The good pace of Catalan industry in 2017 allowed Catalonia to set a new export record. Specifically, sales abroad grew 8.7% during 2017, far above the 2% that it had grown the year before. A year before exporting business organizations, like AMEC, had voiced their concern about slow foreign sales, but during 2017 exports soared.
In fact, the 8.7% increase last year was the largest hike in exports since 2011.
This vitality allowed Catalonia to close the year with a 25.6% share of Spanish exports; in other words, Catalonia accounted for one of every four euros that Spain exported. The Spanish region with the next highest share was Andalusia, with less than half of Catalonia's total: 11.2%.
As a result, Catalonia was the autonomous community that contributed the most to the growth of Spanish exports. Specifically, one quarter (2.2 percentage points) of the almost 8.9% rise in Spanish exports was due to Catalonia.
The latest data published had already indicated that the industry had closed the year very strongly, at close to a 5% pace, which surpassed the growth of the first quarters of the year. Those figures were not affected by the political clash between Catalonia and Spain and surprised experts in the sector. One of the explanations for this strong showing was the growing dynamism of the European economy, the main client for Catalan exports. Today the data confirm that this has resulted in the strong figures for the Catalan foreign sector.
The sectors that drove exports the most were the "usual suspects": chemical products (which grew some 7% and accounted for nearly 26% of Catalan exports last year), capital goods (which grew by 3.2% and represented 19% of the total), and the automotive sector (which after rising 8% accounted for more than 15% of foreign sales).
Trade deficit moderates
These figures, however, do not conceal a structural problem in the foreign sector: the trade deficit. That is, Catalonia systematically imports more products than it exports. The good news is that the deficit was curbed last year, though very slightly, as imports increased at a slower rate: exports rose 8.7% and imports 8.3%.