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Netherlands trade surplus remains stable despite coronavirus

Christian Fernsby |
In the first eight months of 2020, the value of Dutch goods exports was 35 billion euros higher than goods imports.

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This trade surplus is virtually equal to one year previously. At 586 billion euros, the volume of goods trade was 9 percent down on the previous year. The smaller trade volume is partly due to the coronavirus crisis.

In the period January through August 2020, Dutch importers purchased 275.5 billion euros worth of goods from abroad, 9.4 percent less than twelve months previously. At the same time, goods exports declined by 8.4 percent to 310.6 billion euros, resulting in a virtually unchanged trade balance.

Reduced trade deficit on petroleum and natural gas

The Netherlands is a net importer of mineral fuels such as petroleum and natural gas. As an importer and exporter of these fuels, it faced lower demand and lower trading prices from January to August.

As a result, the trade deficit on mineral fuels was over 3 billion euros more favourable compared to the same period in 2019. The trade balance was given a positive boost by increased exports of medical goods. Exports of chemical products were up while imports were down, allowing the trade in chemical products to generate over 19 billion euros, 500 million euros more than one year previously.

Trade surplus mainly with EU countries

In the months January to August 2020, the trade surplus with countries in the European Union (excluding the United Kingdom) stood at 61.8 billion euros. This is a year-on-year decline of 6.8 billion euros (10 percent).

Trade with Germany was the most profitable. The trade surplus with Germany amounted to 21.8 billion euros in the first eight months, 2.7 billion euros down on the previous year. Despite a drop in imports of more than 4 billion euros, Germany's share in Dutch imports rose to 17.5 percent (+0.3 percentage points).

Exports of petroleum and natural gas to Germany fell by 5.2 billion euros over this period. Germany’s share in Dutch exports remained stable at approximately 22.5 percent.

Trade deficit mainly outside the EU

The Netherlands imports far more goods from than it exports to non-EU countries. The trade deficit with these countries stood at 26.7 billion euros from January to August, 6.8 billion euros down on the same period last year.

The Netherlands has the largest trade deficit with China, namely 19.6 billion euros. This is over 300 million euros less than in January-August 2019. This is due to the fact that exports were up by more than 1.1 billion euros and imports by more than 800 million euros.

The second largest trade deficit is with the United States, remaining stable at 6.4 billion euros.

The trade deficit with Russia saw the strongest decline. In the period January through August 2019, the Netherlands still had a trade deficit of 7.4 billion euros with Russia. Due to lower imports of petroleum and natural gas, it stood at 2.1 billion euros in 2020.

Russia's share in Dutch imports fell from 3.7 percent to 2.2 percent. Of the eight countries with which the Netherlands has the largest trade deficit, seven are not members of the EU.

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