Sources: aicep Portugal Global
The director for southern Europe at the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) considers there is a “convergence of interests” between Portugal and the United Kingdom, adding that Portuguese companies expect business to grow in that market.
The DIT is a United Kingdom government organisation responsible for promoting the international expansion of British companies and attracting foreign investment to the country, or the equivalent of Portuguese business investment agency AICEP.
“There is a convergence of interests and potential on both sides,” said João Sebastião, pointing out that the relationship between Portugal and the United Kingdom “has lasted for centuries and will always continue”.
According to a study by the British embassy, which will be published soon, “45% of Portuguese companies expect business with the United Kingdom to grow in the next five years”.
Portugal has invested around €677.1 million in the last three years in the UK, while London adds up to the overall investment in Lisbon of €1.5 billion.
“We are a country that has a set of common interests, the fact that we are Atlantic nations, the historical relations,” he continues, pointing out that even in the British public investment plan Build Back Better, of about 600 billion pounds (about 786.6 billion euros at the current exchange rate) there are similarities with the Portuguese Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP).
“If we look at our RRP they are all there, renewables, technology, innovation, sustainability,” they are “four pillars that unite us and this is very noticeable when we look at the business fabric on both sides. There is a confluence here,” he stresses.
“I think that our bilateral relationship is a strong, historic, stable relationship that has a set of very objective, very common communicating vessels that allow us to easily streamline the commercial relationship,” he stresses.
Asked if Portuguese companies felt difficulties with Brexit, João Sebastião states: “It is obvious that they did”.
It was “a perfect storm”, Brexit and the pandemic impacted “globally”, but at this moment, in 2022, the relations are “normalizing, this is the data we have” and it is “clearly” two-way [between Portugal and the United Kingdom], he says.
Currently, “when we look at the latest statistics, we realise that we are already at the upward moment again”, he points out.
“There was clearly a period of greater adjustment, with its own difficulties, in the middle of a pandemic”, but today Portuguese companies that want to internationalise their businesses still have the UK at the “top of their preferences”, not only for its economic ecosystem, but also for its capacity to attract companies via its market size, dynamism of technology, innovation, for being “the main country in Europe with unicorn start-ups”, among others, he adds.
“In terms of attractiveness, I would say that the UK is increasingly considered a priority destination, regardless of any marginal situation that may affect the relationship. This is true for us in Portugal – I am the director of Portugal, I coordinate the southern region: Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli markets”.
“Based on this, the British Government, besides this public investment project strategy of Build Back Better, has a set of other projects to boost its economy and, above all, in the modernisation of infrastructures, which is very appealing to technology companies,” he points out.
“There are derivatives here that end up being attractive, for example, the fact that Portugal currently has an extremely attractive financial envelope and we have a set of structuring projects in areas such as infrastructures, the new airport, a potential of railway lines, telecommunications, 5G, are obviously very attractive projects for British companies to sell their services in Portugal,” he considers.
“And the same applies in reverse, [the British public investment plan] is valid for Portuguese companies” and “we cannot forget that about half of British exports are to Europe” and that the largest foreign investment in the UK is from Europe.
The 12th edition of the Business Awards takes place today, through which the British Government rewards Portuguese companies and British investment in Portugal.
The awards ceremony will be attended by the Commissioner for Trade in Europe, Chris Barton, who will present the awards on behalf of the British Government together with the British Ambassador in Portugal, Christopher Sainty.