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PORTUGAL - Economy

António Martins da Costa

President, American Chamber of Commerce

Bio

António Martins da Costa is presently an Adviser to the Executive Board of EDP – Energias de Portugal, after being a member of this body for 15 years, as well as CEO and Vice-Chairman of the Board of EDP Brasil, Chairman and CEO of EDP Renewables North America/USA, and a member of EDP Renewables Board of Directors. He is currently President of AmCham Portugal, President of the Strategic Council of the Association for the Development of Portuguese Engineering (Proforum), Vice-President of the Portuguese Industrial Engineering Association (APGEI), Vice-President of the Portuguese Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), and member of several Boards of Business Schools in Portugal.

"Having a shared understanding of needs helps Portuguese and American businesses collaborate and form partnerships."

António Martins da Costa, President of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Portugal, talks to TBY about American business interests in the country, supporting members, and more.

What is the history and structure of AmCham?

AmCham was founded in 1951 by a group of American expatriates in Portugal, and its initial focus was to attract American investment and trade to Portugal. Over the years, it has become a two-way street, which also promotes Portuguese investment to the US. AmCham is a road for businesspeople and partners that want to do business on both sides of the Atlantic. We are also members of AmCham Europe, which consolidates the views of all the European American chambers of commerce. In terms of membership, our community includes mainly corporations but also individual associates. AmCham’s board is composed of 25 members. Big boards and small structures allow the chamber to remain lean while attracting the key business figures in the country that can form and execute strategy. Of those 25 names on the board, according to our bylaws, the majority are American companies. In addition, AmCham is home to Portuguese companies from all sectors that are investing in the US. Finally, we also have institutional board members such as universities or the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD), a foundation created jointly by the Portuguese and US government. One key partner of AmCham is the US Embassy, and AmCham liaises with the embassy’s departments for economy, trade, and commerce.

What are AmCham’s objectives, and what mechanisms are in place to promote trans-Atlantic business links?

The main objectives of AmCham are to promote networking, strengthen advocacy, and provide services to its members. To facilitate partnerships, we host two key annual events. One of them is “AmCham Tributes,” where companies that have made a difference in the relationship between Portugal and the US are recognized. Another event is the “Trans-Atlantic Business Summit,” a space that brings together Portuguese and American thinkers to discuss the bilateral relationship. Advocacy is focused on defending, through dialogue, the policies supported by our businesses research. Finally, the third component is a service to members. To our associates, we disseminate information around macroeconomic prospects concerning Portugal, the US, and the EU. AmCham’s business missions are that extra step that serves to execute the findings of research. We have agents and special committees focused on research key areas of relevance such as: technology, innovation, data science, cybersecurity, healthcare, R&D, education, tourism, sustainability and the energy transition. By coordinating business tours for members, AmCham acts as the bridge between theory and execution.

Which areas of the economy pose opportunities for Portuguese and American companies going forward?

Having a shared understanding of needs helps Portuguese and American businesses collaborate and form partnerships. Two areas that offer attractive business opportunities are energy transition and digital transformation. There are also opportunities for businesses that address logistical challenges such as supply chain disruptions, inflation, and the scarcity of raw materials. These wider macroeconomic trends can benefit rapprochement between the US and Europe. One example is nearshoring. American companies are looking to locate important strategic assets in friendly markets such as Europe, which can be interesting for Portugal. Portugal and the US share historic and cultural links. The war in Ukraine is putting pressure on the reshuffling of logistics chains, and Portugal is a good candidate because of its geographical location, competitive costs, and maritime experience. For example, Portugal and Spain are the two countries that can best receive the liquid natural gas (LNG) that is so needed in the center of Europe, which is crucial to reduce reliance on Russian pipeline imports. Tighter supply chains allow companies more control and safety when receiving maritime supplies.

Why is Portugal an excellent place for American companies to locate investment?

Portugal offers several advantages. It consistently ranks first in Europe on indicators of security and safety. Second, English fluency in Portugal is exceptional, even for European standards. This attracts investors, especially from technology-intense industries. Third, Portuguese academic institutions are renowned for the excellence of their teaching, particularly in engineering and business management. Portugal offers the talent and skilled professionals that investors need. We have a solid network of infrastructures, roads, telecommunications, electricity, and energy availability. The US is currently the fourth-largest market for Portuguese exports. In 3Q2022, Portugal exported USD6.5 billion worth of goods to the US and imported USD3.5 billion. This makes the US Portugal’s fourth-largest partner and is the reason why this relationship is crucial, especially given that our trade balance is positive. American investment in Portugal performs steadily between EUR1.5 and 2 billion. As a final note, Portugal receives 1.2 million American tourists annually. This is the fifth-largest contingent of tourists, while their daily expenditures and duration of stay is also among the highest by nationality.

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