"Spain's economic recovery will gain strength in 2015"
Josep Lluís Bonet, chairman of Fira de Barcelona, the trade show and the company Freixenet, has also been chair of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce for the past year. He is highly knowledgeable about the country's business sector and economic situation, and predicts that 2015 will be a good year for Spain. He is also optimistic about improved financing opportunities. Bonet is confident about the competitive base of Spanish industry, especially the food and drinks sector. He advocates international expansion as a priority objective for the country.
- Most indicators point to an upturn in the Spanish economy. Is it safe to say that the crisis is over?
We have made it through the recession and can now say that the economic recovery has begun. However, we have to bear in mind that the crisis is still going on, because the unemployment rate is simply unacceptable.
- You predict that 2015 will be the year in which the recovery takes root. What are your reasons?
The recovery was already underway in 2014 and will gain even more strength in 2015. Domestic consumption has taken off, the tourism industry has great prospects and exports are moving ahead. Additionally, oil prices are down and the euro-dollar exchange rate has improved greatly. All of this tells us that we have the wind at our backs. A number of policy stimuli are also being implemented. I am referring to the Juncker Plan and the Draghi Plan, which represents significant monetary support from the European Central Bank.
- How is Spanish industry's level of internationalisation? Is it high enough?
No, it is not. After the crisis, industry will need to go through a reindustrialisation process. The crisis has affected the established target of 20% of Spain's GDP once again coming from industry. However, there is work being done in this area and exports will be a determining factor if we want to reach our target market.
- How are the destinations for Spain's foreign sales changing?
The fact is that exports in general have made progress and their base has diversified. However, in Europe there is still an excess concentration of foreign sales to certain areas. Without a doubt, exports need to increase. Latin America offers many possibilities, but we should also expand into the United States, Asia and why not even Africa?
- What opportunities does the Spanish market offer foreign companies or investors?
In addition to have a considerable degree of legal certainty, Spain is currently operating at the same level as the world's most advanced countries. As a result of the crisis, Spain has presented opportunities at very attainable costs. But overcoming this situation has also made us more competitive. Of course, all of this is thanks to the Spanish economy's strong competitive base, which is very obvious in the food industry.
- Internationalisation has been one of the country's main allies in responding to the crisis, but now we need to kick-start domestic demand. How is it being stimulated?
It began to recover when confidence returned. Domestic consumption has been providing quite a strong boost since late 2014. All of the stimulus measures being taken are good, such as, for example, the PIVE Plan for the auto industry.
- Spain's food and drinks industry has withstood the recession. What is its current situation and what challenges does it face?
It is obvious that it has withstood the recession quite well. There have been difficulties, but it has overcome them. It is Spain's number one industrial sector, it is competitive and its fundamental challenge lies in positioning in the world. We have already begun working in this direction, but it must be reinforced in the future.
Exports are very important. In this area, foreign sales of bulk items need to be replaced by brand name products. In Spain, we still suffer from a complex which leads us not to value our products, which are excellent. We are selling too cheaply for the products we have to offer.
- Are large companies better prepared for the recovery?
Yes, large and mid-sized firms are better prepared, but this does not mean that small companies cannot grow. The major problem with the Spanish economy is lack of scale and this can be resolved by applying the three Ts: Tireless Work, Tenacity and Talent.
- And what about SMEs? What situation are they in following the crisis?
They have had a very rough time of it, but they have really learned the lesson that it is necessary to acquire an international dimension. This offers a great opportunity for the majority of Spain's industrial fabric.
- The machinery and technology sector for the food and drinks industry requires investment. Do companies have the capacity to invest or obtain credit?
The issue of financing has improved considerably in recent months. Measures like the Draghi Plan will help and this can do much to improve business competitiveness.
- Many of these companies are already selling at the international level. Is it necessary to strengthen this focus on foreign markets?
Absolutely. Globalisation came late to this country and internationalisation needs to take place quickly. It is a priority objective for the country.
- Bta. Barcelona Food Technology focuses on internationalisation, technology and innovation as its core strategic areas. How do you view the prospects for the show?
I have the honour of serving as chairman of Fira de Barcelona and I can state that our industry and professional trade shows are rallying. This is a sign of the recovery and things looks set to continue moving forward. Prospects for Bta. are excellent, and even more so with our sights set on internationalisation, innovation and a commitment to technology.
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