INDUSTRY FIRST

Spain 2020 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

The Minister for Industry, Commerce, and Tourism is focused on putting industry at the forefront and resolving the challenges it is facing in Spain.

Reyes Maroto
BIOGRAPHY

Reyes Maroto has a degree in economics from the University of Valladolid as well as a master's in finance and economics from CEMFI. Throughout her professional career, she has held numerous positions, including secretary of sustainable development of PSOE-M, and was responsible for the area of economy, sustainability, and welfare at the IDEAS Foundation between 2011 and 2013. She has been the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism since 2018.

How would you evaluate 2019, and what have been the ministry's main achievements in 2019?
The balance is fairly positive, as President Pedro Sanchez has put industry at the forefront. My job has been to put the industry on the public agenda in order to talk about industry and the challenges it is facing in this country. My job is to activate the industrial agenda in this country in order to overcome challenges such as Industry 4.0 and digitalization, which includes the development of blockchain and AI. In commerce, we have launched two important projects. One has to do with the approach of intrusion in trade. There is a great deal of illegal trade on the internet, and it now represents a 9% loss in turnover in the Spanish commercial sector. This has been, and still is, a priority for the Spanish office of trademarks and patents. We have transposed the trademark law and created a discussion where different public administrations participate with the private sector. The second is Commerce 4.0, which represents a huge opportunity to modernize trade. It is important not to see digitalization as a threat. We created Commerce 4.0 to start working on a private-public forum. This government has built bridges to talk to companies and sectors because to us it is the most efficient way to work. Another priority is the ecological transition in the fight against climate change, which this government has also put on its agenda. The results from the macro point of view, such as the creation of employment, GDP growth, and the competitiveness indicator, all show we have maintained our commitment.

Spain has advanced with the implementation of Industry 4.0 in many sectors, though SMEs still lag behind. What steps is the ministry taking to support SMEs in this regard?
Currently, 98% of our companies are SMEs; in fact, 54% of those are micro SMEs, with fewer than 10 employees. We needed to bring our programs closer to them so that the SMEs can benefit, and there are two important elements to consider here. One that we have effectively configured is the SME policy for 2030, which gives us some guidelines of what each of us should do. In terms of the strategy, we have already defined where we have to act. These actions are related not only to innovation and internationalization, but also to sustainability as a way to improve the production models of SMEs and elements that have to do with delinquency. Regarding Industry 4.0, we are also bringing programs closer to SMEs through the network of chambers of commerce. In terms of digitalization, we are working with Red.es, the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology, and the education sector, both on a university and professional level. We are working with professional training centers to acquire digital talent and boost the skills of our workers. At this moment, increasing human capital is a priority for the government.

What is the ministry's opinion on the fall in production in the automotive sector, and what are you doing to ensure growth moving forward?
The fall in production is due to many factors. The markets to which we export have slowed, and Brexit has generated a great deal of uncertainty in a sector where value chains are global. We have an electric car project starting in Spain and Europe, but with small penetration. We must explain the value of the industry in Spain, because eight out of 10 cars produced here are sold outside. The decisions that are made in the markets where we export affect us in our production. We have defined a model according to the European one, which has been a model of success. We are currently the leaders in global production, though if we want to retain it, we have to make a transition that we have not made yet similarly to countries such as China, Korea, or Japan. The decisions we make are long-term investment decisions.