Polyglot Group has been doing business with international & multicultural companies based in more than 50 countries all around the world for over 20 years.


In celebration of these partnerships, we will be promoting bilateral trades by interviewing some of the key players. Keen to know more about the current challenges faced by the countries we are representing such as Latin America, Europe, Asia & the US, we are thrilled to share our interview with Alberto Cerdan, Senior Trade Commissioner for the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX).


Could you please introduce your organisation?

The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior) has more than 100 offices globally to represent Spanish companies and investments internationally. The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) is an agency of the Ministry of Economy Industry & Competitiveness in Spain. ICEX serves Spanish companies to promote their exports and facilitate their international expansion.

We have two primary missions: the first is to facilitate export services for Spanish companies and promote bilateral investments between Spain and Australia. Secondly, we provide economic intelligence reports to the Spanish Government in order to stay up-to-date with current economic developments in Australia and New Zealand.

What type of services can you offer Spanish companies looking for new business opportunities in Australia?

There are many areas in which we assist Spanish companies looking for new business trades in Australia.

We can offer personalised services for each company; we prepare business meetings with key local actors in various industries and we can help companies identify potential importers and distributors.

Our main tasks include preparing trade missions, supporting companies at trade fairs, and completing sector promotion. We also prepare market studies, either for general industry reports, or for companies with specific economic interests in Australia & New Zealand.

How many Spanish companies are operating in Australia at the present time?

In Australia, we have around 100 companies with investments in Australia, but we also have approximately 6,000 Spanish companies who export to Australia. Of these 6,000 exporters, around 2,000 are what we call “consistent” exporters, who have been exporting to Australia for a continuous period of time (at least 4 years).


What are the organisation’s main accomplishments since you took office?

Since its establishment in the 1960s, ICEX has come a long way. Over the years, ICEX has committed to ongoing projects, trade missions, trade agendas, and the like. This continual commitment has seen ICEX reach many different milestones and accomplishments. Now, the ICEX business centre in Australia acts as a landing platform for Spanish companies wishing to invest in, or export from Australia. In addition, the ICEX is proud to be working on projects with Australian companies who aspire for investment in Spain. As a result of our continuous efforts, I see many more accomplishments and growth in the future.


How do you perceive the Australasian region in general regarding its regulations, market trends as well as geography of business for Spanish companies?

Whilst it may not be as large as others, the Australasian market has been growing steadily for a number of years. This means that the market is mature, as well as being very prosperous.

Although entering the Australasian market can be a complicated process, the results are well worth the perseverance. I see the Australasian region as a wonderful stepping stone to other markets. Moreover, a business’ presence here is very highly regarded, which can also open doors to other markets.


What about Spanish business culture — is it in any way similar to the Australian one?

From my experience, I believe Spanish companies do not experience any drastic cultural differences when they come to Australia. At large, both Spanish and Australian business cultures are relatively easy-going, with an open and approachable nature.

However, I do believe there are some minor cultural differences when it comes to doing business. Differences in business structure can impact the way each culture thinks about arrangements such as flexibility and workplace organisation. In saying this, I believe these differences as relatively minor. Overall, I believe Spanish and Australian business cultures are very compatible.


In which industries/sectors of Australia do you see opportunities for Spain?

I have singled out some business sectors which appear to be notably promising. These sectors include renewable energy, transport, health, household furniture, food and of course, fashion.

There are already several Spanish franchises within these industries who are operating in Australia, but there is ample room for a larger presence.


From your experience, what are the typical steps that Spanish companies undertake when expanding in Australia?

Many Spanish companies have already established themselves in Australia. The beauty of this is that they have carved a path for other aspiring Spanish businesses.

Now, Spanish companies have the advantage of learning from the experience of the companies who made the journey before them.

I believe that Spanish companies take quite a cautious approach to entering the Australian market, and take note of the different challenges. In terms of set-up, Spanish companies will often be hesitant to establishing an Australian company before knowing the market through smaller stepping stones; usually having a long term relationship with a distributor.


What are the main challenges for Spanish companies entering Australia & what are the common mistakes that they do that you might have noticed?

Whilst the Australian market is transparent, it certainly competitive, and can be very difficult to break into.

Due to these challenges, preparation is absolutely paramount. Spanish companies need to recognise that they must endure a high-cost environment before receiving results. To transgress these challenges, Spanish companies need to equip themselves with clear business plans, as well as making use of all resources available to them.

Although the Australian market is a challenging one to enter, it is ultimately a very prosperous market when the business is established. With good preparation, I certainly see the market as a promising one for Spanish businesses.


In creating our Bilateral Trades Down Under Series, we would like to thank Alberto Cerdan for taking the time to provide such an insightful interview.


About the Author:

As Polyglot Group's Partnerships Manager, Alex dedicates his time to explore new business ideas and increase brand visibility. Particularly passionate about start-ups and scale-ups, Alex believes in the power of innovation and is always looking for ways to shine a light on those leading the way for change.