Spanish exports top pre-pandemic levels despite Brexit, supply chain

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A worker pushes a cart with boxes into a shoe shop in Ronda

By Belén Carreño

MADRID – Exports of Spanish goods soared 21.2% last year to surpass pre-pandemic levels despite global supply chain problems and the impact of Brexit, although Spain’s trade deficit nearly doubled due to soaring energy prices, customs data on Thursday showed.

Helped by oil products, food and pharmaceuticals, 2021 exports hit around 317 billion euros ($360 billion), 9.1% higher than in 2019, when global trade was flowing normally before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall imports rose almost 25% to 343 billion euros. Spain’s trade deficit nearly doubled to 26 billion euros from 2020. Excluding energy products, the trade deficit would stand at just 852 million euros versus a surplus of 1.1 billion euros in 2020.

Exports to Britain were still 5.4% below 2019 levels and imports of British goods have fallen by 26% after the country’s exit from the European Union in January 2021, with some border controls yet to be implemented.

A senior source from the department of Commerce told Reuters the easing of trade tensions between Europe and the United States also helped the Spanish exports recovery, as well as a lesser dependence on markets most affected by supply problems such as Asia.

Spain was one of the countries affected by the tariffs imposed in the US-EU Airbus dispute, and in a row over taxes on big tech companies.

By type of traded goods, only the auto sector performed below 2019 levels, with an 8.5% drop in exports and a 19.5% slump in imports, largely due to global shortages of semiconductors that have led to temporary closures of some factories.

Vaccines against COVID-19 also helped boost Spain’s exports thanks to pharmaceutical plants in the country producing vials.

In total, 5.5 billion euros worth of vaccines were imported in 2021 and 4.7 billion euros were exported.

($1 = 0.8805 euros)

(Reporting by Belen Carreno, Marta Serafinko, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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