Government asks the new AICEP to “prepare SMEs for new demands” for export | Companies

The new administration of the Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal (AICEP) will have to “reinforce the ability to work with chambers of commerce around the world” but will, above all, have to “prepare small and medium-sized companies for a set of requirements that are now part of the world of export”.

For the Secretary of State for Internationalization, Bernardo Ivo Cruz, this is the “new concern” of the board of directors that should be appointed after the departure of the team led by Luís Castro Henriques, who must present accounts by the end of March.

Speaking in Italy, where he has been meeting with Portuguese footwear entrepreneurs who are part of the Portuguese delegation organized by Apiccaps for MICAM – the great biannual fair of this industry in Milan –, the official said that these “new requirements” go through themes such as “ environmental certification” and “social responsibilities”, among others.

He also asks the new AICEP team to “continue the effort to diversify markets”. It is still not known which team this is, although in December it was reported that Filipe Costa, current president of AICEP Global Parques, will succeed Castro Henriques, moving from this AICEP subsidiary responsible for managing industrial parks to the presidency of the agency that supports exporters and international investors interested in entering Portugal.

The Secretary of State said that there are still no decisions at CReSAP, which has to give an opinion on government choices for State entities and therefore preferred “not to anticipate[-se]” in disclosing or confirming names. What is certain is that everyone will have to “row in the same direction”. “If we don’t all work together, we’re all going to have a tougher year”, she stressed.

“Sharing Risk and Profit”

Castro Henriques is leaving AICEP after two three-year terms (2017-2023) and is leaving with a record in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and at a time when Portuguese exports of goods and services are already worth 50% of GDP, an objective achieved three years in advance of what was the government’s target, which pointed to that percentage in 2025, as the Minister of Economy stressed in an interview with PÚBLICO.

As for FDI, AICEP guaranteed 42 investments in 2022, a new maximum achieved at the cost of attracting a huge volume of new shared services centres, as reported by PÚBLICO at the end of November. Thirty-two of these 42 investments are service centers for foreign multinationals. US and UK top the list of biggest international investors, with 25% and 19% respectively.

Bernardo Ivo Cruz highlighted the will to maintain the commitment to attracting investment and supporting exports, two pillars of the International 2030 strategy, not least because the Government is now aiming for the goal of raising the weight of exports to 53% of GDP by 2030.

Increasing the number of exporters and diversifying export markets are the two goals of this strategy. It is up to each company to choose its destination, underlines the official, but it is important that “they can work together, help each other, reinforce their internationalization capacity, sharing the risk and profit of that exercise”.

Expectations have improved

For 2023, the current perspectives are not as gloomy as they were at the end of 2022, although no one expects facilities, emphasizes the same person in charge.

Last year was “particularly extraordinary” and the numbers suggest that “Portugal will continue to grow, albeit less than in 2022”. Already 2023 “it will be more difficult for everyone”, because “we will have to deal with inflation”, because “raw materials are more expensive”, and “because of the war”, he assesses.

One of the critical variables is the economic evolution of the main customers in Portugal. “There was some concern about our export markets – and there continues to be – particularly here in Europe”, because of the threat of recession. However, “it seems that this risk, according to the latest forecasts, will not be so bad”.

“The year 2023 will be more difficult than 2022. But perhaps it will not be as difficult as we feared at the end of last year, when forecasts indicated recessions in markets as important as Spain, Germany and others in Europe.”

Micam opened this Sunday on the usual stage, the Milan Fiera venue, with the participation of around 33 Portuguese companies. It continues until the 21st, in parallel with Mipel, a fair for leather and Moroccan goods in which a Portuguese company is participating. On the same day, Lineapelle opens, a fair for components for footwear and tanneries, in which 33 other Portuguese companies participate.

The journalist travels at the invitation of Apiccaps

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