How business in Spain, Latin America and the US are building closer ties

In a forum organized by EL PAÍS and the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce, industry leaders spoke about the interconnectedness of these markets in areas such as infrastructure and aviation

From left to right: Marcos Latorre, CEO of Hiberus International Corp; Lluís Sererols, financial director of Elizabeth River Crossings, an Abertis company; João Costeira, an executive managing director of the Spanish oil company Repsol; María Jesús López Solás, commercial director of Iberia Network and Alliances Development, and José Morán, partner at Baker McKenzie law firm.
From left to right: Marcos Latorre, CEO of Hiberus International Corp; Lluís Sererols, financial director of Elizabeth River Crossings, an Abertis company; João Costeira, an executive managing director of the Spanish oil company Repsol; María Jesús López Solás, commercial director of Iberia Network and Alliances Development, and José Morán, partner at Baker McKenzie law firm.Juan Arredondo

Latin America has traditionally been the preferred destination for Spanish companies looking to expand. And for the United States, Spain has been an important market for decades. But now these ties have become even closer. Meanwhile, many Latin American companies have turned towards Spain, while more and more Spanish companies have successfully invested in the United States.

At a September 21 forum organized by EL PAÍS and the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce in New York, sponsored by Abertis, Baker McKenzie, Hiberus and Iberia, with the collaboration of the Organization of Ibero-American States, Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister José Manuel Albares said that more than 700 Spanish companies are established in the United States, accounting for €80.4 billion in investment. And it’s a two-way street. The United States is Spain’s sixth most important buyer and fifth-biggest supplier. While Spain is the United States’ 20th most important buyer and 23rd biggest supplier, said Manuel Albares. In this relationship, Latin America is “an essential link in the chain,” he added.

Spanish airline Iberia is the perfect example of the interconnection between Spain, Latin America and the United States. At last week’s forum, María Jesús López Solás, commercial director of Iberia Network and Alliances Development, highlighted how even in the Covid-19 pandemic, aviation played an important role. The industry, for example, was key to flight repatriations and transporting equipment and vaccines. The sector is also essential to supporting economic relationships. “There is no global economy without aviation,” she noted, adding that Iberia is also moving towards greater sustainability.

José Morán, a partner at the Baker McKenzie law firm, spoke of the economic opportunities offered by the Inflation Reduction Act, which introduces economic incentives for clean energy and earmarks $369 billion in funding to tackle climate change in the United States. This investment could create 100,000 companies and 550,000 jobs. The Inflation Reduction Act is the star project of US President Joe Biden, and has given the Democrat a boost in the polls ahead of the November 8 midterm elections.

João Costeira, executive managing director of the Spanish oil company Repsol, pointed out at the forum that large investments are needed to finance the energy transition. He also said the tax incentives included in the Inflation Reduction Act were better than imposing new taxes on energy firms.

Investment is also needed in the infrastructure sector, particularly in the United States, added Lluís Sererols, the financial director of Elizabeth River Crossings, a limited liability company owned by the Spanish infrastructure corporation Abertis. For example, many roads in America – where the bulk of good are transported by freight trucks – dates back up to 70 years, meaning a lot of investment is required. Last year, Biden won bipartisan support for his Infrastructure Law, which, according to Sererols, could spur on more public-private initiatives.

The Abertis group is interested in taking part in public-private projects to develop and manage infrastructure in the United States, where it already has a strong footing. While most projects of this kind concern arrangements to operate toll roads and airports, Sererols pointed out that private-public collaborations can also take place in other areas, such as the ecological transition. “There is not enough public capital to address all the needs that need to be addressed,” he said.

“We have come from a pandemic situation that has changed the way we work and even how we relate to each other,” said Marcos Latorre, the CEO of the business consulting firm Hiberus International Corp. At the forum, he stressed the importance of technology in the lifestyle changes triggered by the pandemic, in particular the rise of home working. When it comes to deciding whether to reverse or maintain these Covid policies, Latorre said that businesses must first consider the sector in which they work and how their workers relate to one another. Without this reflection, companies could make the wrong decision, he warned. Latorre also listed the professions he believed will be important to the future of technology, naming software developers who are specialized in user experience and machine interaction, data scientists, artificial intelligence specialists and, in particular, cybersecurity experts.

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