The Contribution of Multinational Enterprises to National Economic Success
Edited by Daniel Van Den Bulcke, Alain Verbeke and Wenlong Yuan
Chapter 2: Globalization in the Netherlands
Annelies Hogenbirk, John Hagedoorn and Hans van Kranenburg The Netherlands has an exceptionally long history when it comes to international activities. As early as 1602 the Dutch East India Company was established to carry out colonial activities in Asia. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Dutch companies built up a worldwide presence through trading settlements in many countries. Efficient transportation due to innovations in shipbuilding compensated for the lack of raw materials in the home base. Dutch economic development heavily relied on resources imported from abroad (in particular bulk goods – such as iron ore, grain, furs and wood – from the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, and more luxurious merchandise – such as spices, salt, gold, silver and porcelain from Asia, Africa and America). In what is now known as ‘Holland’s Golden Age’, the Netherlands became one of the most prosperous countries in the world (Goey, 1999). But even after the colonial era ended, the Netherlands continued to be a significant player in the world economy, unlike other historical trading nations such as Spain and Portugal. For instance, significant investments were made in the Russian railway and shipping industries in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, at the end of the nineteenth century and during the early years of the twentieth century, many Dutch companies were established that are still known as large multinationals today, such as Unilever, AKZO, Rabobank, Philips, Shell and Wolters Kluwer. All of them benefited from business opportunities abroad that helped them to grow quickly, whether through shareholdings, takeovers, licences...
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