The Fira, important showcases for Portugal
Portugal and Spain share a common territory that inspired José Saramago to write “Jangada de Pedra”, practically an island at the western edge of Europe. The Portuguese have always shared close commercial and cultural ties with the other peoples of Iberia, but their location drew them away to seek new ventures in Africa, America and India.
João Aguas, the head of the delegation of Fira de Barcelona in Lisbon, knows the market very well, but also the longstanding relation of rivalry and mutual appreciation between Portugal – which established itself as an independent entity in the twelfth century, long before Spain appeared – and its neighbours. “The 20th century, however, has seen the introduction of democracy in both countries, and we have seen our business grow to make Spain unquestionably our most important trading partner and a fantastic ally”, he says.
Covering little more than 92,000 square kilometres, with a population of over ten and a half million, a quarter of which lives in the region of Lisbon, Portugal has an average income of 20,841 dollars per head and an economy that leans progressively towards the service sector, although industry still accounts for 30% of employment and agriculture another 10%. The current crisis has hit our neighbour hard, and in 2011 it received a bailout of 78,000 million euros.
How is the Portuguese market, and what interests do the Spanish and Portuguese share?
The Portuguese market is suffering the economic recession affecting the Mediterranean countries of the Eurozone, which includes us. Companies are looking to new markets in Africa, Latin America and the old Eastern Block countries. Spain, however, remains our main export market. Our mutual interests continue to be, the “novos mundos que demos ao mundo” (the new worlds that we gave the world – in Camões’ words), as they were five centuries ago, the emerging markets of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Angola, Mozambique, India and China.
What role does the Fira de Barcelona play in this context?
The Fira has been used by hundreds of Portuguese companies in the last twenty years, since the delegation opened, to promote their products and services to increase their sales. These companies are aware of the importance of the Fira’s events for the packaging, swimming pool, hostelry, chemical, graphic arts, construction and food industries, to name just a few. There is a lot of interest on the part of professional salesmen, businessmen, professors and researchers because they are all aware of the leadership of Barcelona and Catalonia in Spain’s industrial fabric and R+D.
At this point we should look into the image that the Portuguese have of Barcelona.
When the Portuguese delegation opened in 1992, Barcelona was in the middle of huge architectural revolution, and was changing its strategy for the future, which has now come true: the city is a world reference, a capital of the 21st century. It is a plural city where people can enjoy themselves, where they can spend their leisure time and do business. There are now 12 daily flights between Oporto and Lisbon and Barcelona, which shows how important the capital of Catalonia is for the Portuguese.