Incoming: Ambassador of the Netherlands

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A delegation from the Netherlands will be in Alaska, Aug. 10-12.  

André Haspels, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United States, and Dirk Janssen, Consul General of the Netherlands, whose office is in San Francisco, will meet with business and government officials to strengthen the ties between the Netherlands and Alaska.

This is the first trip to the state for the two diplomats.

The Alaska Honorary Consul to the Netherlands is Irene Post-Green of Anchorage, who is coordinating the events. Since 2017 she has connected Dutch and Alaska businesses and has provided consular support to Dutch nationals in Alaska.

“Alaska is a state rich in resources and at the forefront of energy production, but also feels the impact of climate change. The Netherlands has an excellent track record in agriculture, energy and water management,” said Ambassador Haspels. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the Last Frontier state and to connect with its people and businesses.”

“Trade between Alaska and the Netherlands is fairly limited, but growing,” said Consul General Janssen, whose office in San Francisco covers all 13 most-western states, including Alaska.

Alaska exports $130 million in goods and services to the Netherlands, and 99 percent of that is seafood, he said. Alaska also imports $5.5 million in goods and services from the Netherlands, 95 percent of which consists of  computers and other electrical equipment.

“I see major opportunities to do more business together,” he said.

During their visit, the diplomats will meet local business leaders and government officials, such as Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson. They will meet with representatives from the World Trade Center and visit Anchorage International Airport, which is the fourth busiest cargo hub in the world.

Agriculture is high on their agenda, as they will visit Bell’s Nursery, the largest greenhouse operator in Anchorage, and they will travel to Palmer to meet with the Director of Agriculture of the State of Alaska.

There they will also meet local farmers, including the largest potato farm in Alaska, which was founded by Bert and Suus Vanderweele, who are of Dutch descent.

The Netherlands is twice the size of New Jersey, and can fit into Alaska 41 times, but it is the second largest exporter of agricultural products, behind only the United States.

The Dutch have found innovative solutions to grow crops efficiently, in greenhouses for example. Ambassador Haspels stated, “Growing food in the Netherlands doesn’t need a lot of water, space, or even the sun. Dutch farmers are experts in sustainable food production by controlling the growing environment. This expertise could be very interesting for Alaska.”

Netherlands produces and exports natural gas. By 2050, the Netherlands wants to be nearly emission free. The country is experimenting with energy from waves, algae and biomass. To secure a resilient energy grid, the Netherlands is looking into smart and micro-grids, which are  more common in Alaska. The Dutch are initiating partnerships to share experiences and exchange expertise.

The ambassador is concerned with sea levels rising in his low-lying nation. The Dutch research institute Deltares works together with the United States Geological Survey on Alaska shore research and have created models to map the effects of climate change on the Arctic Coast. It’s an example of how the Netherlands and Alaska work together.

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