The Netherlands is set to open a consulate general this fall in Atlanta to promote the country’s interests in five states in the Southeastern U.S., its fifth such diplomatic office across the country.
The consulate will serve Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, which were previously covered by the Dutch consulate in Miami.
An official opening date hasn’t been announced. A consul general will be selected this summer, according to Remco Zeeuw, head of the economic section at the Dutch Embassy in Washington.
Dutch officials are rumored to be scouring the city for an office space. Co-locating with the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency would be a logical move. The economic-development outfit has long had an outpost in Atlanta and is now based at Colony Square in Midtown, which hosts the Canadian consulate and the joint offices of the Alliance Francaise and Goethe-Zentrum.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the diplomatic addition during a visit to Washington Monday, July 2, where he met with President Donald Trump to discuss bilateral collaboration.
Mr. Rutte made waves on social media by disputing Mr. Trump’s during remarks to reporters. The U.S. president said that the tense talks touched off by controversial U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union would benefit both sides, regardless of whether a deal is reached.
“No,” Mr. Rutte interjected, smiling. “It’s not positive. We’ll have to work something out.”
The consulate general in Atlanta will be charged with advocating for Dutch government positions on a constant basis, as it will focus exclusively on “economic diplomacy,” Mr. Zeeuw said.
In what could be a disappointment to some local Dutch citizens, the Atlanta office will lack a consular section, leaving the responsibility for issuing documents and updating passports to Miami or the embassy in Washington. That means they will still have to travel to another city to handle certain matters, as will Americans looking for visas to live or work in the country.
But an enduring presence in Atlanta will only serve to further an already-vibrant economic relationship that has only deepened since Mr. Rutte himself led a trade mission to Georgia in 2015, according to business and government leaders on both sides.
“Atlanta is a natural home for a new Dutch representation to further strengthen our partnership with the U.S. Atlanta is in many ways a gateway to the United States, while the Netherlands is a gateway to Europe. And much like Atlanta, the Netherlands is a hub for smart logistics, financial technology, and cybersecurity,” said Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, in a statement.
A Georgia delegation traveled to the Netherlands in June, during which VDL Groep announced that it would put a $17 million factory in Gainesville.
Abby Turano, chief of protocol for the state, said Georgia was “extraordinarily pleased” with the consular announcement, which will bring the number of foreign governments with career diplomats in Atlanta to 26. A total of 68 nations have representation in the state through a consulate, honorary consulate or trade office in the state.
“Opening a diplomatic office is a long-term commitment and a signal of the remarkable strength of the relationship between Georgia and the Netherlands. We have much in common, from our positions as entry points into our respective regions to our devotion to innovation in logistics and efficiency,” Ms. Turano told Global Atlanta.
Ard Crebas, president of the Netherlands-American Chamber of the Southeast United States, said the Atlanta-based chamber has long advocated for a consulate given the strength of existing ties. He rattled off a long list of Dutch investors including Vanderlande Industries, Rabobank, Backbase, Randstad, YER USA, Arcadis and more, along with links between Georgia Tech and Delft University.
“We look forward to working with new consulate in the near future,” said Mr. Crebas, who formerly worked with NFIA in Atlanta.
Officials from both Atlanta and the Netherlands have been trading visits rooted in their complementary economic strengths.
Mr. Rutte’s 2015 visit focused specifically on logistics and financial technology. In September 2017, the Holland Logistics Network signed an agreement with the Metro Atlanta Chamber to focus on sharing best practices for in logistics. The idea was to figure out how to build “corridors” between their respective ports and airports — Hartsfield-Jackson and the Port of Savannah in Georgia and Schiphol airport and the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Even before Mr. Rutte’s visit, Atlanta and Amsterdam held exchanges on so-called “aerotropolis” developments — how to maximize the growth potential of their major airports.
Jorge Fernandez, vice president for global commerce at the chamber, says the idea of linking technology and logistics has been a “natural” fit in the relationship and that the consulate could accelerate those links.
“If we add the vibrancy that is now in the innovation and technology digital supply-chain ecosystem that exists both in Atlanta and in the Netherlands, it will give us a way to take the relationship between our two markets to new levels,” Mr. Fernandez told Global Atlanta.
The fintech fires are also still burning: In early June, more than 20 companies with an Atlanta presence exhibited as a part of Money 20/20 Europe fintech conference, which was held in Amsterdam this year:
— Vanessa Ibarra (@Vanessaibarratl) June 4, 2018
Much like Atlanta is becoming a preferred entry point for the U.S. market for companies like banking software firm Backbase, many local companies have found success using the Netherlands, a country of just 17 million people, to access the European Union market of more than 500 million consumers. That’s true for massive firms like United Parcel Service Inc., and Coca-Cola Enterprises, as well as smaller Atlanta firms like Aegex Technologies and Fineline Technologies.
In its announcement, the Dutch embassy was quick to point out that the U.S. runs a trade surplus of $30 billion with the Netherlands, which, despite its small size, is perennially a top-10 investing nation in the United States.
Inbound Dutch investment and exports to the Netherlands support more than 80,000 jobs combined in the five-state Southern region covered by the consulate.
The Netherlands is a billion-dollar export market for Georgia, which is also home to a stock of $1.6 billion in Dutch investment. Georgia leads the region by far in Dutch-backed jobs with 29,000. Tennessee is next with 19,000.