The government has encouraged foreign corporations to set up branch plants in the Netherlands and to establish joint ventures with Dutch companies in order to benefit from the introduction of new production techniques and improved methods of management that outside firms often bring. The government does not discriminate between foreign and domestic companies; foreign entrepreneurs have the same business privileges and obligations as Dutch businessmen. As a result, foreign companies operate in virtually all industries, including high-technology electronics, chemicals, metals, electrical equipment, textiles, and food processing.
Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows were $11 billion in 1997, down from $16.6 billion in 1996, but then soared to $37.6 billion in 1998. The peak was reached in 2000 and 2001,when total inflows reached $52 billion and $50 billion, respectively. However, in 2002, FDI inflow fell to an estimated $30 billion. In 2002, Germany replaced the United States as the main source of FDI inflow. By 2001, the total stock of FDI had reached about $321 billion. The major holders were the United States (24%), the United Kingdom (16%), and Belgium (14%).
The leading destinations of inward FDI have been the mining, quarrying and petroleum sectors.
By 2001, outward FDI stock held by investors from the Netherlands totaled about $370 billion. The leading destinations of outward FDI from the Netherlands have been the United States (27%), Belgium (11%), and the United Kingdom (8%). The leading sector of outward investment has been the financial sector.