After an historic 2016, Catalan international commerce has started 2017 with a similarly historic recovery in terms of exports. The rate of growth of Catalan sales abroad hasn’t been as high as that recorded in the first month of this year since January 2011, when it was over 26%. With this growth, Catalan exports passed 5.338 million euros in January, a figure 15.7% higher than the same month last year when, in fact, they decreased.
This makes Catalonia, once again, the Spanish region with the greatest positive contribution to Spain’s exports. As the Spanish Ministry of the Economy explains in its monthly report, of the 17.4% increase seen over all sales abroad from Spain, Catalonia contributes 3.9 points, making up 24.9% of total exports. It is worth mentioning that Catalan exports grew more than 19% in October 2012, but this is an isolated case in the monthly figures, the only growth above 15.5% recorded since 2011.
What does Catalonia export?
Mainly chemical products, according to statistics from the Spanish Ministry of the Economy, comprising almost 27% of all its exports and which saw growth of 8.4%. Nonetheless, in the first month of 2017, it is the increase in sales by the automotive sector that stands out, having shot up 23.4% year-on-year to reach 15.4% of total exports. Ahead of cars but behind chemical products, however, come capital goods, which also grew by about 13% to make up more than 17% of total sales.
This is one of the points that differentiates Catalonia from the rest of the country, as the greatest exports from Spain as a whole are capital goods (18%), drinks and tobacco (17.9%) and automotive sector products (16.5%).
Electricity increases the trade deficit
But linked to the growth in exports and to the greater economic dynamism is the recovery seen in imports, which have shot up even more this January due to high energy prices. In the whole of the country, the trade balance —the difference between sales and purchases abroad— has increased to 3,134.7 million euros, some 31.3% higher than the same month last year, driven by the energy deficit, which grew by 57.8% with respect to January 2016. The energy deficit alone reached 2,279 million euros, whilst the remainder of the deficit was 855 million euro, less than the previous year.
Indeed, as the Ministry itself points out, imports of energy products rocketed up 28.8% in January, and prices grew even more, by around 35.4%.
In Catalonia, the difference also widened more than the same month in 2016, by 5.9% to be precise. Catalonia was also the autonomous community which imported the most, a 13.5% hike. Purchases abroad from Catalonia made up 27.2% of all those from Spain. For its part, Spanish imports grew 19%.