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Miguel Seco, President of the Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCILE)

PORTUGAL - Economy

Miguel Seco

President, Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCILE)

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 has also been president of the Galician Centre of Lisbon. He is the current president of the Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Miguel Seco is a regular speaker at various business and social forums. In 2009 he received a Commendation of the Order of Civil Merit (Spain and an honorary degree awarded by thePortuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in 2017.

"The economic relationship between Portugal and Spain has strengthened over the years, and both countries have benefited greatly."
TBY talks to Miguel Seco, President of the Portuguese-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCILE), about trade between the two nations, important shared industries, and logistics.
How is the chamber strengthening its faculties to support trade between Spain and Portugal?

We have implemented two main strategies, mainly to enhance the chamber’s visibility and streamline internal processes. To increase our visibility with business leaders and political figures from both countries, we have resumed our business breakfasts and sector-specific seminars to promote partnerships between companies. We have also participated in international events to foster stronger relationships with bilateral chambers in Portugal, France, the UK, Germany and Italy, attracting new multinational companies to our chamber. Internally, we are restructuring our staff and reassigning roles and responsibilities. We have received support from Spain to execute an ambitious digitalization plan, which includes updating our communications system and website. We are also setting up an editorial council to to promote and enhance our magazine and have revamped the format of our monthly newsletter to focus more on economic content rather than advertising. In 2023, we will continue to organize business lunches to maintain our visibility, which typically attract 150-200 attendees and generate mass communications.

To what do you attribute the growing economic relationship between Portugal and Spain?

The economic relationship between Portugal and Spain has strengthened over the years, and both countries have benefited greatly. Despite the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, bilateral trade surpassed all expectations in 2021 and continued to grow over 29% in 2022. Trade volume (the sum of exports and imports between the two countries) surpassed EUR40 billion for the first time, reaching up around EUR48 billion at the end of the year 2022. The open market policy, the proximity of the countries, the availability of knowledge, and the fact that Portugal is a “natural expansion” area for Spanish companies are some of the factors that have contributed to the increase. There are some 4,300 companies with Spanish capital in Portugal, and 90% of these companies are SMEs. It is easy to come to Portugal because of its logistics and financial support services. Spanish companies find Portugal an attractive investment destination, with a similar culture and where language is not a problem. The country’s market size, logistics services, financial and legal support, political stability and legal system that are similar to Spain also make it easy to do business in Portugal. Legal support is easily available here as well, with 40 law firms that are members of CCILE. Finally, and importantly, Portugal’s political stability supports a long-term investment rationale.

What are the most attractive aspects of Portugal’s macroeconomic policy?

In the last five years, Portugal’s economic policy has remained stable, resulting in an improved image of the country. The Prime Minister has been a guest of our chamber some months ago. Despite some initial problems during his first administration, he is well aware of institutional policies regarding Portugal’s position in the global economy. The Government’s goal is to provide the best conditions for foreign investment in the EU. Its economic diplomacy is excellent, there has been stability in monetary policy and public expenses are being controlled. Four years ago, Portugal had a public expense debt of 130%, and despite the pandemic, in 2022 its debt was lower than Spain’s. Portugal has declined its debt to 114% of GDP. There is consistency in its economic policies from administration to another. Portugal is also not experiencing the crisis that is ongoing in Spain.

What industries are vital in the bilateral dynamic between Spain and Portugal?

The tourism and renewable energy sectors are essential areas where both countries have many joint projects. Spain and Portugal aim to establish themselves as a renewable energy producer for the all EU and are collaborating on hydrogen-related projects. They are also studying the feasibility of investing in lithium installations in both countries or just having one facility for both nations. There will be significant investments from both countries in logistics/transports, with a strong railway system providing greater value to Portugal and Spain. Additionally, the automotive industry is an important area of cooperation, because Spain has local factories of almost all car brands. The high levels of production reaffirm Spain’s role as an exporter.

What advances have been made in terms of logistics and raw materials?

The Portuguese Government has announced that the focus of the railway system will be the high-speed Lisbon-Porto-Vigo line. The port of Sines is also undergoing construction to become the entry point for American products into Europe via high-speed lines. In addition, there have been mounting calls, especially in Spain, to directly connect Lisbon and Madrid in terms of public transport. This would reduce travel time between the two capitals from nine hours to less than six hours without the need to connect to other trains along the way. This has been a important subject in every debate, and we have raised this issue with the Portuguese Administration several times. The Porto-Vigo line will benefit the airport in the north of Portugal, which handles a large amount of air traffic from Galicia. There are also domestic projects to improve internal connections, although there must be a joint effort to promote cross-border connections in the interior area (Bragança-Puebla de Sanabria; Guarda-Salamanca; Castelo Branco-Plasencia), which will contribute strongly to the development of the respective areas of influence.

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