The region made up by the Basque Country, La Rioja and Navarra represents 6.7% of the population of Spain, but accounts for 14.4% of exports, and comprises 21.1% of Spain’s investments abroad.
The region is first in the country for iron, steel, metal products manufacturing and in machine tools; second in rubber and plastic products; third in the paper and graphic arts industries as well as electrical and electronic goods; and fourth in food production.
The Basque Country
Historically, the Basque Country has been considered the gateway to the Iberian Peninsula with maritime and commercial tradition dating from the beginning of the 14th century. Today, it is the most important industrial, commercial and financial center in northern Spain.
More than two million people live in the area, representing 5% of the population of Spain. The GNP generated by the Basque economy represents 6% of that of Spain.
The development of the region began in the 15th and 16th centuries with the mining of iron ore near the rivers that cross the region, especially the river Nervion. Today, over 5,000 industries employing more than 50,000 people are located along its banks.
Currently over 46% of Basque companies work in industries related to iron and steel, especially construction materials, metal and machine tools. Other important sectors of the economy include food, machinery, electric and electronic goods, automotive components, aeronautical industries, paper and graphic arts, wood products and furniture.
The post-industrial age has obliged Basque companies, especially those operating in mature industries, to undergo a process of modernization to remain competitive. This process has culminated in the creation of several technology centers for advanced R&D projects that employ over 5,000 technicians.
The service sector is undergoing constant renovation and is a priority for the regional government. Banking, insurance and transportation sectors historically have a special importance in the Basque economy, and now, specific plans are currently under development in the areas of culture, transportation, technology, telecommunications, and the port of Bilbao (the third main Spanish port).
Basque industries currently export over 40% of their production.
La Rioja lies in the Ebro River valley, one of the most highly developed areas in Spain connecting the Basque Country to Catalonia.
Its main industries are related to agricultural products: grapes for Rioja wines, fruits and vegetables for canning and livestock for the production of meat. Other important industries include the manufacture of shoes, furniture and metal products. The importance of Rioja wine has given rise to wine-related industries such as cooperages, capsules, graphic arts for labels and boxes, presses, bottling machinery, and tourism.
The province of Navarra is located east of the Basque Country from the Pyrenees to the Ebro River. Its area is 10,400 km2 with a population of 556,000.
Services and manufacturing make up almost 90% of the region’s economy.
The manufacture and assembly of automobiles, auto parts, home appliances, electric motors, transformers and generators are important industries located around Pamplona, the capital, while the Ebro valley produces a wide range of fruits and vegetables as well as grapes. Cereal grains are cultivated in the valleys that cross the province.
Navarra is a net exporter of goods, primarily to France, Germany and the UK.