Exports, the key to the Catalan economy
BarcelonaCatalonia has historically been an economy which is open to the outside world, but in recent years it has taken a decisive step to focus on exports. So much so that, in a context as difficult as the pandemic, in 2021 will have surpassed its record with a total of €78bn, according to estimates by the Generalitat. This figure is 6% higher than the previous record, which was 2019, and 18% higher than last year, 2020, when the coronavirus managed to practically stop world trade during the first months of the pandemic.
It should be put in context: the average worldwide growth of international trade compared to 2020 will be around 10%. This means that Catalan exports are growing at a almost double the world average, in part probably due to its greater fall in 2020. Be that as it may, exports are consolidating as an indicator that, together with the good performance of employment, invites a certain optimism. The Catalan economy has resisted in recent years, and almost decades, all the bad omens of those who predicted a catastrophe due to political tension. And now it has shown that not even the pandemic is capable of stopping a positive trend that had been going on for a long time, namely the increasing openness of Catalan companies to the outside world. This fact makes the Catalan economy particularly sensitive to everything that happens internationally, so that it is the first to notice both crises and recoveries.
In the absence of final data, the sector that will have driven exports will have been the chemical industry, which demonstrates the importance of having value-added industry at a time of uncertainty around car manufacturing after Nissan closed its factories. The figures for the agri-food sector are also expected to have been particularly good.
Moreover, this growth in exports has gone hand in hand with a decrease in dependence on the Spanish market. In the mid-1990s, 60% of Catalan exports went % to the Spanish market and 40% went to other markets. In 2008 it was split evenly, but since then exports outside Spain have been gaining weight. This is also good news, because, as an old slogan of the Generalitat used to say, "Our world is the world". And, finally, exports are a proof of competitiveness, one of the great challenges of the Catalan economy today, which needs to be able to compete in foreign markets with major powers such as Germany.
The year 2022 must be a key year in this regard. Catalonia needs to take advantage of European funds to make a leap forward and place its companies in a better position to go to market to sell their products. If things are done well and the opportunity that is now opening up is seized, Catalonia is in a privileged position to once again refute all the predictions of a supposed decline that the figures refute.