The 2012/01/16 at 06:50
Valérie Demon, in Madrid
Barely after being named President of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy is already feeling economic pressure from all sides. Namely the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain (AmChamSpain). Its President, Jaime Malet, addressed a long letter to the Head of State on 29 December 2011, warning about risks of the departure of foreign investors in Spain and urging him to take swift measures to avoid this situation. Representing over 370 companies, the American Chamber of Commerce is worried about future of direct investments in Spain, a country that has fallen from sixth place in 2008 according to the ranking established by the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) to twentieth place in 2011.
America’s economic presence in Spain justifies such concerns. The 600 or so US companies present in the country billed, in 2010, a total of almost 70 billion euros, in other words almost 7% of Spain’s GDP. “These are mainly companies covering industry (Unilever), consumption (Coca Cola, MacDonald’s), automobiles (General Motors, Ford), chemicals (Down Chemical), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer), equipment goods (Hewlett Packard, IBM) settled here. They represent almost one million jobs,” declares the AmChamSpain. The enormous delays in payments made by public administrations to companies comes at the top of the list of criticisms.
“Spain is one of the first OECD countries to make late payments, particularly regional and town councils,” states Jaime Malet. The Chamber President cites delays in the health sector (421 days) and the medication sector (over 48 months in certain regions). This situation is worsening, given the tensions observable in the banking sector. “The European situation, in particular the restructuring of Greek debt, is driving many multinationals to wonder about their future on markets presenting a risk of non-payment. A lack of rigour in respecting payment times increases the sensation of insecurity for numerous multinationals; they fear that the problem of cash shortage may ultimately become a creditworthiness problem. And in the face of this risk, the companies in question are questioning their future in Spain,” explains Jaime Malet.
Companies such as Pfizer are suffering from delays in payment for medication. This is why the American Chamber of Commerce is demanding clear commitment in this domain The issue of intellectual property also crops up in this country where piracy is highly developed. The Office of the US Trade Representative considers it to be a country that fails to offer “an adequate level of intellectual property protection”. The right-wing Popular Party (PP) government, sworn in at the end of December, has understood the message and rushed to adopt, during the Council of Ministers on 30 December 2011, a law against illegal downloads prepared by its socialist predecessor, but withdrawn just prior to the general elections on 20 November 2011. The new regulations will be enforced in March this year. Yet US companies do not seem any more reassured for that matter.