It is surprising to those of us who have spent meaningful time in the country, but Spain is often overlooked as a business destination. Part of that has to do with the country’s ongoing problem with unemployment, which clouds outsider perceptions. Recent turmoil in Catalonia has not helped, with the optics at times making Barcelona seem like a Mediterranean Hong Kong.
Yet Spain’s economy is the fourth-largest in the European Union and the 13th largest in the world. To put this in context, its economy is larger than Mexico’s. The country was one of the few bright spots in a generally lackluster Q4 in Europe. As for Catalonia, its economy is growing much faster than Spain’s as a whole.
The U.S. is Spain’s most important partner outside Europe. In the first 11 months of 2019, the U.S. was Spain’s sixth-largest export and fifth-largest import partner. During that same period, exports to Spain from the United States grew at a faster clip than exports to any of the top 30 U.S. trade partners: 13.9% year-on-year. Only Belgium, at 12.2%, comes close; Brazil is a distant third at 8.7%, while USMCA partners Canada and Mexico saw negative figures. Moreover, “actual U.S. export numbers to Spain are substantially higher than the reported numbers, since many of Spain’s imports from the U.S. arrive in Europe via ports of entry in other European countries”.
As to the kind of products exported from the U.S. to Spain:
Chemicals were the principal U.S. export to Spain in 2018, accounting for 22 percent of total exports, followed by transportation equipment (15.2 percent), agricultural products – fruits and nuts (13.3 percent), and oil and gas (7.9 percent). Primary U.S. exports to Spain have consistently included aircraft and associated parts and equipment, pollution control and water resources equipment, medical products and equipment, outbound travel and tourism, electric power systems, telecommunications equipment, automotive parts and supplies and pharmaceuticals. Other sectors offering good prospects include defense, security equipment, renewable energy equipment and services, e-commerce, and industrial machinery.
The Spanish government’s recent declaration of a “climate emergency” creates new opportunities for U.S. exporters, as the country turns to green tech to achieve its ambitious carbon neutrality goals. In addition, post-Brexit uncertainty in the UK will mean that exporters will increasingly look for new European gateways.
This promises to be an exciting year for our lawyers in Spain.