Last Friday, January 13th, our students on the academic business trip "Tendiendo Puentes" were offered a conference on foreign trade at the Official Chamber of Commerce of Madrid. The conference, given by the head of business development at IFEMA, Mr. Antonio Martín, explored the commercial relations in an international context.
January has been a month with numerous activities and projects. With the arrival in Spain of the students from the Interamerican University of Ponce who participated in our academic business program "Tendiendo Puentes" we have been preparing different activities, including institutional visits and round tables, to design an enriching and unique experience for our visitors. The group had the opportunity to visit some of the most relevant companies in Spain, as well as institutions such as the office of foreign trade ICEX, the Bank of Spain, the Stock Exchange, or IFEMA, one of the most important trade fair centers in Europe. In this context, the week concluded with a session on foreign trade offered at Madrid Official Chamber of Commerce, where many of the concepts were further explored. The focus of the discussion was business relations between Spain and the US, specifically with Puerto Rico, where our students came from.
The session was led by Mr. Antonio Martín, head of business development at IFEMA and a Law graduate from the Complutense University of Madrid, with an executive master's degree from the Instituto de Empresa and an ABD University of Alcalá de Henares in advanced studies, economic and business sciences.
Mr. Antonio Martín mentioned the current economic context. He explained that although Spain has great natural resources and is a leader in renewable energy sources, the restrictions on gas and oil due to the recent war in Ukraine impacted the economy. He also mentioned the European Union policies, sanctions, and diplomatic measures that directly impact the economy. As a member of the EU, Spain must adapt to its policies, stop gas imports with Russia and look for alternative markets.
These facts reveal a challenging international context for the Spanish economy, which had already been weakened during the three long years of the pandemic due, among other reasons, to travel restrictions. This is particularly relevant since tourism is one of the country's primary income sources.
However, tourism is one of many sources of income Spain is also a substantial export trade and has an essential industry in automobile supplies for groups such as Volkswagen and Renault. It also holds a vital role in the chemical industry, specifically within the pharmaceutical sector, where we stand out as the eighth-largest medicine-manufacturing country in the world. Finally, Mr. Martin pointed out that the food industry is also one of the county's main export products. In his own words, "Spain's food balance is gigantic. They are 18% of our exports and only 11% of our imports."
Regarding the geographical distribution of Spain's exports, they mostly go to the Eurozone, with only 11% of exports going to America, including South America, Central America, and North America. In the case of imported products, they come primarily from Europe, and Asia, specifically from countries like China and Vietnam. A company that serves as an example of this business model is Inditex, which, despite being one of the most important Spanish companies, imports a great deal of textile material from countries like Vietnam to export it later globally.
During the session, Mr. Martin shared a market analysis exercise with the group by comparing US and Spanish economies. He specifically focused on the US since our students were from Puerto Rico. The group reviewed different parameters, including GDP, imports or exports, and even social indicators such as level of life in both countries, health, or education. The group went through a set of statistical tables extracted from the datosmacro.com website to learn how to analyze data to determine international investment.
Finally, Mr. Martin emphasized the importance of robust market entry strategies and research for business expansion. He highlighted the importance of a good SWOT analysis to make learned decisions about future developments.
The group enjoyed a lively session where all participants could contribute with their comments and insights, ask questions, and share many of their experiences. We want to thank the Madrid Chamber of Commerce for their wonderful premises and Antonio Martín for providing such an exciting lecture.