Dutch firms could potentially export more to Asia. There are potentially underexplored export opportunities in in certain agro-food sectors (including vegetables, meat, and flowers), certain high-tech machinery sectors, and medicaments. These are sectors in which the Netherlands has a comparative advantage worldwide, but for which exports to Asia are relatively low, thereby constituting a potential ‘opportunity’ to be explored.

This study identifies the comparative advantages of the Dutch export sectors. Based on value added export data, we find that the Netherlands has the strongest comparative advantages in transport, trade, finance, agro-food, and petroleum products. Detailed gross export data revealed additional comparative advantages in certain high tech machinery sectors, such as office machines, machinery for specialised industries, and telecom equipment.

Currently, Dutch exports of goods to Asia still lag behind those of other countries in Western Europe. In 2015, 2.5% of Dutch total gross exports of goods went to China and Hong Kong, compared with around 8% for the UK, 6.5% for Germany and 3.5% for Denmark. Similarly, Dutch gross exports to India in 2015 constituted 0.5% of total Dutch gross exports, compared with 2.2% for Belgium and just over 1% for the UK.

Where the Netherlands does well is in exports of services to Asia, particularly in the areas of transport (logistics), trade, and financial services. Other Dutch export successes in Asia are in certain types of high tech machinery and some agro-food products. In these sectors there are however additional potential export opportunities, which are further elaborated upon in two case studies.