Exports and Foreign Investments set the bases for future recovery

September 2013.- The Catalan economy and its industry continue to suffer the effects of the crisis. In 2012 Catalan GDP fell 1.8%, while industrial GVA fared a little better, falling 1.1%, in line with the decline occurring in the Eurozone. In Spain the level of total industrial GVA decline came to 2.9%. Why was this trend less negative in Catalonia? The answer can mainly be found in the foreign sector.

Port of Barcelona

In 2012 sales abroad were up 5.7% on the previous year, reaching a record yearly global export figure of 58,322 M €. Export growth was higher in Catalonia than in the EU-27 and Germany (+3.4% in both cases), and than the whole of Spain (+4%). One result of this situation has been an improvement in the external coverage rate, now standing at 84.1%. Catalonia is the autonomous community of Spain that exports more, with 26.2% of total exports.

Foreign Companies

This graph of Catalan Exports (M €) 2002-2012 shows te positive trend of the Catalan’s foreign sector in the last years.

in 2012 sales abroad were up 5.7% on the previous year, reaching a record yearly global export figure of 58,322 m €. export growth was higher in catalonia than in the eu-27 and germany (+3.4% in both cases), and than the whole of spain (+4%). one result of this situation has been an improvement in the external coverage rate, now standing at 84.1%. catalonia is the autonomous community of spain that exports more, with 26.2% of total exports.

this graph of catalan exports (m €) 2002-2012 shows te positive trend of the catalan’s foreign sector in the last years.

main data for sectors and countries

looking at the most dynamic sectors in 2012, it should be noted that they all increased their exports over the previous year, except for energy products and electrical and electronic equipment. sectors with greater export growth were food and drink (15%), agriculture (9.3%), machinery and mechanical equipment (8.8%) and motor vehicles (7, 5%). 

as for technological weight, it should be noted that medium to high-tech exports accounted for 50% of total exports, an increase of 6.1% over the previous year. 

what countries saw a greater increase in catalan exports? in 2012 the principal increases in export levels were to be found in non-eu countries. 

  • latin america + 20.1% 
  • rest of the world + 16.6% 
  • europe (non-eu) + 15.6% 
  • north america + 6.8% 
  • eu + 0.2% 

these figures confirm that exports have matched the progress of countries with greater economic growth; a positive trend as it represents a diversification in catalan exports markets.

investment, industry and employment

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in terms of foreign investment, the industrial sector reacted positively in catalonia and increased 6.2% over 2011, and represented 23.8% of total foreign industrial investment in spain. this result makes the relative specialisation of industrial investment in the region increasingly evident.

if you look at industrial investment as a whole (not just incoming), we see that there still is a contraction in 2012 (-2.1%) affecting both large and small companies. however there was a positive aspect, such as the automotive industry, a sector that has performed major investments aimed at increasing plant capacity. 

industrial employment meanwhile fell 5.1% on average, with five years of continuous job losses. positive data from the exterior sector has not been sufficient to improve the employment situation.

summary and trends over recent months

catalan industry fell in 2012, but the foreign sector made the fall in industrial gva softer than the rest of spain and in line with the rest of the eurozone. exports grew by 5.7% to reach record figures of 58,322 m €, and foreign investment aimed at industry grew by 6.2%. 

the first half of 2013 seems to confirm these positive trends:

  • the fall in gdp in the second quarter (-1.3%) was the lowest of the last four quarters. 
  • in industry the situation is similar. the year-on-year variation of industrial gva was 0.5% in the second quarter, the first positive figure since the third quarter of 2011. 
  • the industrial production index rose 1.7% in the second quarter year; the most positive data since 2011. 
  • industrial climate seems to be stabilizing. the balance in july is even 7 points higher than the same month last year. 
  • exports grew by 0.3% in the first half. 
  • finally, the latest survey of industrial investment in 2013 estimated that the investment would shift its trend, showing an increase of 2.4%.

raül blanco díaz
industrial studies division manager
general directorate for industry
government of catalonia


Catalonia in Business