Spain - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers
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For more information and help with trade barriers please contact:

International Trade Administration

Enforcement and Compliance

(202) 482-0063

The United States and the EU are committed to ongoing cooperation aimed at reducing or eliminating barriers to trade and investment. American businesses in Spain have few complaints about trade barriers.

American construction firms note that they have not been able to win public-sector construction contracts in Spain, although they have not specifically alleged systematic discrimination against them by Spanish authorities. Spanish counterparts, many of whom have made substantial investments in the United States, have won many large public-sector construction contracts in the United States, which has prompted typically very competitive American firms to ask why they are not similarly successful in the Spanish market.

Commercial cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the EU is limited to just over 102,368 hectares of MON810 corn in Spain (95 percent) and Portugal (5 percent) in 2021.  Regulatory constraints that prevent this area from further growth include a cultivation ban in 19 member states, strict coexistence rules, and a mandatory field register. 

  • New GE crops are entering the global marketplace at an increasingly rapid rate. The EU regulatory procedures for approving biotech plants take significantly longer than those in supplier countries. This has led to a widening gap between GE products deregulated and grown in the United States and other biotechnology growing countries and those approved in the EU, resulting in the partial or complete disruption of trade in affected commodities and processed products.  This represents a problem for commodity trading companies, as it limits their sourcing options and increases their risk when trading with countries that grow crops with traits that are not yet approved within the EU.  Shipments of agricultural commodities destined for the EU have been rejected when traces of such events have been detected at the point of entry.  Also, delays in GE product approval in the EU have an impact on farmers’ planting decisions in those third countries that supply agricultural products to the EU.
  • The effect of these asynchronous approvals is exacerbated by the EU’s policy for low level or adventitious presence of events.  Commodity trading companies face increased risk in their operations when trading with countries that grow crops with traits not yet approved in the EU, even when trading in other GE crops, as low-level presence may appear throughout the different links of the commodities supply chain. 
  • Seed trade is affected by the zero tolerance of adventitious presence, which is when low levels of unintended GE events are present in a seed shipment. The fact that the EU only allows cultivation of MON810 serves as a trade barrier for U.S. seed exports that might have adventitious presence of other GE events. A threshold level for adventitious GE material presence has not yet been set in the EU.  Therefore, the EU is forced to either produce its corn seeds domestically or import seeds from a limited number of origins where seed is produced under restrictive conditions that prevent cross-contamination with GE events not-yet approved for cultivation.

The new general audiovisual communication law, approved on May 26, 2022, by the Spanish Parliament, replaces the previous one from 2010. The text transposes the European Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Spanish broadcasters are required by law to reserve 51 percent of their annual broadcast time for European audiovisual (AV) productions. Television operators are also obliged to contribute five percent of their annual earnings to finance European feature-length films and series for European television, with 50 percent of the “investment quota” being spent on AV productions in one of Spain’s official languages.

  • Video platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO or Disney+ must allocate five percent of the income generated in Spain to finance European audiovisual works, including 70 percent of independent Spanish productions, whether shot in Spanish or in one of Spain’s official languages: ​​Catalan, Basque or Galician.
  • On-demand television audiovisual communication service providers must reserve 30 percent of their catalog for European works. Half (15 percent) must be works in official languages ​​in Spain and, of that, 40 percent must be audiovisual works in Spain’s official languages, taking into account the population and reserving at least 10 percent for each of them.
  • The General Law on Audiovisual Communication strengthens the promotion of European audiovisual works by independent producers, increasing investment obligations. Those who are bound must fulfill two obligations (the percentages are not added together): allocate 3.5 percent to audiovisual work in any format, which must be done in one of Spain’s official languages, compared to 0.9 previous percent; and, allocate two percent to the financing of films by independent producers, which must also be made in one of Spain’s official languages, compared to the previous 1.8 percent.