Netherlands Consul General Ard Van der Vorst, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Sigrid Kaag, Dutch minister for foreign trade and development, unveil the seal for the Atlanta consulate at a grand opening celebration Wednesday, March 27. Photo: Trevor Williams

A new Netherlands Consulate General in Atlanta is looking to boost trade and investment with Georgia, supporting the job-creation goals of the state while unlocking further opportunities for Dutch companies. 

Already, Georgia’s relationship with the Netherlands accounts for 28,800 jobs in the state, and the more than 200 Dutch-owned facilities here helped attract a consulate that is focused almost exclusively on economic issues. 

But this is just the beginning, Ard Van der Vorst, the newly arrived Dutch consul general, said during the consulate’s grand opening at the Georgian Terrace hotel Wednesday.

“Mr. Governor, that’s not enough,” Mr. Van der Vorst said of the job figures while introducing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. “We want to do better, and we want to work with your team continuously.” 

In brief remarks, Mr. Kemp praised the logistical connections between the Netherlands and Georgia, including ties between the hub airports of Atlanta and Amsterdam, as well as the heavy-hitting container ports of Savannah and Rotterdam

“Here in Georgia we understand trade, and it must go both ways,” Mr. Kemp said, praising the partnership. “We see each other as very established entry points to the United States and into Europe.” 

Even Dutch tourists are making a splash, with more than 35,000 Dutch visitors spending more than $50 million in the state last year. That puts the European country of 17 million people in the top 10 in terms of spending and overall visitor numbers. And 45 Georgia companies have operations in the Netherlands, which has become a magnet for small Atlanta tech firms seeking entree into Europe, Mr. Kemp said. 

Sigrid Kaag, the country’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, said at the grand opening that the Netherlands is one of the few European nations with which the U.S. maintains a trade surplus, a point driven home when she accompanied Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump

Already supporting 825,000 U.S. jobs, Ms. Kaag said the Dutch government hopes to support business collaborations that will boost that number beyond 1 million. 

“There is some catching up to do on our side, and it starts here in Atlanta and Georgia,” the minister said, pointing to Mr. Van der Vorst to carry out the plans locally. 

But she also made a broader point about trade that, without naming him, seemed to allude to President Trump’s skepticism of multilateral institutions. 

“In a world in which the rules-based order is very much under attack, we believe in free trade, and we also attach great value to maintaining that very system that upholds not only the rule of law but also the rules of the game within international trade,” she said, pointing to shared goals of sustainability and using trade as a means to build peace. 

Ms. Kaag took pains to note that the new consulate is by no means starting from scratch here in Atlanta. 

The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency has for years had an office here focused on helping U.S. companies expand into Europe via the Netherlands. And both the Netherlands-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast and Honorary Consul Ewoud Swaak have kept the Dutch business community connected, she said. 

“You can proudly say that we are only following in your footsteps,” the minister said in acknowledging Mr. Swaak. 

The consulate, she added, is a way to up the ante even further on commercial engagement. 

“We follow our words with concrete actions,” she said. “This opening is a strategic choice. It’s not be default; it’s by design.” 

Ard Crebas, president of the Netherlands-American chamber, kicked off the event with a welcome, acknowledging longtime Executive Director Annemarie MacFarland and Vice President Manori de Silva for their hard work managing the chamber community. Many members of the Atlanta Consular Corps were on hand for the kickoff. 

The consulate itself is still located at Colony Square in Midtown, but a new permanent space is being renovated just a few streets away. 

Learn more about the new consul general: Dutch Consul to Stress Communication, Connectivity in New Atlanta Posting

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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