As one of China’s top European trading partners, the Netherlands could assist Beijing to transfer its “message” to Brussels and help develop the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the European Union.
That’s according to one expert on Sino-Dutch relations, who believes that the Dutch could be important players in helping to improve both trade and political ties between China and the EU.
Boudewijn Poldermans, a Dutch sinologist from the Netherlands China Business Council, was speaking on the arrival of China Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the Netherlands.
On the second leg of his European tour, Wang Yi was in The Hague to meet with his Dutch counterpart, Stef Blok, and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
According to Poldermans, the comparatively close relationship between the two countries is one of the reasons why the Netherlands was so high on his list.
Business ties between the Netherlands and China go back four centuries, and despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands is one of China’s major European trade partners – its exports to the country now only second to Germany’s.
Poldermans, who is chairman of the consultancy firm CGCB International, told CGTN Europe that this was, in part, why Wang was in the Netherlands.
But in his opinion, The Hague’s political capital in the European economic bloc was also a crucial factor in arranging the recent talks.
“The Netherlands is one of the founders of the European Union,” said Poldermans: “In that respect, [it] can maybe play a role or assist China to transfer the message from China to Brussels.”
But what exactly is that message?
Poldermans described it as “complex” but a positive one for increased trade between the EU and China.
“The Netherlands can certainly play a role in the Belt and Road Initiative because [it] is very strong in Value Added Logistics,” said Poldermans.
The consultant described how the country’s European logistics network and enormous trade ports could boost Chinese exports to the EU and vice versa.
And he said while the Netherlands is yet to sign a BRI deal with Beijing, it was likely to be an interesting subject of conversation:
“I think we can play a very good role, but, of course, it should be a win-win situation”
On a bilateral level, and despite size differences, Poldermans believes that there are many areas for improved trade between China and the Netherlands.
They include shared strengths such as agro-industry sector, food, ICT, shipbuilding, and healthcare: “There are many, many areas where we could cooperate.”
He adds that the Chinese business community in the Netherlands is already quite large.
“It’s a very interesting climate here for foreigners to invest,” he says. “The Netherlands is the gateway to Europe, so it’s very easy for companies to set up a European head office here.”
Brussels and Beijing had to postpone the conclusion of the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement between the European Union and China, and international trade ties have been terse amid COVID-19.
However, with a video conference between President Xi Jinping and European leaders tabled for next month, Poldermans is hopeful, perhaps with some encouragement from the Netherlands, the deal will be agreed quickly:
“The sooner the better.”