Exports are becoming one of the main drivers of the Catalan economy during a global downturn. Last September, following months of ups and downs, foreign exports totalled some €6.1 billion, 10% more than in the same period of 2018. This figure represents 26.2% of Spain's total exports, exactly one percent higher than in September last year. The trade balance has also been positive so far in 2019: with €55.15 billion in goods sold abroad from January to September, approximately 3% up from the same period last year. Although the September figures are positive, Catalan exports peaked in May and July, exceeding €6.8 billion per month.
According to figures published by Spain’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism this Thursday, growth in Catalonia was almost double that for Spain, where exports in September rose by 5.8% year on year, reaching €23.46 billion. For the year as a whole, exports rose by 1.6%.
Aside from being the Spanish region with the highest exports, Catalonia also contributes most to the growth in Spanish exports as a whole, both in September and for the total since January. Nevertheless, Catalonia doesn’t top the list for the highest growth in exports compared to last year: Aragon (+15.3%) takes first place, followed by Asturias (+12%) and Navarre (+11%).
Exports have fluctuated since January
The figures show fluctuations in the sector as a whole. In June, at the start of summer, Catalan exports fell, having reached a peak in April and May. In July they recovered, with foreign sales growing by 8%, before falling once again in August. According to Joan Ramon Rovira, an economic analyst at the Chamber of Commerce "Catalan exports are heavily affected by what’s happening to global trade, which is why they’re on the rebound after falling for two consecutive months". Rovira went on to say that "this doesn’t mean we’re entering a period of growth, but rather that global trade has stopped deteriorating".
According to Rovira, this is largely due to the fact that various uncertainties have been resolved: the possibility of a no-deal Brexit is now less likely, Trump has dropped the threat of tariffs and the US-China trade war has cooled off. “That’s not to say that things might not turn sour all over again", says Rovira, who adds that "reliable figures suggest that the downturn is touching bottom: there are signs that we’re heading more towards an upturn rather than a further downturn".
Chemicals are Catalonia’s chief export
There have been no major changes in terms of Catalonia’s chief exports,. The top exports in September were chemicals (€1.62 billion, representing 26% of Catalonia’s total exports); followed by capital goods, such as machinery and industrial products (€954 million, accounting for 15% of the total), and third, food, drinks and tobacco: €872 million and 14% of Catalonia’s total exports.
The report does not specify which countries are the major recipients of Catalan exports, but Spanish foreign trade mainly targets Europe (almost 73% to the continent as a whole, and 67% to the euro zone) and, secondly, although a long way behind, the Americas: 5% of Spanish exports go to Latin America and 4.1% to the US.
The figures regarding imports are also positive: in Catalonia, they grew by 13% compared to September last year, and 5% during the first nine months compared to the same period of 2018.