Logo Guide to Business in Spain

7Foreign 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, in 2021 Spain was ranked 19th in the world as an exporter and 15th as an importer; while in the trading of services it occupies 15th place as an exporter and 21st place as an importer15.

Spanish exports and imports of goods account for 1.7% and 1.9%, respectively, of the worldwide total, while Spanish exports and imports of services represent 2.0% and 1.3% respectively.
The breakdown by industry of foreign trade is relatively diversified, as can be seen in the following table:

Table 7

Chemical products18.6%Energy products19.9%
Capital goods17.5%Capital goods19.7%
Food16.5%Chemical products16.5%
Automobile industry11.5%Food11.4%
Semi-manufactured non-chemical products11.0%Consumer goods10.6%
Energy products9.8%Automobile industry8.5%
Consumer goods8.8%Semi-manufactured non-chemical products7.6%
Raw materials2.5%Raw materials3.0%
Other goods2.2%Durable consumer goods2.4%
Durable consumer goods1.6%Other goods0.6%
Source: Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. January – December 2022 data.

As would be expected, the countries of the EU are Spain’s main trading partners. Accordingly, during 202216, Spanish exports to the European Union accounted for 62.8% of total exports and sales to the Eurozone represented 55.2%. Imports from the European Union accounted for 44.7% of the total and those from the Eurozone represented 37.7%.

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 62.8% of total exports in 2022.

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

Specifically, Spain is the 13th largest sovereign country recipient of foreign investment worldwide in terms of stock (and 6th in the EU) with USD 819,725 million. Spain is the 15th largest source of FDI in terms of stock, with a volume equal to USD 600,808 million in 202117.

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), ) and the Fund for Co-investment with Sovereign Institutions (FOCO), within the framework of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, which were allocated a total of €1,200 million in 2023 to channel the internationalization support and mentoring programs managed by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce. Also notable are the credit facilities for business owners and independent contractors offered by the Official Credit Institute (ICO) and approved in 2023: the 2023 ICO International Facility and the 2022 ICO-Exporters Facility.

In order to foster internationalization and the inflow of funds from the European Recovery Plan, a new maximum amount eligible for financing under the FIEM was approved in 2022, offering funding of up to €10 million per transaction, thereby facilitating access to financing for export and investment transactions by Spanish SMEs.

The ICO has also managed funds for enterprises and independent contractors aimed at mitigating the economic impact of the war in Ukraine through the approval of the Ukraine Guarantees Facility to be used as liquidity and investment instruments open to companies and independent contractors in all production sectors, with a budget of up to €10,000 million. In the same vein, and as part of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has allocated €50 million euros to the Technology Fund for Trade, the main objective of which is the incorporation of new technologies that allow SMEs to respond to new consumer habits derived from digital transformation.

The 2017-2027 Spanish Economy Internationalization Strategy runs along the same lines. The “2021-2022 Internationalization Support Action Plan” formed part of the 2017-2027 Spanish Economy Internationalization Strategy, and its priority objectives centered on the following three lines of action: (i) to configure the foreign sector as a pillar of growth and employment; (ii) to achieve greater resilience in the production and export fabric; and (iii) to promote a structural change in internationalized enterprises toward digitalization and sustainable development.

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

Table 8

I. Current account11,40310,074
Goods and services19,11421,011
Primary and secondary income-7,711-10,937
II. Capital Account7,4059,551
III. Financial Account20,64313,409
Total (excluding Bank of Spain)-17,949-53,075
Direct investment-14,5081,515
Portfolio investment52132,799
Other investment-8,813-91,537
Financial derivatives4,8514,148
Bank of Spain38.59266,484
Claims with the Eurosystem17,84356,759
Other net assets10,7445,934

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 from January to December 2021 and 2022.

15WTO “World Trade Statistical Review 2022”.

16Annual data published by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. January – December 2022 data.

17According to the UNCTAD “World Investment Report 2022".