KITE Invest had the honour of meeting the President of Garrigues, Spain’s first law firm and the largest law firm in continental Europe. Mr. Antonio Garrigues Walker discusses the state of Spain’s economy, the great possibilities of Spanish – British business relations, the lessons learned by Spain’s British counterpart, and the overall changing tides of Spain’s image and placement within the British investment community.
KITE Invest: Over the past few years the recession has challenged economies around the world, Spain especially was no exception. As of recently, Spain has begun to re-emerge; do you think we can begin to talk positively about the Spanish economy?
Garrigues: We can certainly be more positive and even optimistic about our economic future. Spain has worked hard and has gotten results. The fact that world press and especially the Anglo-Saxon financial press insist that Spain has attractive growth potential, is a decisive factor in this new chapter of Spain’s economy.
KITE: Do you think that the increasing confidence of the Spanish economy over the short and medium term could correlate to an increase in foreign direct investment?
Garrigues: There is already a significant increase in confidence and foreign investment is growing even in decayed sectors, such as real estate. If the current pace continues, the serious bubble that we had could be resolved favorably.
KITE: What three key factors would you associate with the Spanish economy?
Garrigues: The success of internationalization, the action of our large companies, and above all the resilience of citizens in crisis situations.
KITE: What area of Spain do you consider to be the most valued by the international community and which should receive more attention at this time in order to promote the country abroad?
Garrigues: All sectors and fields mentioned above, to which I would also add tourism whose figures for 2013 were spectacular and ones that can clearly be met and surpassed in 2014. After France and the US, Spain is the country most visited by British tourists, with more than 60 million.
KITE: In terms of Spain and the UK, the two have longstanding political and economical ties. What part of the British political system would you consider relevant to apply in the Spanish system?
Garrigues: The Spanish and British political cultures are very different and it is very difficult to make transfers of systems and specific behaviors. However, I would like to integrate into our country, the relationship between the political establishment and the public that is narrower and deeper as it is in the UK. And that is an important factor in democracy.
KITE: Spain’s GDP is forecasted to grow by 1% this year; there has also been predictions of greater investment and interest by the British investors. How do you value the interest that is being shown by the British political and business elite in the realization of investment opportunities in our country?
Garrigues: I definitely value the interest being shown by the British. Not long ago the British elites were much more critical of our situation and future and now, there has been a
180-degree shift and that is very comfortable because the opinion of those elites has much influence on the rest of the world.
KITE: As one of the leading law firms in Spain and in Europe, what factors, in terms of Garrigues, are the most valued in order to maintain and even deepen the bilateral relationship between the two economies?
Garrigues: There is no doubt of the fact that Europe as a whole is emerging from the crisis and that improves all bilateral relations. Spain and the UK have always maintained a good relationship at all levels and even an interest and mutual admiration for one another. However, we need to continue prioritizing our relationship, as we can help and collaborate much more.
KITE: After more than 70 years of operation, how do you assess the evolution of Garrigues and of all the successes that Garrigues has achieved, which are you more proud of today?
Garrigues: It has been a satisfactory evolution. We were the first to implement institutionalization following the Anglo-Saxon model and we continue to advance along this path and adapting to new changes.
Also being the largest law firm of continental Europe is an important fact that we take much pride in. Fernando Vives, our managing partner, and everyone in this office shares the collective pride of having made a very valid and worthwhile work.
KITE: What message would you like to give to the British financial elite, in an effort to strengthen trade ties, and thus possibly increase Spain’s global growth and/or its presence in the UK?
Garrigues: The basic message is that Spain is a serious country and a strong country that has important connections in Latin America, and as a result of this Latin connection, we have a growing relationship with the U.S., a country in which the Hispanic community is growing both economically and politically. In this area we can do many things together. English and Spanish are, in this order, the most important languages in the world today, and this is not a minor point to be overlooked. As I said, we have tremendous potential for growth in terms of cooperation.