Spain - Commercial Guide
Market Challenges

Learn about barriers to market entry and local requirements, i.e., things to be aware of when entering the market for this country.

Last published date: 2020-08-07
  • Cost, financing terms, and after-sales service are important competitive factors. U.S. exporters to Spain will find that their European competitors often provide generous financing and extensive cooperative advertising, while most European governments support exporting with trade promotion events. Japan has traditionally had an active presence, while China has adopted a very proactive approach in recent years and Chinese companies are also emerging as formidable competitors. Chinese President Xi visited both Spain and Portugal in 2018 as part of a concerted effort to cultivate more business and investment on the Iberian Peninsula. Although U.S. products are well respected for their high level of technology and quality, American firms sometimes fall short of their competitors in flexibility on financing, adaptation of product design to local market needs, and assistance with marketing and after sales service.
  • Delays in reimbursement can represent a problem, particularly in the public sector, although the situation has improved substantially since 2015 when additional legislation was passed to enforce more timely payments by the regional and local governments.
  • As a member of the European Union, Spain is a party to the new EU legislation covering broader data protection throughout the EU that came into effect on May 25, 2018.                      Additional details are available via the Trade.Gov website.
  • Spain is a price-sensitive market, and foreign goods must conform to EU and certain local standards and labeling regulations in order to import products into the market.  A local agent or distributor should be able to assist with obtaining the necessary certifications and permits required for importation.
  • Spain has 17 regional governments, known as autonomous communities, that are more or less the equivalent to U.S. states.  The level of autonomy varies from region to region, with Catalonia and the Basque Country being the most advanced in this regard.  While the ongoing dispute between the Spanish Central Government and the Catalonian Regional Government has not had an impact on imports from the United States, the regional government requirement that products for distribution in the region be labeled in the Catalan language implies higher costs and administrative requirements.
  • The economic downturn precipitated by the international healthcare and economic crisis may well result in some Spanish companies, particularly in areas where public spending is an important component, becoming more reluctant to commit to purchasing in advance or taking on the expense of introducing and marketing new products or services. However, given that developing export sales or distribution channels takes time and that the economy is expected to start showing signs of recovery in 2021, export-ready U.S. firms are urged to continue to explore opportunities in Spain and throughout the Eurozone.
  • Despite high-profile, high-impact raids in 2016, storefronts selling counterfeit goods persist. The USTR’s 2019 Notorious Markets includes Els Limits de La Jonquera market in Girona (Catalunya) for widespread sales of counterfeit goods.