Netherlands could play bigger role in BRI: analyst

By Wang Cong and Li Xuanmin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/25 21:33:40

Tourists enjoy a boat tour on the canals of Amsterdam. File photo: Xinhua

Companies from the Netherlands see great potential in the Chinese market and are actively exploring business opportunities in a wide range of sectors from logistics to technologies, as the two countries have decided to strengthen bilateral cooperation, executives said on Thursday.

The Netherlands has signed an agreement with China to explore opportunities in third markets under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With its geopolitical and economic advantages, the country could play a much bigger role in the initiative to expand markets for its businesses, an analyst noted.

"China is now the fast-growing market for the company, and we believe there is still room for growth as the cooperation under the BRI moves into innovative and digital technologies," Zhu Hailuan, the vice president and head of public affairs for Philips in charge of the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Zhu was attending the CEO Conference of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, where government officials and business leaders from more than 150 countries and regions are gathering to discuss cooperation under the BRI.

Phillips is looking for more technology and talent exchange with China and localized cooperation with Chinese companies in medical equipment, health informatics, artificial intelligence, health big data, and internet+healthcare, Zhu added.

"The BRI provides a platform for Chinese and Dutch companies to communicate with each other and for innovative technology enter to China at a faster speed after the country further opens up," she said.

China and the Netherlands have enjoyed warm bilateral ties in recent years, with several high-level government official exchanges, and have vowed to further strengthen economic and trade ties, including under the BRI platform. 

During a visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to the Netherlands in October 2018, the two governments signed a memorandum of cooperation to strengthen cooperation in third markets.

But cooperation between the two countries under the BRI started years ago, with the first freight train shuttling between China and the Netherlands. The cargo service, which connects Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, to Rotterdam, was launched in June 2016. 

China-Europe cargo train services are a crucial part of the BRI, which aims to boost connectivity among continents from Asia to Africa to Europe.

With rising shipments, the Chengdu-Rotterdam rail services, which started at one train a week, now run three or four times a week and more routes have been launched between the countries, Zhang Xuyang, a manager of Netherland-based logistics service provider Fulfilment Solutions, told the Global Times on Thursday. "The BRI has brought enormous opportunities for logistics companies like ours," he said.

Fulfillment has seen business with Chinese partners grow between 300 percent and 400 percent over the past few years and more growth can be expected as the company continues to explore cooperation with Chinese cross-border e-commerce platforms, Zhang said.

Bilateral trade reached $85.18 billion in 2018, up 8.6 percent from 2017, according to Chinese customs data.

Bigger role

However, there is still untapped potential for cooperation, and the Netherlands could play a bigger role in the joint development of the BRI, business leaders and analysts said.

"Though the China-Europe freight train services have brought some [benefits] to Dutch ports, the Netherlands should seize the opportunity and further expand exports to China of its agricultural products," Chen Xin, research fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. "They need to transform passivity into initiative."

Apart from signing the memorandum on cooperation in third markets, the Netherlands has not officially backed the BRI. 

But Chen said that as Dutch businesses see more market potential, "I think there will be some changes in [its stance on the BRI]."

Zhang of Fulfilment Solutions said that the Netherlands is a major hub for global sea and land transportation, which gives it a "unique geographical advantage" for the two countries to cooperate in connectivity and logistics.

The Netherlands also has much more to offer, according to Zhu. Despite being a small nation, the Netherlands has an "innovative DNA" and adopts an open attitude in international cooperation and the two countries could work together in technology, finance and insurance industries under the BRI, she said.

Newspaper headline: Dutch firms see huge potential in China


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