Foreign trade and investment

Rapid growth in international trade and foreign investments in recent years has made Spain one of the most internationally-oriented countries in the world.

With regard to the trading of goods, Spain is ranked 16th in the world as an exporter and 15th as an importer; while in the trading of services it occupies 11th place as an exporter and 20st place as an importer14.

Spanish exports and imports of goods account for 1.8% and 1.9%, respectively, of the worldwide total, while Spanish exports and imports of services represent 2.6% and 1.5% respectively.

The breakdown by industry of foreign trade is relatively diversified, as can be seen in the following table (Table 7).

Table 7


IMPORTS 2017  (as a % of total)

Exports   Imports  
Capital goods 20.3% Capital goods 21.5%
Food 16.5% Chemical products 14.9%
Automobile industry 16.3% Energy products 13.4%
Chemical products 14.0% Automobile industry 12.9%
Consumer goods 10.2% Consumer goods 12.1%
Semi-manufactured non-chemical products 10.1% Food 11.5%
Energy products 7.1% Semi-manufactured non-chemical products 7.1%
Raw materials 2.6% Raw materials 3.6%
Durable consumer goods 1.6% Durable consumer goods 2.7%
Other goods 1.3% Other goods 0.4%
Source: Ministry of industry, trade and tourism. December 2017 data.

As would be expected, the countries of the EU are Spain’s main trading partners. Accordingly, during 201715, Spanish exports to the European Union accounted for 65.7% of total exports and sales to the Eurozone represented 51.6%. Imports from the European Union accounted for 54.9% of the total and those from the Eurozone represented 44.4%.

Specifically, Spain’s leading trade partners are France and Germany. Outside the EU, Asia and Africa have displaced Latin America and North America from their traditional role as Spain’s main non EU trading partners.

The positive adaptation of Spanish companies to the new worldwide economic scenario, reflected mainly in the progressive diversification of the markets to which Spanish products and services are directed should also be underscored. Indeed, Spanish exports are to some extent being redirected from the EU to the rest of the world. In this regard, Spain’s share of exports to the EU dropped from 70.1% in 2007 to 65.7% of total exports in 2017.

As regards investment, Spain is one of the main recipients of investment worldwide.

Specifically, Spain is the 13th largest recipient of foreign investment worldwide in terms of stock (and 6th in the EU) with USD 556,604 million. Spain is the 12th largest source of FDI in terms of stock, with a volume equal to USD 519,059 million in 201616.

With a view to making the Spanish economy more competitive and boosting the contribution made by foreign trade to growth and job creation, the Spanish government has adopted a series of measures aimed at enabling Spanish businesses to access the financing required for their internationalization. Noteworthy among the financial instruments approved by the Spanish Government to provide official support for the internationalization of Spanish enterprise are the Foreign Investment Fund (FIEX), the Fund for Foreign Investment by Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (FONPYME) and the Enterprise Internationalization Fund (FIEM), as well as financing lines for investment in the electronics, information technology, communications and infrastructure concessions sectors, not to mention the 2018 ICO International Facility and the 2018 ICO-Exporters Facility. Along these lines, in 2017, the Spanish Economy Internationalization Strategy (2017-2020) was approved, its aim being to ensure that the positive contribution of foreign investment to Spain’s economic growth becomes a structural phenomenon which benefits job creation. On this basis, measures are being adopted to support exporters and attract investment towards Spain.

By way of a summary of Spanish foreign trade, the balance of payments is set out below.

Table 8


  2016 2017*
1. Current account  21,483 17,163
Goods and services 33,672 30,358
Primary and secondary income -12,189 -13,195
2. Capital Account 2,682 1,391
3. Financial Account 26,693 22,241
3.1 Total (excluyending Bank of Spain) 79,327 50,082
– Direct investment 16,672 18,446
– Portfolio investment 38,292 30,242
– Other investment 26,985 4,239
– Financial derivatives -2,622 -2,844
3.2 Bank of Spain -52,634 -27,841
– Reserves 8,233 3,131
Claims with the Eurosystem -59,707 -25,984
Other net assets -1,159 -4,987
N.B.: A positive sign in the current and capital accounts means a surplus (receipts greater than payments) and represents a net loan from Spain to the rest of the world (increase in assets or decrease in liabilities), whereas in the financial account a positive sign means a net inflow of capital and represents a net loan from the rest of the world to Spain. A negative sign in reserves means an increase.
Source: Bank of Spain. *Data January-November 2017.

14   WTO “World Trade Statistical Review 2017”.

15   Annual data published by the Spanish Ministry of industry, trade and tourism. January – December 2017 data.

16   According to the UNCTAD “World Investment Report 2017”.