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PORTUGAL - Economy

Antonio Saraiva

Former President, Confederaçao Empresarial Portugal (CIP)


António Saraiva was President of CIP – the Portuguese Business Confederation, since 2010. CIP is the largest and most impactful association in Portugal. He was Vice-President of  BusinessEurope, the Confederation of European Companies which is the leading advocate for business in Europe and represents the major Confederations of 35 European countries. He is Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council of Portugal. He has become one of the most influential figures in Portuguese society and has dedicated over 40 years of his life to associativism. Today he is deemed an expert in corporate diplomacy and associativism and is a highly sought-after speaker and business commentator. He is the veritable self-made man. He began his professional life as a factory worker at Lisnave Shipyard and later went on to become Sales Manager at MetalúrgicaLuso-Alemã and then Chairman of Metalúrgica Luso-Italiana, SA.

"CIP plays an active role by advising the Portuguese government on strategies to improve and define the internationalization of the economy."
TBY talks to Antonio Saraiva, Former President of the Confederaçao Empresarial Portugal (CIP), about 60 years of operations, the organisation’s main tasks, and Portugal as an investment destination.
In 2024, CIP will celebrate its 60th anniversary. What values has the confederation maintained throughout its history?

Since the beginning, CIP has served as a meeting point for businesses, championing the values of an open market. CIP has witnessed all the changes in Portugal wrought by the revolution as well as by the entry into the EU. The revolution aimed to bring about democratization, decolonization, and development. The former two have been fulfilled, though development is progressing gradually. The economy needs to grow more than 4% per year. CIP always promotes reindustrialization by spreading the message at conferences, seminars, and congresses and sponsoring projects. Over these last three years, our objective remains to deliver to the country proposals on economic and business growth.

What are the main tasks of the CIP?

CIP’s primary role is to anticipate future developments and participate in finding the best opportunities for companies—in terms of the regulatory framework. This has been the confederation’s role since its inception. As the fifth president since CIP was established, I uphold this objective to defend private enterprise and support entrepreneurs. CIP aims to serve as a guiding light for businesses to navigate the current challenges of the global economy, the sovereign debt crisis, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Our primary objective remains supporting the economy by helping businesses.

What are the main industry trends in Portugal, and how does CIP help companies adapt?

Portugal faces several challenges, including climate change and energy and digital transitions. The country’s recovery and resilience plan (PRR) has outlined three key national objectives: resilience, resistance, and economic transition (digital and climate), with EU aid allocated to meet these goals. CIP is working to help companies adapt to these challenges and meet the objectives outlined in the PRR. One of the main challenges is the size of Portuguese companies, with 97% of them being micro or small companies with up to 10 workers. They must have the necessary dimension or size to face the economic challenges outlined. CIP aims to find ways to aggregate Portugal’s micro reality, for example through mergers, achieve greater scalability. The second objective is innovation, as businesses have to differentiate themselves in in an increasingly efficient world and offer specialized products or services. This innovation requires investment and capital, which is not always easily available in Portugal today. CIP strives to find ways to assist companies further when talking about capital and investment. The third objective is internationalization, as having size and a focus on innovation will make it easier to achieve global reach. Portugal is currently on that path, with exports today representing 50% of the country’s GDP up from 28% 10 years ago. The objective is to reach 70%, and to achieve this we must ensure the economy must have scale and innovation.

How does CIP help members in regard to internationalization and reaching new markets?

CIP plays an active role by advising the Portuguese government on strategies to improve and define the internationalization of the economy. As a member of an advisory council, CIP works with partners and sectoral associations from all sectors of activity to define the best internationalization export strategies for each company type, taking into account trends, markets, opportunities, and risk. CIP also offers support to its members through industry-specific chambers, which provide guidance on how to enter new markets and expand their business.

Where do you see growth opportunities in the economy, and what is its outlook for the future?

The Portuguese economy has demonstrated its ability to reshape and transform itself. By adding value and innovation to their products and services, Portuguese companies are creating their own brands and expanding into new markets. The metal sector, for example, has achieved record export volumes, reaching major markets such as Germany. Other companies are also forging their own paths by transforming and innovating their offerings. We are now seeing the results from a strategy that began 10 years ago to create our own brands, innovate, and add value. The Portuguese economy continues to transform and see positive results.

What characteristics make Portugal an attractive place to invest?

Portugal’s highly skilled and internationally minded young labor force, along with its technological networks, motorways, security, social stability, and political stability, make it an attractive place to invest. The country is also working to improve its tax laws and simplify license processes. Portugal has a goal to attract foreign investment of around EUR10,000 million per year, and we currently reach about 20-25% of this. There is a large amount of investment from German, French, and Brazilians companies, and we are now seeing investment from the US as well. Labor costs are lower in comparison to other countries. Portugal central location also provide businesses with a gateway to markets in other regions. We are a unique platform from which to venture into African markets, in particular Lusophone countries. Overall, Portugal’s favorable investment conditions and unmatched international links make it a privileged home for business.



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