The Government seeks new markets for SMEs trapped by the war

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is having consequences for the Spanish economy and also for companies that imported or exported goods or services from one of the two countries in conflict. For this reason, the Government has launched a set of measures to help in a specific and individualized way the small and medium exporting companies, through ICEX. This is the “support plan for exporting companies to mitigate the commercial effects of the war in Ukraine” that the Executive has included as a non-regulatory part of the national plan to respond to the war.

ICEX has opened the door to identify alternative providers for those companies that request it and that have suffered “a strangulation in supplies of raw materials or products necessary for their production processes”. However, sources from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism point out that “many of them already had these alternative suppliers located.” They do acknowledge that they have received “some query regarding food raw materials.” It should be remembered that more than 69% of the sunflower oil that Spain imported in 2021 came from Ukraine. Almost 30% of the wheat that our country imports also has Ukrainian origin.

On the other hand, the Ministry recalls that ICEX offers support to companies to identify partners for their operations abroad in a personalized way. In 2021 they were made 1,504 services of this type. This is an activity that is carried out on a regular basis, but in which the Government wants to emphasize to help companies that have had to cease operations due to the war and seek other ways. The objective is “to offer them commercial actions to diversify their exports.”

As explained by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, “many companies have had doubts about the type of restrictions that were being implemented on exports, about whether they could continue selling or operating commercially; if there were customs blockades or what to do in case of having operations pending collection” in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. The European Union sanctions include a restriction on trade with the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, a ban on importing steel products and a ban on exporting luxury goods to Russia. Since the conflict began, the Secretary of State has maintained meetings with companies, associations and chambers of commerce to monitor the situation of Spanish companies with interests in the area. In fact, this same Friday the fifth meeting was held to assess the scope of the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia.

In addition to the meetings, to solve these doubts, the Secretary of State for Commerce enabled an email so that companies could send their queries. It should be remembered that the situation of foreign companies based in Russia is very complicated. Although most have chosen to cancel their operations in the country, others were considering what to do with Spanish directors of their subsidiaries in the country. As this newspaper published, the Russian government approved a bill through which there is “the possibility of appointing an external administrator of a Russian company when said company is owned by at least 25% by the so-called hostile states and has assets ” with a book value of more than 1,000 million rubles or a workforce of more than 100 employees”.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, put in the spotlight Porcelanosa, Maxam and the Sercobe business association, but from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism it was emphasized that the three companies were complying with the sanctions against Russia. In the case of Maxam, the minister assured at the beginning of this month that “there is no type of commercial or financial exchange between Maxam Spain and its Russian subsidiary”, to later add that the firm was complying with the obligation not to export dual-use products.

Economic measures

Beyond these measures, focused on companies that export, the royal decree that includes the national plan to respond to the war includes economic measures aimed at companies. In the first place, a new line of ICO credit guarantees for 10,000 million euros to cover liquidity needs caused by the temporary increase in the cost of energy and fuel, a situation that has aggravated the conflict. In addition, while waiting for the royal decree to be validated next week, an aid package for the agricultural and fishing sectors endowed with more than 430 million euros will be activated.

The plan also includes aid for energy-intensive industrial sectors in the context of the war in Ukraine, for 488 million euros. The plan also reflects the agreement reached between the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda and the National Committee for Road Transport (CNTC), with a package of immediate measures to mitigate the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine that will involve an injection of more than €1 billionincluding the fuel price bonus that exceeds 600 million for the sector.