Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, visited Israel earlier this month, together with delegations from the water, oil & gas sectors. The event “Matchmaking @ Netherlands-Israel Cooperation Forum 2013” which took place in Herzlyia on December 8th, brought together Dutch and Israeli companies in one-on-one “speed-meetings.” The event was put together by the Israel Export Institute, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs in Israel, and Israel NewTech at the Ministry of Economy, and culminated in a dinner with the participation of both prime ministers. We spoke with Niv Morag, Manager of Water, Oil & Gas sectors at the Israeli Export Institute, about the event.
“Actually the matchmaking event was the fourth Dutch-Israeli cooperation event in the past couple of months,” says Morag, “A delegation of Dutch water companies attended WATEC in October, after which a delegation of Israeli water companies participated in Aquatec Amsterdam. In November a delegation of Israeli Oil & Gas companies visited the Netherlands, and all this intense activity culminated in this visit by the Dutch prime minister, cabinet members and the impressive delegation to the matchmaking event.”
Dutch Prime Minister and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu officially launched the ‘Netherlands-Israel Cooperation Forum,’ ensuring more activity to come meant to boost economic cooperation between Israel and the Netherlands and highlight economic opportunities.
So how do Israeli and Dutch companies complement one another? “The running joke is that if you see someone cross the street at a red light somewhere in the world, he’s either Israeli or Dutch,” says Morag. Both countries have had to deal with challenges in the water arena: Israel is plagued by a constant lack in water resources, while the Netherlands often faces flooding, so that Israel has become a technology leader in water reuse and conservation, and the Netherlands has developed expertise in water management and control. The business sectors in both countries are characterized by daring, and a tendency to work quickly and innovatively.
“Israeli and Dutch companies can complement each other, each bringing a different solution for water challenges like water scarcity or water management,” says Morag. One arena in which Morag sees potential for cooperation is in third countries, including countries in Africa, where many Dutch companies are active. Israeli technologies in water and agriculture, for example, can be included in Dutch projects in Africa and bring effective solutions for water conservation and reuse.
This month’s matchmaking event was attended by the biggest players in Israel in the water, agriculture, oil & gas sectors, including Delek, Nobel Energy, Amiad and Netafim. The Dutch delegation included representatives from companies, academic institutions and organizations, including UNESCO, Wageningen University, and several Dutch water authorities.
According to the press release on the event put out by the Netherlands Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tom Vos, investment attaché at the Embassy, said, “Dutch companies are not coming over because their government is telling them to. Participants see concrete opportunities in cooperating with Israeli counterparts.”
The Dutch believe that the level of competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation in both countries provides a winning combination, from which respective private sectors and research institutes can benefit. The Netherlands is the second largest destination of Israeli exports in Europe and dozens of Israeli companies have invested in the country.
Due to its central location and with Rotterdam as the largest European harbor, the Netherlands is considered a key player in the EU economy and a worldwide ‘gateway to Europe’. Trade between both countries exceeded USD 5 billion in 2012. Total exports from Israel to the Netherlands reached USD 990 million in the first semester of 2013.
“The trade volume between our two countries is larger than that between Israel and some larger countries in Europe, such as Spain, Poland or France”, explains ambassador Veldkamp. “Meanwhile, the dynamism of the economic relationship is shifting from bilateral trade to conquering emerging markets together. A global outlook has always been our strong point”, says Veldkamp.