with international standards on combating corruption. Transparency International ranked the Netherlands eighth in its 2017 Corruption Perception Index.

Anti-bribery legislation to implement the 1997 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (ABC) entered into effect 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. Under the law, it is a criminal offense if one obtains foreign contracts through corruption.

At the national level, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and Ministry of Justice and Security have both taken steps to enhance regulations to combat bribery in the processes of public procurement and issuance of permits and subsidies. Most companies have internal controls and/or codes of conduct that prohibit bribery.

Several agencies combat corruption. The National Integrity Office serves as a knowledge center, develops new instruments for tracking problems, and identifies trends on matters of integrity. The Independent Commission for Integrity in Government is an appeals board for whistleblowers in government and law enforcement agencies.

The Netherlands signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention and is party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government and NGO contacts for combating corruption are:

National Integrity Office
Lange Voorhout 13
2514 EA The Hague
The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0)70 376 5937
E-mail: info@integriteitoverheid.nl

Transparency International Nederland
Benoordenhoutseweg 23
2596 BA The Hague
The Netherlands
E-mail: communicatie@transparency.nl

10. Political and Security Environment

Although political violence rarely occurs in the highly stable and consensus-oriented Dutch society, public debate on issues such as immigration and integration policy has been contentious. While rare, there have been some politically inspired and religiously inspired acts of violence.

The Dutch economy derives much of its strength from a stable business climate by partnerships among unions, business organizations, and the government. Strikes are rarely used as a way to resolve labor disputes. With eight workdays per 1000 employees lost to industrial action, the Netherlands ranks 10th on the list of OECD countries with the lowest incidence of strikes, behind the U.S (six days) and Germany (seven days).

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Netherlands has a strongly regulated labor market (nearly 85 percent of labor contracts fall under some form of collective labor agreement), comprised of a well-educated and multilingual workforce. Labor/management relations in both the public and private sectors are generally good in a system that emphasizes the concept of social partnership between industry and labor. Although wage bargaining in the Netherlands is increasingly decentralized, there still exists a central bargaining apparatus where labor contract guidelines are established.

The terms of collective labor agreements apply to all employees in a sector, not only union members. To avoid surprises, potential investors are advised to consult with local trade unions prior to making an investment decision to determine which, if any, labor contracts apply to workers in their business sector. Collective bargaining agreements negotiated in recent years have, by and large, been accepted without protest.

Every company in the Netherlands with at least 50 workers is required by law to institute a Works Council (“ondernemingsraad”), with which management must consult on a range of issues, including investment decisions, pension packages, and wage structures. The Social Economic Council has helpful programs on establishing employee participation that allow firms to comply with the law on Works Councils. See: https://www.ser.nl/en/about_the_ser/responsibilities/enforcing-laws.aspx.

The annual unemployment rate is forecast to be 3.9 percent in 2018, well below the EU average. The working population consists of 8.9 million persons. Workers may be sought through government-operated labor exchanges, private employment firms, or through direct hiring. Since 2002, the Netherlands has the highest share of part-time workers in its workforce among the OECD countries. A rise in women participation in the workforce led to a 37 percent increase in the share of part-time workers in the total working population. Two-thirds of women and one quarter of men work less than a 36-hour week. Labor market participation, especially by older workers, is growing, and the number of independent contractors is rapidly increasing.

To ensure continued economic growth and address the impact of an aging population, increased labor market participation is critical. The age to qualify for a state pension (AOW) will increase from age 65 to 67 by 2023. Governmental labor market policies are targeted at increasing productivity of the labor force, including the expansion of working hours. For example, access to daycare is being improved in order to raise the average number of hours worked by women, which is 10 hours below the average of hours worked by men.

Effective January 1, 2018, the minimum wage for employees older than 23 years is EUR 1,578 (USD 1,921) per month.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The Overseas Private Insurance Corporation (OPIC) does not operate in the Netherlands. However, OPIC insurance and funding is available for U.S. companies that partner with Dutch companies in third-country markets where OPIC operates. The Netherlands is a member of the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Dutch-registered 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 contained in 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.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2017 USD 802,877 2016 USD 777,228 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source** USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2017 USD 827,523 2016 USD 847,391 BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/direct_
investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2017 USD 908,648 2016 USD 355,242 BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/direct_
investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 103% 2016 109% N/A

*Host country source for GDP 2017 is Statistics Netherlands (CBS). CBS provides more recent data than World Bank. For a breakdown of Dutch GDP, see: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82601ENG/table?ts=1525080198356.
**Host country source for FDI stocks and flows is the Dutch Central Bank (DNB). For outward FDI destined for the U.S., the accumulated value in 2017 is EUR 838,682 million and for inbound FDI originating from U.S. the accumulated value in 2017 is EUR 763,804 million.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

IMF data on inward and outward direct investment for the Netherlands are consistent with DNB reporting on FDI.

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment (2016) Outward Direct Investment (2016)
Total Inward 4,083,833 100% Total Outward 5,093,952 100%
United States 758,146 19% Luxemburg 600,121 12%
Luxemburg 699,991 17% United Kingdom 576,831 11%
Bermuda 401,463 10% United States 543,158 11%
United Kingdom 357,744 9% Switzerland 383,171 8%
Switzerland 279,504 7% Germany 237,086 5%

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

IMF data on portfolio investments for the Netherlands are consistent with DNB reporting on FDI

Portfolio Investment Assets (June 2017)
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 1,895,947 100% All Countries 929,181 100% All Countries 966,766 100%
United States 481,529 25% United States 320,653 35% Germany 197,978 20%
Germany 224,208 12% Luxembourg 93,090 10% United States 160,876 17%
France 193,033 10% United Kingdom 66,123 7% France 156,850 16%
United Kingdom 118,587 6% Ireland 65,877 7% United Kingdom 52,463 5%
Luxemburg 113,265 6% Japan 41,338 4% Belgium 47,703 5%

14. Contact for More Information

Gilles Everts
Economic Specialist
John Adams Park 1
2244 BZ Wassenaar
Telephone: +31 (0)70 310 2276
Email: EvertsGE@state.gov

2018 Investment Climate Statements: Netherlands
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