Gateway to Europe – Aired March 2008
One of the largest countries in Europe, the Netherlands shares a long history with Asia. Though relations were not always pleasant, today there are many people of Asian origins who call the Netherlands home.
What do these former colonial masters have to offer the continent in terms of business opportunities? And is there more to the country than just tulips, windmills and canals?
Join Asia Business Channel as we explore the lowland country, and take a closer look at three of its most promising cities.
The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy in which the government has reduced its role since the 1980s.
With the 16th largest economy in the world, it ranks 10th in GDP per capita. Just before the turn of the century, the country’s annual GDP growth averaged nearly 4%, well above the European average.
Inflation is expected to stay low at around 1.5% in the coming years, and the country boasts the lowest unemployment rate of all the European Union member states.
Germany is the Netherlands’ biggest trading partner, with 25% of import and export trade, while other major partners include Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the UK.
On average, approximately 80 foreign companies set up in the Netherlands every year.
The local workforce available in the country has been highly lauded by many international companies. Apart from being multilingual, the Dutch also pride themselves in their efficient use of time.
Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands…
These days, although its colonial reach is over, the city is as bustling and economically productive as it was during the days of the Dutch empire.
Fanning out south from the central railway station, the city is divided into boroughs, each with its own distinct character.
The city today is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands, and one of the most important European cities in which to do business.
Large multi-national companies and individual creative businesses have all set up shop in the capital, making the city one of the top 5 business locations in Europe, with a significant amount of foreign investment.
The city is preferred for its favourable tax policies and financial incentives, stable political climate, quality of telecommunications, multilingual abilities of its workforce, and market accessibility.
Much of Amsterdam’s success has especially been attributed to its prime position offering easy access to other European markets.
Apart from its excellent roads and public transport system, the city is also well-known for its canals. Much of the Amsterdam canal system is the result of successful city planning.
Connected to a network of road and rail transport running throughout the European continent, Amsterdam has carved out a reputation for the mass handling and distribution of goods. The country is also linked inland to Europe via her waterways. Thus, companies located in Amsterdam are able to co-ordinate the movement of goods via a range of locally available transport options.
Apart from the movement of goods, the movement of people in and out of Amsterdam is also made easy via Schiphol International Airport.
Europe’s fourth-largest air cargo hub, the airport offers regular flights to all major destinations worldwide.
The airport is one of the major driving forces of the Dutch economy, and has been declared the best in Europe in several international surveys, winning more than 120 prizes over the years.
Located just 20 minutes from Schiphol International Airport, economic activity at the Port of Amsterdam is also on the rise. With the introduction of innovative new container terminals and a variety of value-adding activities, the port is one of Europe’s seven major maritime hubs. It is capable of handling all types of commodities and provides comprehensive solutions for a variey of goods handling.
The facilities provided for business in Amsterdam are extensive. While business activities are largely focused around the city centre, the port area and new business parks on the city fringes are becoming increasingly popular.
The city is the economic engine of the region, and has become a major European financial centre known for its efficiency and low costs in trade finance.
It is fitting that in a city that was home to the world’s first ever public stock exchange, finance is a major part of Amsterdam’s business world.
Today, its stock exchange ranks fifth in Europe, and eighth worldwide.
The financial sector employs about 8% of Amsterdam’s workforce, and some 70 banks have a presence in the city. While foreign banks have a significant presence in the capital, several domestic banks are also leading international players.
These and other institutions can rely on a well-educated local workforce. The Amsterdam Institute of Finance, which offers top-level training to finance professionals, enhances the availability of these specialised business skills.
Amsterdam is also placed in the top 3 preferred European locations for ICT companies. The sector thrives in a creative atmosphere, supported by state-of-the-art IT infrastructure and media companies.
The city is also well-served in terms of its electronic business infrastructure. Amsterdam is home to the largest internet hub on the continent, and is one of 10 most important internet hubs worldwide, placing it at the heart of an advanced telecommunications infrastructure.
The region maintains a diverse and active manufacturing base, with around 15% of the workforce employed in the industrial sector. Manufacturing thrives on the logistical advantages of the region, and productivity is enhanced by extremely competitive labour costs, and relatively low telecommunications and energy costs.
There is no underplaying how important tourism is to Amsterdam.
Visitors are attracted to the city for its liberal tolerant ways, its relaxed charm emphasised by elegant houses and enchanting canals, as well as the reputation of its museums and other cultural offerings.
Amsterdam’s diversity and opportunities make it an excellent choice for business, while its rich heritage and culture, creativity and innovative infrastructure set it apart from other major European cities.
Officially recognised by the Dutch government as one of the three mainports in the Netherlands, the Eindhoven region is referred to as “Brainport”.
Offering an excellent geographical location at the heart of Benelux, with good links to Belgium and Germany, the region has a strategic position in accessing adjoining markets.
There is a good business climate, with space for enterprises to grow. Rentals for office and business space are attractive, so that businesses can start up at an acceptable price. There also exists a unique partnership between knowledge institutes, businesses and government authorities, which means that ample venture capital is available in the region.
Another form of financing available is vendor finance. One company which provides such financing solutions to a wide variety of industries is De Lage Landen.
Eindhoven also enjoys the reputation of being the European leader in open innovation.
The claim that the city is “leading in technology” is more than just a slogan. In 2005, a third of the total amount of money spent on research and development in the Netherlands was spent in this region, making it the only province in the Netherlands to meet the Lisbon targets, as well as giving it a top three position in Europe.
Brainport Eindhoven is the economic development programme of the 21 municipalities in South-east Brabant. It is part of the Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen triangle, and collaborates with multinational companies, foreign knowledge workers and knowledge institutes on a global scale.
As the largest city, and one with a top technological innovation climate as well as a flourishing knowledge industry, Eindhoven serves as the hotspot in the programme. The city has become the locomotive of the Dutch economy through its balanced collaboration of business life, knowledge institutes and government.
Philips’ presence is probably the largest single contributing factor to the major growth of Eindhoven in the 20th century. It attracted and spun off many hi-tech companies, making Eindhoven a major technology and industrial hub. Today, a quarter of the jobs available in the region are in the fields of technology and ICT. The region also excels in attracting young, dynamic entrepreneurs.
With the ambition to excel as a top European technlogy region and to achieve a sustained economically competitive position on a global scale, Eindhoven focuses on more than continuous innovation. It also focuses on developing the best possible housing, working and living climate, and the best possible infrastructure in the region.
High Tech Campus Eindhoven forms a large part of the lure of the city, and is an icon of open innovation.
Another institute of higher education, Eindhoven University of Technology, is one of the top 3 universities in Europe in terms of citation impact scores, and it has the highest qualifications in well-chosen research areas in Engineering and Science.
Eindhoven also offers a lively cultural scene, from numerous bars on the Market Square to annual festivals that make the city a delight to visit at any time of year.
Rotterdam’s central position at the heart of a single European market of more than 450 million consumers means that the most important economic and industrial centres can be reached in less than a day.
Due to this, the region is home to a wide range of companies specialising in handling, storage, transport, industrial processing and auxiliary services. This large concentration of facilities, know-how and experience in the area offers investors optimum service levels and customised solutions.
The city is an ideal location to start or expand activities in Europe, as it is also a centre of excellence in transport, transhipment and distribution.
With more than 350 million tonnes of cargo passing through her port every year, the city is home to the number one port in Europe both for imports and exports.
Open and fast connection with the sea, a very deep access channel and perfect hinterland connections are some of the main strengths of the port. It has more than 500 scheduled sailings a week, to over 1000 ports worldwide.
In response to global developments in international trade, Rotterdam has developed a successful Distripark concept. These Distriparks are advanced logistic parks with comprehensive facilities for distribution operations at a single location. These parks are the answer to growing demands on shippers and logistics companies for on-time delivery at lower costs.
The city is well-connectd by international, national, regional and local public transport systems, making movement easy and reliable. Its airport is the third largest in the country.
Rotterdam also has a reputation as being a platform for architectural development.
The city has some of the tallest structures in the Netherlands, from the tallest office building, Delftse Poort, to the tallest residence building, Montevideo Tower.
The Erasmus Bridge is 2600 feet long, and links the north and south of Rotterdam. It is held up by a 453-foot tall pylon with a characteristic bend, earning the bridge its nickname “The Swan”.
The city also houses the 610 foot-tall Euromast, which has long been a major tourist attraction.
Rotterdam offers much for the tourist in terms of shopping. From the first set of pedestrian streets in the country to modern shopping venues like Beurstraverse, there is something for every whim and pocket.
Yearly festivals include the International Film Festival in January, and North Sea Jazz Festival in July.
Rotterdam also boasts a vibrant and lively nightlife, with an array of clubs, music venues and entertainment, as well as regular theatrical and musical performances.