Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 7/12/2018
  • Spain, with a GDP of USD 1.3 trillion and a population of 46.6 million people, is the fourth-largest economy in the Eurozone, post-Brexit. Its economy grew 3.1% percent in 2017.  Record tourism and export levels, coupled with a revived domestic consumption, helped drive the recovery. Forecasts for the next several years suggest growth around 2.7 percent.

  • Spain entered into a recession in the second quarter of 2008, from which it emerged in the third quarter of 2013. Responding to the crisis, the Popular Party (PP) government undertook major initiatives in 2012 to reduce the deficit and reform labor laws, public services, and the financial sector. These reforms have made Spain much more competitive in comparison to costs in other European countries.

  • Spain has a structurally high unemployment rate, which economists estimate at 8 percent, but the crisis led to a dramatic rise in unemployment, which grew to almost 27 percent in 2013. The unemployment rate decreased to 16.4 percent in 2017, down from 18.5 percent the previous year.

  • Youth unemployment —including those under the age of 25— decreased to 37.5 percent in 2017, down from 42.9 percent in 2016, and 56.9 percent in 2013.

  • Spain has traditionally represented a significant export market for the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of goods to Spain in 2017 amounted to USD 11.014 billion, up from USD 10.4 billion in 2016. The actual U.S. export numbers to Spain are substantially higher than the reported numbers, since many of Spain’s imports from the U.S. arrive in Europe via ports of entry in other European countries. Services exports from the U.S. to Spain continue to be strong at USD 6.7 billion in 2015. Spanish exports to the U.S. in 2017 were USD 15.6 billion.

  • As a member country of the European Union (EU), Spain adheres to EU legislation, as is the case of all member countries. The Spanish government generally aligns with the EU consensus, and the Spanish public has broadly favorable views of the EU.

  • Investment plays a key role in the bilateral economic relationship.   Most of the large U.S. names are present, many of which are in the industrial sector – automobiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, industrial machinery, etc.  U.S. investment in Spain was estimated at USD 55 billion in 2016. It is estimated that U.S. firms in Spain employ over 163,000 people.  

  • The presence of large well-known foreign names serves as a catalyst for innumerable local suppliers and service providers and, in almost all cases, increases exports. Over 50 percent of Spanish exports are made by foreign multinationals located in Spain. U.S. investors also hold significant portfolio investment in shares of some of Spain’s largest companies.

  • Spain’s recovery has enabled it to increase its foreign direct investment. Spanish investments in the United States have increased substantially in recent years, making Spain the tenth largest investor in the United States in 2016, according to data from SelectUSA and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Much of the investment has taken place in the past seven years, growing from a stock of USD 14 billion in 2006 to USD 67 billion in 2016 (Ultimate Beneficial Owner). The United States is the fifth-largest destination of FDI from Spain, according to data from the Spanish Ministry of Trade.

  • U.S. subsidiaries of Spanish firms employed over 81,700 people in the United States in 2015, while contributing USD 1,145 million worth of R&D and USD 880 million to U.S. exports that same year.

  • Spanish energy companies have traditionally invested heavily in the United States. The cutting-edge technology of major Spanish multinationals has allowed them to successfully undertake multiple renewable energy projects in numerous states.

  • Spanish wind generation companies are in over 20 U.S. states. Spain’s premier position in the construction and transportation sectors has also enabled Spanish companies to be in the front line for major infrastructure, railroad and metro projects throughout the country. The success of the larger Spanish multinationals is gradually attracting the interest of their service providers.

  • Spain is home to dozens of multinational companies, including five of the world’s 10 largest construction companies, and Europe’s second largest phone company. Major Spanish firms in the banking, telecommunications, infrastructure and energy sectors have become global leaders. Procurement decisions for these companies continue to be made in Spain.

  • The auto equipment and parts sector is another leading sector, ranked the sixth largest in the world by turnover and the third largest in Europe. In terms of total vehicle production, it is the second largest in Europe and the eighth largest in the world.

  • Tourism has traditionally been one of Spain’s most important sectors. The country is the world’s second largest tourist destination receiving 82 million foreign visitors in 2017. It ranks second in terms of receipts (expenditures) following the United States. Spain offers excellent potential as a source of visitors to the United States. In 2016, the last year for which data is currently available, a record 801,697 Spanish visited the United States, an increase of 6 percent from 2015’s total, making it the 15th largest international market for the United States.

  • It is currently the world´s 15th largest market for outbound travel to the United States, and the fifth largest in Europe.

  • With more than 1,970 miles of high-speed rail, Spain is second only to China in terms of high-speed train infrastructure. Madrid has high-speed train connections with 27 cities.

  • Wind energy has been the second source of electrical generation in Spain in 2017. Installed wind capacity was 23,092 MW at the end of 2017. Spain is the fifth country in the world in terms of installed wind power after China, the U.S., Germany and India. Over 22,000 people work in the sector. The Spanish industry exports technology worth over EUR 2.5 billion per year. It invests around EUR 85.5 million annually in R&D. The wind energy contributes about EUR 2.7 billion euros to GDP, accounting for 0.25 percent of Spain’s GDP.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Spain Trade Development and Promotion