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On October 31, 2013 the Spanish Embassy in Washington, DC held a Panel Discussion of Doing Business Abroad. The forum was opened by Spanish Ambassador to the United States, Ramón Gil Casares.  His remarks noted the significance of the two speakers presence and that he was proud to have such distinguished speakers for the forum. Then, the Washington area Alumni President and CEO of EADS CASA, Josian Morales, opened with introductions of the speakers and the intent of the forum.

The first speaker was Manuel Sánchez Ortega, CEO of Abengoa. In October 2010, he became CEO of Abengoa, previously he was CEO of Telvent. Mr. Sánchez is a qualified industrial engineer from the ICAI School of Engineering in Madrid and has completed the Senior Management Program at IPADE Business School in Mexico.

Mr. Sanchez discussed the Abengoa business units, describing the geographical distribution of the their business, and his views on the company’s commitment to renewable energy. He then went into detail on several current projects using solar to generate electricity using concentrating mirrors. He also made clear that Abengoa’s business was spread across multiple geographic areas with less than 30% of the company’s business conducted in Spain.

After his presentation, a Q&A period was facilitated by Yanire Braña, President of the MET Community. The first question was in regards to shale gas. In response, Mr. Sanchez launched a second presentation that discussed the shale gas production, distribution of gas fields in the US and the challenges of maintaining current production. He expressed the view that shale gas is a temporary phenomenon and sustainable energy production is rapidly closing the cost difference.

The second speaker was Director of Global Indicators at the World Bank, Augusto López-Claros. Mr. López-Claros has been Director of Global Indicators and Analysis with the World Bank Group since 2011. Previously, he was Chief Economist and Director of the Global Competitiveness Program at the World Economic Forum.  Mr. López-Claros holds a diploma in Mathematical Statistics from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Duke University.

Mr. López-Claros opened his presentation with an explanation of his work at the World Bank Group and the types of indicators that his group had developed. These indicators focused on the business climate of each country for each stage of a business lifecycle. Some of the indicators included the ease of starting a business, ease of obtaining relevant licenses to operate, to obtain electricity, to obtain financing, and other key data.

Indicators across multiple countries were reviewed and comparisons over time shown to demonstrate that improvements in the indicators were closely related to improvements in the economic activity occurring in the country in question. Mr. López-Claros also showed that the countries in the lowest quartile were converging with the rest of the world along all indicators. He described this as very positive development.
After his presentation, a Q&A period was again facilitated by Yanire Braña. A question regarding the indicators for Spain started a spirited conversation of where Spain was superior and areas where the country could improve. Overall, everyone agreed that the Spain was a great place to do business but could always improve in specific areas.

After the the Q&A was closed, the group concluded the Forum by thanking the speakers with much applause and moved to the lobby for a social hour.

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