DOING BUSINESS IN CATALONIA

Spain 2020 | ECONOMY | B2B

Offering SMEs the services, intel, and data they need to compete internationally is just as important to regional economies as protecting its larger players.

Joan Canadell
JOAN CANADELL
President
Barcelona Chamber of Commerce
José Ignacio Pradas Poveda
JOSÉ IGNACIO PRADAS POVEDA
Regional Director
España Exportación e Inversiones (ICEX)

What are some of the main services you provide?
JOAN CANADELL The Barcelona Chamber of Commerce's goal is to boost the economy. In our case, we focus on spurring growth around the province of Barcelona and carry out as many actions as possible to propel Barcelona's economy. We represent more than 400,000 companies, with our services being mostly oriented toward self-employed people and SMEs, because the large companies already have their means. That does not mean that we do not represent large corporations. For example, we can lobby the local government if a large company asks us to do so. That said, we do not normally provide a specific service to large companies; our daily operations are for SMEs and self-employed workers, which together represent 99% of the economy. As a rule, our trade missions try to create a communication channel between Barcelona-based companies and foreign companies. Every case is different because it depends on the market and country, but the end goal is always to form ties between Barcelona and other international destinations. Our main markets are Africa and Latin America. Asia and the US are also growing tremendously, as are their ties with Catalan companies. There are many companies in Catalonia that export up to 80% of their entire production to some 50 countries, with SMEs being no exception. Catalonian businesspeople have traditionally been open to the world. 40 years ago, Catalan companies exported just 35% of their production; now we export 65%, and in coming years companies will export 80%.

JOSÉ IGNACIO PRADAS POVEDA ICEX was created 32 years ago through the natural evolution of different services supporting Spanish exports. It has evolved in line with the economy of the country. We focus on promoting exports and investments, which means internationalization as a whole. We have certain branches set aside for attracting FDI. I am the regional director of ICEX, so this office is in close contact with Catalonia-based companies and firms. We assist them in connecting with the whole batch of services that ICEX provides, not to mention our global network of trade offices in more than 100 locations around the world, from which we cover almost 200 countries. Our main goal is to be in connection with this two-pronged network, locally and globally. When it comes to attracting FDI into Spain, this is a centralized issue and service dealt with primarily through our headquarters. However, I support regional development institutes, for example Accio or local facilitators such as Barcelona Activa. We work closely with them in supporting the internationalization of Catalan companies. Training is another major part of what we do, and every year ICEX grants nearly 300 students the opportunity to specialize in international business or marketing. It can be B2B or B2C, or it can also be in relation to international financial institutions. The purpose of these 300 highly qualified students is to provide fresh blood to the economy. Other entities also try to provide such services with more targeted seminars related to internationalization, finance, and regulations.

How are you seeking to further the economic development of Catalonia?
JC We have led the plan, but it was jointly developed by 13 chambers in Catalonia and has 15 bullet points to be developed in the next four years. One of the biggest steps that businesspeople have to take but conducting M&As or opening new branches abroad. At present, 80% of the Catalan economy is centered in Barcelona, so we need to diversify it in the coming years and develop other regions. For example, we see an opportunity to attract tourists to other parts of the region. To that end, we are moving from a touristic-industrial model toward a value-added one. Furthermore, Barcelona will become a technology hub in the next 20 years. At an entrepreneurial level, local companies are being established on a regular basis. Customers are also more demanding, so companies have to start thinking of corporate social responsibility. Another goal is about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, an area with much room for improvement.

JIPP We cover all sectors since we focus on SMEs, as they are the most affected by the lack of information related to international markets. However, large enterprises are also customers. We focus on bringing traditional sectors into the digital age, especially since IT has to be integrated into company strategies. Otherwise, they will not survive. There has to be a synergetic integration with internationalization.