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Argentina (11/03)


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For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
The Argentine Republic

Geography
Area: 2.8 million sq. km. (1.1 million sq. mi.); about the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River; second-largest country in South America.
Climate: Varied--predominantly temperate with extremes ranging from subtropical in the north to arid/sub Antarctic in far south.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Argentine(s).
Population (2001): 38.74 million.
Annual population growth rate (2001): 1.05%.
Ethnic groups: European 97%, mostly of Spanish and Italian descent.
Mestizo, Amerindian or other nonwhite groups 3%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 92%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4%. Language: Spanish.
Education: Years compulsory--10. Adult literacy (2001)--97%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--16.16/1,000. Life expectancy (2000 est.)--75.48 yrs.
Work force: Industry and commerce--36%; agriculture--19%; transport and communications--6%.

Government
Branches: Executive--president, vice president, cabinet.
Legislative--bicameral congress (72-member Senate, 257-member Chamber of Deputies). Judicial--Supreme Court, federal and provincial trial courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 23 provinces and one autonomous federal capital district.
Political parties: Justicialist (Peronist), Radical Civic Union (UCR), numerous smaller national and provincial parties
Suffrage: Universal adult.

Flag:  Argentina flag

Economy (2002)
GDP: $98 billion.
(reflects devaluation of peso and shrinking of the economy) Annual real growth rate: -10.9%.
Per capital GDP: $2,600.
Natural resources: Fertile plains (pampas); minerals--lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron, manganese, oil, and uranium.
Agriculture (5% of GDP, about 40% of exports by value): Products--grains, oilseeds and by-products, livestock products. Industry (28% of GDP): Types--food processing, oil refining, machinery and equipment, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals.
Trade: Exports ($25.3 billion)--grains, meats, oilseeds, manufactured products. Major markets--MERCOSUR 22%; EU 20%; NAFTA 15%; Chile 12%. 

TABLE ONE -- ARGENTINE EXPORTS --2002 (USD MILLIONS)  

 

Total

MERCOSUR

EU

NAFTA

Chile

Middle East

Rest

All products

25,346

5,632

5,099

3,715

2,955

1,013

6,932

   Primary Products

5,263

990

1,447

236

157

1,954

479

   Agribusiness

8,130

738

2,720

811

306

424

3,131

   Industrial Products

7,603

2,820

880

1,604

761

1,428

110

   Fuels

4,350

1,084

52

1,064

1,731

--

419

Pct Share of Total

100.0

22.2

20.1

14.7

11.7

27.3

4.0

Pct Growth 2002/2001

-4.8

-24.5

11.3

2.7

3.4

-1.2

-6.0

Imports ($9.0 billion in 2002)--machinery, vehicles and transport products, chemicals. Major suppliers--MERCOSUR 32%; EU 23%; NAFTA 22%. Imports from the United States were 20.1 percent of total Argentine imports, and 89.0 percent of Argentine imports from NAFTA in 2002.

Year 2002 Argentine Imports -- Millions of U.S. Dollars  

Total Argentine Imports

8,989.5

1.  From MERCOSUR

2,896.1

2.  From European Union

2,031.9

3.  From NAFTA

2,027.4

(of which, from U.S.)

1,804.3

PEOPLE
Argentines are a fusion of diverse national and ethnic groups, with descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominant. Waves of immigrants from many European countries arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Syrian, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern immigrants number about 500,000, mainly in urban areas. Argentina's population is overwhelmingly Catholic, but it also has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, about 250,000 strong, and is home to one of the largest Islamic mosques in Latin America. In recent years, there has been a substantial influx of immigrants from neighboring Latin American countries. The indigenous population, estimated at 700,000, is concentrated in the provinces of the north, northwest, and south. The Argentine population has one of Latin America's lowest growth rates. Eighty percent of the population resides in cities or towns of more than 2,000, and over one-third lives in the greater Buenos Aires area. With 13 million inhabitants, this sprawling metropolis serves as the focus for national life. Argentines enjoy comparatively high standards of living; half the population considers itself middle class.

HISTORY
Europeans arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solias visited what is now Argentina in 1516. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580, although initial settlement was primarily overland from Peru. The Spanish further integrated Argentina into their empire by establishing the Vice Royalty of Rio de la Plata in 1776, and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port. Buenos Aires formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Argentines revere Gen. Jose de San Martin, who campaigned in Argentina, Chile, and Peru as the hero of their national independence. Following the defeat of the Spanish, centralist and federationist groups waged a lengthy conflict between themselves to determine the future of the nation. National unity was established, and the constitution promulgated in 1853. Immigrants being transported by horse-drawn carriage in turn of the century Buenos Aires; Library of Congress photoTwo forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. Investment, primarily British, came in such fields as railroads and ports. As in the United States, the migrants who worked to develop Argentina's resources--especially the western pampas--came from throughout Europe.

From 1880 to 1930 Argentina became one of the world's 10 wealthiest nations based on rapid expansion of agriculture and foreign investment in infrastructure. Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when their traditional rivals, the Radicals, won control of the government. The Radicals, with their emphasis on fair elections and democratic institutions, opened their doors to Argentina's rapidly expanding middle class as well as to groups previously excluded from power. The Argentine military forced aged Radical President Hipolito Yrigoyen from power in 1930 and ushered in another decade of Conservative rule. Using fraud and force when necessary, the governments of the 1930s attempted to contain the currents of economic and political change that eventually led to the ascendance of Juan Domingo Peron (b. 1897). New social and political forces were seeking political power, including a modern military and labor movements that emerged from the growing urban working class.

The military ousted Argentina's constitutional government in 1943. Peron, then an army colonel, was one of the coup's leaders, and he soon became the government's dominant figure as Minister of Labor. Elections carried him to the presidency in 1946. He aggressively pursued policies aimed empowering the working class and greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. In 1947, Peron announced the first 5-year plan based on the growth of industries he nationalized. He helped establish the powerful General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Peron's dynamic wife, Eva Duarte de Peron, known as Evita (1919-52), played a key role in developing support for her husband. Peron won reelection in 1952, but the military sent him into exile1955. In the 1950s and 1960s, military and civilian administrations traded power, trying, with limited success, to deal with diminished economic growth and continued social and labor demands. When military governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating terrorism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the way was open for Peron's return.

On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in 10 years. Peron was prevented from running, but voters elected his stand-in, Dr. Hector Campora, as President. Peron's followers also commanded strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Campora resigned in July 1973, paving the way for new elections. Peron won a decisive victory and returned as President in October 1973 with his third wife, Maria Estela Isabel Martinez de Peron, as Vice President. During this period, extremists on the left and right carried out terrorist acts with a frequency that threatened public order. The government resorted to a number of emergency decrees, including the implementation of special executive authority to deal with violence. This allowed the government to imprison persons indefinitely without charge.

Peron died on July 1, 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but a military coup removed her from office on March 24, 1976, and the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta composed of the three service commanders until December 10, 1983. The armed forces applied harsh measures against terrorists and many suspected of being their sympathizers. They restored basic order, but the human costs of what became known as "El Proceso," or the "Dirty War" were high. Conservative counts list between 10,000 and 30,000 persons as "disappeared" during the 1976-83 period. Serious economic problems, mounting charges of corruption, public revulsion in the face of human rights abuses and, finally, the country's 1982 defeat by the United Kingdom in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Falklands/Malvinas Islands all combined to discredit the Argentine military regime. The junta lifted bans on political parties and gradually restored basic political liberties.

On October 30, 1983, Argentines went to the polls and chose Raul Alfonsin, of the Radial Civic Union (UCR), as President. He began a 6-year term of office on December 10, 1983. In 1985 and 1987, large turnouts for mid-term elections demonstrated continued public support for a strong and vigorous democratic system. The UCR-led government took steps to resolve some of the nation's most pressing problems, including accounting for those who disappeared during military rule, establishing civilian control of the armed forces, and consolidating democratic institutions. However, failure to resolve endemic economic problems, and an inability to maintain public confidence undermined the effectiveness of the Alfonsin government, which left office 6 months early after Peronist candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential elections.

Despite having campaigned as a traditional populist candidate, as president, Menem launched a major overhaul of Argentine domestic policy. Large-scale structural reforms dramatically reversed the role of the state in Argentine economic life. A decisive leader pressing a controversial agenda, Menem was not reluctant to use the presidency's extensive powers to issue decrees when the Congress was unable to reach consensus on his proposed reforms.

The so-called Olivos Pact with the opposition Radical Party led to the constitutional reform of 1994 that opened the way for Menem to seek and win reelection, winning 50% of the vote in the three-way 1995 presidential race. Late in Menem's second term, fears began to build among foreign investors about Argentina's ability to service its large public sector debt, especially in the wake of Russia's debt default in 1998 and Brazil's currency devaluation in January 1999. These fears were exacerbated when Argentina's fiscal deficit ballooned during 1999, Menem's final year in office.

Fernando de la Rua, of the Radical Party, running on an anti-corruption platform, defeated Peronist candidate Eduardo Duhalde in the 1999 presidential election. Upon taking office, he increased taxes to eliminate the huge fiscal deficit he had inherited, but the tax increase choked off economic growth and intensified the recession leading to a decline in government revenues. Political infighting hindered adoption of thoroughgoing reform measures by the government, and the economy continued to stagnate. The political situation deteriorated further when Vice President Chacho Alvarez (of the junior partner in the coalition) resigned, alleging a lack of support from other members of the executive branch to investigate charges of corruption within the administration.

Even a large IMF-led stabilization package in December 2000 was insufficient to prevent a looming crisis, given the De la Rua administration's inability to get a handle on the fiscal situation. Throughout 2001, production fell from already low levels, and unemployment continued to rise. By late 2001, depositors in Argentine banks were withdrawing funds as a run against the peso developed. The government's restrictions on depositors' access to their accounts only fueled popular discontent. Supermarket sackings and property damage proliferated, first in the provinces and then the Federal Capital. De la Rua resigned on December 20, 2001, after violence claimed several lives during riots in and around the plaza directly facing the seat of government.

A legislative assembly on December 23, 2001, elected Adolfo Rodriguez Saa to serve as president and called for general elections to elect a new president within 3 months. Rodriguez Saa announced immediately that Argentina would default on its international debt obligations, but expressed his commitment to maintain the currency board and the peso's 1-to-1 peg to the dollar. Rodriguez Saa, however, was unable to rally support from within his own party for his administration and this, combined with renewed violence in the Federal Capital, led to his resignation on December 30.

Yet another legislative assembly elected Peronist Eduardo Duhalde president on January 1, 2002. Duhalde--differentiating himself from his three predecessors--quickly abandoned the peso's 10-year-old link with the dollar, a move that was followed by currency depreciation and inflation. In the face of rising poverty and continued social unrest, Duhalde also moved to bolster the government's social programs. In the first round of the Presidential election on April 27, 2003, former President Carlos Menem (PJ) won 24.3% of the vote, Santa Cruz Governor Nestor Kirchner (PJ) won 22%, followed by Ricardo Murphy with 16.4% and Eilsa Carrio with 14.2%. Menem withdrew from the May 25 runoff election after polls showed overwhelming support for Kirchner. President Kirchner took office on May 25, 2003.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS  
Democracy returned to Argentina in 1983, with Raul Alfonsin of the country's oldest political party, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), winning the presidency. Three general elections followed in the next 16 years--a remarkable feat in Argentine political history--with the Justicialist Party (PJ) candidate Carlos Menem winning two and the UCR's Fernando De la Rua one.

In late 2001, however, Argentina experienced more of the tumultuous political change characteristic of much of its past. President De la Rua was forced to resign in December 2001 because of large-scale public discontent over the government's economic policies, and some demonstrations deteriorated into lawlessness and violence. A legislative assembly elected Adolfo Rodriguez Saa to serve out the remainder of De la Rua's term, but he too failed to garner political support in the face of continued unrest and resigned that same month. Yet another legislative assembly then chose Eduardo Duhalde to succeed Rodriguez Saa. Duhalde took office on January 1, 2002, in the midst of a profound economic crisis and a widespread public rejection of the "political class" in Argentina, a rejection directed at all three branches of government. Another factor contributing to the perception of institutional instability in Argentina was conflict between the three branches of government in early 2002, culminating in the legislature's attempt to impeach the members of the Supreme Court. Despite widespread concern, democracy and democratic institutions survived the crisis, and President Kirchner has taken firm hold as President.

Argentina's constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. Each province also has its own constitution, roughly mirroring the structure of the national constitution. The president and vice president are directly elected to 4-year terms. Both are limited to two consecutive terms; they are allowed to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one term. The president appoints cabinet ministers, and the constitution grants him considerable power, including authority to enact laws by presidential decree under conditions of "urgency and necessity" and the line-item veto.

Since 2001, senators have been directly elected, with each province, including the Federal Capital, represented by three senators. Senators serve 6-year terms. One-third of the Senate stands for reelection every 2 years. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to 4-year terms. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every 2 years. Both houses are elected via a system of proportional representation.

The constitution establishes the judiciary as an independent government entity. The president appoints members of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Senate. The president on the recommendation of a magistrates' council appoints other federal judges. The Supreme Court has the power to declare legislative acts unconstitutional.

Political Parties
The two largest political parties are the Justicialist Party (PJ--also called Peronist), founded in 1945 by Juan Domingo Peron, and the Union Civica Radical (UCR), or Radical Civic Union, founded in 1890. Traditionally, the UCR has had more urban middle-class support and the PJ more labor support, but both parties have become more broadly based. Smaller parties, such as rightist Action for the Republic (AR) and the more-leftist-leaning Argentina for a Republic of Equals (ARI), occupy various positions on the political spectrum, and some are active only in certain provinces. Historically, organized labor--largely tied to the Peronist Party--and the armed forces also have played significant roles in national life. However, labor's political power has declined, and the armed forces are firmly under civilian control. Repudiated by the public after a period of military rule (1976-83)--marked by human rights violations, economic decline, and military defeat in the 1982 Falkland/Malvinas Islands conflict--the Argentine military today is a downsized, volunteer force.

Government Policy
The reform agenda remains incomplete and has been put on hold in the face of the acute political and economic crisis. The Central Bank's independence has been challenged, and the reform of the state has not yet been completed. The government's broad policy remains one of allowing private initiative to operate and continues to work toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas. However, President Kirchner's government has said it will increase the role of the state in an effort to boost economic growth and recovery.

Principal Government Officials
President—Nestor Kirchner
Minister of Foreign Affairs—Rafael Bielsa
Ambassador to the United States—Jose Bordon
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Rodolfo Gil
Ambassador to the United Nations--Arnoldo Listre

Argentina maintains an embassy in the United States at 1600 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington DC 20009; tel (202) 238-6400; fax (202) 332-3171. It has consular offices in the following locations: 245 Peachtree Center Ave., Suite 2101 Atlanta, GA 30303 Tel: (404) 880-0805; Fax (404) 880-0806 205 North Michigan Ave., Suite 4209 Chicago, IL 60601 Tel (312) 819-2610; Fax (312) 819-2612 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 770 Houston, TX 77056 Tel (713) 871-8935; Fax (713) 871-0639 5055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 210 Los Angeles, CA 90036 Tel (323) 954-9155; Fax (323) 934-9076 800 Brickell Ave., PH1 Miami, FL 33131 Tel (305) 373-7794; Fax (305) 371-7108 12 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019 Tel (212) 603-0400; Fax (212) 541-7746 1600 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009 Tel: (202) 238-6460; Fax (202) 238-6471

ECONOMY
In January 2002, after 3 years of recession, a prolonged bank run, and a sovereign debt default, Argentina abandoned the quasi-currency board system ("convertibility") which had pegged the peso to the dollar at a one to one rate for over 10 years. While convertibility had brought the country macroeconomic and price stability, and provided the framework for a broad-based deregulation, privatization, and market liberalization in the 1990s, it had proved unable to withstand the persistent fiscal deficits. The Mexican "Tequila" crisis of 1995, the East Asian crisis of 1997, the Russian default of 1998, and the Brazilian devaluation of 1999 combined to raise the cost of external borrowing and make Argentine exports and production uncompetitive in world markets. Meanwhile, the national and provincial governments continued to run fiscal deficits even in boom years, and the debt service burden eventually became unsustainable.

While most observers recognized by late 2001 that a devaluation and default had become almost inevitable, the manner in which the devaluation was implemented has significantly increased the damage done to the economy. Strict limitations on cash withdrawals from bank accounts (the "corralito") imposed in December 2001 after a prolonged bank run were followed in January 2002 by the freezing of almost all dollar-denominated bank accounts and their conversion to pesos at an artificial rate of 1.4 pesos to the dollar. Subsequent floating of the peso in February 2002 increased depositors' sense of expropriation. Meanwhile, almost all dollar-denominated loans within Argentina were converted to pesos at 1 to 1. This "asymmetric pesification" has destroyed banks' balance sheets as well as their reputations. The banking system, once one of the strongest in Latin America, has been hollowed out. The number of banks and the scale of banking operations is shrinking, with most domestic banking now limited to transactional operations.

GDP fell by 20% between 1999 and 2002, but recovery began in late 2002. GDP is expected to grow over 7% in 2003, with inflation staying low at 3%. Exports rose 17% in the first seven months of 2003 thanks to strong prices for agricultural commodities. Imports rose 41% in the first seven months after declining 56% in 2002. The official unemployment rate dropped below 16% in late 2003.

Foreign Trade
In 2002,, foreign trade equaled about 35% of GDP--up from 11% in 1990--and plays an increasingly important role in Argentina's economic development. Exports represented about 26% of GDP in 2002, up from 10% in 2001. Argentina merchandise trade surplus of $16.9 billion in 2002.

The United States recorded trade surpluses with Argentina every year from 1993-2001, as Argentina's firms increased purchases of capital goods during that period. This trend reflects the Argentine Government's policy of encouraging modernization and improved competitiveness of industry through relatively lower tariffs on capital goods. However, Argentina's exports to the U.S. rose to $2.9 billion in 2002, while imports fell to $1.8 billion, leading Argentina to record a $1.1 billion trade surplus. The U.S. took 11.3% of Argentina's exports in 2002, and provided 20.1% of its imports.

Although Argentina's trade patterns may be affected by the factors outlined above, its major export markets are likely to remain MERCOSUR countries, NAFTA countries, and the European Union. These same areas are likely to remain the principal sources of Argentina's imports as well.

MERCOSUR Trade Pact
MERCOSUR, the customs union that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, remains the cornerstone of Argentina's international trade policy. Close cooperation between Brazil and Argentina--historic competitors--is the key to the integration process of MERCOSUR, which includes political and military elements in addition to a customs union. Chile and Bolivia have become associate members. MERCOSUR members are active participants in the negotiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). MERCOSUR also continues to pursue an active program of trade negotiations with other countries and regional groups including Mexico and the European Union.

Argentina adheres to most treaties and international agreements on intellectual property. It is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Argentine Congress ratified the Uruguay Round agreements, including the provisions on intellectual property, as Law 24425 on January 5, 1995. However, extension of adequate patent protection to pharmaceuticals has been a highly contentious bilateral issue. In May 1997, the U.S. suspended 50% of Argentina's generalized system of preferences (GSP) benefits because of its unsatisfactory pharmaceutical patent law. In November 2000, after years of protracted debate, a new patent law took effect, and a number of pharmaceutical patents were issued. This law improved earlier Argentine patent legislation but provides less protection than that called for in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In April 2002, negotiations between the Governments of the United States and Argentina clarified aspects of the latter's intellectual property system, such as provisions related to the patentability of microorganisms and the import restriction regime. In addition, the Government of Argentina agreed to amend its patent law so as to provide protection for products obtained from a process patent and to ensure that preliminary injunctions are available in intellectual property court proceedings, among other steps. Congress is expected to pass the outstanding amendment by the end of 2003. Finally, on the outstanding issues that remain, including data protection, the U.S. Government retains its right to seek resolution under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. In return, the U.S. Government is committed to considering all Argentine requests to expand market access for Argentine products as soon as U.S. legislation reauthorizing trade preferences under the GSP is enacted.

Investment
U.S. investment is concentrated in financial services, telecommunications, energy, petrochemicals, food processing, and motor vehicle manufacturing. However, the economic crisis and recent government decisions have clouded the country's investment climate, and many U.S. firms have substantially written down the value of their Argentine investments. Other major sources of investment include Spain, Chile, Italy, France, Canada, and Japan. Several bilateral agreements generated significant U.S. private investment during the 1990s. Argentina has an Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreement and an active program with the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Under the 1994 U.S.-Argentina Bilateral Investment Treaty, U.S. investors enjoy national treatment in all sectors except shipbuilding, fishing, nuclear power generation, and uranium production. The treaty allows for international arbitration of investment disputes, and some U.S. investors are currently pursuing arbitration claims against the Government of Argentina.

NATIONAL SECURITY
The president and a civilian minister of defense control the Argentine armed forces. The Interior Ministry controls the paramilitary Gendarmeria (border police) and the Prefectura Naval (coast guard). The Argentine armed forces maintain close defense cooperation and military supply relationships with the United States. Other countries also have military relationships with the Argentine forces, principally Israel, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, and Chile.

Lack of budgetary resources is the most serious problem facing the Argentine military today. Current economic conditions and the government's commitment to reduce public sector spending have slowed modernization and restructuring efforts. Argentina's traditionally difficult relations with its neighbors have improved dramatically, and Argentine officials do not see a potential threat from any neighboring country. MERCOSUR has exercised a useful role in supporting democracy in the region.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
In recent years, Argentina has had a strong partnership with the United States in support of UN peacekeeping. Argentina was the only Latin American country to participate in the Gulf war and all phases of the Haiti operation. It has contributed Argentine soldiers and policy to UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. In recognition of its contributions to international security and peacekeeping, the U.S. Government designated Argentina as a major non-NATO ally in January 1998. Argentina has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Summit of the Americas process and has served as chair of the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative. At the UN, Argentina's positions have often coincided with those of the United States. Argentina supported efforts to improve human rights in Cuba and the fight against international terrorism and narcotics trafficking. However, Argentina was reluctant to contribute troops to the Coalition forces in Iraq in 2003, and raised diplomatic relations with Cuba back to Ambassadorial status in 2003.

Eager for closer ties to industrialized nations, Argentina left the Non-Aligned Movement in the early 1990s and has pursued a relationship with the OECD. It has become a leading advocate of nonproliferation efforts worldwide. A strong proponent of enhanced regional stability in South America, Argentina has revitalized its relationship with Brazil; settled lingering border disputes with Chile; discouraged military takeovers in Ecuador and Paraguay; served with the U.S., Brazil, and Chile as one of the four guarantors of the Ecuador-Peru peace process; and restored diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom. In 1998, President Menem made a state visit to the U.K., and Prince Charles reciprocated with a visit to Argentina. In 1999, the two countries agreed to normalize travel to the Falklands/Malvinas from the mainland and resumed direct flights.

U.S.-ARGENTINE RELATIONS
Presidents Bush and Kirchner met in 2003, and many senior U.S. officials visited Argentina to discuss issues of mutual concern. The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Argentine Ministry of Defense hold an annual Bilateral Working Group Meeting, alternating between Argentina and Washington D.C.

U.S. Embassy Functions
The U.S. Mission in Buenos Aires carries out the traditional diplomatic function of representing the U.S. Government and people in discussions with the Argentine Government, and more generally, in relations with the people of Argentina. The excellent political relationship between the United States and Argentina is increasingly reflected in the U.S. Embassy's efforts to facilitate cooperation in nontraditional areas such as counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, and scientific cooperation on space, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and the environment. The embassy also provides a wide range of services to U.S. citizens and businesses in Argentina. Officers from the U.S. Foreign Service, Foreign Commercial Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service work closely with the hundreds of U.S. companies which do business in Argentina, providing information on Argentine trade and industry regulations and assisting U.S. companies starting or maintaining business ventures in Argentina.

Attaches accredited to Argentina from the Department of Justice--including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation--U.S. Customs, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other federal agencies work closely with Argentine counterparts on international crime and other issues of concern. An active, sophisticated, media environment, together with growing positive interest in American culture and society, make Argentina an uncommonly receptive environment for the information and cultural exchange work of the U.S. Embassy as well. The Fulbright fellowship program has more than tripled the annual number of U.S. and Argentine academic grantees since 1994.

The embassy's consular section monitors the welfare and whereabouts of more than 20,000 U.S. citizen residents of Argentina and more than 300,000 U.S. tourists each year. Consular personnel also provide American citizens passport, voting, notarial, Social Security, and other services. With the end of Argentine participation in the visa waiver program in February 2002, Argentine tourists, students, and those who seek to work in the United States must have nonimmigrant visas. The Consular Section processes nonimmigrant visa applications for persons who wish to visit the United States as tourists, students, temporary workers and other purposes, and immigrant visas for persons who qualify to make the United States a permanent home.

The Department of Defense is represented by the U.S. Military Group and the Defense Attach� Office. These organizations ensure close military-to-military contacts and defense, and security cooperation with the armed forces of Argentina.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Lino Gutierrez
Deputy Chief of Mission—Hugo Llorens
Political Counselor--Michael Matera
Economic Counselor--Perry Ball
Commercial Counselor--James Wilson
Consul General--Gregory Frost
Science & Environment Counselor--Kathleen Barmon
Management Counselor—Gustavo Mejia
Defense Attach�--Col. William A. Dalson, USAF
U.S. Military Group Commander--Col. Michael Borders, USA
Public Affairs Officer--Mark Krischik

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Argentina are located at 4300 Colombia Avenue in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Mission offices can be reached at by phone at (54)(11) 5777-4533/34 or by fax at; fax (54)(11) 5777-4240. Mailing addresses: U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires, APO AA 34034; or 4300 Colombia, 1425 Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Other Contact Information
American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina
Viamonte 1133, 8th floor
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel (54)(11) 4371-4500; Fax (54)(11) 4371-8400

U.S. Department of Commerce
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
International Trade Administration
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel (202) 482-2436; (800) USA-TRADE; Fax (202) 482-4726
Automated fax service for trade-related information: (202) 482-4464.

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.



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