“The main challenge for companies is simple: uncertainty,” Luís Castro Henriques said.
“For a year, two years, there has been more and more ‘dust’ in the air: since the trade wars, ‘Brexit’ [the departure of the UK from the European Union], the global framework - geographies that change framework in terms of social peace very quickly,” he said.
“Look at what has been happening in South America in some countries in recent months,” he said.
He said that what he considers most important in 2020 is to be able to separate what is conjuncture from what will be more permanent.
For example, in January will be the moment to realise what will come out of the trade agreement between the US and China, and at the end of the month or beginning of February it will be known more clearly the process of Brexit and its challenges.
“We will also see how this whole situation unfolds in the Middle East,” Henriques said, listing some points of uncertainty at an international level.
“In 2019, companies were able to diversify more and the number of countries that each company has to export to has increased on average,” he said, pointing out that the watchword in 2020 is still diversification.
Regarding exports, he said he is convinced they will continue to grow in 2020.
“I think that 2020 is a year of challenge, we should continue to grow, but above all my anticipation is that in 2021, with this new productive capacity, a competitive advantage that many companies will bring, we will return to even higher growth rates,” he said.
On the conflict between the United States and Iran, Luís Castro Henriques stressed that this is a region - Middle East - where the exposure of Portuguese companies is low.
However, any event in geography that also affects our trading partners - and there are trading partners that are very exposed in that region - this will have some impact, he said.
The president of AICEP also said that Angola was a market where Portuguese companies look set to stay.
Angola, like Portugal, has its economic cycles, and he said that he is convinced that given the historical relationship and the long-term presence of Portuguese companies, in the end, they will take advantage of new opportunities and continue positively in the Angolan market.