The Internationalisation Week 2023, IMEX Madrid, which brings together more than 50 countries, was inaugurated by the Secretary of State for Trade, Xiana Méndez Bértolo, who highlighted the work of the Chambers of Commerce and described public-private collaboration as a "fundamental lever" for the possibility of new markets.
After praising the role of this Fair, chaired by Jaime Ussía Muñoz-Seca, and the topics to be addressed: the agri-food sector, "key to Spanish exports", Asia and Africa, she referred to the convulsive and changing international context that we are experiencing and that is transferred from politics to the economy and affects foreign trade. However, he was optimistic about Spain, a statement that he supported with data such as the 24% increase from January to November 2022, which amounted to almost 358,000,000 million, "the November data point to a historic maximum in merchandise exports".
Méndez, who was accompanied by the president of IMEX and the Chamber of Commerce, Ángel Asensio Laguna, highlighted the importance of the internalisation strategies of companies and the challenges they face: sustainability, climate change and new markets. In this regard, he spoke of the USA, China, Japan, Korea, India, the Persian Gulf and the African market, "which offers great opportunities for internationalisation", especially Morocco, "a country to which we export 50% of all sales to Africa".
With regard to the agri-food sector, he recalled that in the last 21 years the trade balance has been in surplus, with 41,000 million euros, which demonstrates the firm commitment of Spanish companies and the free trade agreements. She also alluded to the "importing capacity of this sector, which exports a demanding, modern and competitive product" and its contribution to employment and to creating the image of our country.
Finally, the Secretary of State reminded the audience that the Spanish Administration is at the service of small and medium-sized companies "with the task of diversifying the destination markets and adapting the instruments to accompany companies in any circumstance".
Previously, Ángel Asensio Laguna took the floor, who also highlighted the fundamental work of this Week for the country and to promote internationality and defended public-private collaboration. Asensio referred back to the 2008 crisis, the year in which support for the internationalisation of companies was reduced in the budget, a fact that he regretted and defended that the contribution of foreign trade to the economy should be "long-term and continuous" in order to maintain strategic countries and not only to recover pre-pandemic GDP. In this sense, he called for a State policy where internationalisation is "a lever for continued growth".
The President of the Chamber also referred to the international reality and the reorganisation of world production and defended the fact that progress is the free market and "that it is not incompatible with defending what is ours". Finally, he referred to different important factors in foreign trade: financial sustainability, innovation in the economy through research and collaboration with the university, digitalisation, brand and image, products and services, human capital, "we need good talent", and taking advantage of the opportunities of a good and commercial policy. "We have to open doors and help companies," said Asensio, because the better companies do, the better society and the country will do.
In this event, led by the director of IMEX, José Terreros Andreu, the person in charge of explaining the content of this Week was Jaime Ussía Muñoz-Seca, who, after stating that they are starting with greater expectations than in 2022, emphasised that the objective is to present to SMEs the keys to their business development in a competitive way. "Exports are the basic pillars of our economy, any effort is too little to reduce the trade deficit we have," he said.
Throughout this week, and in 4 different venues (Ministry of Commerce, Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Palacio Cibeles and CEOE) 85 round tables and conferences will be held, with different themes: financial or tourism concepts, digitalisation, European funds, business partnerships... and around three large blocks: Internationalisation of the Agri-Food sector, Central Asia and Impulso Africa, where exports have tripled, surpassing those of Latin America.
Ussía Muñoz Seca stated that they want to be allies so that companies can find information on the foreign sector, look for strategic partners, learn about other experiences, evaluate the adaptation of new experiences and receive the necessary technical advice.
The inauguration was followed by a round table discussion on the "New World Order" with the participation of Eduardo Serra Rexach, President of DigitalEs and former Minister of Defence; Félix Sanz Roldan, General of the Spanish Army and former Director General of the CNI; Miguel Sebastián Gascón, Academic Coordinator of the Gate Center and former Minister of Industry; Inocencio Arias Llamas, diplomat and former Spanish Ambassador to the UN; and Beatriz Reguero Naredo, Director of Operations on behalf of the State at Cesce. The economic journalist José María Triper Moreno moderated this meeting, "of tremendous importance" given that we are in a new world order in the geopolitical, economic and commercial spheres, he said.
Serra spoke of the industrial revolution, globalisation and its consequences, and overpopulation as three sectors that speak of world change. And he referred to "uncertainty" as the key to the current situation: "During the Cold War, we knew where countries were going, now we don't". The world, he commented, "in the best case scenario, it becomes regionalised, in the worst, it becomes blocs". In this respect, he pointed out that the war in Ukraine has helped us to know where China is, that India is an unknown quantity, that we must not lose sight of the Middle East, and that Africa, "which is the land in dispute", is not given the importance it deserves. "Spain's strategic interest is to extend Europe's southern border; improving relations with the whole of Africa is a priority," he said.
For his part, Miguel Sebastián spoke of trends in the coming years. He stressed that the commercial centre is shifting from the Atlantic-North to the Pacific (USA and China), and that this trend has accelerated with the pandemic, as China grew more than the rest of the world. Regarding population, he said that the only continent that is growing is Africa, which will double in the next 30 years; he also stated that the paradigm of free trade is faltering, "we want free trade but also free of emissions", which is a contradiction, so it will be necessary to intervene with taxes. Finally, he highlighted other changes in the new world order, such as the fight against climate change, the technological revolution, "which is an opportunity, but also a fight for talent", and the increase in internal inequality, "we run the risk of destroying the model if we do so by increasing taxes on savings", a subject that would give rise to another debate, he said.
"There is nothing more volatile than the new world order," began Félix Sanz Roldan, who spoke of the speed at which changes occur. As an example, he recalled that 20 August 2021 we saw the Americans leaving Afghanistan and looking for security in the Pacific, until 24 February that Russia invades Ukraine, and we returned to the importance of NATO. "In just over a year, two new security orders have been set," he said.
For the commander general, the world order is changing very rapidly and the next world order will revolve around two poles: the US and China, one stronger militarily and the other technologically. "We have to define a new world order in which cooperation is the order of the day. The major powers have doubts as to whether or not they will make it, but the smaller ones have lost faith in the legitimacy of the current world order", he said.
Beatriz Reguero spoke of what Cesce calls the 4 Ds: de-globalisation, decarbonisation, demography and digitalisation. In the process of de-globalisation, she said that they see how value chains are getting closer in relation to the things in common with the countries we are approaching; and that decarbonisation is the most transformative process we are facing in the EU. Like Sebastián, she stressed that globalisation has generated more inequality. "The challenge will be to manage all these issues", she concluded.
Finally, Inocencio Arias, gave a new approach to the subject of the debate and delved into the "brutal increase in lies at the hands of leaders" and the fact that they are believed by a significant part of the population. He argued this with examples from Ukraine, "where Putin is waging war on the basis of an accumulation of falsehoods", in Great Britain with Brexit, in the USA and the issue of official documents, in China with the pandemic and human rights... and also in Spain "which, knowing that there was a pandemic, staged a feminist demonstration..." or with the sending of tanks to Ukraine.
The second part of the debate focused on the role of China in the new world order. Miguel Sebastián stressed that there is not a West-China conflict, but rather a US-China conflict, because one is a declining power and the other a rising one, and they are going to cross paths in 10-20 years' time. "China will be the new world power," he said. Regarding the position that Europe should take, he defended neutrality in this conflict and "a spirit of collaboration".
Reguero stressed that Europe should set strategies from a commercial point of view and agreed with Sebastián on the search for this collaboration. "We must seek a balance with China and cooperate", he said.
Arias said he was in favour of moving closer to the US than to China, recalling that the Americans had helped the Europeans in the two world wars and more recently in Kosovo.
A position that Serra also defended: "My understanding of this world is a world where American hegemony is very well established". If one has to say whether one is closer to the US or China, "I am closer to the US".
Finally, Roldán stressed that no one had put them in the position of having to choose, so the discussion is what to do with one or the other. "We are going to be with both and see what we do with each one," he said.
In short, in this debate it was clear that an important change is taking place in the world order that affects the geopolitical, economic and social levels, that leadership is taking place mainly in countries such as China and the USA, and that uncertainty and cooperation are key words.