“Portugal is not just tourism and Ronaldo”

The Portuguese Embassy will play a strategic role in the framework of the economic cooperation mission to be held in Lisbon and Porto from 10 to 13 May, together with the Portuguese Foreign Investment and Trade Agency (AICEP), the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy and Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to build more bridges between the ecosystems of the two countries.

A delegation of about 85 Luxembourg companies should attend.

Throughout this week, Paperjam will analyze Portugal’s strengths and economic potential. Ambassador to Luxembourg since 2018, Antonio Gamito is convinced of the need to strengthen economic cooperation between the two countries, based on existing EU ties, in order to nurture an enlightened entrepreneurial dynamic.

Historically, how were the ties between Luxembourg and Portugal woven?

Antonio Gamito.
– “Diplomatic ties have been forged over the last 130 years, but interest increased when Grand Duchess Carlota, daughter of the Infanta de Portugal, became head of state during the German occupation. He fled Luxembourg to Portugal, then Canada, and finally London. Then, during the reign of his son, Grand Duke Jean, Portugal experienced economic and political problems and many people emigrated to Luxembourg, especially in the 1960s. . Our relationship today is very strong, and for public opinion, it was built with immigration.

Can we say that the two countries have experienced similar constructions in the face of historical crises?

“Absolutely. Luxembourg began as an agricultural country, before developing in the steel industry, like Portugal until the revolution of April 25, 1974 that established the 3D: democracy, decolonization and development. It was during this Portugal has diversified its economy into services and tourism, and there are similarities, as it is a country that has been able to recover, such as Luxembourg, which has chosen to develop financing after the decline of coal and steel.

Democracy led Portugal to choose a new path, which was Europe, of which Luxembourg is also one of the founding countries, as a political and economic model. Its development increased with the integration into the EEC in 1986. The two countries share the same values ​​and support each other within the European institutions, the OECD, NATO and also the UN.

You said during the pandemic that the Portuguese’s presence in Luxembourg had strengthened relations and bilateral aid between the two countries. How does this “cement” translate more generally?

“Portugal has been one of the countries that has vaccinated its citizens the most. However, in 2021, a very severe pandemic wave disrupted our hospital systems. It has been observed, in a period of crisis, that the community creates remarkable solidarity. Luxembourg was one of the countries, along with Germany, that helped us the most, dealing with doctors, nurses and equipment. In return, together with the Minister of Health Paulette Lenert (LSAP), we asked the Portuguese in the south of the country to respect the measures decided by the Luxembourg government and invited them to be vaccinated in Luxembourg. Portuguese language teachers in the Grand Duchy have also collaborated with the Luxembourg Ministry of Education to support students when they resume face-to-face classes.

The pandemic has affected us, but we have already recovered our growth of 4.9% last year.

Antonio Gamito, Ambassador, Embassy of Portugal in Luxembourg

There are about 100,000 Portuguese in Luxembourg, out of the country’s 634,000 inhabitants (around 15%). In addition to the cultural aspect, what are the economic bridges that exist today between the two countries?

“The economic fabric is already there, thanks to this community that grew here. But since 1960, it has changed: the first generations were low-skilled and worked in civil construction, construction, cleaning … Today the population holds, like others, managerial positions in all areas, including multinationals. . This fabric is qualified and connected, creating more bridges every day. We could explore Portuguese-speaking markets along with Brazil, Cape Verde, European markets … Portugal is not far behind, compared to other countries.

In 2020, with the Covid crisis, Portugal’s GDP fell by 8.4%. Today, key sectors such as tourism and transportation are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels. What can we expect in 2022?

“At the end of 2021 we recovered the GDP of 2019. The pandemic affected us, but we have already recovered our growth, 4.9% last year. The unemployment rate in December 2021 was only 6%. EU measures and government action have proven to be effective. In January 2022 alone, we recorded 800,000 tourist overnight stays in Portugal. This is encouraging, but resilience is hampered by inflation and now the energy crisis. The government, as soon as it takes office, will have to present the state budget based on these aspects.

Especially because the crisis of 2008 had already hit Portugal hard …

“Yes, the economic situation must be stabilized in a lasting way. There was the crisis of 2008 with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and some countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Ireland experienced difficulties such as Portugal. We have overcome this crisis, we have passed the Covid and now it is the Russian-Ukrainian situation that is creating price increases and shortages of energy, food and raw materials. The sanctions imposed on Russia are bouncing back to our two countries. However, Luxembourg has a population of 800,000 and Portugal 10 million …

Can the creation of a public investment bank (Banco Português de Fomento) help the country to be more resilient by offering financing solutions for projects related to sustainable infrastructure, research, SMEs, innovation?

“It is very important to promote the implementation of the funds we receive in the framework of the EU’s recovery and resilience program, as well as the Portuguese national budget. It will be the investment tool in the fields of digital transition, climate change, research and development, innovation … And it will give Portugal the opportunity to continue consolidating the new clusters we are developing. .

Portugal cannot see Luxembourg alone as a small geographical country with a large Portuguese community.

Antonio Gamito

Antonio Gamito, Ambassador, Embassy of Portugal in Luxembourg

What are they?

“Portugal is not just about tourism and Ronaldo. The country maintains a traditional economy based on agri-food, wine exports, design knowledge … But at the same time, it has developed financial services through a fintech cluster and online banking services, a health cluster -pharmaceutical and biotechnological, cutting-. avant-garde research and development institutes (Champalimaud Foundation), especially in the field of ophthalmology and the fight against cancer. We also have a space strategy until 2030, tourism is ultra-digital and our start-up ecosystems are growing exponentially. There are about 2,000 start-ups and six Portuguese unicorns, including Farfetch and Feedzai, who have raised more than a billion euros each. Digitization has been the subject of huge investments in all sectors, especially in the field of e-government and e-health. We are launching a program to try to recover the managers and talents we need in Portugal, who have established themselves abroad. This is one of the components that will help Portugal return to economic competition.

Precisely what are the political, commercial and financial interests of the Portugal-Luxembourg economic mission to be held in May?

“Since my arrival in October 2018, I have maintained that there are perceptions of change between the two countries. For this, we can count on the excellent political relations, and the strength of the community to lay the foundations of a new privileged trade relationship, based on the reality of 2022. But we must go further. Portugal cannot see Luxembourg alone as a small geographical country with a large Portuguese community. Luxembourg cannot come to Portugal on holiday or ignore the new economy. Both visions must be found, because the relationship lacks this knowledge of similar economic assets and entrepreneurs. In particular, the clusters I mentioned earlier have common interests. Luxembourg is the center of the Greater Region, I remind you very often. It can also attract Portuguese interests. This mission aims to establish strong and dynamic business relationships. We can do it much better, and that will happen for companies. “

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