Spain - Commercial Guide
Selling to the Public Sector

Discusses the legal requirements for selling to the host government, including whether the government has agreed to abide by the WTO Government Procurement Agreement or is a party to a government procurement chapter in a U.S. FTA. Specifies areas where there are opportunities.

Last published date: 2020-08-07

In Spain, all levels of administration -- central government, autonomous communities, municipalities and companies with at least 50 percent government ownership -- have to follow specific procurement practices as regulated by the 2017 Law of Contracts of the Public Sector, Law 9/2017 of November 8 (Spanish).

The authorities allowed to contract or require funds on behalf of the Government are:

  • Central Government: Ministers and State Secretaries
  • Autonomous Communities: Legal representatives as established by the local government (usually a member of the cabinet) Municipalities: Mayor or any other formally designated official
  • State-owned companies: Chief Executive Officer
  • Public and government procurement in Spain follow the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and EU-wide legislation under the EU Public Procurement Directives. GOS Ministries are the main central contracting agencies.  At the local level, principal contracting agencies include regions, provinces, municipalities and entities controlled by the municipalities, including regional/local healthcare authorities.

U.S.-based companies are eligible to bid on public tenders covered by the GPA, while European subsidiaries of U.S. companies may bid on all public procurement contracts covered by the EU Directives in the European Union.

Tenders are published in the Official European Gazette and the official Spanish Official Gazette (BOE). 

EU public procurement opportunities are published online in  the Tenders Electronic Daily, TED, including public purchases of supplies, works and services by European governments and institutions at the national and sub-central levels.  TED includes GPA as well as non-GPA covered tenders. covered by EU Public Procurement Directives in any EU country.  A user does not have to be registered in order to access TED.   Under ‘’business opportunities’’, click on ‘’contract notices’’.  This will produce a list of all notices in all countries unless the search is refined, and a specific country or countries have been selected.  

A listing of Spanish tenders is also available on a GOS centralized procurement platform (PLACSP). Spanish regional governments also publish tenders within their areas, although access to the list of tenders varies from region to region.  Some, such as the Catalonian Regional Government publish the list, while many others invite interested parties to register in advance.

Selling to the Government

Spanish Government procurement follows the principle of best value through competition. There is no official domestic preference policy, or discrimination against foreign suppliers, however the Spanish Government does encourage “full and fair opportunity” for Spanish suppliers.

The bidding procedure for a specific tender is relatively straightforward. All proposals for bids are confidential and must be accompanied by proper documentation.

This information should include:

  • Accreditation of the legal representation used by the company.
  • Proof of economic and financial ability to meet all obligations and technical or professional competence plus a declaration that the company is not prohibited from contracting.
  • Proof that a provisional guarantee, as required by the conditions of participation, has been deposited. For foreign companies, formal acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts (if necessary).
  • Accreditation that all fiscal and social security obligations have been met.

U.S. companies interested in bidding for contracts with the Public Administration must comply with the Spanish Public Sector Procurement Law (Ley de Contratos del Sector Público). Companies must also document their compliance with the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C.     

Embassy of Spain

Commercial Section

2558 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20008-2865

Tel: (202) 265-8600;

Fax: (202) 265-9478

Procurement decisions are normally made at the respective department or agency level. For some categories of products, however, the Spanish Sub-Directorate of Procurement has opened a centralized bidding mechanism that uses an on-line register for bidders and open bids. These categories include computers, vehicles, office equipment and heating.

U.S. companies bidding on Government tenders may also qualify for U.S. Government advocacy. A unit of the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, the Advocacy Center coordinates U.S. Government interagency advocacy efforts on behalf of U.S. exporters bidding on public sector contracts with international governments and government agencies. The Advocacy Center works closely with our network of the U.S. Commercial Service worldwide and inter-agency partners to ensure that exporters of U.S. products and services have the best possible chance of winning government contracts. Advocacy assistance can take many forms but often involves the U.S. Embassy or other U.S. Government agencies expressing support for the U.S. bidders directly to the foreign government. Consult Advocacy for Foreign Government Contracts for additional information

EU Procurement

The U.S. and the EU both participate in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). This means that U.S.-based companies are able to bid on supplies and services contracts from European public contracting authorities. However, there are restrictions for U.S. suppliers in the EU utilities sector, both in the EU Utilities Directive and in the EU coverage of the GPA.

The four relevant EU directives on public procurement include:

Directive 2014/24/EU - public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts applies to the general sector.

Directive 2014/25/EU - entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors.

Directive 2009/81/EC - defense and sensi­tive security pro­cure­ment. Procedures for the pro­cure­ment of arms, muni­tions and war material (including related works and ser­vices) for defense pur­poses, but also for the pro­curement of sensi­tive supp­lies, works and ser­vices for non-mili­tary security pur­poses.

Directive 2014/23/EU - concession contracts, either for the delivery of works or services, giving the company to build infrastructure and operate businesses that would normally fall within the jurisdiction of the public authority (e.g. highways).

The U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union has developed a database of all European public procurement tenders that are open to U.S.-based firms.  The office has also prepared an interesting report on EU public procurement including restrictions in the area of utilities indicated in Directive 2014/25/EU .

Project Financing

Banks are the primary sources for short and long-term capital. While short-term financing is relatively easy to obtain, medium- and long-term funds are typically only made available to large companies and are thus more difficult to obtain. 

The most important types of short-term financing are through loan agreements (pólizas de crédito), discounting of commercial bills, and loans against bills drawn on a borrowing company to the order of the bank (efectos financieros). Under a "póliza de crédito,” (the usual term is six months) the borrower has access to credit up to the maximum amount negotiated in the loan agreement. Spanish borrowers prefer "pólizas" to loans made against bills (efectos financieros or letras financieras) because the latter are subject to stamp tax. 

Commercial bills and other trade instruments are generally discounted under an overall credit line agreed upon by the bank and its client. Banks usually offer these lines for one year and prefer that short-term paper (30, 45 or 90 days) be passed through the line. 

Local companies can raise their discount ceilings by opening term or savings accounts equal to 5-20 percent of their drawings. Equity financing is also available. Savings banks offer primarily, but not exclusively, credit for projects within their local areas. Loans are directed towards financing projects that create new jobs and improve local infrastructure. 

The Official Credit Institute (ICO), an agency supported by the Government of Spain, offers special loan terms for industrial restructuring and for smaller firms. Credits from the European Investment Bank are significant in Spain and are available for investment projects for development of selected sectors and regions. 

Types of Available Export Financing and Insurance

Numerous financial organizations exist to assist U.S. exporters. These organizations include commercial private financial sources such as factoring, forfeiting and confirming services. U.S. federal, state, and local government agencies offer many different types of financing programs. Some are guarantee programs that require the involvement of an approved lender; others provide loans or grants to the exporter or a foreign government banks and Commercial banks use government guarantee and insurance programs to reduce risk associated with loans to exporters. Lenders use these government programs to protect themselves against the risk surrounding an exporter's ability to pay.

To determine financing options available, consult:

Availability of Project Financing

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (ExImbank) is the federal government's trade finance agency and offers many programs to meet the financial needs of American firms and their buyers. Other agencies fill various market niches; the Department of Agriculture offers a variety of programs to foster agricultural exports while The Small Business Administration (SBA) caters to the needs of smaller exporters.

Types of Projects Receiving Financing Support

As indicated above, financing may be available to U.S. exporters from public and private U.S. institutions. In Spain, grants and incentives offered by different levels of the EU and Spanish Government, as well as by regional and local authorities, include: 

  • State and regional incentives for training and employment, especially focused on improving qualifications of active/under-skilled workers and fostering indefinite employment. 
  • State and regional incentives such as financial aid and tax benefits for specific sectors (agriculture and food, research and development, energy, mining, technological improvement). The “National Plan for Scientific Research and Technological Innovation,” partly funded by EU Structural Funds, aims to raise the level of Spanish science and technology and increase competitiveness and the efficient use of research and development results. 
  • Investment incentives to promote economic growth in less developed areas (Economic Promotion Areas and Special Areas), with a ceiling of up to 50 percent of the investment. 
  • State incentives for small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), known as "Iniciativa PYME." The Directorate General for Small and Medium Firms promotes several programs for SMEs, mainly for business cooperation and promotion of key areas (Information Services, Design Programs and Financing Programs). 
  • Incentives for internationalization, primarily for Spanish firms looking to invest or promote their business activities abroad, primarily through the Spanish Industry for Foreign Trade -- ICEX (Spanish Trade & Investment Institute). 
  • National government incentives for technology development and innovation in industrial sectors, principally through CDTI (Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial) and CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas).
  • European Regional Development Fund aid those areas with lower levels of income and high unemployment; EU incentives are routed through Spanish institutions.  

U financial assistance programs provide a wide array of grants, loans, loan guarantees and co-financing for feasibility studies and infrastructure projects in a number of key sectors (e.g. environmental, transportation, energy, telecommunications, tourism, public health). From a commercial perspective, these assistance programs create significant market opportunities for U.S. businesses, U.S.-based suppliers, and subcontractors. Additional information on the financing programs made available by the Euroean Union is available via the CS Mission to the EU website.   

Loans from the European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the financing arm of the European Union. The EIB is a non-profit banking institution that offers cost-competitive, long-term lending in Europe. Best known for its project financial and economic analysis, the Bank makes loans to both private and public EU-based borrowers for projects in all economic sectors, such as telecommunications, transport, energy infrastructure and environment.

While more than 90 percent of its activity is focused on Europe, the bank now works with over 150 non-EU states which receive around 10 percent of the entities funding.

Projects financed by the EIB must contribute to the socioeconomic objectives set out by the European Union, such as fostering the development of less favored regions; improving European transport and telecommunication infrastructure; protecting the environment; supporting the activities of SMEs and assisting urban renewal. In general, projects financed by the EIB must promote growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe. The EIB website contains information on upcoming tenders related to EIB-financed projects.

The EIB also presents attractive opportunities to U.S. businesses, as EIB lending rates are lower than most other commercial rates. Like all EIB customers, however, U.S. firms must use the loan proceeds for projects that contribute to the European objectives cited above.

The U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels has developed a database to help U.S.-based companies bid on EIB public procurement contracts in non-EU countries. All the tenders in this database are extracted from the EU’s Official Journal. The EIB database contains, on average, 50 to 100 tenders and is updated twice per week.

Multilateral Development Banks

Spain does not borrow from Multilateral Banks.