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Spanish exports are bright spark for economy

By Oliver Joy, CNN
updated 5:27 AM EDT, Fri September 6, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spain's small businesses are being warned they must "export or die"
  • Many are turning to new markets to kickstart the eurozone's fourth largest economy
  • Eurostat calculates Spain's exports will rise 4.1% this year, after rising 2.1% in 2012

(CNN) -- Spain's small businesses are being warned they must "export or die" as the country remains mired in recession.

Spain -- the eurozone's fourth largest economy -- is suffering as the bloc's financial crisis drags into its fourth year.

Now, small businesses are looking to overseas markets in an effort to kick-start growth. Their efforts are showing up in official statistics: Eurostat calculates exports will rise 4.1% this year, after a 2.1% increase in 2012.

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Antonio Barroso, senior vice president at Teneo Intelligence, told CNN Spain's small and medium-sized businesses, known as SMEs, are being forced to look outward as domestic demand drops.

"I think exports are crucial for the Spanish recovery," Barroso said. "[SMEs] can potentially become one of the main engines of the Spanish economy."

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Antonio Roldan, a European analyst at Eurasia Group, told CNN small businesses have no choice but to "export or die."

The country's exports are outpacing countries including Germany, Roldan noted, adding the country's lower labor costs have helped boost the industry.

The Port of Barcelona, in North East Spain, is one spot where the export drive can be seen. The Port is the country's third-largest container dock, behind Valencia and Algeciras, and handles imports and exports for nearly 3000 companies, representing a combined turnover of 300 billion euros [$393 billion].

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Roldan said the port, through which a fifth of all Spanish external trade is channeled, has become a vital artery for the economy.

The Port employs over 13,000 people and claims on its website that for every two jobs it creates, three additional jobs are generated in the economy as a whole.

"Together with El Prat Airport [the transport hubs] make the largest trade pole in the South of Europe, Roldan said. "[The Port's] economic relevance has been increasing since the crisis started."

However, the SMEs remain only a small part of Spain's economy, Barrosso noted. "They are not enough: despite the significant increase in exports, they still only account for 33% of the Spanish GDP."

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