Strength in the growth of economic relations between Spain and the Arab countries over the last decade
Summary of the day “Ten years of economic relations between Spain and
the Arab countries” held on July 5 in Madrid, on the occasion of Casa
Árabe’s tenth anniversary.
July 06, 2017
• The Mecca-Medina high-speed rail line, the Riyadh and Dubai metro lines and two desalination plants in Qatar are among the most notable Spanish projects in the Middle East.
• Morocco gains importance as Spain’s main trading partner, reaching the same level as the US.
On Wednesday, July 5, a business gathering was held in Madrid with the title “Ten years of economic relations between Spain and the Arab countries: taking stock and looking to the future,” organized by Casa Árabe among its events for commemoration of the institution’s tenth anniversary.
The event was officially opened by Pedro Villena, the General Director of Casa Árabe, and Francisco Javier Garzón, Managing Director of the ICEX, who highlighted that from 2009 to 2016 Spanish exports had risen by 60%. “One out of every four euros which Spain exports outside of the EU heads to markets in the Arab countries,” which now amount to 8% of the volume of Spanish exports. Garzón also pointed out that Spain exports “in an amount of more than two billion euros” to Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Tunisia. In fact, Morocco has gained importance as Spain’s main trading partner, reaching the same level as the United States, as mentioned by Jaime García Legaz, the Chief Executive Officer of the CESCE at the first round table discussion.
This first discussion was devoted to discussing and taking stock of the future prospects for economic relations with the Arab countries. The world economic crisis, the technological and telecommunications revolution, the Arab Springs and the decrease in oil prices have marked the last decade in Arab economies. To turn this situation around, according to Alfredo Bonet, International Director of Spain’s Chamber of Commerce, the essential moves include promoting the private sector, creating incentives for the employment of women and youths, and offering greater legal security and stability to investors. “The implementation of structural reforms must be ongoing and is unavoidable,” he emphasized. Within this setting, Spain’s role in the upcoming years will include “offering financing to countries which produce and export [oil] to help them diversify their economies,” stated Jaime García Legaz, Executive Chief Executive Officer of the CESCE, who mentioned the United Arab Emirates as an example: despite being one of the greatest producers of hydrocarbons, it is only 35%. dependent upon them. Also contributing to the discussion was Juan Canals, president of the Commission of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Countries, CEOE.
The second round table discussion made it possible to become more familiar with some of the Spanish projects involving the economic development of Arab countries, with the help of José María Egea, the General Director of Strategic Planning at Gas Natural; Manuel Alabart, Vice-President of Técnicas Reunidas –which has 65% of its portfolio in the Middle East and is the only company to work at four refineries in Saudi Arabia, with projects in Algeria and Egypt, as well–, and Jesús Sierra, General Director for the EMEA Region, who highlighted the Metro system and solar farm which the company has built in Dubai, as well as two desalination plants in Qatar, amongst the company’s most important projects in the region. As for Isaac Martín-Barbero, President of INECO –an infrastructure engineering and consultancy firm–, he emphasized the importance of “facilitating the movement of people and goods to contribute to these countries’ economic development.” Infrastructures and energy remain the priority sectors for carrying out Spanish projects in the Arab countries.
After this session, Pablo López Gil, Assistant General Director of the Forum of Renowned Spanish Brands, presented the “Atlas of Leading Spanish Brands in Arab Countries,” a publication put out by the Forum since the year of 2013 to raise awareness about the potential and international presence of Spain’s most international companies and brands. Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Kuwait stood out at this year’s edition as the five Arab countries with the greatest Spanish brand presence.
Last of all, the final round table discussion of the day, devoted to internationalization and business cooperation in Arab countries, was provided with the experience and recommendations of Marie Hélène Antolín, Vice-President of the Antolín Group; Steve Jacquin, EMEA Senior Area Manager for Carrera y Carrera Joyas; Axel Narváez, Financial Director at Torresol Energy, and María Zamácola Ballestero, International Director of Neck&Neck, with Alicia Montalvo Santamaría, the General Director of Institutional Cooperation and Coordination at the ICEX as the moderator. They all coincided in highlighting the good image of Spanish brands in the Arab countries, which comprises a competitive advantage when it comes to their internationalization there. A medium to long-term outlook, economic solvency and competitiveness were the key factors which Steve Jacquin of Carrera y Carrera Joyas recommended to those attending.
The speaker who brought this economic event to a close was Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, the Government’s High Commissioner for the Spain Brand, who highlighted the role played by Casa Árabe as a tool for public diplomacy, used by Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation to promote Spain’s relations with the Arab world.
Participating in this event are the most important business organizations and entities like the ICEX, the Spain Brand, Madrid Destino, Spain’s Chamber of Commerce, the CEOE, the Club of Exporters and Importers, and the Forum of Renowned Spanish Brands. In its business section, the event included the presence of Gas Natural, Acciona, Técnicas Reunidas, Ineco, Typsa, Torresol Energy, Abengoa, Grupo Antolín, Carrera y Carrera Joyas, Neck&Neck and Aresbank, as well as the Halal Institute and many different small and medium-sized companies with interests in the region. As for the diplomatic representatives, the event was attended by officials from the embassies of Palestine, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, as well as the Moroccan Agency for the Promotion of Investments (AMDI). Among the more than one hundred people attending, one could also find officials from the Ministry of the Economy, industry and professional associations, lawyers, consultants and professors from the field.
On the occasion of this event, Casa Árabe has published a special commemorative edition of its Economics and Business Bulletin, which contains contributions by experts, specialists and role-players in Spanish-Arab economic relations that provide an overview of the changes in these relations, as well as describing the most important aspects and projects to have arisen over these last ten years.