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Economy: Spain is a major industrialised European economy with a large agricultural sector. Until 1975, under the Franco regime, the Spanish economy developed almost in isolation, protected from foreign competition by tight import controls and high tariffs, and evolved from an essentially agrarian economy to an industrial one. Spain joined the (then) European Community in 1986. The transition, which was expected to be very difficult, passed off surprisingly well, and the Spanish economy now ranks eighth in the world according to its GDP. Despite the decline of many of its industries, such as ship building, steel and textiles - all of which were badly hit during the world recession - Spain achieved the highest average growth rate in the Community during the 1980s. Nonetheless, there are important structural weaknesses in the Spanish economy which have left the country with a stubbornly high unemployment level. Inflation has been attacked, and largely tamed, through interest rates and linking the peseta into the European Monetary System. The price of the latter policy, however, has been a series of devaluations since 1992, and the Spanish government is now tempering its previous enthusiasm for full-blooded European convergence. The agricultural sector produces cereals, vegetables, citrus fruit, olive oil and wine: EU investment and modernisation have fostered a vast improvement in efficiency while the sector has taken advantage of protection against imports negotiated on Spain's EU accession. The processed foods industry has consequently expanded rapidly. The fishing fleet, although reduced from its peak of a few decades ago, remains one of the world's largest, and its often aggressive approach to international fishing grounds has led Spain into a number of disputes both within and outside the EU. Energy requirements are met by indigenous coal and natural gas, imported oil (mostly from Algeria) and a sizeable nuclear power programme. In the manufacturing sector, the decline of older industries has been offset by rapid expansion in chemicals, electronics, information technology and industrial design. Tourism also contributes substantially to the economy. The EU countries, the USA and Japan are the country's main trading partners.

Business: Business people are generally expected to dress smartly. Although English is widely spoken, an interest in Spanish and an effort on the part of the visitor to speak even a few words will be appreciated. Business cards are exchanged frequently as a matter of courtesy and appointments should be made.
Office hours: Tend to vary considerably. Business people are advised to check before making calls.

Commercial Information: The following organisations can offer advice: Consejo Superior de Cámaras Oficiales de Comercio, Industria y Navegación de Espana, Calle Claudio Coello 19, 1°, 28001 Madrid. Tel: (1) 575 3400. Fax: (1) 435 2392. Telex: 23227.

Conferences/Conventions: In 1982 the Spanish Convention Bureau was founded as a non-profitmaking organisation, by a confederation of 14 towns for the purpose of helping conference organisers select locations for their events with suitable facilities and back-up services. Most of these towns have dedicated convention centres in addition to the facilities provided by hotels. Seating capacity ranges from 540 in Jaca to 4200 in Palma de Mallorca; Madrid can seat up to 2650 persons. Full details can be obtained from the Spain Convention Bureau, Calle Nuncio 8, 28005 Madrid. Tel: (1) 365 9401. Fax: (1) 364 0221.

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