The 2012/11/21 at 09:20
Valérie Demon, in Madrid
During these lean times, the Spanish government is looking at every possible way to cut expenses. And also increase the effectiveness of its exterior promotion network. Until recently, each of the country’s 17 regions possessed trade offices overseas in a number of countries. Since February this year, the Minister for the Economy and Competitiveness has suggested that the country’s autonomous communities (regions) join forces in a Spanish State-run network, the objective being to strengthen the “Spain brand”.
The region of Cantabria is the latest to embark on this new process, on 5 October. It thus joins the regions of Valencia, Galicia, Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragon and Murcia. Overall, over fifty trade offices have been integrated. In the case of Cantabria, this region had two offices in Mexico City and Tianjin in China. As a result, 60,000 euros per year will be saved. The Canary Islands, Andalusia and the Madrid region are to lengthen the list shortly. But big regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country have not yet shown any signs of enlisting. Given their nationalistic profiles compared to other regions, it seems highly unlikely that they join.
The Secretary of State for Trade has thus put forward a downsizing plan, seeking to avoid double-ups in regions, sectorial associations and other trade entities. Last year, complaints were made at the Upper Council of Chambers of Commerce of the trade visit to Russia for the shoe and wine sectors in May, followed up in June by the visit of furniture manufacturers, and in July, promotion of the Andalusia region.
This same Upper Council of Chambers of Commerce is no stranger to upsets itself. The future bill on Chambers of Commerce, scheduled to emerge by the end of the year, is to transform this Upper Council into the Chamber of Commerce of Spain. The latter will be in charge of representing and coordinating all regional Chambers. It will also be executing the Internationalisation Plan, aimed at promoting company export. The Ministry wishes for market unity. “This is a fundamental economic principle for competitive functioning of the Spanish economy. The Spanish market is characterised by wide dispersion in terms of standards as well as the number of obstacles raised by public administrations… scales of economy are thus impossible to obtain and investments are not encouraged,” observes the Ministry for the Economy.
One big question persists: the financial future of the Chambers of Commerce ever since the end to compulsory subscriptions for businesses. In 2011, Chambers were still able to gather subscription fees and in 2012, they continued collecting fees for companies invoicing over 10 million euros. But for 2013, a new system must be found. Stakes are sizeable as there are 88 Chambers of Commerce in Spain, representing 3.6 million businesses.
In any case, the role of the Chambers of Commerce will be no lesser. According to the Secretary of State for Trade, they need to convert themselves into levers of public policies supporting economic recovery. Here again, rationalisation is on the cards. Territorial delegations of the Institute for Export and Investment will be integrated to the Chambers of Commerce. The latter will primarily serve SMEs, supporting their internationalisation. They will also act as a space for mediation and arbitration to take pressure off courts, as well as become instruments dispensing work-study training programmes.
Further on work-study training programmes, Spanish Chambers of Commerce are also to cooperate with their German counterparts, following the signing of an agreement at the start of September. The objective: to reduce the unemployment rate of under-25-year-olds, currently higher than 52 %. Professional training in Germany will be a model to help insert Spanish young people on the job market. Spanish Chambers of Commerce thus commit to explaining this system to businesses, to training tutors/instructors in companies, and to supporting cooperation between businesses and vocational training firms.