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Argentina

Executive Summary

Argentina presents investment and trade opportunities, particularly in infrastructure, health, agriculture, information technology, energy, and mining; however, soaring debt and a failure to implement critical structural reforms have prevented the country from maximizing its  economic potential, though the country has taken steps to diminish bureaucratic procedures. Market reactions to the 2019 Argentine presidential elections deepened the country’s economic crisis, stalling reform efforts and leading to a rollback of some market-driven growth policies and the imposition of capital and export controls.  In late 2019, the government reprofiled some of the country’s local law debt payments. Argentina’s economy contracted for the second year in a row in 2019, as unemployment and poverty grew and annual inflation rose to 53.8 percent.

Following a victory in the October 2019 general election, President Alberto Fernandez took office on December 10, 2019. His economic agenda at the beginning of 2020 focused on restructuring the country’s sovereign debt and providing support to vulnerable sectors. The Fernandez administration increased taxes on foreign trade, further tightened capital controls, and pulled back from former President Mauricio Macri’s fiscal austerity measures, expanding fiscal expenditures. Citing a need to preserve Argentina’s diminishing foreign exchange reserves and raise government revenues for social programs, the Fernandez administration passed a sweeping “economic emergency” law that included a 30 percent tax on purchases of foreign currency and all individual expenses incurred abroad, whether in person or online.

The country began a nationwide quarantine on March 20 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly after the first case was confirmed on March 3. As of early May, the government anticipated a 6.5 percent drop in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for 2020, though the full economic  impact will largely depend on how long quarantine restrictions last and whether the government reaches agreement with its private bondholders to avoid a sovereign default. The Argentine government issued a series of economic relief measures to mitigate the economic impact of the quarantine, primarily focusing on informal workers that account for approximately 40 percent of the labor force. The government’s self-declared insolvency has sharply limited its access to credit, obligating it to finance the pandemic-related stimulus measures by monetary issuance, which may hamper its efforts to restrain inflation and maintain a stable exchange rate. As a result of the crisis, industry and unions are analyzing changes to labor agreements and requesting government tax reforms.  U.S. companies frequently point to a high and unpredictable tax burden and rigid labor laws, which make responding to changing macroeconomic conditions more difficult, as obstacles to further investment in Argentina.  In April, the government reprofiled foreign currency local law debt.  In early May, the Minister of Economy announced the government has sought to restructure its debt to private creditors by May 22 and to reschedule its Paris Club debt.  The Minister also stated the government intends to seek a new program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to which it owes $44 billion from a Standby arrangement the government signed in 2018.

In 2019, Argentina fell two places in the Competitiveness Ranking of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which measures how productively a country uses its available resources, to 83 out of 141 countries, and 12 out of the 20 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region.  As a MERCOSUR member, Argentina signed a free trade and investment agreement with the EU in June 2019. Argentina has not ratified the agreement yet. In May, Argentina proposed slowing the pace and adjusting the negotiating parameters of MERCOSUR’s ongoing trade liberalization talks with South Korea, Canada, and other partners to help protect vulnerable populations and account for the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Argentina ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on January 22, 2018. Argentina and the United States continue to expand bilateral commercial and economic cooperation, specifically through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), the Commercial Dialogue, and under the Growth in the Americas initiative, in order to improve and facilitate public-private ties and communication on trade, investment, energy, and infrastructure issues, including market access and intellectual property rights. More than 300 U.S. companies operate in Argentina, and the United States continues to be the top investor in Argentina with more than USD $15 billion (stock) of foreign direct investment as of 2018.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 66 of 183 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 126 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 73 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 15,196 https://www.bea.gov/data/
economic-accounts/international/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 12,390 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Turkey

Executive Summary

Turkey experienced strong economic growth on the back of the many positive economic and banking reforms it implemented between 2002 and 2007.  After the global economic crisis of 2008-2009, Turkey continued to attract substantial investment as a relatively stable emerging market with a promising trajectory of reforms and a strong banking system.  Turkey saw nine years of gross domestic product (GDP) growth between 2011 and 2018. However, over the last several years, economic and democratic reforms have stalled and by some measures, regressed.  GDP growth was 2.6 percent in 2018 as the economy entered a recession in the second half of the year.  Challenged by the continuing currency crisis, particularly in the first half of 2019, the Turkish economy grew by only 0.9 percent in 2019.  While the Government of Turkey originally projected 5.0 percent GDP growth in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically slowed economic activity and the majority of economists project a growth rate that is negative or near zero for the year.  In April 2020, the World Bank lowered its economic growth forecast for Turkey to 0.5 percent for 2020, while the IMF predicts a contraction of 5 percent.

The government’s economic policymaking remains opaque, erratic, and politicized, contributing to a fall in the value of the lira.  Inflation reached more than 11 percent and unemployment over 13 percent by the end of 2019.  The COVID-19 crisis will likely lower inflation due to reduced demand, but will put upward pressure on the unemployment number.

The government’s push to require manufacturing and data localization in many sectors and the recent introduction of a digital services tax have negatively impacted foreign investment into the country.  Other issues of import include tax reform and the decreasing independence of the judiciary and the Central Bank.  Turkey hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, which creates an additional economic burden on the country as the government provides them services such as education and healthcare.

Recent laws targeting the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector have increased regulations on data, online broadcasting, tax collection, and payment platforms.  In particular, ICT and other companies report GOT pressure to localize data, which it views as a precursor to greater GOT access to user information and source code.  Law #6493 on Payment and Security Systems, Payment Services and e-money Institutions, also requires financial institutions to establish servers in Turkey in order to localize data.  The Turkish Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) is the authority that issues business licenses as long as companies 1) localize their IT systems in Turkey, and 2) keep the original data, not copies, in Turkey.  Regulations on data localization, internet content, and taxation/licensing have resulted in the departure of several U.S. tech companies from the Turkish market, and has chilled investment by other possible entrants to the e-commerce and e-payments sectors.  The laws potentially affect all companies that collect private user data, such as payment information provided online for a consumer purchase.

Turkey transitioned from a parliamentary to a presidential system in July 2018, following a referendum in 2017 and presidential election in June 2018.  The opacity of government decision making, lack of independence of the central bank, and concerns about the government’s commitment to the rule of law, combined with high levels of foreign exchange-denominated debt held by Turkish banks and corporates, have led to historically low levels of foreign direct investment (FDI).

While there are still an estimated 1,700 U.S. businesses active in Turkey, many with long-standing ties to the country, the share of American activity is relatively low given the size of the Turkish economy.  Increased protectionist measures add to the challenges of investing in Turkey, which saw 2018-2019 investment flows from the United States and the world drop by 21 percent and 17 percent, respectively.  Although there are still positive growth prospects and some established companies have increased investments, near-term projections indicate that foreign investment will continue to slow.

The most positive aspects of Turkey’s investment climate are its favorable demographics and prime geographical position, providing access to multiple regional markets.  Turkey is an island of relative stability in a turbulent region, making it a popular hub for regional operations.  Turkey has a relatively educated work force, well-developed infrastructure, and a consumption-based economy.

In the past few years, the government has increasingly marginalized critics, confiscated over 1,100 companies worth more than USD 11 billion, and purged more than 130,000 civil servants, often on tenuous terrorism-related charges alleging association with Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey’s government alleges was behind the 2016 coup attempt.  The political focus on transitioning to a presidential system, cross-border military operations in Syria, the worsening economic climate, and persistent questions about the relationship between the United States and Turkey as well as Turkey’s relationship with the European Union (EU), all may negatively affect consumer confidence and investment in the future.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 91 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/
cpi2019
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 33 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 49 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 4,656 http://apps.bea.gov/international/
di1usdbal
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 10,420 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Investment Climate Statements
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