The Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the United Kingdom, is the oldest Spanish association in Britain. Since its foundation in 1886, during the reign of Queen Victoria, the Chamber has represented the interest of companies and professionals in the bilateral trade and investment relationship between two of Europe’s oldest nations.
This year, our Chairman also chairs the Fedecom federation, which groups 19 Official Spanish Chambers in countries such as Qatar, China, Germany, Italy and The Philippines, as well as the Spanish Business Council in the UAE.
The official government recognition of the Chambers imposes governance standards, giving added comfort to members and institutions that engage with the Chamber. Spanish Chambers, for instance, must be approved by the Department of Trade and are subject to the Chambers Act, despite being private entities. This enables the Chambers to bridge the gap between the public and private sector, enhancing the efforts of both when expanding the country's trade and investment footprint abroad, and contributing to establish relationships with governments, regulators, businesses and industry associations in the host country.
Whereas in the past, the duties of the Chambers tended to be more focused on business introductions and preparation of lists of potential client companies, the new environment has rendered some of these activities, although still useful, partially disintermediated, as more companies rely on online resources for getting this information. The current state of affairs is nevertheless more complex than ever before. Companies internationalize from a smaller scale and farther away, and the regulatory and cultural conditions they face require a local partner. The Chambers are ideally positioned to be that local partner.
The case of the Spanish Chamber in the UK is a casebook example for this. The two countries add to the largest amount of citizens living in each other’s country in Europe, and each country’s companies own leading businesses in the other. One of the largest telecom companies in Spain is British, and one of the largest in the UK is Spanish. When you walk along the high street in Britain, you will surely come across branches of Spanish-owned banks, and if you land in London’s largest airport, the largest shareholder of it will be a Spanish firm - followed by a Qatari investor.
Companies and entrepreneurs of all sizes and sectors operate in the other country, and often supply chains run cross-border. With the UK leaving the European Union, uncertainty grows, and the importance of the Chamber grows accordingly. The Chamber has nurtured relationships with both governments, and both the Spanish and British administrations hold informative sessions for our members. Our cooperation with the Spanish Embassy, and the trade ministries of both countries, help us bring timely and accurate information on the process to our members. Equally important, these dialogues are bilateral, and our members can convey their concerns to the authorities. We are also aware of the importance of sectorialization, and have created industry-specific forums for sectors such as finance or real estate.
Even for countries which are geographically close to each other, and who share a long common history, there are important nuances in the way of doing business, both from an administrative and cultural standpoint.
Therefore, the Chambers of Commerce fulfill several missions:
- Help companies invest and trade between the host country and the country of origin.
- Organize environments where members can liaise with the government administration of both the country of origin and the host country, receiving accurate updates on economic and trade issues, as well as being able to provide feedback and convey concerns to those administrations.
- Set-up sectoral initiatives for a more specialized debate within the companies in those sectors and between them and the government entities.
- Arrange the participation of firms in trade fairs in the country of origin and the host country.
- Increase the visibility and reputation of member firms, as well as the country of origin’s industry as a whole.
- Introduce business partners and facilitate networking.
- Provide continuous education to members on themes of interest to businesses, covering themes from company set-up to cybersecurity to Brexit to mental health in the workplace.
- Cooperation with other international and local Chambers of Commerce and industry and professional associations.
- Liaise with third-country firms interested in the bilateral relationship.
- Cooperate with charitable and cultural causes.
In an ever-globalizing environment, with more complex regulatory framework and a rapid rate of change, the Chambers are vibrant organizations, and unique instruments that businesses, professionals and governments can resort to, due to their long track record, ample networks, specialized know-how and official recognition.
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