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Palabras de Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias con ocasión de la cena conmemorativa del 125 aniversario de la Cámara Oficial de Comercio de España en Gran Bretaña

Londres, 07.11.2011

The Princess and I are very pleased to attend this Gala Dinner that commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce here in Great Britain. So, to start with, allow me to extend our warmest and sincere congratulations to all those of you who are part of it, to those who have?or have had- any responsibility in its daily life. We also congratulate those who collaborate and help the SCC in its mission, in achieving its objectives, thank you for your support.

Nuestra felicitación más afectuosa a la Cámara por este importante aniversario. A todos los que forman?o han formado- parte de ella y a los que la ayudan o colaboran en el logro de sus objetivos, gracias y enhorabuena.

Three years ago I had the pleasure of taking part in the events the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain organized in Barcelona to celebrate its first Centennial. That was truly a lovely occasion.

I recall that celebration simply to highlight the fact that these two institutions have played a key role in reinforcing, or beefing-up, the already important and long lasting economic relationship between our two countries. Don?t ask me why it took you Brits over two decades to follow suit in the establishment of a Chamber of Commerce on Spanish soil? I think I should ask you. Maybe a historian can help us out. However, the truth is that we go way back to the 14th century in our commercial ties (between England and Castilla), so never mind who was first at this particular mark...

At the time of its foundation in 1886, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce set sail as an Association of Spanish and British merchants, industrialists and professionals strongly interested in encouraging and developing more intense economic and commercial relations between Spain and Great Britain. At this point, let me add a touch of family reminiscence that is closely related with the beloved Country that kindly hosts us today. The year 1886 was also when my great grandfather King Alfonso XIII was born; who, twenty years later, married British Princess Ena, Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, my great grandmother, and Godmother as well. Something I?ve always felt quite proud of. Please excuse this little more personal note in my speech tonight.

The Chamber soon became a focal point not only for business, but also for the social and cultural life of the Spanish citizens based in the United Kingdom and for the British citizens with interests and links with Spain.

After 125 years of history, we recognize today the important contribution of this association to the development of our economic relations, which have reached in our times such a high level.

At the end of the 19th century, the bulk of our trade was linked to mining, specially coal, textile and agricultural sectors. Today, commercial transactions between our two nations mount up to nearly 20 billion Euros and consist mainly of intra-industry trade; like in the case of the automobile and chemical industries. Exchanges in innovative and high value added goods and services have also surged in the past decades.

At the same time, the 21st century has seen a dramatic take-off of foreign direct investments in the UK by Spanish companies, while inward investment in Spain by British companies has also remained very significant. Two years ago, during the Media Awards dinner, hosted in London by the Foreign Press Association, I had the opportunity to point out that Spanish companies have become an important part of the British business landscape, holding leading positions in key sectors of the economy, while British companies established in Spain also play a very relevant role in our economy. Today the picture has not changed much, even amidst the economic and financial crisis that hit us all in Europe and the World in general?and is still doing so. Therefore, I would like to put forward and reaffirm the full validity of that statement.

It is no wonder that membership of this Institution is today much more varied than it was in the past, reflecting the greater diversity of our economic relations, in which the financial sector, infrastructure management, construction, pharmaceuticals, transport, hotels, or public relations play an increasing role.

These trends show that both the United Kingdom and Spain share the view that one of the best approaches to challenges posed by the rapid economic globalization has been to forge strong economic, commercial and business bonds; and that we have learned to do so quite well during recent times. It is clear, and quite a matter of fact, that people, companies and governments have become increasingly interdependent, and we just have to adapt to this new situation.

So I am glad the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain has indeed succeeded in adapting its activities to the new needs of its members in the new scenario, of course in close collaboration with our Embassy.

Over the years, the Chamber has been focusing in its inherent tasks of providing information on the British and Spanish markets to exporters and importers, organizing seminars, helping companies to set up in the UK, or developing training activities. But in recent times it has evolved and greatly expanded its activities and its fund-raising capacity, while enlarging its membership up to the present total of 340 members.

It is no wonder that membership of this Institution is today much more varied than it was in the past, reflecting the greater diversity of our economic relations, in which the financial sector, infrastructure management, construction, pharmaceuticals, transport, hotels, or public relations play an increasing role.

With all this in mind I would like to deeply encourage both the Chamber on its side, to continue its superb job of improving and enlarging its services to the companies of our two countries, and the companies on theirs, to continue providing their much appreciated support to the Chamber.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Princess and I have carried out today in London an agenda focused on economic issues that are of particular relevance to Spain. To this task, as heir to the Crown, I have?increasingly- been devoting much of my time and effort: Namely, to promote Spanish economic interests abroad, to help our business sector become even more international in its objectives, ambitions and partnerships, and to contribute in projecting the image of Spain?Spain as a brand- beyond our borders. Of course, in the difficult and complex times we live in today, I take this responsibility as a much higher priority in my work.

In the morning we visited the World Travel Market fair, and felt sincerely proud of the strength with which our tourism sector is addressing its challenges. Later, over a working lunch, we met with the main British tour operators who, despite the economic difficulties, credited the strength of British Tourism to Spain. And in the afternoon, the SPAIN-UK business forum not only certified the high and qualified level of our reciprocal investments; it also aimed to find ways for deeper collaboration between our institutions and companies, one that may enhance economic growth, create jobs and more opportunities, and generally improve the well-being of our two great Nations.

Tonight, we?ve had the opportunity to present the awards which publicly acknowledge the Friends of the Brand Spain, a successful initiative created by the Leading Brands of Spain Forum to honor individuals and institutions who contribute to the better understanding and appreciation of our Nation. So, with my recognition to the Forum, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the new?Friends of Spain?. All of them have more than enough merits to deserve this award.

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, let me wish the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain, once again, a very happy 125th Anniversary. Thank you for your long and valuable service to companies of our two countries during all these years, and all the best for the future. I sincerely hope it will be prosperous and promising for all of us.

Y termino; felicidades de nuevo con todo afecto y gratitud a la Cámara Oficial de Comercio de España en Gran Bretaña por este 125 Aniversario. Gracias por vuestra larga y valiosa labor a favor de las empresas de nuestros dos países durante todos estos años, y todo lo mejor para el futuro, que deseamos sea prospero para todos.

Muchas gracias y que disfruten de la celebración esta noche. Thank you very much and please enjoy the evening.

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