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The Dutch economy is open and internationally oriented. For centuries, international trade has been a key element of the Dutch economic system. Located in the delta where several major European rivers flow into the North Sea, Holland was ideally situated to become a centre of trade and transport for all of Western Europe. The seventeenth century is known as the Golden Age of Dutch history, when Dutch ships carried 90% of all the goods in Europe.

Today, international trade is still the main engine of economic growth in Holland. In fact, Holland is the 16th largest economy in the world and one of the ten leading exporting nations. Holland’s most important trading partners are its neighbours Germany, Belgium, the UK and France. In 2009, Holland was the EU’s second largest export country after Germany.

Service industry, agricultural products and the creative sector

The Dutch economy is particularly strong in the service industry, agricultural products sector and creative sector. The Dutch economy is currently making a shift from a production-based to a service-oriented economy. Nowadays, between 70% and 80% of Dutch economic activity is service-based. Holland is also one of the world’s three largest exporters of agricultural produce. One-fifth of all Dutch exports fall within the food products and flower sector. The flower sector owes its strong position to the country’s climate, the availability of high-tech production methods and the proximity of 500 million consumers across Europe. In recent years, Dutch Design has become an international phenomenon. From fashion and architecture to music and new media, the sector is filled with talent. 


The Utrecht economy reflects the international position of the Netherlands, Utrecht’s central location in the Netherlands and the presence of universities and other institutes of higher education. Utrecht’s main business sectors are financial and business services with a strong emphasis on ICT. Other strong sectors are healthcare, education, life sciences and tourism. Utrecht houses one of the country’s largest exhibition and convention centres. For more information: http://www.utrecht.nl (website of the Utrecht Municipal Council, information on the economy is mainly in Dutch).