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History of Advocacy
AmCham has been initiator and supportive of initiatives achieving progress on many issues leading to a better investment climate in the Netherlands.
In its first couple of decades AmCham initiated treaty negotiations and responded to proposed legislation between the USA and the Netherlands on matters affecting the international flow of goods, capital, services and people.
The early decades
Standing out as one of the Chamber's major achievements in its first decade of operation is its successful action to put an end to the dual liability of death duties of both American expatriates in the Netherlands and Dutch expatriates in the USA. The conclusion of the Estate Tax Treaty between the Netherlands and the USA in 1969 can be exclusively attributed to the initiative taken by the Chamber in 1966 and the extra financial support of a number of its members who funded the legal technical study and the legislative drafting job committed by the Chamber to an American law firm.
In its second decade, the Chamber marked itself as a highly influential organization on the Dutch economic scene through an effective campaign among government officials and members of Parliament against the proposed Excess Profits Sharing legislation, the so-called VAD bill - a highly controversial issue which invoked great concern and uneasiness in Dutch business circles, particularly among American companies. The negative effects of the proposed legislation on the Dutch business climate and the particular disadvantages to foreign companies operating in the Netherlands prompted AmCham to take the initiative for concerted action by all of the foreign chambers in this country. The Chamber represented this group at the parliamentary hearings on the bill. The comments made by its spokesman President Dan Piliero received extensive press coverage. There can be no doubt that the action of the foreign chambers, spearheaded by AmCham, contributed largely to the ultimate withdrawal of the VAD proposals.
During the seventies, AmCham Netherlands played an important role in the US-EC relations in connection with the election of its president as Chairman of the Council of American Chambers of Commerce in Europe. This body had been established in 1963 by the European AmChams to represent the joint interest of American business in Europe. Inasmuch as the Council secretariat rotated with the President, AmCham Netherlands became the coordination center for action on EC issues and liaison with the US Chamber in Washington - a function it performed for four years (1973-77). Through incorporation in Washington DC, the Council had meanwhile also established a lobbying body in the US for effective action against proposed legislation that would have a harmful impact on international trade in general and on US business abroad in particular. Issues addressed by the European Council in those days included protectionist aspects of the Trade Bill, legislation restricting foreign investment, proposed cuts in export promotion, etc.
The Chamber's third decade was ushered in with the celebration of the Bicentennial of Netherlands-American diplomatic and commercial relations in 1982. This was a unique opportunity for the Chamber to focus the attention of American business on the advantages the Netherlands offers as a base for European operations. The importance of US investment in the Netherlands and Dutch investments in the US continued to be reflected in the issues addressed by AmCham's standing committees. For example, thanks to the Tax Committee's initiatives to get negotiations underway, understanding was reached on the text of a US-Netherlands Social Security Treaty, which would eliminate the double levying of social security premiums. The early 1980s also marked the solidification of communications and information exchange between US industry associations in the US and the European Council of AmChams as the Council developed closer contacts with EC institutions through the EC Committee of AmCham Belgium. The key issue in this development was the EC Commission's proposal for a directive on information and consultation of employees - the so-called Vredeling proposal. As proposed, Vredeling would require multinational firms in Europe whose headquarters were located outside the EC (mainly US companies) to establish consultation procedures between the parent companies and the subsidiaries. The extraterritorial dimensions of the proposal (it was also known as the multinationals directive and its extraterritorial aspects would mainly affect US multinationals) would reduce management prerogative and its control of operations. AmCham made a substantial contribution to the position of American business in Europe. The Vredeling proposal fell by the wayside - although it provided a blueprint for what was to emerge a decade later as the European Works Council Directive.
The last twenty years
In the 1990s and more recently - and more specifically - AmCham has been proactive and instrumental in achieving progress on a wider number of national issues. These include:
- Deregulating retail opening hours
- Allowing fixed term labor contracts to be extended by mutual consent
- Allowing functional currency for tax purposes
- Creating a central desk in the tax service for foreign investors and expatriates
- Granting work permits to partners of expatriates
- Converting expatriates' drivers' licenses into Dutch licenses
- Ensuring conformity of European Works Council legislation with EU Directive (the original Dutch proposal went considerably further than the EU Directive)
- Blocking an amendment to Dutch Works Council legislation which would have given works councils influence over company dividend policy
- Creating flexibility in CAO agreements for starting companies
- Enhancing flexibility in working time
- Lowering of corporate and personal income tax rates
- Lowering of the capital tax rate from 1% to 0.55%
- Deferring taxation on stock options until a gain is realized