The 2013/02/18 at 08:59
Valérie Demon, in Madrid
As surprising as it may seem within the European Union, Spain has not yet introduced the free circulation of goods within its borders. To remedy this situation, the Spanish Council of Ministers recently adopted a bill on market unity, whose innovations include the introduction of a single commercial licence. Another two or three months after its parliamentary approval will be needed before the bill is enforced.
“Some of the country’s economic problems can be explained by the fragmentation of the market. This factor is often pointed to as synonymous with a loss of competitiveness and incentive for investors,” indicates a source at the office of the Secretary of State for the Economy. The government therefore wishes to implement a single licence to avoid the type of situation where an enterprise manufacturing slot machines, for example, needs to design as many models as Spanish regions (a total of 17) to meet the requirements on standards of each. A plumber also needs to be registered in every region to practise his profession. Another example that speaks loudly: during public calls for tenders, it is often required that a company has its head office in the territory in question if it puts in a tender.
“This bill is a decisive step for the Spanish economy. It will contribute to a quicker exit from the crisis. This was a request reiterated by the Chambers of Commerce,” explains the High Council of the Chambers of Spain in a press release. Currently, according to recent surveys, the High Council also points out, over 100,000 standards are in force in Spain, with 67,000 of these corresponding to regions. “This reality does not facilitate investment or the development of economic activities,” assures the High Council of the Chambers of Spain.
In concrete terms, according to the bill, once a company obtains its first licence in a region, this will suffice for it to sell its products elsewhere in Spain. “The tangle of standards has always been a common complaint made by businesses and foreign investors,” admits the government’s Number Two, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. The government estimates that the GDP could increase by 1.5 % over a ten-year period thanks to this bill, in other words, by 1.5 billion euros per year. “If a company needs to have a team in charge of analysing the standards of every region, this is unproductive,” declares the source from the office of the Secretary of State for the Economy, which estimates that administrative costs may diminish by 35 %. In accordance, productivity is set to climb by 1.23 %. The Spanish network of Chambers of Commerce is already participating in policies to cut administrative charges, via awareness-raising, information and assistance campaigns aimed at businesses. The CCIs are thus encouraging coordination between administrations to improve the competitiveness of businesses.
The bill is based on “the principle of mutual trust between regions”. The latter will gradually need to harmonise their standards. The bill foresees quick mechanisms in the event of conflict between enterprises and regions. For example, it will be forbidden to discriminate against an enterprise according to the location of its head office during calls for tenders. Companies will be able to denounce regions if they consider that the latter violate the principle of market unity. A contact point will be made available to enterprises in every region. If the reply given is not satisfactory for the company, the latter can address the National Committee for Competition, which has the option of temporarily suspending the regional standard while resolving the conflict.