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UNITED STATES

Trump or Biden: Who is better for Spain-US relations?

As the world anxiously awaits the results of the US elections, we take a look at what another four years of Donald Trump in the White House could mean for Spain and whether a win by Joe Biden would strengthen relations between the two nations.

Trump or Biden: Who is better for Spain-US relations?
Photos: AFP

Brexit

The outcome of the US election is widely touted to have an influence on whether there will be a no-deal Brexit in the UK, one of the main concerns for the Spanish government with fewer than 60 days left for the end of the transition period.

The UK is the biggest foreign investor in Spain, with more than €8 billion pumped into the Spanish economy so far in 2020 (56 percent of all foreign investment in the country), resulting in the direct creation of 201,000 jobs.

In pre-Covid times, 19 million British tourists visited Spain (2019 figures) spending €18 billion on their holidays, and many Spanish communities survive thanks to the economic injection of British ‘swallows’ spending extended periods of time in the country.

All this is at risk if a no-deal Brexit and its consequences make it harder for Brits to visit Spain.

Ivan Rogers, former UK ambassador to the EU, has said that UK prime minister Boris Johnson will think “history was going his way” if Donald Trump – an outspoken supporter of a no-deal Brexit – is re-elected.

“If they don’t get what they want, I would walk away,” Trump told the Sunday Times in mid-2019 regarding a potential no-deal Brexit.

The incumbent US leader has promised that his country’s ‘special relationship’ with their anglophone friends across the pond would lead to a quick and easy trade deal once they’re rid of the 'clutches' of the EU, who Trump is not a fan of either.

But if Biden wins the election, the UK could end up at the back of the queue as feared by many.

The Democratic candidate has never been a fan of Brexit or Johnson.

Biden has ruled out any future trade agreement between the US and the UK if the ruling Conservatives don’t respect the Good Friday Agreement as is currently happening, tweeting “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit”.

If Biden – who has Irish roots – were to win, it wouldn’t be surprising if his first call to a head of state was not to Downing Street as tradition marks, but to the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Trump poses with Spain's King Felipe VI during a meeting at the White House in 2018.

Tariffs on Spanish goods

If Trump wins, the general consensus is that his trade war against the US’s European allies-turned-enemies will simply rage on.

The Republican leader’s imposition of $7.5 billion in annual tariffs on the EU has had a huge impact on Spanish exports to the US, with traditional goods such as Cava, cheese, olive oil and seafood losing millions of euros respectively.

Stopping the negotiation of the new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP) between the US and the EU won’t help either, since 97 percent of the tariffs could have been eliminated.

On the geopolitical front, the refusal to give military autonomy to the EU would continue with a Trump victory, as the bloc depends on the United States’ approval through NATO for this to occur. Spain is one of the countries that defends the EU’s military emancipation.

Joe Biden’s stance on international trade isn’t quite clear yet, having chosen not to mention tariffs or foreign investment in his electoral rhetoric.

It is true however that he has run on a message of prioritising the US’s economic recovery and job creation, which could be perceived as protectionist, as well as supporting the Buy American Act that encourages the purchase of national products and services.

But this could just be in the context of the election campaign in which he has needed to enlist the support of a broad spectrum of Democratic Party leaders, some of whom have deep reservations about free trade.

According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Biden’s foreign policy agenda outlines how “American Leadership” has been lacking from President Trump’s policy of “America First”, “emphasizing the importance of training the U.S. workforce for a competitive global environment, a renewed commitment to reducing trade barriers, and a coordinated approach to negotiations with China that utilizes U.S. allies and international institutions”.

Furthermore, former National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told the US Chamber of Commerce in September that Biden would end the “artificial trade war” against Europe, while working to address ongoing imbalances in agricultural trade between the two sides.

Then US Vice-President Joe Biden meets former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid in 2014. 

Spain's far right weakened

Before the wave of populism which swept across the world on the cusp of Trump’s 2016 victory, Spain hadn’t really had a far-right party garnering much support since the end of Spain’s dictatorship in 1975-1978.

In 2015 Vox was still a fringe party with only 0.23 percent of national votes.

But by the time 2019’s general elections came around, the party experienced a meteoric rise, becoming the country's third political force with its patriotic, conservative, anti-immigration, anti-media and anti-EU rhetoric. Sound familiar?

Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal is a keen supporter of Donald Trump and everything he stands for, announcing in 2019 that his party also wanted to ‘build a wall’ along Spain’s southern border. Even his tweets sound similar to Trump’s.

“Whatever the outcome of the US elections, once again we can point to the ignorance and manipulation of the media, political experts, pollsters and opinion givers,” Abascal wrote on Tuesday.

“Once more their lies have been exposed. Trump can feel like a winner, for still standing against everyone”.

 

Vox, just like other far-right parties in Europe such as Le Front National in France, have an ally in Trump, someone who has normalised hate speech, hyperbolism and extreme views among disenfranchised voters who have been let down by the establishment.

A Biden victory could result in a shift in mentality globally, at least in terms of exposure to the chaos which governs our daily news in recent years, and with it a return to more moderate views both in Spain and abroad.

With the prospect of a weakened Vox if Trump were to leave office, it’s no surprise that Abascal also had this to say about the Democratic frontrunner: “Biden is El País's favourite. Podemos's favourite. Otegui's favourite. Maduro's favourite. China's favourite. Iran's favourite. A paedophile’s favourite.” 

READ MORE: Americans in Spain: How do you feel about the US election?

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What Americans need to know now that Spain will allow travellers in from US

The good news is that Spain has announced that vaccinated travellers from the United States will be able to visit from June 7th.

What Americans need to know now that Spain will allow travellers in from US
Photo: Cooper NEILL / AFP

May 2021 update: On Friday, May 21st Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced at a tourism fair in Madrid that “From June 7th, all vaccinated people and their families will be welcome in our country, Spain, regardless of their country of origin”

This means that Americans (well, the vaccinated ones at least) will be able to travel to Spain for the first time in more than a year. 

He said they will be allowed in “without restriction”, but he did not specify whether they would have to show a negative Covid test.

Spain also announced the launch of its ‘Covid passport’ on Friday May 21st, set to become operational in June, one month ahead of the EU-wide Digital Covid Certificate which it will work in tandem with.

The scheme covers non-EU countries of the border-free Schengen zone – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

It is yet to be confirmed whether either of these schemes will be made available to vaccinated US nationals or if they will have to provide different documentation to enter Spain (stay tuned to this space). But as things stand, the scheme seems primarily reserved for EU nationals and residents and it may be separate from plans to open up the European Union to vaccinated non-EU visitors.

READ MORE: What’s the latest on how the EU’s ‘Covid passports’ will work for travellers?

Spain also announced that British travellers would also be able to return to Spain from May 24th, without the need to show a negative PCR test. 

The United States’ weekly infection rate is at 66 cases per 100,000 inhabitants as of May 21st but the incidence rate has been dropping day by day since April 20th when it was 289 cases per 100,000. 

This is undoubtedly linked to the fact that almost 127 million Americans are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which represents 38.6 percent of the population. 

These encouraging figures mean Spain is willing to open its borders to vaccinated American tourists. 

Despite this new development, Spain is still on the United States’ level 4 ‘do not travel’ list, meaning that the US government still advises against travel here. This is only advisory however and tavellers are still allowed to come. 

The CDC has also updated its recommendations, giving travel recommendations for those who have been fully vaccinated. Read here to see what they say. 

In 2019 some 3.3 million US tourists visited Spain, a figure that’s risen by more than a million since 2016 according to the Iberian nation’s National Statistics Institute (INE).

Spain is the fourth most popular EU destination among American tourists after Italy, France and Germany, but those who do come to Spain like it so much that they often return.

READ MORE: How important are American tourists to Spain?

A man watches a Delta plane as it approaches Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia on February 24, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)

***Please keep in mind that information in older monthly updates of this article may no longer be valid due to the quickly evolving situation. 

April 2021 : The US State Department announced on April 21st that it has added 116 countries to its “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory list, including Spain, citing “a very high level of Covid-19”. 

Earlier in April, American Airlines announced that it had resumed flights from the United States to Spain, specifically the route between Miami (Florida) and Barcelona and Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas) and Madrid.

It is also restoring 10 other routes between the United States and major European cities, suggesting that the US airline is confident enough that travel between the EU and the US will be restored soon enough, however, with this new development of adding Spain to its “do not travel” list, this is still up in the air. 

There have also been reports that the Biden administration may lift the travel ban for citizens wanting to travel to the US from the 27 EU Member States in mid-May, which could increase the chances of a reciprocal agreement. 

Airlines are currently pushing for an air bridge between the UK and the US to begin on May 17th, the date the British government is likely to allow its citizens to travel abroad for holidays again. 

The speed of their vaccination campaigns and the promising inoculation forecasts for the coming months are, together with infection rates, one of the main factors deciding whether travel can reopen between both nations. 

But in Spain’s case, the rules for allowing travellers from the United States are largely dependent on joint agreements with other Member States, and for now Spain uses the EU’s ‘safe list’ (which the US is still not on) to decide the rules for Americans.

In early March, Spanish authorities said they were open to setting up bilateral agreements and safe corridors with non-EU “third countries”, including the US, if no deal is reached regarding travel requirements across the European Union.

The EU did decide to launch a vaccine passport, with the latest estimates according to EU Commissioner Thierry Breton being that it will be ready in June, but Brussels representatives are yet to mention if this will influence its current rules for travellers from the US.

READ MORE: Spain to have vaccine passport system ready by June, tourism minister

In 2019 some 3.3 million US tourists visited Spain, a figure that rose by more than a million since 2016 according to the Iberian nation’s National Statistics Institute (INE).

In the process, they contributed €5.8 billion to Spain’s economy through their Spanish holidays, so Pedro Sánchez’s government will no doubt be considering the benefits reopening to American tourists could have, factoring in both the US’s high infection rate and swift vaccine rollout.

READ ALSO: How is Spain’s vaccine campaign going?

On April 13th, the Washington Post ran an article titled “Americans may be able to travel to Europe again this summer. Their hosts may not be vaccinated”, in which their journalist wrote that EU officials plan to publish a proposal within weeks for lifting restrictions on holidaymakers from outside the bloc. 

“They only have to hash out what the plan will look like,” the US paper states.

“It would not look good if British and American vacationers are better-treated than Europeans” because of vaccination status, one EU source is quoted as saying. 

“We’ll have to see how the pandemic evolves in the US,” says Secretary of State for Global Spain Manuel Muñiz.

“In Spain, the number of people vaccinated per week will quadruple.”

For now however, the rules that have been in place for people wanting to travel from the United States to Spain remain unchanged and are explained below.

March 2021: With many in the US eager to visit Spain as soon as they can, here’s what is happening with the Spanish travel rules for Americans right now.

Under the Spanish government’s regulations, measures covering travel from the US to Spain remain unchanged. Spain’s borders remain closed to those travelling from countries outside the EU, except for a small handful of countries, of which the US is not one of them. Therefore, non-essential travel from the US to Spain is currently not allowed.

Those hoping for a Spanish vacation in 2021 should keep a close eye on the European ‘safe list’. On January 28th the EU updated its list of ‘safe’ countries from which it recommends members allow travellers to enter from. They may have to wait sometime before the US is added to the list, however. 

So what does this mean for Americans?

Firstly, the travel rules are based around where you are coming from, not what passport you hold. So, a US citizen travelling from Italy, for example, would be permitted to enter Spain because it’s within the EU.

Secondly, Spain has so far only mentioned about vaccinated travellers visiting from June 7th and there is no word on those unvaccinated so far. 

This may change when the EU roles out its Covid-19 passports this summer, as this will also have information on whether you’ve previously had the virus or if you’ve got a recent negative PCR test. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on how the EU’s ‘Covid passports’ will work for travellers? 

What if I haven’t been vaccinated but I still need to travel to Spain? 

You are still able to travel to Spain if your reason falls under ‘essential travel’. People who can travel into the European bloc now include:

  • Citizens of an EU country
  • Non-EU citizens who are permanent residents of an EU country and need to come home
  • Healthcare workers engaged in crucial work on the coronavirus crisis
  • Frontier workers and in some circumstances seasonal workers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Diplomats, humanitarian or aid workers
  • Passengers in transit
  • Passengers travelling for imperative family reasons
  • Persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons
  • Third-country nationals travelling for the purpose of study
  • Highly qualified third-country workers, if their employment is essential from an economic perspective and cannot be postponed or performed abroad

Find more details on the exemptions here.

Who else can travel to Spain?

US citizens who are permanent residents of Spain can travel, but they will need to show proof of residency such as a TIE card to be able to enter if they haven’t been vaccinated. 

Before travelling to Spain, all passengers must complete the Health Control Form (FCS) and show the QR code at the Border Health Control at the airport upon arrival in Spain.  The form must be completed for each passenger.  You can find the form here

Will US travellers arriving in Spain have to quarantine?

No, travellers to Spain are not currently subject to a quarantine period. It is still not clear however if they will need to provide a negative PCR test. 

What restrictions can I expect to find in Spain?

Since Spain’s state of alarm ended on May 9th, many of the restrictions that were in place across the country such as travel bans between borders and nightly curfews have now been abolished. There are however still some restrictions in place. 

  • The requirement to wear a mask at all times in public, even outside
  • There may still be some restrictions on restaurant opening hours or even bar and restaurant closures
  • Limited shopping hours and limited capacity or closures at cultural venues and tourist sites

READ ALSO: UPDATED: What are the post state of alarm restrictions in each region in Spain?

Other travel rules

Check carefully with your airline on any extra rules, especially around masks. Some airlines specify that medical-grade masks must be worn and you can be denied boarding if you turn up at the airport without the correct type of mask.

Are there many flights available from the US to Spain?

While they may be limited, there are still direct flights between the US and Spain and more are beginning to operate. After the recent announcement, we believe that many more routes will become available. 

READ ALSO:

Stay updated

At the time of writing, the US government is recommending that travellers “reconsider travel to Spain due to Covid-19”.

Anyone planning to travel is advised to check the latest updates from the US State Department and Centers for Disease Control, and to find out if they are covered by their travel insurer. Otherwise, and unless you are an Spanish resident registered with the Spanish health authorities, you can incur medical bills if you fall sick while in Spain.

For more information, visit the website of the U.S Embassy & Consulate in Spain and Andorra, which has all the latest updates.

Please note: The Local is not able to advise on specific cases. Contact your embassy for official guidance.

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