3.4. Exports

Against the backdrop of a strong increase in domestic demand, Basque exports grew faster than those of other territories in 2017

The comparison of the intermediate performance indicators is supplemented by a more detailed analysis of exports. As Graph 6 shows, although after 2010 the Basque Country’s foreign exports reached the value they had had before the crisis, in most years, the nominal growth of Basque exports remains below that of the other territories included in the graph. However, in 2017 we see a significant change in the performance of Basque exports: from the economy with the worse progress over the period as a whole, it becomes the economy with the biggest growth in the last year (up 10.5% compared to exports for 2016). It is possible that this is partially related to the Basque economy’s specialisation in sectors which are more dependent on the economic cycle, so that in the year when the European economy reports the best performance, this creates more favourable conditions for Basque exports. In any event, it is positive that, with Spain’s strong growth in domestic demand in 2017, Basque firms did not concentrate on the Spanish market and demonstrated such positive export performance.

Graph 6. Variation in export value, valued in euros (2007 = 100).
Graph 6. Variation in export value, valued in euros (2007 = 100).
Source: Unctad and Eustat (Basque Statistics Office). Compiled by authors.

In order to understand export behaviour, Table 4 shows the characteristics of exporters and how they have changed since 2007. The number of exporters in the Basque Country is relatively high (more than 16,000 firms). They account for over 22% of all Basque firms with paid employees and 10% of all Spanish exporters. The average amount of exports by Basque firms, which in the past was higher than the Spanish average, is now lower. This can be explained by the fact that the sharp growth in the number of Basque exporters has been particularly concentrated among those that export less than €50,000. These small exporters account for 80% of all Basque exporters, but just 0.2% of export value.

There are a relatively high number of exporting companies in the Basque Country, with a relatively small average export size, although the percentage of regular exporters is increasing

The increase in the number of Basque exporters due to the entry of smaller actors is positive, because it lays the foundations for future export increases: as a learning process takes place in the international market, the value exported by each agent will increase. To this effect, it is positive that the percentage of regular exporters (those that have had exports over the past four years in a row), which dropped between 2007 and 2012, has been growing since then. In other words, although on average, Basque exporters move smaller volumes, this has not prevented the activity from becoming normal and the percentage of regular exporters from growing considerably.

Table 4. Profile of Basque exporters compared to Spanish.
Table 4. Profile of Basque exporters compared to Spanish.
Source: ICEX (Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade) and INE (National Statistics Institute). Compiled by authors.