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Doing Business in Argentina

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Market Overview

Welcome to Argentina! The United States and Argentina share a long history of bilateral commercial relations both in trade and investment. The United States is Argentina’s third-largest trading partner and U.S. companies are among the top investors in the country, with numerous U.S. companies maintaining sales and manufacturing subsidiaries in Argentina for over a century. Argentina is an important regional export market for the United States -- with a population of 40 million people. It is the second largest economy in South America and the fourth most populous country in Latin America.

The United States and Argentina share a mutually beneficial trade relationship with total bilateral trade in goods in 2011 exceeding $11 billion dollars. The trade profile is generally characterized by U.S. supplies of raw materials, intermediate goods, and capital goods to support Argentina’s industrial and agricultural sectors while Argentina exports food and agricultural products as well as intermediate goods to U.S. industry. While the United States enjoys a trade surplus with Argentina, approximately 90 percent of U.S. exports to Argentina are industrial inputs, intermediate goods, and capital goods, destined for such as computers, industrial and agricultural chemicals, agricultural and transportation equipment, machine tools, parts for oil field rigs, and refined fuel oil. Argentine, in turn, enjoys a very strong surplus in terms of bilateral agricultural trade, along with goods such as wine—Argentina is the fourth largest exporter of wine to the U.S.—fruit juices, crude oil, and intermediate goods such as seamless pipes, tubes, and other iron and steel products.

U.S. investment makes a large contribution to Argentina’s economy. Over 500 U.S.-based companies currently operate in Argentina, employing over 155,000 people. The stock of U.S. investment in Argentina in 2010 (most recent data available was $12.1 billion and is concentrated in the energy/mining and manufacturing sectors.

In 2011, many U.S. firms were featured in the list of the "best places to work" in Argentina: taking 14 out of the top 50 on the list according to Great Places to Work organization. In addition, U.S. companies have consistently comprised a large portion of the list of Most Respected Companies in Argentina as ranked by El Clarin, Argentina’s largest newspaper.

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Market Challenges

The primary market challenges arise from slowing economic growth, inflationary pressures, and a host of import and foreign exchange restrictions imposed by the Argentine Government in late 2011 and early 2012. The Argentine economy is expected to slow somewhat in 2012 compared with 2011, with GDP growth of 2 to 4 percent in 2012 as compared to about 8 percent in 2011. This reduction in forecasted growth is due to lower growth in neighboring Brazil which is Argentina’s primary trading partner, anticipated lower revenue from soybean exports, and disruptions to local production caused by import and foreign exchange restrictions. Strong commodity prices and automobile exports to Brazil have been key factors in Argentina’s rapid growth over the past several years as has growth in government spending.

An increased focus on maintaining Central Bank reserves in the face of a diminishing trade surplus together with an import substitution model have led Argentina to increase its use of non-tariff trade barriers. The expansion of the list of items requiring non-automatic import licenses (NAILs) to import was expanded from 400 to 598 HS codes in 2011 and controls on access to foreign exchange were also implemented. Furthermore, the Argentine Government implemented a regime on February 1, 2012 whereby all importers are required to request approval from the Argentine Tax and Customs Authority (AFIP) prior to making purchases from abroad. Reports of production slow-downs and bottlenecks resulting from delays in the granting import licenses under the NAILs regime began to appear in the latter half of 2011. The addition of the pre-approval requirement for all imports from AFIP has added to the general level of uncertainty in the business community. As a result of the aforementioned government controls on trade and access to foreign exchange, and slower domestic growth, many firms in Argentina are putting on hold or delaying plans for expansion or the adoption of new product lines until both the economic climate and regulatory regime become clearer and more predictable.

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Market Opportunities

The Country Commercial Guide presents information for companies to determine the market potential of the Argentine market. This year’s top market sectors described in Chapter Four are: Agricultural Machinery and Parts; Food Processing Equipment; Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Medical Equipment, Instruments, and Supplies; Mining Machinery and Equipment; Electronic Security Equipment; Renewable Energy Equipment, and Travel & Tourism to the United States and Food Ingredients. In the agribusiness sector bull semen and planting seeds are key areas with high potential.

We encourage you to work with the U.S. Embassy to explore opportunities in all sectors. Services offered to U.S. firms in Argentina include help with market-entry or expansion strategies and advocacy for tender bid and policy obstacles. The U.S. Embassy also stands ready to help U.S. companies understand and address market challenges.

In addition to the services of the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Export-Import Bank is open for short-and medium-term financing for U.S. exports to private sector clients in Argentina. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) offers assistance to U.S. private investors in the form of political risk insurance, as well as loans and loan guarantees for their direct investment in Argentina.

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Market Entry Strategy

  • Marketing U.S. products and services in Argentina requires a high level of research, preparation, and involvement.
  • U.S. companies exporting to Argentina typically market their products and services through Argentine agents, representatives and distributors.
  • Close personal relationships are important.
  • U.S. companies must consider Argentina’s unique economic, demographic, and cultural characteristics that distinguish it from other Latin American countries.
  • It is increasingly difficult to establish a "typical customer" due to new consumption habits and to the dynamics of income distribution and demography.
  • An important component of the marketing mix is promotion. Companies are encouraged to visit or exhibit at local and regional trade shows, and to visit trade shows in the United States attended by Argentine buyers.
  • Protect your intellectual property and engage qualified local professionals and lawyers in contract negotiations.

The U.S. Embassy Commercial Service in Argentina provides a wide range of services to help U.S. companies enter and expand operations in the country. For details on the services offered, see: Services for U.S. Companies.

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