Working visit to Texas and California: ‘We’re celebrating the close bond between the Netherlands and the United States’
The ties between the Netherlands and the United States are strong. As Queen Máxima prepares to visit Texas and California from 6 to 9 September (His Majesty King Willem-Alexander will not participate in the working visit. This decision has been made on doctors’ advice). Consuls-General Ruth Emmerink and Dirk Janssen explain why these particular US states are of interest to the Netherlands.
In terms of population and the size of their economies, Texas and California are the largest US states. They are key states for America, but they’re important to the Netherlands too. The United States is the Netherlands’ biggest trade partner outside the EU, with Texas and California heading the list of states with which we do business.
The Netherlands and California are no strangers to each other, Dirk tells us. ‘A lot of Dutch businesses and startups are active in California. Roughly a million Californians have Dutch roots, there are museums with extensive Dutch collections, and you can even sign up for Dutch Studies at the University of California. And when it comes to promoting LHBTIQ+ rights, the Netherlands and California are global leaders.’
Texas also has many citizens with Dutch heritage – around a quarter of a million – and Dutch businesses and knowledge institutions are active in various sectors, such as energy and coastal protection. The Netherlands and Texas also have a shared history in the security arena. ‘Take the Royal Netherlands Air Force – for over a quarter of a century it’s been sending pilots to Fort Hood, for training with Chinooks and other military helicopters,’ Ruth explains.
Ruth: ‘We need each other as partners if we’re to make the world fit for the future. For example, by working together in fields like climate action, security and health’
Queen Máxima will visit San Francisco and Silicon Valley in California as part of a delegation headed by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liesje Schreinemacher. In Texas the party will visit Houston and Austin. A parallel visit will be paid to San Francisco and Los Angeles by a delegation of CEOs from the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW) and representatives of almost 100 Dutch businesses interested in California.
According to the consuls-general, the four-day visit underscores the importance of this relationship. ‘We’re celebrating the close ties between the Netherlands and the United States. What’s more, transatlantic cooperation is crucial to safeguard security and prosperity, both in the Netherlands and the United States,’ Dirk says. Ruth adds that the closeness of the relationship provides opportunities for joint action. ‘We need each other as partners if we’re to make the world fit for the future. For example, by working together in fields like climate action, security and health.’
What’s more, the Queen’s presence opens doors that may normally remain shut, Dirk says. ‘The royal visit is the reason the governor of California and CEOs of big US companies are coming to San Francisco.’ Ruth nods in agreement. ‘In preparation for the visit we’re jointly drawing up a programme to bring relevant parties in contact with each other. A setting like this can help start a partnership, or boost existing collaboration.’
Dirk: ‘In Los Angeles, Dutch businesses are helping with the construction of bike paths. We can share the decades of experience we have with this in the Netherlands’
Dutch harvesting robots, storm-surge barriers and bike paths
The consuls-general see plenty of opportunities for Dutch businesses and knowledge institutions, ranging from partnerships in the water, sustainable energy and tech sectors in Texas to innovation in healthcare, transport and agriculture in California. Dirk mentions horticulture by way of example. ‘We’ve been working with Californian fruit growers for years. They’re using Dutch technology to experiment with harvesting robots.’
Texas, which is increasingly being plagued by hurricanes and severe flooding, is also interested in Dutch expertise, Ruth adds. ‘Rising sea levels and severe storms are having an enormous impact on the state’s coastal cities. Texas is now carrying out major projects to strengthen its coastline, for example by building a storm-surge barrier based on Dutch models.’
The Netherlands also has a lot of knowledge to share when it comes to biking as a mode of transport. ‘Many American cities are designed with cars in mind but would actually like to change that. Austin, for instance, has become much more bike-friendly, partly thanks to knowledge exchange and partnership with the Netherlands,’ Ruth says. Dirk agrees. ‘In Los Angeles, Dutch businesses are helping with the construction of bike paths. We can share the decades of experience we have with this in the Netherlands.’
Tech and startups
California and Texas are key states when it comes to technology and innovation. California, for example, is a leader in the field of wearable health technology (like smart watches) and digital healthcare. And Texas has a huge semiconductor industry, manufacturing chips for products like computers.
In addition, Silicon Valley – the tech capital of the world – offers many opportunities for Dutch startups. ‘In fact, any startup aspiring to be a global player can’t afford to bypass Silicon Valley,’ Dirk says. ‘The presence of major universities and a plentiful supply of investment capital mean it has the best tech ecosystem in the world.’ The consulate-general in California provides extra support for startups, for example through ScaleNL.
Attractive business location
For their part, US firms are drawn to the Netherlands. ‘Lots of big companies like Nike, Netflix, Uber and Zoom have based their European HQs in the Netherlands,’ Dirk points out. Texas companies like Dell, HP and Exxon have also invested heavily in the Netherlands. The consuls-general want to use this visit to highlight the Netherlands’ appeal as a business location. ‘We’re centrally located and well-connected with the rest of the continent. The quality of life is excellent, and the population is highly educated and speaks good English on the whole.’
The Dutch missions provide year-round support for entrepreneurs seeking to enter the US market. So this working visit isn’t an isolated activity, Ruth emphasises. ‘It ties in with important themes like climate change and health, and the opportunities that we just outlined.’
The consuls-general aren’t working in isolation either. ‘We work closely with the embassy in Washington, the other consulates-general and the honorary consuls. In Texas and California we also have Netherlands Business Support Offices (NBSO) that can help businesses in places where there isn’t an embassy or consulate,’ Dirk explains. According to Ruth, the local networks of NBSOs and honorary consuls have important added value. ‘We truly work as one team, jointly looking at how we can help each other – and above all companies and entrepreneurs.’
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