KITE Invest sat down with Mr. José García Quevedo, the Executive Director of ICEX-Invest in Spain to discuss Spain’s global and economic positioning post crisis, what measures the Investment Promotion Agency is taking to assist and facilitate Spain’s branding and marketing at this time, and in particular Spain’s bilateral trade relationship with the UK.
KITE Invest: The Spanish economy has experienced positive growth for the past three quarters. Despite the crisis and the tough years past, Spain remains the 4th largest economy in the Eurozone and has had an export success with an 18% increase over the last three years.
At the start of the “Invest in Spain” campaign, KITE Invest determined that the most strategic and best area to promote Spanish investment and business synergies was with the United Kingdom. As Spain appears to be on the right track how do you anticipate this positive growth to affect Spain’s relationship with Europe, and in particular the UK?
Invest in Spain: Spain’s prospects are indeed up, as recognized by all international organizations and private finance institutions. Spain is growing. The external contribution to the GDP growth is very positive, we have an account surplus, we have adjusted our public deficit and we have implemented many structural reforms in order gain a higher level of competitiveness.
KITE Invest: What specific areas and sectors would you deem as the most strategic between the two countries?
In terms of the United Kingdom, Spain and the UK are strategic partners. In fact, after the United States, Germany and France, the UK is a top trading partner across many sectors. The UK is very important for Spain not only in the industrial sector, but also the service and technology sectors. Currently there are over 1,500 British companies operating in Spain and more than 125,000 British nationals working Spain. Spanish companies and nationals are also investing and working in the UK, especially in the areas of infrastructure and the energy sector.
The economies between the two are very complementary, not only in terms of investment, but as well in terms of trade and exports. Our trade and investment relationship with the UK is booming.
KITE Invest: As the Executive Director of ICEX-Invest in Spain how would you classify the Spanish brand and image today, taking into account the last few years of economic crisis?
Invest in Spain: I would classify Spain’s image as very positive. The international community is recognizing that the Spanish image is better than what it was two years ago.
Spain was one of the main recipients of foreign direct investment coming from the rest of the world. Only Germany and the UK were the other European countries with higher inflows of FDI.
If we look at the international competitiveness index for example, Spain is well positioned and so is its brand. There are many factors that influence the brand of a country. For instance, looking at infrastructure, Spain’s transport industry is very modern across the board by rail, air and port. The labour market has also increased labour productivity and cost. The ICT sector is also growing; Spain has received great interest and investments from multinational companies from India, Japan, the United States, and throughout Europe.
KITE Invest: From the position of Spain’s investment promotion agency, how does ICEX-Invest in Spain plan to maintain and encourage this image?
Invest in Spain: We work very closely with consultancy firms, with foreign companies that already have experience in our market and their national counterpart. We also work closely with investment banks, venture capitals, international investors and investor associations.
We produce tailor-made services and advice for such companies. We also present success case studies, host sector-based workshops, and provide a space for B-to-B (Business to Business) meetings. Summits are also a large part of what we do, for instance on June 3rd we are collaborators in “The Spain Summit”.
KITE Invest: Another integral part of the Spanish economy the small and medium size enterprises. As these smaller companies develop they too can be seen as the Spanish brand abroad. With the recent adoption of the “Internalization Strategic Plan”, how does Invest in Spain evaluate the role of such companies and especially in terms of directing greater flows of foreign capital towards Spain?
Invest in Spain: Globalization is a two way street. In this regard, we are promoting small and medium size enterprises abroad and at home, as well as in third markets in order to achieve greater means of competitiveness. There are great chances for international business synergies and that is why we promote all sizes of businesses abroad and foreign direct investment into Spain.
KITE Invest: As mentioned earlier, Invest in Spain works hard to engage and connect business, how do you value the role of communications and specifically what kind of communication tool do you find to be the most strategic?
Invest in Spain: Communication in and about Spain is very important because there is reality and there is perception, and perception must be matched with the data, facts and figures. Currently, the facts and figures are positive for Spain, and we must continue to improve this and we must continue to communicate this. The role of communication is creating and showing the right perception.
In terms of communicating to investors who do their due diligence, one gets tested when dealing with investors, therefore, you must have the commitment, competiveness and confidence.
KITE Invest: Spain is uniquely situated amongst its European counterparts as the gateway to both the Latin America and North Africa regions. What other main competitive advantages of Spain would you like to highlight to the British audience?
Invest in Spain: The investment condition in Spain is very competitive especially in terms of technology, cost, infrastructure, and market taxes and financial treatment are also very favourable. Spain has a highly qualified workforce, ranking 4th in Europe in terms of professionals with higher university qualifications in science and technology, after Germany, the UK and France.
Spain is one of the world’s most important markets. With a population of over 46 million and an annual inflow of over 60 million tourists, the volume of its GDP puts Spain in 13th place in the world economy, though it boasts a higher income per capita, doubling or tripling that of economies such as Brazil, Russia, Mexico, China and India.
Spain additionally has huge potential as a platform for international business operations thanks to its status as an EU Member State, its privileged geographical location to access markets in the whole of the Mediterranean area, the Middle East and northern Africa, and also its business economic and cultural ties with Latin America where Spanish companies are very well positioned.