Spain - Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers

Includes the barriers (tariff and non-tariff) that U.S. companies face when exporting to this country.

Last published date: 2020-08-07

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 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 crops in the EU is limited to just over 107,130 hectares of MON810 corn in Spain (95 percent) and Portugal (5 percent) in 2018.  Regulatory constraints that prevent this area from further growth include a cultivation ban in 18 member states, strict coexistence rules and 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 the risk in their operations with those countries where non-yet approved events are grown.  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 approval in the EU impact farmers’ planting decisions in third countries that want to remain an agricultural supplier to the EU.

The effect of these asynchronous approvals is reinforced by the EU’s policy for low level or adventitious presence of events.  Commodity trading companies see the risk of their operations increased when trading with countries where non-yet fully approved events are grown, despite those GE crops are not the product they are trading with, 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.  The fact that the EU only allows cultivation of MON810, serves as a trade barrier for U.S. seed exports containing or with adventitious presence of other GE events. A threshold level for adventitious GE material presence has not yet been set.  As a consequence, 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 from cross-contamination with non-yet approved for cultivation events.

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 60 percent of the “investment quota” being spent on AV productions in one of Spain’s official languages.  The revised General Audiovisual Law (Law 7/2010) imposes restrictions on the holding or lease of audiovisual communication licenses by individuals or legal entities that are nationals of non-European Economic Area countries.

A Cinema Law (Royal Decree 2062/2008 of 12 December) contains anti-piracy measures and changed official mandatory proceedings between film production companies and the Spanish authorities, simplifying the process to obtain a certificate of nationality, film qualification, distribution certificates, or registration in the Register of AV companies.  A provision was included to allow the production companies and TV channels to agree on how to invest five percent of the TV companies’ gross income. TV channels can decide when and on which films to invest. In addition, the decree gives an incentive to Economic Interest Associations to invest in movie production, opting for the same forms of aid as other film production companies.

The law also favors co-productions with foreign companies by easing the requirements for the approval of such initiatives. Movie theaters are also obliged to show cinematographic works from EU member countries in any version. Throughout the course of one calendar year, at least 25 percent of total sessions need to be EU cinematographic works.  Cinematographic works from third countries in original version with subtitles are exempted from the total.

 A Catalonian Cinema Law (7 July 2010) requires film distributors to dub and subtitle in Catalan100 percent of the digital prints of any film dubbed or subtitled for release in Catalonia. At the same time, the law imposes on film exhibitors the obligation to exhibit such films. The law does not provide any funding mechanism to comply with the dubbing/subtitling obligation. All U.S. films are caught by the dubbing/subtitling obligations, whereas films in O.V. in Spanish (amongst which, Latin American) fall out of the scope of this law.

In September 2011, film distributors and exhibitors and the Catalonian Government entered into a cooperation agreement. This agreement established a network of movie theaters exhibiting films dubbed in Catalan, with distributors committing to provide prints in Catalan for a few new films each year. The Catalonian Regional Government committed to fund the dubbing and amend the law when possible.

After the European Commission found Article 18 of the legislation discriminatory towards other European countries (June 2012), the Catalonian Government amended the law by removing European works from the scope of the obligation, leaving the quotas for non-European works only. The European Commission (EC) requested updated figures and kept the file open but has not brought the case before the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ).

In March 2014, the Catalonian Government established a tax on the provision of content by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), with a fixed quota on 0.25 euros per month for each connection contract signed in Catalonia, with the explicit specification that ISPs cannot pass on the amount of the tax to the consumer.