Legislation and regulations are the biggest obstacle to doing business internationally

Rabobank survey of Dutch businesses

Taking advantage of new opportunities and reducing their dependence on the domestic market are good reasons for businesses to operate internationally. However they see obstacles in the form of foreign legislation and regulations, building a network and finding the right partners. These are the findings of the survey carried out by research agency GfK for Rabobank of 440 Dutch entrepreneurs who do business internationally or have the ambition to do so. Once they are operating internationally, non-paying customers and currency and transport risks are seen as the greatest risks. Dutch businesses expect Asia and South America to show the fastest growth in the coming years.

The recent survey by Rabobank and GfK among 440 Dutch businesses who are already active internationally or intend to expand abroad produced the following conclusions: 

  • Asia and South America are expected to generate the most growth, although Europe is still by far the favourite location for international business; 
  • Increased use of the internet offers the best opportunities; Reasons to go international: exploit new opportunities and reduce dependence on the domestic market; 
  • More than a third of the businesses cite foreign legislation and regulations as the biggest obstacle to operating internationally; Building a local network is the most time-consuming, expensive and onerous aspect for businesses. They have difficulty in finding the right local partners and customers; 
  • More than 60% of businesses who are already operating abroad expect their international activities to expand within five years. Nearly a fifth expect this expansion to be significant (19%).

‘For many enterprises, doing business internationally begins in Western Europe. Sales and purchasing markets further afield are in view, but much time, money and energy is needed to build a local business there,’ says Eric Saris, responsible for Corpote Clients at Rabobank. ‘Indeed, it appears that doing business internationally in practice does not correspond with the impression that businesses have that still have to take the first steps abroad. This stresses the need for good information and the importance of networks here and there to help businesses access reliable information.’


Although businesses see obstacles to expanding internationally, they certainly do not lack decisiveness. 50% of the companies that are operating internationally needed less than two years to turn their plans to expand abroad into reality. Eric Saris: ‘We always talk about the Netherlands as a trading nation, and this is borne out by the figures. People evidently have a good feeling for where opportunities lie, and they are prepared to take them as well.’ Businesses frequently turn to colleagues for information and experience (36% of the companies already operating internationally), trade associations (32%) and their bank (20%).

The role of the bank

Three-quarters of the businesses were assisted by their bank when looking for a local branch. The bank also played a part in obtaining licences (56%) and with respect to foreign legislation and regulations (51%), and banks also assist in limiting the risks of corruption, exchange rates and product liability. Eric Saris: ‘This survey emphasises that businesses expect support from their bank when doing business abroad. Our clients can rely on the support of the cooperative bank when it comes to financial solutions, but Rabobank can also provide assistance in the form of knowledge and access to networks. In this way we will help our clients to strengthen their businesses.’

Online Masterclass in International Business

In order to access additional support if considering an expansion abroad, businesses can participate in the 5-week Online Masterclass in International Business. Over 1,200 businesses with international ambitions are already participating. Subjects such as finding the right partner, complying with the right legislation and regulations and also cultural differences are dealt with in the course in detail.

Worldwide network

Rabobank has been operating internationally for more than 40 years. We have 20 International Desks for 36 countries specifically for Dutch business clients of all sizes and from all sectors. The Dutch professionals who work on the International Desks understand both Dutch clients and the local situation. Rabobank helps clients with information and products and services to take advantage of opportunities, hedge risks, arrange payments and make investments. International Desk managers can also put clients in contact with other Dutch companies and local network partners. The power of Rabobank’s worldwide local presence is thus deployed to strengthen the client’s local network. Besides the International Desks for Dutch clients, Rabobank has more than 600 branches outside the Netherlands to serve clients in the countries in question.

The survey was carried out by GfK, which provides reliable market and consumer information. Throughout the world, more than 13,000 market research experts combine their passion with GfK’s years of experience in market research. This enables GfK to link global insights with local market information from more than 100 countries.

Press contact

Marie-Christine Reusken

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+31 30 21 62758


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