Good afternoon. I will be giving you that advice so that you can come in second at the World Cup, and I’m sure you will understand why. (Laughter.)
And, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending. I would like to start by thanking the President of the United States, who has invited me in my capacity as President of the Government of Spain to discuss different issues of common interest to the United States and to Spain.
There are a lot of things that unite us — democracy, freedom, human rights, the quest for progress, and also that we’re Hispanic and 17 percent of the U.S. population is also Hispanic. And we have noted here that our relations are excellent.
President Obama has summed up very well the issues that we have talked about, so I’m going to be extremely brief and I’m going to give you my vision on four points. First of all, the economy — the eurozone economy and the Spanish economy. I talked to the President about the fact that a little more than a year ago, we would talk on the phone about the situation. Back then, there were doubts on the existence of the euro. It was difficult for countries in the eurozone to fund themselves because — for some countries — because the risk premium was very high. There was talk about some countries needing to be bailed out, among them Spain. Growth was low. Unemployment was high and there were competitiveness problems.
But today the situation is completely different. There are no longer doubts on the existence of the euro. There is no longer talk about a bailout. Risk premiums are down, and some eurozone countries are starting to grow and we’re starting to see some sort of solution to the problem of unemployment.
We also talked with the U.S. President on reforms that have been undertaken in Spain over the past two years, which were essential for recovery to take place. We said that these reforms required a huge effort on the part of citizens, and also that the EU has taken steps in the right direction. So we now have a more optimistic vision of the situation in Spain although a lot remains to be done still.
After 11 straight quarters of negative growth, we saw growth during the third quarter of 2013 with 0.1 percent and we have the latest figures from today from the Minister of the Economy. During the fourth quarter, the economy improved by 0.3 percent. Unemployment, however, remains the main problem. But the latest figures both on unemployment and on Social Security enrollment are very encouraging. Next year, Spain will grow and jobs will be created, but we will still have to work with determination, perseverance, and courage. And I’m sure that the vast majority of Spaniards understand that this effort was necessary and it will have an impact on the future.
And I’m going to be very brief on my second point. I would like to mention the bilateral relations — the economic bilateral relations between the United States and Spain. The United States is the first investor in Spain, and Spain also invests heavily in the United States, and it’s the third country Spain invests in. So now is an excellent time for U.S. investors to see the potential that Spain offers.
We’ve also talked about trade between our two countries; it has increased. Spain’s exports have increased. And I would like to mention the free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. It’s extremely important. Both our territories make up 50 percent of GDP. It has probably increased the largest trade area, and it can set trade rules for the future. So I’d like to say that Spain is going to fully support that trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.
Now I would like to make also a comment on our security and defense relations. We are going through very good times, and I’m sure that will continue to be the case. On foreign policy, I think that we see things in the same way — what’s happening in North Africa and in the Middle East — and we can cooperate with the international bodies where these issues were dealt with in a quick and intelligent way.
And lastly, I would like to speak about Latin America. It’s very good for us. It’s a continent where we’re seeing more democracy, more freedoms, more human rights, and progress although still a lot remains to be done. For us, it will continue to be a foreign policy priority â€“ a lot of Latin Americans go to Spain, and vice versa. And we will work together to help our brothers there.