Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, arrived in Israel Sunday evening on a two-day state visit to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. During their visit they are to meet with local scientists to review Israel’s scientific achievements.

The political and cultural relations between the two countries are important, and so are the economic and commercial ties. During the past 25 years the commercial relations between the two countries increased rapidly as both countries experienced high growth rates.]

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Last year, bilateral trade totaled 1.69 billion euros, with 853 million euros of Israeli exports to Spain and 836 million euros of imports from Spain. Spain exports a significant amount of vehicles to Israel and imports Israeli technical goods and know-how.

Jose Ranero, the economic and commercial counselor at the Spanish Embassy, said he was pleased with the progress of commercial relations between Israel and Spain and is confident they will continue to grow.

“The best way to increase trade is by joint projects, especially in technology where we complement each other,” he said. “Spain can also serve as a forward base for doing business with South America.”

Spain is an excellent market for Israeli goods, especially hi-tech. Over the past four decades Spain has achieved something of an economic miracle, as it transformed itself from a rural, backward, agricultural country into a nation with a diversified economy, strong manufacturing and service sectors, a vast tourist industry and thriving agriculture. With gross domestic product of $1.34.trillion, it is the European Union’s fifth-largest economy.

Many tend to believe that Spain developed economically after the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975. But the ground work for the economic development of later years was laid in the Franco years, when average annual economic growth rose by 7.0 percent.

Traditionally an agricultural country, Spain produces large crops of wheat, sugar beets, barley, tomatoes, olives, citrus fruit, grapes and cork. It is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and Europe’s largest producer of lemons, oranges and strawberries.

Spain is also a large producer of excellent wines. The best-known wine regions are those of Rioja in the upper Ebro valley, Malaga and Jerez de la Frontera. The agricultural sector is a good market for Israeli irrigation products and agricultural machinery.

Spain also has a large industrial base, and 33.3% of the workforce is employed in manufacturing. Cars are Spain’s most prominent manufacturing industry, with more than 80% of its output exported.

It also produces textiles, iron, steel, chemicals and a variety of consumer goods such as shoes, toys, food and beverages.

Tourism is also an important industry and a link between both countries.

Spain’s Jewish past is an important attraction to locals. Over the past four decades the Spanish tourist industry has become the second-biggest in the world, with 50 million visitors a year. It brings in approximately 40 billion euros to the local economy, generates nearly 11% of the country’s GDP and employs about 2 million of the total labor force.

Spain is a favorite tourist destination for Israeli tourists. Last year, approximately 100,000 Israelis visited Spain.

Tourism has brought Spain mixed blessings. It is a welcome source of foreign currency and finances part of the countries chronic trade imbalance, but it has diverted capital investments from more stable economic activities. The tourism industry is strongly influenced by seasonal fluctuations, the whims of fashion and worldwide economic conditions.

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