SMF Forges Stronger Relations with the Netherlands

SMF is privileged to chat with Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA)'s Commissioner, Mr. Jeroen Nijland, and NFIA's Executive Director of South East Asia, Mr. Elmar Bouma on opportunities in the Netherlands, and how SMF members may tap into the resources offered by NFIA.

1 August 2018 - SMF is privileged to chat with the Commissioner Jeroen Nijland, and Executive Director of South East Asia, Elmar Bouma of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) on opportunities in the Netherlands, and how SMF members may tap into the resources offered by NFIA.

NFIA

The Commissioner of NFIA, Mr. Jeroen Nijland (left) and the NFIA's Executive Director of South East Asia, Mr. Elmar Bouma (right) shared on the opportunities in the Netherlands.


What is the business climate like in the Netherlands?
Nijland: The business climate is very good due to our geographical position in the EU market. We are top in infrastructure in terms of seaports and airports. We have very good digital connections and our workforce is relatively multilingual. Our ecosystem for innovation is also very good, attracting many startups and scale-ups. So all of these contribute to the fact that companies want to come to the Netherlands. Our new government has also announced a couple of measures to make our business climate even better. Some examples - corporate income tax rates in the Netherlands will be reduced from 25% to 21%, increasing the interest of businesses from this region to choose the Netherlands as their location in the EU market. A second example is the government’s decision to invest 400 million euros to strengthen the knowledge infrastructure in the Netherlands, to attract knowledge intensive companies to do their activities in the Netherlands. The third example is, of course, Brexit. Because of Brexit, the European Commission is moving the European Medicines Agency from London where it is currently based, to the Netherlands. This will strengthen the life science and health clusters in the Netherlands, which in itself act as a magnet to attract foreign investments. 


In a manufacturing standpoint, what is the prospective of Dutch companies in Asia and vice versa?
Bouma: The prospects are very promising because of the very high growth rates that we're seeing, not only in China but in South East Asia as well. This was reflected in March 2018 when about 200 Dutch companies, representing one of the largest trade delegations, visited China. We are also seeing smaller but very impressive numbers for trade missions coming to Singapore and Indonesia. The large ones like Phillips and Shell were already in Singapore since its independence, making them among the first to respond to the Singaporean government’s policy to attract foreign companies. Now, they are very well established here in Singapore. The same is true for other Asian countries. 


In SMF, we have 3000 member companies that are always looking at ways on how they should go international. So from the Netherlands point of view, how would you then encourage the members to reach out to NFIA? Maybe this is a good opportunity to share some of your initiatives that you want to encourage or invite the local companies to participate in terms of trade.
Nijland: In NFIA, we generally help businesses through cooperation with local organisations including yours. But generally speaking, we will first meet with the companies to discuss their plans and strategies in Europe. We will then provide customised information based on the business climate in the Netherlands, and which is relevant to match the companies’ goals. When the companies are interested to locate to the Netherlands, we link them up with partners they may need for their businesses to take root. It could be public partners such as tax authorities, to customs organisations or environmental agencies. It could also be private partners such as technology cooperation partners, real estate agents, recruitment officers, and tax advisors. We also arrange industry visits to the Netherlands to cater to their specific needs. After they are established in the Netherlands, we provide aftercare programs to ensure that their operations are running smoothly and/or if they need further assistance. All these services are provided free of charge and treated with confidentiality.

Bouma: Yes indeed we work with organisations such as yours but also with other sectors in specific organisations to share information and latest updates on Europe. We also show how the Netherlands fits into the European network.  Companies want to know the latest development with Brexit and tax reforms worldwide that will impact on they organise themselves internationally. The area of data protection and privacy is a very big issue at the moment and we are sharing what the European Commission is doing through NFIA seminars in Singapore. The renewable energy, especially offshore wind energy sector, is a huge development in Europe right now. There are plans to transit from fossil fuel to renewable energy. Singapore’s offshore sector is very strong and can therefore participate in these developments. So these are areas of interest we can share with companies in Singapore, to inform them of the latest developments and opportunities that the Netherlands may offer. 


NFIA has a long-standing relationship with Enterprise Singapore. We have regular dialogue to help companies go international. We help to organise missions to the Netherlands - to connect them with the right business partners. That is usually the first step to opening their offices or establishments in Europe. With SMF and any other foreign company looking to establish, expand or diversify their business in the Netherlands and the European market, our aim is the same. When you have activities or trade missions to Europe, we will provide the same services because all investment starts with new business contacts in Europe. That is why we always invite SMF to our events. But we are also looking to further expand it on an operational level, not just at events and through missions going to the Netherlands. We want to be a support to companies and will be happy to answer any questions that they may have on Europe. It will be on a one-on-one basis, and is free and confidential.  We are happy to offer our network in the Netherlands, which stretches among all the relevant institutions and secularism, and provide tailored information. If a company is interested to set up a manufacturing plant such as semiconductor production system or an automotive components production system, we can help with all the right connections and share information about the trends to help them get started in Europe.


So one last question. I would think that you have been working closely with the local government like Enterprise Singapore. We are actually funded by them in some ways, depending on the project. So do u want to say a few things or a few words about your collaborations or interactions with them so far?
Bouma: We are very happy and really appreciative of the good response whenever we organise events and share information. I am very confident that our interaction will further increase because the Netherlands and Singapore are similar in many ways; we are both small countries relatively, among big neighbours. This makes us the gateways to each other's continents. It creates a mindset that because we are very similar, cooperation is usually very successful. We have an international outlook and we keep business easy, simple, direct and very efficient. It may be a blessing in disguise, but companies that have been very much focused on the UK are now looking at other places in Europe due to Brexit to secure their access to the European market. And they find that the Netherlands, in terms of its legal system and assurance of its international openness, is no less attractive than the UK and in some ways, maybe even more attractive. So this is the message we want to get across in the coming months and we look forward to further step up our cooperation.


SMF looks forward to more missions and collaborations with NFIA. Through SMF’s Enterprise Europe Network Singapore Centre (EEN Singapore), SMF also helps to promote and assist members to enter into the EU market. Contact EEN Singapore at 6826 3000 or visit their website to find out more.
 

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