Ms. Elisa Garcia Grande is a state economist and has served as a senior civil servant with the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness since 1992. She has been on many international missions for Spain and served, for example, as the Head of the Spanish Delegation at the Paris Club during external debt and debt-swap program meetings and negotiations.
In addition, she has worked at the General Directorate for Trade and Investment where she supported the financial backing of internationalization projects for Spanish companies located in the Andean region and Sub-Saharan African countries.
From 2005 to 2010, Elisa was the Head of the Economic and Commercial Office at the Spanish Embassy in South Africa where she was in charge of matters related to Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
In December of 2010, she was appointed the Head of the Export Initiation Programs and Training Division at ICEX, the Spanish Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, where she developed programs to facilitate the internationalization of small and medium-sized companies.
In 2013, she was appointed the General Director of ICEX (Spanish export and investment promotion agency) a position she held until 2015 when she moved to Washington D.C. and took up her position as the Head of the Commercial and Economic Office at the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C.
1- WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE ECONOMIC AND COMMERCIAL OFFICE OF THE SPANISH EMBASSY IN DC?
The Economic and Commercial Office in DC is one of the six offices in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) that the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness has to promote and support the internationalization of our economy in this country. Our five teams have two primary objectives: supporting Spanish companies to develop their businesses in the States and attracting new investments to our country.
The DC Office, due to its location, has a more institutional role to play. We work hard to strengthen our bilateral relations with the Federal Administration, the States, the European Union Delegation and multilateral institutions based in Washington-all to help our companies navigate this environment. Our offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Puerto Rico play a more active role in promoting Spanish sectors.
2- WHAT TYPE OF SERVICES DOES YOUR OFFICE OFFER TO THE SPANISH COMPANIES WHO WANT TO DEVELOP BUSINESS IN THE US? WHAT ARE THE MOST REQUESTED ONES? AND THE MOST UNKNOWN?
We provide Spanish companies that are looking for new markets with the necessary tools to support them right from the start during their internationalization process.
In the U.S., we have 6 economic and commercial offices while all over the world there are nearly 100 plus 30 Department of Trade delegations in Spain. A network of over 600 specialized professionals is ready to support Spanish companies at any time.
We provide custom-made solutions for every firm: for the initial steps, the consolidation of exports, the start-up of operations and/or investments abroad. We have information, advisory and training services ready to address specific needs. Our reports cover all aspects of establishing a business abroad, from specific sector market reports to how to set up a business guide to tools that calculate the cost of establishment in a specific market.
We also assist companies that are already established in the US and want to grow or expand their business in this market. A popular program among these companies has been the organization of institutional trips to meet with state and local authorities in order to get first-hand information on the needs and opportunities arising in each particular state.
Still, I have to say that many companies do not know that we operate as a network and are ready to assist them prior to their arrival in the U.S.
The services most requested are related to promotion activities abroad: the participation in international trade fairs and missions, study trips and, in particular, the set-up of technical and commercial meetings with buyers, distributors and/or opinion leaders. As for multilateral bodies, Spanish firms ask us for the organization of missions and meetings with them.
3- IN THE OPPOSITE CASE: US COMPANIES INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING THEIR BUSINESS IN SPAIN: HOW CAN YOU HELP THEM ?
Working with U.S. companies looking to export to Spain means that we put them in touch with our colleagues at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid who will further assist them.
With new potential investors, we work with our colleagues in our headquarters from the Invest in Spain Division (IiS) to facilitate the U.S. company’s landing and offer customized reports tailored to suit their needs plus specialized consultancy on legal and technical issues through partnership institutions. In addition, if requested, we can serve as advisors throughout every stage of the investment process and help with grant research and applications, subsidies, sector analyses and development, labor and social security regulations, tax regimes, intellectual property laws and general administrative procedures. Further, we can advise on the best way to obtain work and residential permits and are ready to provide information on market opportunities and privatization processes. We help potential investors to identify strategic & technological partners, organize agendas and coordinate meetings between investors, potential partners and institutions. By closely cooperating with regional and local agencies, we can help U.S. companies select the best location for their projects. Sometimes, we are asked to facilitate financing and joint ventures between foreign investors and Spanish companies as well.
I should also add that to promote R&D&I businesses in Spain, IiS manages the Technology Fund, a European program, which offers non-refundable grants to foreign enterprises. Finally, just some days ago, we launched a new program “ Rising Start Up Spain “ for foreign entrepreneurs to establish their start ups in Spain.
4- BASED ON YOUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN WASHINGTON DC, WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES THAT SPANISH COMPANIES SHOULD AVOID WHEN THEY ESTABLISH THEIR BUSINESS IN THE U.S?
I would differentiate between SMEs and large companies:
Large Spanish companies usually understand quickly that the U.S. market is not just one market but consists of 51 markets-each one with its own budget and regulations. Once the firms grasp the complexity of the market, they try to focus on a state that best suits the needs of their specific sector.
Regarding SMEs, we are confronted with the same problem in most of the markets: still nowadays we have companies that try to develop new businesses abroad without a clear strategy. They choose a particular country without analyzing the growth potential of their product in that market, without a deep market analysis and other key information. The U.S. market is very mature, complex and characterized by strong competitiveness. Companies need to make sure that they are very well prepared before they enter this market. Just deciding on a whim to come here is not enough. Preparation is key, and we can help them with that: We have, for instance, the ICEX NEXT program where specialized professionals will help a company design a strategy for its internationalization and consolidation process. With this program, we co-finance expenses and offer consultancy services.
Last but not least, once a company has decided to work in the U.S., it is essential to visit the Economic and Commercial Office. That way, “we have them on our radar” and provide them with information on economic and commercial activities and/or new business opportunities. It is important to stress that we are here to help and can help companies avoid mistakes. The companies included in our database receive periodic notifications of business events and we can connect them with other companies or institutions creating new networking opportunities.
5- LET´S TALK ABOUT OUR ENTREPRENEURS: IN THE LAST FEW YEARS OF ECONOMIC DIFFICULTIES IN SPAIN, MANY ENTREPRENEURS HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING LAUNCHING THEIR STARTUPS IN THE US, ESPECIALLY DUE TO THE POSSIBILITY OF THE ACCESS TO VENTURE CAPITAL AND THE ACCESS TO A LARGER MARKET. WHICH WOULD BE THE MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OUR ENTREPRENEURS WHO WANT TO INTERNATIONALIZE THEIR BUSINESS IN THIS MARKET?
Our recommendations are very similar to the ones provided to other companies, more specifically:
– Have a product with high potential for this market
– Know how to sell the product and attract investors
– Have some financial backing while you are looking for investors
We must not forget that there exists cut-throat competition among start-ups trying to find financing for their projects. You have to be the best and ready to pitch your product within only a few minutes. Simply put, you need to stand out from the crowd.
To help set up start-up companies in the U.S., we have the Spain Tech Center, a partnership between ICEX, RED.es and Santander Bank. The goal of this initiative is to facilitate the successful landing of Spanish technology companies in Silicon Valley and the U.S. After the STC immersion program you’ll have all the tools to make an informed decision and plan your next steps in the Valley ecosystem.
6- HOW ARE THE BILATERAL TRADE RELATIONS BETWEEN SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATES? WHAT ARE THE MAIN STRENGTHS AND WHICH AREAS SHOULD BE IMPROVED?
Spain and the US have long been strategic partners. Long term private Investment has been for years, one of the most fruitful parts of the relationship between our two countries. Bilateral trade and investment flows have been very dynamic and the US is now Spain´s main trade partner outside the European Union.
Nowadays, we have more than 12,000 foreign firms in Spain that generate 1.2 million jobs with 1,300 US companies having created over 150.000 jobs alone. For the past two decades, our corporations have invested heavily in foreign markets with great success. Currently, there are more than 700 Spanish companies in the US, creating over 80,000 jobs in the United States.
Nevertheless , we still have some room to strengthen our bilateral economic relations even more. For example, in order to have a higher number of SMEs working in the US it would be very important to reach some degree of regulatory cooperation and harmonization to reduce export costs. Here, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will play an important role and bring about new business opportunities for both countries.
Finally, I would like to add that if the 2013 Double Taxation Treaty amendment gets finally ratified by the US Congress, it will enhance the competitiveness of both American and Spanish companies, and will remove trade barriers. Further, it will invigorate foreign direct investments by mitigating double taxation and by reducing or eliminating withholding taxes.
7- WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SPANISH COMPANIES THAT ARE THINKING ABOUT EXPANDING THEIR BUSINESS ACTIVITIES TO THE US?
It is key to make an informed decision so even before making the first trip to the States, I would suggest to contact either our headquarters in Madrid or one of our Economic and Commercial Offices in the US. That will give us the opportunity to outline in advance all the tools that the Spanish Economic Administration has to facilitate a company´s landing in this market.
- Some useful contact details :
Economic and Commercial Office
Embassy of Spain
2375 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington D.C. 20037
Tel: +1 (202) 7282368