June 28, 2013

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Frans Timmermans, introduced his plan to cut Euro 100 million in government spending. Part of his plan includes the possible closing of the Netherlands Consulates-General in Antwerp, Chicago, Milan, Munich and Osaka. In September this plan will probably be discussed in the Dutch Parliament. The Dutch American Chamber of Commerce is against the closing of the Dutch Consulate General in Chicago.

Five reasons the Netherlands Consulate General in Chicago should remain open:

  1. Bad Timing: Today’s economic dynamism in the U.S. and the Midwest is very attractive for business and investment from the Netherlands, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Opportunities are easier to cash in as compared to the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Dutch SME’s have shown increased interest in the Midwest. The upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will only strengthen our economic ties. Closing the Dutch Consulate General in Chicago is bad timing.
  2. Added value of a consulate general with American authorities: Local governments in the U.S. are important: each state, county and city has its own rules & regulations. Diplomatic access can open doors that would otherwise remain closed for trade promotion agencies, like a Netherlands Business Support Office. These connections are essential in (semi) governmental areas like Water, Energy and Logistics.
  3. Added value of a consulate general’s location: The Midwest has 14 states, covering one third of the size of the US, this is more than half the size of the European Union. How to cover this huge territory from another Netherlands mission in the US? For example, if Chicago closes, the US will have only three consulates-general and one embassy for all 50 states, while there will be a Netherlands embassy in every EU member country (28).
  4. Is closing a real cost saver? The costs of a possible alternative (Honorary Consulate that issues passports & visa + Netherlands Business Support Office + Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency) may not be much less.
  5. Are there really no other, economically less important missions elsewhere on the globe, closure of which would have less potential impact on Dutch business interests than Chicago?

Hard Facts:

  • Hard Fact: Importance of the Midwest: The Midwest buys 27% of all Dutch exports to the US, over three times the Dutch export to all of Canada or India. The development of shale gas and oil has given a further boost to the manufacturing industry and technological progress in the industrial heart of the US.
  • Hard Fact: Dynamic Chicago: In 2012, Chicago was again the #1 destination outside of Europe for Dutch business travelers. The Economist forecasts that in 2025, Chicago will be the 2nd most competitive city in the US, and 9th globally.
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