USEC had a unique opportunity to interview outgoing Ambassador of Spain to the US, Ramon Gil Casares, soon before he returned to Spain after five years in Washington DC. His position has just been assumed by the new Ambassador, Pedro Morenes Eulate. This exclusive interview was led by Martin Gurria (USEC National Director of Corporate & Institutional Relations) and Gonzalo Garcia, USEC President.
The history of The Unites States and the Spain is intertwined right from the Declaration of Independence. Just this past year we have honored Spanish General Gálvez as an honorary citizen. A recognition of Spain’s key role in the American revolution and the strong bonds that unite us. This long common history is highlighted with a continuous Diplomatic representation.
Recently, USEC recognized Ambassador Ramon Gil Casares with the Farragut Award. The Ceremony was held in the modern Residence of the Spanish Ambassador, right Under the same ancient Coat of Arms of Spain that was already present in the first Embassy in Philadelphia.
We asked Ambassador the following questions:
- What was your greatest achievement as an Ambassador?
I would rather talk about the achievement of a big team of professionals that I worked with at the Embassy. I have had the privilege of leading a great team over the past five years in order to present Spain as a valuable and trustworthy ally.
- What was the most difficult and the most rewarding situation?
One may be connected to the other. As I arrived here as Ambassador, my country was going through a difficult economic time that we were compelled to explain as to make the case for it and to convince others that we were going to come out of it as we finally did.
- What is your expectations of The USA for the coming years?
My expectations are very high as always for a country as unique as the United States.
- What do you foresee the relationship between Spain and USA for the next few years?
We have deep and strong relations that I’m sure will continue to thrive.
- How would you rate the evolution of Spanish companies in their efforts to break into the US market during your years in Washington DC? Any achievements that you would highlight?
There is a very telling number. The stock of Foreign Direct Investment by Spanish firms in the US was 48 billion euros in 2011. Today it exceeds 65 billion euros. Spain´s private sector has raised the stakes in this market even through the crisis back home. This is partly a strategic decision and also shows their success in growing their business in the US market.
- Where do you think that Spanish companies can find the best opportunities for business development in the US (business areas / geographical areas)?
Fortunately there are a host of regions and sectors where Spanish companies are already present and thriving. All along the East Coast to Massachusetts to Florida and also increasingly in the South West there are Spanish business and very promising economic prospects. The West Coast is also a natural place to do business for Spaniards where we are poised to increase our presence. As to sectors, we are strong in financial services, infrastructure, food and beverages…All in all, I think our experience in managing an ambitious program of investment in infrastructure could be very well put to use in the current juncture for the US economy.
- What opportunities and challenges need to be taken into account by Spanish entrepreneurs thinking about launching a start-up in the US?
This market is very competitive, so you need to have the patience and the resources to gain a foothold. Transaction costs are higher than generally reckoned so you would probably need sound legal advice. If your product or service is good and you market it well, then the upside is remarkable. If you are into the technology sector, the eco-system is very rich and you will probably benefit from the inter-action with other companies, venture capital investors or universities.
- Which do you think are the competitive advantages that Spanish companies can exploit in the US market?
We have valuable know-how at reasonable costs. Spanish companies have experience in difficult markets and also in tough economic and financial conditions. The Hispanic connection can also become a competitive advantage, through direct links with Hispanic businesses or leveraging in the US market the presence in Latin America.
- What can you say to US companies thinking about starting to do business in Spain? Why is Spain an attractive market?
We have come out from the crisis stronger. We have been one of the fastest growing large advanced economies in 2016. Our political landscape is quite stable compared to turbulence elsewhere. Our economy is well diversified and increasingly integrated in global markets. From Spain you can reach the big EU market and also be close to Latin American markets.
- How do you think trade between Spain and the US will be impacted by the new US administration?
It is too early to tell. Yet, I see no reason to jeopardize the recent trend of strong dynamism in bilateral trade flows. There is still a lot of untapped potential in trade and investment between the US and Spain.
- Do you think that there is any future for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? What can we expect in the coming years?
The negotiations are at a standstill. The EU remains committed and Spain is an enthusiastic supporter. It will depend on how the trade policy of the new US administration takes shape. We are convinced that it would bring substantial economic benefits to both sides so it should reasonably have future.
- Do you expect it will become much harder for Spanish professionals who want to work in the US to get a visa in the near future?
It is not yet clear how the policy of the new administration will affect visas for EU professionals. It would be wise in any case for any Spanish professional who wants to work in the US to devote sufficient time to learn about the process and the requirements to get a visa.
- Do you have any advice for the community represented by the US Spain Executives Community in terms of how our leaders can collaborate more effectively?
I can only suggest to keep a fluent dialogue with the Embassy and the network of Consulates and Economic and Commercial Offices in the US. It is a great thing to see initiatives such as USEC emerging from the civil society of Spaniards living, working and doing business in the US.
- What is left of your work? What would you have liked to do?
Diplomacy is a never-ending mission as long as you keep spirit and passion as I do.
- Ambassador to the USA is one of the highest position in world’s Diplomacy. What are you going to do once in Spain?
I am excited to return to the hub of Spanish diplomacy, the Spanish Diplomatic School. I began my career there as a very young diplomat and I am excited to return with the same eagerness.
- How are you going to maintain relationship between both nations and keep building bridges between both nations?
The bridges will be there whatever I do and wherever I go. I hold the United States in a special place in my heart.
- Most important lesson learned from your time as an Ambassador in Spain?
Expect the unexpected.
- Any suggestion for the new Ambassador?
To take into account my previous statement.