Apr. 6, 2022


Miguel Seco

Portugal

Miguel Seco

President, Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry

TBY talks to Miguel Seco, President of the Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, about attracting foreign investors, green energy, and goals for 2022.

BIO

Miguel Seco holds a degree in Economics and Business Studies from University of Santiago de Compostela followed by an MBA from ESADE, Barcelona. He was part of the team responsible for setting up the first branch of a Portuguese bank in Spain (BPA), and in the last 20 years he has been director of the Iberian Business Center of the largest private Portuguese bank (Millennium bcp) and head of the Iberian Business area of Banco Sabadell Portugal. He is the current president of the Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He has also been president of the Galician Centre of Lisbon. Miguel Seco is a regular speaker at various business and social forums and  received a Commendation of the Order of Civil Merit (Spain), in 2009, and an honorary degree awarded by thePortuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in 2017.


What makes Portugal a perfect place for foreign investors?


Portugal is a perfect example of economic diplomacy. It is not a coincidence that it has been in the presidency of the European Union for 10 years, and that the Secretary General of the UN and the vice-president of the European Central Bank are both Portuguese. Portugal moves well in the international plan; the role of foreign trade and internationalization is extremely important to the country. 50% of its economy depends on foreign countries, that is why ithas been clearly focused on that. Strong political stability is the basis of international investment.

What is the importance of Spain for Portugal, and how are Spanish investors contributing to the development of the national economy?

The significance is substantial. In terms of overall data, Spain accounts for around 30% of Portugal’s foreign commerce. Its primary supplier and primary client is Spain. The Spanish coverage rate is 180% higher than the combined rate of exports and imports. It is mostly focused in three Spanish regions or communities—Madrid, Catalonia (sem a vírgula) and Galicia—which account for about 55% of total international trade. Aside from this, there are around 100,000 companies that export or trade between the two countries. According to the results of a recent analysis (InformaDB), there are 4,322 enterprises in Portugal that have Spanish participation. If we see it since the joint admission of the two countries on the same day of the former European Community, in 1986, when the figures were fairly low, volume has been steadily increasing.

What are the most represented sectors, and which ones will drive the growth of the country over the short term?


Disregarding the public bank—not to mention BCP, the largest private bank in the country—we also have Santander, BPI, Bankinter,  Abanca and others. As far as the financial sector is concerned, Spanish presence accounts up to 35% of this industry. It is easy for a Spanish company to settle in Portugal. The Portuguese market allows investors to increase their production and export without the need for large investments. However, the Spanish presence is not merely limited to the financial sector: there are numerous large, medium, and small law firms that are specialized in assisting businesses, as well as investments, from both countries. There is a solid representation in the sectors of logistics, construction, and engineering. In the last four years, Portugal’s brand image underwent a significant transformation. Spain has a somewhat paternalistic idea of Portugal as a neighboring country that is easy to visit. However, Portugal is currently promoting itself as a high-tech country on a global scale. Its Web Summit event gives the country the appearance of being technologically ahead in terms of startups (startups)and unicorns. In terms of luring digital nomads, for example, Portugal outperforms Spain on a relative basis. It has pursued an aggressive fiscal policy that has yielded excellent results. As a result, corporations from France, Germany and the UK are coming in. Portugal’s energy sector is doing exceptionally well. It holds auctions and has made a significant commitment to renewable green energy, having shut down the last coal-fired power facilities in 2021. The logistical problem will necessitate significant expenditures across the entire railway system, and it is an industry that is expected to grow rapidly. Portugal has also stated unequivocally it wants two major ports of entry. The construction of the high speed rail from Sines to Badajoz and then onward to Spain is advancing. It is currently exclusively for freight, though this will later expand into passenger transport. There are also opportunities in the air transport sector. Between the two countries, Spain has a stronger position in the automobile sector, though auxiliary companies from the automobile sector have settled in the country. There are many exports from Spain to Portugal of products that incorporate more added value. The current uncertainty in Europe will force us to rethink global strategies somehow, possibly to make it more self-sufficient at an industrial level. Portugal currently has large logistics support centers for European multinationals here and, due to the ease of installation, it is easy to settle in Portugal, as I have already said before.

As the new head of the chamber, what are your main targets for 2022?


The chamber has seen extremely reduced activity over the last two years because of the pandemic, with only monthly webinars and a small sectorial component. However, we want to get back to business quickly. We also have some business events that we are already developing. We want to do events that give us more publicity. We will have ministers for more focused events at the sector level in which all the companies of the Chamber are involved. We also want to do one of the investment of European funds, one on logistics, and one focused on raw materials. It is also critical to open the chamber in Porto, as there are many Spanish companies installed in the north, between Porto and the border, and we want to do activities with them. A communication agency is missing. We are an official chamber recognized by the Chamber of Spain. One of its requirements, and this was fairly noticeable between the two candidacies, is that we have 50% gender parity on our board of directors.

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