Up close and personal with the Netherlands
Speaking to undergraduates in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences course “European Foreign Policy and Security Issues,” Netherlands ambassador to the United States Renée Jones-Bos provided students with insight into European politics during her presentation on the Netherlands.
In her role, Jones-Bos helps to foster the understanding of Dutch views while expanding Netherlands-U.S. relations. She oversees several government institutions and departments at the American Embassy in The Hague.
“Public diplomacy aims to present a realistic and favorable image of the Netherlands abroad,” she said. “I see myself as an instrument for many departments at the embassy to engage with Americans on issues that are relevant to us and to you.”
The course, taught by Mai’a Davis Cross, assistant professor of international relations at USC Dornsife, delves into European foreign and security policy operations, as well as the relationship between the United States and the European Union.
“It was a wonderful and unique experience for students to be able to benefit from the Dutch ambassador’s vast expertise,” said Cross, who invited Jones-Bos to speak to the class. “I always try to find ways to bring the study of European politics to life in the classroom, and there is no better way to do this than to have a European ambassador speak directly with students.”
During her visit to USC, Jones-Bos helped the students see the connections between the Netherlands and America: Despite its small size, the Netherlands is much more than windmills, supermodel Rebecca Romijn (whose parents are Dutch) and master artist Rembrandt, she said.
“Our goal is for the U.S. to see the Netherlands as a country with shared history and values,” Jones-Bos said. “We have an entrepreneurial spirit, believe in tolerance, openness and aim for sustainability. Economically, the Netherlands is very strong and a relevant partner in investment and trade.”
The second largest agricultural export in the world, the Netherlands’ strengths include creating innovative sustainable solutions for water management, energy, gaming and nutrition.
With a population of 17 million and much of the land below sea level, the Netherlands is susceptible to heavy flooding.
“Water has always been a threat coming from the seas and the rivers but it has become an opportunity [to help others] as well,” Jones-Bos said.
For example, the Netherlands has brought its knowledge and expertise on water management to New Orleans and the Florida Everglades. Netherland water experts also plan to speak with California authorities about water issues in the California Delta, she said.
The Netherlands has created dams and water draining systems to defend the country from massive flooding. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Netherlands officials worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to strategize how to prevent similar flooding. In addition, the country provided aid and brought water pumps to the area, becoming among the first countries to provide relief.
Jones-Bos also emphasized the country’s long history with the United States. As early as the 17th century, Dutch seafaring explorers navigated the Indian Ocean to discover distant countries and traded throughout the world including with America.
In addition, the United States and the Netherlands share some defense policies, with Dutch soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and in the Caribbean. The two countries also share views on peacekeeping and human rights, Jones-Bos said.
The United States benefits from several Dutch trade investments and businesses, Jones-Bos continued, such as The Philips Co., Shell Oil Co., Dove and Heineken. Jobs created in America by investments in Dutch firms and exports total 624,636, according to economicties.org. These economic ties place the Netherlands as the third largest foreign trade investor in the United States.
Students asked Jones-Bos questions that ran the gamut, from what her job entails to if she enjoys her career to why the Netherlands continues to support the United States even as its popularity wanes.
“It is very important not to forget old friendships and strong economic relations,” Jones-Bos answered.
She has traveled to 46 of the 50 states educating people about the Netherlands and is working to attract American investments in the Netherlands.
“We are very much in favor of looking at new possibilities of free trade agreements between the European Union and the U.S. because that could add to economic growth and create more jobs,” she said.
Priya Gupta, a sophomore majoring in international relations global business at USC Dornsife, said the ambassador’s visit and talk provided her with a new perspective.
“The ambassador inspired me to change my mindset about smaller countries,” Gupta said. “The size of the country doesn’t matter as much anymore when you have globalization, exportation, and the outsourcing of jobs and technology.”