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Argentina

Executive Summary

Argentina is the third largest country in Latin America and one of the wealthiest in the region, possessing abundant human and natural resources, highly diversified industries, and a population of 43 million people. The country has the second largest shale gas resources and fourth largest shale oil resources worldwide, and presents significant investment and trade opportunities, particularly in infrastructure, health, agriculture, information technology, energy, and mining.

Since entering office in December 2015, the Macri Administration has focused on rebuilding investor confidence and attracting investment as key to economic recovery. Macri and his economic team acted quickly to correct macroeconomic imbalances, including unifying the exchange rate, lifting currency controls, improving the accuracy and transparency of government statistics, reducing distortionary import and export restrictions, and resolving the long-standing bond holdouts dispute that allowed Argentina to exit default and reenter international capital markets after 15 years. The Macri Administration has improved government transparency, increased dialogue with stakeholders, including the private sector, unions, and political opposition, as well as strengthened coordination between the national and provincial governments. The government took steps to improve Argentina’s regulatory framework to facilitate business creation and trade particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, and to increase competition in the communications, gas and energy, auto, and aviation sectors. It also took some measures to strengthen protection of intellectual property rights, but long-standing deficiencies remain.

The Macri government took steps to reintegrate Argentina into the international community, including reestablishing consultations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which lifted its censure of Argentina in November 2016; agreeing to chair the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in December 2017 and to assume the G20 Presidency in 2018; hosting the World Economic Forum in Latin America in April 2017; pursuing an EU-MERCOSUR trade agreement; expanding economic cooperation with numerous partners including Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Canada, and the United States; becoming an observer in the Pacific Alliance; and increasing constructive engagement with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with an eye towards eventual membership. Argentina has notified its intention to ratify the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, which is pending congressional approval.

To showcase Argentina as “open for business,” the country convened nearly 2,000 leading business and world leaders in September 2016 for the first Argentine Business and Investment Forum. Since the beginning of the Macri Administration, the private sector has announced planned investments for the 2016-2019 time period totaling approximately USD 45.6 billion. Moody’s in March 2017 upgraded the Government of Argentina’s rating from stable to positive, but maintained the issuer rating at B3 (speculative). Standard & Poor’s recently upgraded its sovereign rating for Argentina from B- to B.

Argentina and the United States continued to expand bilateral commercial and economic cooperation, specifically through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), the Commercial Dialogue, and the Digital Economy Working Group, in order to improve and facilitate public-private ties and communication on trade and investment issues, including market access and intellectual property rights. Argentina and the United States continue to discuss pending trade disputes, including a 2012 WTO case stemming from Argentina’s import policies. More than 500 U.S. companies operate in Argentina, and the United States continues to be the top investor in Argentina with more than USD 13 billion of foreign direct investment as of 2015.

The policies laid out by the Macri Administration over the past year have led to slight improvements in Argentina’s macreconomic performance, with the latest private and official estimates projecting a mild economic recovery of 2.5-3.5 percent GDP growth for 2017. Inflation clocked in at 40 percent for 2016 but is on a downward trend. The IMF, World Bank, and private economic consultants have issued reports forecasting economic recovery and declining inflation to continue through 2018. Despite these improvements, key challenges remain, such as the need to further slow inflation, reduce the fiscal deficit, improve competitiveness, increase access to financing, further liberalize trade, and strengthen the country’s institutional framework.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 95 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2016 116 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2016 81 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 USD 13,323 http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI Per Capita 2015 USD 12,460 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property, including mortgages, are recognized and common in Argentina. Such interests can be easily and effectively registered. They also can be readily bought and sold. Argentina manages a national registry of real state ownership (Registro de la Propiedad Inmueble) at http://www.dnrpi.jus.gov.ar/ . There are no specific regulations regarding land lease and acquisition of residential and commercial real estate by foreign investors. Law No. 26,737 (Regime for Protection of National Domain over Ownership, Possession or Tenure of Rural Land) establishes the restrictions of foreign ownership on rural and productive lands, including water bodies. Foreign ownership is also restricted on land located near borders.

No data is available on the percent of all land that does not have clear title.

Legal claims may be brought to evict persons unlawfully occupying (squatting) real property, even if the property is unoccupied by the lawful owner. However, these legal proceedings can be quite lengthy, and until the legal proceedings are complete, evicting the squatters is problematic. The title and actual conditions of real property interests under consideration should be carefully reviewed before acquisition.

Argentine Law No. 26.160 prevents the eviction and confiscation of land traditionally occupied by indigenous communities in Argentina, or encumbered with an indigenous land claim. Indigenous land claims can be found in the land registry. Enforcement is carried out by the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, under the Ministry of Social Development.

Intellectual Property Rights

The government of Argentina adheres to most treaties and international agreements on intellectual property (IP) and belongs to the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization. The Argentine Congress ratified the Uruguay Round agreements, including the provisions on intellectual property in Law 24425 on January 5, 1995.

Argentina remained on the Priority Watch List in the 2017 Special 301 Report. Despite some recent progress, Argentina continues to present long-standing and well-known deficiencies in IP IP protection and enforcement, and is a challenging market for IP-intensive industries. A key challenge in Argentina is the lack of effective IP enforcement by the national government. Argentine police do not take ex officio actions, prosecutions can stall, cases may languish in excessive formalities, and even when a criminal investigation reaches final judgment, infringers do not receive deterrent sentences. In terms of physical counterfeiting and piracy, the notorious market of La Salada in Buenos Aires is one of the largest open-air markets in Latin America offering high rates of counterfeit and pirated goods, and it continues to thrive. La Salada is listed in the 2016 Notorious Markets Report. While optical disc copyright piracy is widespread, Internet piracy continues to be a growing concern and criminal enforcement for online piracy is nearly nonexistent. As a result, IP enforcement online in Argentina consists mainly of right holders trying to convince cooperative Argentine online providers to agree to take down specific infringing works, as well as attempting to seek injunctions in civil cases. Copyright holders also cite widespread use of unlicensed software by Argentine private enterprises and the government.

There are a number of ongoing challenges to innovation in the agricultural chemical, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical sectors, including with respect to patent pendency, scope and term of patent protection, and meaningful enforcement options. There is a substantial backlog of patent applications resulting in long delays to register rights and Argentina does not provide provisional protection for pending patents. Pursuant to a highly problematic 2012 Joint Resolution establishing guidelines for the examination of patents, Argentina summarily rejects patent applications for categories of pharmaceutical inventions that are eligible for patentability in other jurisdictions, including in the United States. Additionally, to be patentable, Argentina requires that processes for the manufacture of active compounds disclosed in a specification be reproducible and applicable on an industrial scale. Resolution 283/2015, introduced in September 2015, also limits the ability to patent biotechnological innovations based on living matter and natural substances. The United States remains concerned that Argentina does not appear to provide adequate protection against the unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical or agricultural chemical products. These measures limit the ability of companies investing in Argentina to protect their IP and appear inconsistent with international practice.

Over the last year, Argentina took noteworthy steps to improve IP protection and enforcement including legislative initiatives, enforcement operations, procedural enhancements for patent protection, and the creation of bilateral engagement mechanisms. The Government of Argentina introduced several legislative proposals to improve the protection and enforcement of IP: a bill to provide for landlord liability and enhance enforcement in non-conventional, or informal, marketplaces such as La Salada; a bill to amend the trademark law to increase criminal penalties for counterfeiting carried out by criminal networks; and a bill to enhance protection for industrial designs. Other legislative initiatives including regulation of collective management organizations, criminal sanction including for anti-circumvention measures, and the creation of a federal specialized IP prosecutor’s office are reportedly in the drafting stages. While these legislative initiatives are welcome, others raise questions and potential concerns. Though well intentioned, elements of various legislative proposals to update the national seed law may negatively affect the ability to protect and enforce plant variety rights and other IP and a bill regarding responsibilities of ISPs may discourage effective action against piracy over the Internet. With respect to enforcement operations, the city of Buenos Aires conducted operations to close illegal street vendors but the lack of a national IP enforcement strategy limits successes to targeted neighborhoods in the capital.

The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) has taken steps to confront its lengthy patent examination backlog. In September 2016, INPI issued a regulation creating expedited procedures for patent applicants that have obtained patents in other jurisdictions. INPI is also hiring more patent examiners and working towards digitalization of internal procedures and a more efficient online application management system. In addition to collaborating with other international patent offices, INPI and the USPTO commenced in March 2017 a Patent Prosecution Highway pilot program to increase efficiency and timely review of patent examinations. The Governments of Argentina and the United States established a bilateral Innovation and Creativity Forum under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and held productive first meetings in December 2016. The United States is hopeful that the important steps Argentina has taken as well as its plans for future progress will bear tangible results, thereby creating a more attractive environment for investment and innovation.

For statistics on illegal sales in Argentina, go to the following link: http://redcame.org.ar/seccion/relevamiento-venta-ilegal 

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The Argentine government has state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or significant stakes in mixed-capital companies in the following sectors: civil commercial aviation, water and sanitation, oil and gas, electricity generation, transport, paper production, satellite, banking, railway, shipyard, and aircraft ground handling services. A list of state-own enterprises, enterprises under concession and enterprises with state participation can be found here: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/SIGEN .

By Argentine law, a company is considered a public enterprise if the state owns 100 percent of the company’s shares. The state has majority control over a company if the state owns 51 percent of the company’s shares. The state has minority participation in a company if the state owns less than 51 percent of the company’s shares. Argentine Law 25.156 regulates state-owned enterprises and enterprises with state participation.

Through the government’s social security agency (ANSES), the Argentine government owns stakes ranging from one percent to 31 percent in 46 publically-listed companies. U.S. investors also own shares in some of these companies. As part of the ANSES takeover of Argentina’s private pension system in 2008, the government agreed to commit itself to being a passive investor in the companies and limit the exercise of its voting rights to 5 percent, regardless of the equity stake the social security agency owned. In April 2011, the Argentine government removed the five percent cap and moved to increase ANSES’ influence over these companies by nominating members for their boards of directors and exercising influence over issues such as dividend payments. A list of such enterprises can be found at: http://fgs.anses.gob.ar/participacion 

State-owned enterprises purchase and supply goods and services from the private sector and foreign firms. Private enterprises may compete with SOEs under the same terms and conditions with respect to market share, products/services, and incentives. Private enterprises also have access to financing terms and conditions similar to SOEs. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. SOEs are not currently subject to firm budget constraints under the law, and have been subsidized by the central government in the past; however, the Macri Administration is working to reduce subsidies in the energy, water, and transportation sectors. Argentina does not have regulations that differentiate treatment of SOEs and private enterprises. Argentina has observer status under the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement and, as such, SOEs are subject to the conditions of Argentina’s observance.

Argentina is not part of the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the WTO.

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs

Argentina does not have a specified ownership policy, guideline or governance code for how the government exercises ownership of SOEs. The country generally adheres to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs. The practices for SOEs are mainly in compliance with the policies and practices for transparency and accountability in the OECD Guidelines.

Argentina does not have a centralized ownership entity that exercises ownership rights for each of the SOEs. The general rule in Argentina is that requirements that apply to all listed companies also apply to publicly-listed SOEs.

Privatization Program

No information available on Argentina’s privatization program. The current government has not developed a privatization program, although there is speculation that the administration may try to look into the issue in the future.

Investment Climate Statements
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