Spain is a leader in the high speed rail sector. PHOTO RENFE
Economic Diplomacy
Against the current international backdrop, economic diplomacy is one of the main instruments of Spanish foreign policy and a political priority to enhance the economic recovery and improve the image of Spain abroad.

Economic diplomacy, which is carried out in close coordination with the Spanish public authorities with competence in the area, seeks to collaborate in the defence and promotion of Spain’s economic interests overseas, through decisive support for the internationalisation of the Spanish economy and its companies. In short, the aim is to contribute, with other official bodies, to boosting and consolidating the economic recovery and job creation in order to increase exports, foreign investment and tourism, and to facilitate greater access to financing.

Economic diplomacy is an essential part of the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in the field of foreign policy. Within the framework of increasingly intense international competition, economic diplomacy enriches the focus of the more traditional and familiar diplomatic activities of international diplomatic cooperation, security and peacekeeping, since it strengthens the role of economic and trade relations. These relations have been seen to become a central element of diplomacy in the 21st Century.

If, in 2011, the Spanish economy represented a risk for the Eurozone, today it has become one of its engines of growth and is one of the fastest growing economies among the major advanced economies according to the IMF, the European Commission and the OECD. It is a fact that between 2010 and 2014 foreign demand was the main contributor of growth to the Spanish economy and helped offset the fall in internal demand. However, this trend altered slightly in 2016 and in 2017. This last year, domestic demand contributed 2.5 points to annual GDP growth with external demand contributing 0.6 points. In 2013, for the first time since 1986, the balance of the current account posted a surplus (1.4% of GDP) and in 2017, this surplus, posted for the fifth consecutive year, reached 1.9% of GDP. The weighting of exports of goods and services as a proportion of GDP increased from 22.67% in 2009 to 34% in 2017, one of the highest levels among the European Union's major economies. Since 2011 and up to the present day the number of Spanish export companies has risen by more than 30% (to stand at 161,454 in 2017), and the number of regular exporters has risen by 36% since the same year, to stand at 50,562. In 2017, 67.7% of the turnover of IBEX 35 companies was generated overseas, in some cases reaching percentages close to 100%. Confidence in the markets has recovered and the perception on our economy among investors has changed, as seen in the evolution of the risk premium and the significant influx of capital.

This process of internationalisation of large companies has proven a key driving force for others, leading some medium-sized enterprises to strengthen their presence abroad by expanding countries with high growth potential. Although at present a whole generation of medium-sized enterprises have begun their own process of overseas expansion, there is still a lot of work to do; work in which economic diplomacy has a key role to play. Accordingly, the support offered by the Spanish Foreign Network (embassies, consulates and economic and trade offices) to the good progress being made by the foreign sector, as well as its contribution in facilitating the expansion and establishment of Spanish companies overseas and in attracting foreign investment, is essential and seeks to enhance the country's image and increase the competitiveness of the Spanish economy and its companies.

Economic diplomacy actively collaborates with the work undertaken by the Spain Brand, an instrument for reputation management and to coordinate initiatives designed to promote and improve Spain’s image in economic, cultural, social, scientific and technological fields. Boosting the Spain Brand is a key factor for the competitiveness of the Spanish economy and Spanish companies and contributes to offering a more attractive image of our country and of our products and services. It also helps to improve the perception of these and to drive the aforementioned internationalisation of the Spanish economy and its companies. The monarchy plays a key role in this, since it stands at the forefront of this initiative, supporting actions taken by the government and business leaders to the benefit of the Spain Brand.

Spain has 128 embassies abroad, and another 84 consulates general and 96 consular sections based in embassies, 103 economic and trade offices, 27 business centres and 33 tourism offices, which act as the gateway for our companies abroad. Ambassadors and consuls, in coordination with economic and trade advisers, play a key role in the international expansion of Spanish companies through their knowledge of both the political reality and the economic and trade reality of the country in which they are accredited. Spanish ambassadors and the Spanish Foreign Network are the true “forerunners” of the Spain Brand and of economic diplomacy to whom the central services provide the information and instruments necessary for them to carry out their work in this field. Their overseas promotion of our economic interests and of our companies is based on solid foundations of excellence and leadership across a broad range of sectors that are not sufficiently known.

 

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