Spain-United Arab Emirates Business Meeting's Inauguration at the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC): Speech by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez


Dubai (United Arab Emirates)


Your Excellencies. Ministers.

Representatives of the business community,

I would like to thank you all for coming to this meeting, despite the difficult times we are all going through. The COVID pandemic continues to affect our lives, but I am confident that we will soon be able to put it behind us and regain the much needed normality.

And for this to happen, mass vaccination campaigns among our societies in countries such as Spain and the United Arab Emirates will be essential. In our country, for example, 90.7% of Spaniards over 12 years of age have received the complete regimen; 50.3% of children between 5 and 11 years of age have received at least one dose; and 70% of people over 40 years of age have already received the third booster dose.

This is undoubtedly a collective success for the whole of Spanish society, but I would like to insist on a certainty that I believe we all share, and that is that no country will be safe until we all are. And that is why we must intensify our vaccination efforts not only in Spain and the Emirates, whom I also recognise for the efforts they are making during these long months of pandemic, but also in the rest of the countries of the world.

I would like, if I may, to congratulate my hosts on a tremendously successful EXPO Dubai 2022. By holding this EXPO, the Emirates confirms its organisational capacity at the highest level. As has been demonstrated in other areas in recent years, the successful development of the UAE through the creation of a local industry in technologically advanced sectors is laudable, as is the way in which it has attracted foreign investment through legislative changes, as discussed here, aimed at reducing barriers and increasing legal certainty.

And I would like to congratulate them on that. Very few countries in the world have achieved similar levels of economic development in such a short period of time. It is therefore an honour for me to make my first official trip to the United Arab Emirates as President of the Government.

Starting the official visit at this forum, a Business Meeting organised by ICEX in the framework of Spain Day at the EXPO, has a special significance.

And that is why I would especially like to thank the Minister of Economy and the Minister of State for Foreign Trade of the United Arab Emirates for their presence today. Despite their busy schedules, they wanted to be here today to show their support for the excellent economic and trade relations that exist between our countries. Thank you.

Nor do I want to forget the business representatives from the Emirates, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, the International Investors Council. And we are also honoured by the presence of the President of the Spanish Employers' Association, the CEOE, and the President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, essential partners of the Government of Spain in supporting the internationalisation of our companies, as the Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism rightly pointed out. And finally, I am accompanied on this visit to the United Arab Emirates by a large delegation of Spanish companies of the highest level: INDRA, Barceló, Constructora San José, TSK, IDOM, Técnicas Reunidas, Airbus España, ASISA, Escribano, Acciona, Duro Felguera and ALSA, among others. Thank you all for making the effort and joining us on this important official trip.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking to you about the projects that the Government of Spain is carrying out in our country and about our expectations for growth.

Our government has a clear will to modernise and transform Spain, with the aim of maximising opportunities for our companies, as well as opening the doors to foreign direct investment. In such a difficult context as the pandemic, we have promoted public-private partnerships in traditional and emerging sectors, and we have developed a whole reformist agenda in the economic and business sphere linked to European funds.

In the field of sustainability, which is crucial for Spain, our country is already recognised as one of the countries most committed to climate change adaptation and mitigation and, consequently, to the decarbonisation of the economy. In my opinion, this represents an enormous opportunity to attract investment in areas such as renewable energies, sustainable mobility and the circular economy.

And on the business side, we have approved an important new Bankruptcy Law, which will give a new opportunity, a second chance, to our entrepreneurs. We have also created the Law for the Creation and Growth of Companies, and the Telecommunications Law, which will contribute to reaching our goal of high-speed connectivity to 100% of the Spanish population by 2025. Moreover, the Government is determined to making Spain a country that attracts talent and develops that talent: that is why we have passed the Startups Law, the most ambitious in Europe, with added facilities for entrepreneurs and investors. And thanks to the new laws on Education, Vocational Training, the future reform of the University Law, the future reform of the Science Law and the Digital Skills Plan, we are confident that Spain can become a hub of talent and opportunities for everyone.

We are by far the most advanced country, as you know, in the implementation of the European Union Recovery Plan: we were, together with Portugal, the first country to present the Plan and to get the Commission's approval, we were the first country to get the Operational Provisions approved and also the first country to receive the disbursement of Next Generation EU funds.

Our economy is recovering steadily. The external sector contributes significantly to this through the competitiveness of our companies. The latest figures show that our exports of goods have grown by 21.1% between January and October 2021 compared to the same period last year. They reached a new record of 258,682 million euros. Compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, exports of goods grew by 6.1% despite the fall in tourism, which is, as you know, very important for our country. But despite this fall, our country continues to maintain a current account surplus and positive financing capacity.

In recent years, Spain has proved to be an extremely attractive country for international investors. Since 2010, Spain has enjoyed an excellent decade, as the minister said, both in terms of record inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and the quality of investment projects. In 2021, for example, Spain was the third largest recipient of greenfield projects in the world, with 700 high-value projects according to FDI Markets. And all this data is confirmed by the forecasts of the main multilateral organisations for the year 2022, which we have just begun. These data point to the growth of the Spanish economy, placing it in the leading group of advanced economies and, moreover, accelerating with respect to the figures for 2021, despite, logically, the difficulties caused by inflation or difficulties in global supply chains. Thus, Spain is currently expected to have growth rates above 5.5% in 2022.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the government of Spain, the United Arab Emirates is a strategic partner. Our common interests, the wide-ranging cooperation agreements in different areas such as security, defence, sports, education, health and, of course, the economic and business sphere, make these relations between our countries fruitful.

The Emirates is an important customer for Spain: it ranks 30th in the ranking as an export destination, ahead, consequently, of large countries such as Australia or India itself. It is our second export destination in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia, and in 2019 it became the first. In 2020, our exports of goods amounted to €1,509 million (up 18% compared to 2019) while imports were €300 million (i.e. down 39%). Both were obviously affected by the effects of the pandemic.

However, from January to October 2021 and compared to the same period of the previous year, our exports (a total of 1,415 million euros) increased by 13% and imports grew by 136% to 597 million euros.

The Emirates is a key investor in Spain, reaching place 16th in the ranking of investment stock, with 6.148 billion euros in 2019.

As mentioned above, these data could be better. I believe we can go further. Although we have very positive bilateral trade relations, which have been growing in recent years, we consider that trade and investment flows are below the potential that our countries clearly have.

And for this reason, I wanted to take advantage of my presence during Spain Day at the EXPO to try to deepen our relations and promote various bilateral agreements. Among them, the two I will mention below are undoubtedly the most important:

The first of these is the conclusion of the agreement for the signing of an Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, negotiations on which between the two countries began many years ago, in 2003, almost 20 years ago.

And secondly, the signing today of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Mubadala Sovereign Wealth Fund and COFIDES for the identification and joint financing of projects.

I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that these instruments will serve to increase economic ties between our countries, to achieve a true strategic partnership in the field of investment. And in the case of Spain, I would also like to point out that the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan will involve the execution of 140 billion euros over the next six years, aimed at accelerating the transformation and modernisation of our economy, of our productive fabric, of our business fabric, with a special emphasis on the ecological transition and also on digital transformation. And in this framework, countless opportunities for public-private collaboration are already emerging, such as green hydrogen generation, energy storage, car batteries, the circular economy, cybersecurity and data management.

Therefore, I encourage Emirati investors to look to Spain as the great country that it is when it comes to investing and also to winning a future of growth and progress.

I would also like to make a special mention of the Spanish companies present today at this business meeting. Most of them have a long-standing presence in this market and are a source of pride and an example for many other Spanish companies interested in internationalisation. I must confess that I am frankly impressed by the extensive Spanish sectoral presence in the Emirates and with all the projects implemented in recent years, which have undoubtedly contributed to the development and modernity of this country. On behalf of the Government of Spain, I would therefore like to express my gratitude for this spirit for internationalisation. And also, therefore, of contribution to the progress of this country, in sectors such as engineering, renewable energies, water, transport, tourism, banking, information and communication technologies, as the most paradigmatic examples.

And in this regard, I would like to say that for the Government of Spain it is a great satisfaction to see that large Spanish companies are collaborating in emblematic and important projects for this country, for the United Arab Emirates, such as the construction of the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi carried out by the Spanish company San José, which is also currently in charge of the construction of a very important hospital. We have also been a reference for clients such as MASDAR, RTA and DEWA, as our companies have carried out important projects in the renewable energy, water and transport infrastructure sectors, such as the extension of the metro line to the EXPO site by the Spanish company ACCIONA.

This success has also been reflected - and I would also like to say this - in the more than 40 Spanish companies that have participated directly or indirectly in the construction of the EXPO pavilions, in their contents and in the public areas. By way of example, two of the most important pavilions at the EXPO, those of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have been designed by Spanish architectural studios.

But we are also proud, ladies and gentlemen, of our pavilion at this EXPO. I would also like to express my thanks to all the sponsoring companies involved in its design and implementation. The location of the Spanish pavilion in the sustainability area of the EXPO is appropriate and timely, taking into account the priorities of the Government of Spain. Spain is a world reference in the development of renewable energies, as you know, and we have aligned our entire policy with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. We share this field of interest with the United Arab Emirates, which is at the forefront of electricity production from solar energy, with the fundamental collaboration, by the way, of Spanish companies. The United Arab Emirates has demonstrated its international commitment - which I would like to highlight in this forum - by hosting the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and by hosting the next COP 28 in Abu Dhabi in 2023, when Spain will also hold and lead the pro tempore presidency of the European Union.

I would not like to end, ladies and gentlemen, without looking to the future of trade and economic relations between the two countries. I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has altered and even accelerated certain sectoral trends worldwide. The Emirates has not been oblivious to these changes and the Emirati government has therefore committed itself to sectors such as logistics, food security, the digitalisation of the economy, the race to outer space and the development of green hydrogen, among other sectors of the future. I firmly believe that Spanish companies can contribute to the development and promotion of these important economic activities. It has already proven, with its experience, that it can compete in any country in the world, even in a market as demanding as the Emirati market, which is always ready to attract the best companies on a global scale.

The EXPO is a unique opportunity to strengthen our economic and political ties, and I therefore hope that the numerous official visits by members of my government and several presidents of my country's autonomous communities will lead to closer cooperation in the economic, technological, cultural and tourism fields. There are undoubtedly priority sectors for our countries where this cooperation can be developed immediately, such as the aerospace industry, information and communication technologies, agro-technology (where Spain is clearly at the forefront), waste treatment and the development of green hydrogen as a source of energy, where we share both objectives, the United Arab Emirates and Spain. My country, ladies and gentlemen, has first class, first class companies, with great international experience, which can undoubtedly contribute to the development of the United Arab Emirates.

I would therefore like to conclude by wishing the Emirates every success for the Dubai EXPO. This Universal Exposition will undoubtedly mark a turning point in the relationship between our countries.

Thank you very much for your presence.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Original speech in Spanish

Non official translation