Closer economic integration between Portugal and Spain is “inevitable and desirable”, in the view of Durão Barroso. The Prime Minister was speaking at an Iberian economic forum in Madrid, attended by his opposite number, José Maria Aznar. Barroso said he viewed closer economic integration between the two countries not as a threat, but as a step forward. “Integration will open great opportunities to Portuguese firms and we had better prepare ourselves for it,” he said. “Portugal is very important for Spain and Spain is very important for Portugal,” he added.
Since 2001, Portuguese firms have invested far more in Spain than Spanish firms have in Portugal. Currently, Portuguese firms invest three million euros every year into Spain, a statistic which, according to Barroso, “shows that Portuguese firms are preparing themselves for entry into the Spanish market”. Burgeoning economic ties between the two Iberian neighbours are also visible in the external market. Between January and November 2003, Portuguese exports to Spain rose by 13.4 per cent, the biggest growth in Portuguese exports to any European country.
But Spanish firms also have reason to be interested in the Portuguese market. In 2002 alone, Spain exported 12,900 million euros worth of goods to Portugal, a higher figure than sales to Mexico, Argentina and the whole of Latin America. “Portugal and Spain can and must join together in such a way as to take advantage of the enormous opportunities and potential that the enlarged European market affords us,” concluded Barroso. He also proposed the formation of a common regulatory board, as far reaching as possible, similar to the Iberian electricity market. “In this way, it will be possible to promote a regime of transparency that brings together economic agents from both countries,” he added.
Some of Portugal’s most influential business people and managers attended the conference, including António Mexia, president of Galp, and Diago Vaz Guedes from Somague.