Argentina presents significant investment and trade opportunities, particularly in infrastructure, health, agriculture, information technology, energy, and mining. In 2017, President Mauricio Macri continued to reform the market-distorting economic policies of his immediate predecessors. In the October 2017 midterm elections, the electorate signaled support for reforms. Since entering office in December 2015, the Macri administration reduced expenses, took steps to reduce bureaucratic hurdles in business creation, enacted tax reforms, courted foreign direct investment, and begun the process to implement labor reforms through sector-specific agreements with unions, but it faces a complicated political landscape.
While Argentina suffered a sharp recession in 2016 (-2.2 percent), foreign investment increased 10.8 percent in 2017 and led Argentina’s return to economic growth (2.8 percent). Moody’s upgraded the Government of Argentina’s rating to B2 in November 2017, following Standard & Poor’s upgrade from B to B+ in October 2017. In 2017, Argentina climbed twelve slots in the Competitiveness Ranking of the World Economic Forum (WEF), placing it 92 out of 137 countries, and 12 out of the 20 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region. The Global Index on Open Data moved Argentina up 34 places in its transparency index. These factors signal a significant reconversion process in the country and provide encouraging prospects for new sources for growth.
However, obstacles remain. Inflation, despite a downward trend, continues to hamper Argentina, recorded at 24.8 percent in 2017. Other challenges include high tax rates, high labor costs, access to financing, cumbersome bureaucracy, and inadequate infrastructure. Potential investors are watching the government’s efforts on labor reform, which the Macri Administration is advancing through a draft bill in the Argentine Congress and sector-specific negotiations with unions. While gender equality nominally exists under the law, women are disadvanted by cultural factors and policies, such as half-day school schedules and limited access to childcare, which makes it difficult for families to have both parents work fulltime.
The Macri government has demonstrated leadership on trade issues. Argentina chaired the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in December 2017, hosted the World Economic Forum in Latin America in April 2017, and has the G20 presidency in 2018. Argentina is courting an EU-MERCOSUR trade agreement and increasing engagement with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with an eye towards eventual membership. It ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on January 22, 2018. 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. 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 13.7 billion of foreign direct investment as of 2016.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2017||85 of 175||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”||2017||117 of 190||www.doingbusiness.org/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2017||76 of 128||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2016||13.721||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2016||11.970||http://data.worldbank.org/
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Macri government actively seeks foreign direct investment. To improve the investment climate, the Macri administration has enacted reforms to strengthen institutions, reduce economic distortions, and increase capital markets efficiencies. It expanded economic and commercial cooperation with key partners including Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Canada, and the United States, and deepened its engagement in international fora such as the G20, WTO, and OECD.
Over the past year, Argentina issued new regulations in the gas and energy, communications and technology, aviation, and automobile industries to improve competition and provide incentives aimed to attract investments to those sectors. The government more than doubled public works spending during the first quarter of 2017 alone and continues to seek investment in its infrastructure development plans. Argentina is also seeking investments in wireless infrastructure, oil and gas, lithium mines, renewable energy, and other areas.
Foreign and domestic investors generally compete under the same conditions in Argentina. The amount of foreign investment is restricted in specific sectors such as aviation and media. Foreign ownership of rural productive lands, bodies of water, and areas along borders is also restricted.
Argentina has a national Investment and Trade Promotion Agency that provides information and consultation services to investors and traders on economic and financial conditions, investment opportunities, and Argentine laws and regulations. The agency also provides matchmaking services and organizes roadshows and trade delegations. The agency’s web portal provides detailed information on available services (http://www.produccion.gob.ar/agencia ). Many of the 24 provinces also have their own provincial investment and trade promotion.
The Macri Administration welcomes dialogue with investors. Argentine officials regularly host roundtable discussions with visiting business delegations and meet with local and foreign business chambers. During official visits over the past year to the United States, Russia, and Europe, among others, Argentine delegations often met with host-country business leaders.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Foreign and domestic commercial entities in Argentina are regulated by the Commercial Partnerships Law (Law No. 19,550), the Argentina Civil and Commercial Code, and rules issued by the regulatory agencies. Foreign private entities can establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity in nearly all sectors.
Full foreign equity ownership of Argentine businesses is not restricted, for the most part, with exception in the air transportation and media industries. The share of foreign capital in companies that provide commercial passenger transportation within the Argentine territory is limited to 49 percent per the Aeronautic Code Law No. 17,285. The company must be incorporated according to Argentine law and domiciled in Buenos Aires. In the media sector, Law No. 25,750 establishes a limit on foreign ownership in television, radio, newspapers, journals, magazines, and publishing companies to 30 percent.
Law No. 26,737 (Regime for Protection of National Domain over Ownership, Possession or Tenure of Rural Land) restricts foreign ownership to a maximum of 15 percent of all national productive land. Individuals or companies from the same nation may not hold over 30 percent of that amount. Individually, each foreign individual or company faces an ownership cap of 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) in the most productive farming areas, or the equivalent in terms of productivity levels in other areas. The law also establishes that a foreigner cannot own land that contains big and permanent extensions of water bodies, are located in riversides or water bodies with such features, or are located near a Border Security Zone. Waivers are not available.
Argentina does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment. U.S. investors are not at a disadvantage to other foreign investors or singled out for discriminatory treatment.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Argentina was last subject to an investment policy review by the OECD in 1997 and a trade policy review by the WTO in 2013. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has not done an investment policy review of Argentina.
Since entering into office in December 2015, the Macri Administration has enacted reforms to normalize financial and commercial transactions and facilitate business creation and cross-border trade. These reforms include eliminating capital controls, reducing export taxes and import restrictions, streamlining business administrative processes, decreasing tax burdens, increasing businesses’ access to financing, and streamlining customs controls.
In October 2016, the Ministry of Production issued decree No. 1079/2016, easing bureaucratic hurdles for foreign trade and creating a Single Window for Foreign Trade (“VUCE” for its Spanish acronym). The VUCE centralizes the administration of all required paperwork for the import, export, and transit of goods (e.g., certificates, permits, licenses, and other authorizations and documents). Argentina subjects imports to automatic or non-automatic licenses that are managed through the Comprehensive Import Monitoring System (SIMI, or Sistema Integral de Monitoreo de Importaciones), established in December 2015 by the National Tax Agency (AFIP) through Resolutions 5/2015 and 3823/2015. The SIMI system requires importers to submit electronically detailed information about goods to be imported into Argentina. Once the information is submitted, the relevant Argentine government agencies can review the application through the VUCE and make any observations or request additional information. The number of products subjected to non-automatic licenses has been modified several times, resulting in a net decrease since the beginning of the SIMI system.
The Argentine Congress approved an Entrepreneurs’ Law in March 2017, which allows for the creation of a simplified joint-stock company (sociedad por acciones simplifacada, or SAS) within 24 hours and online. The Ministry of Production website provides the following link where there is a detailed explanation on how to register a SAS in Argentina (https://www.argentina.gob.ar/crear-una-sociedad-por-acciones-simplificada-sas ). As of April 2018, the online business registration process is only available for companies located in the city or province of Buenos Aires. The process is clear and complete and can be used by foreign companies. Officials project it will become available in other large municipalities by the end of 2018. More information may be found at http://www.produccion.gob.ar/todo-sobre-la-ley-de-emprendedores/ .
Foreign investors seeking to set up business operations in Argentina follow the same procedures as domestic entities without prior approval and under the same conditions as local investors. To open a local branch of a foreign company in Argentina, the parent company must be legally registered in Argentina. Argentine law requires at least two equity holders, with the minority equity holder maintaining at least a five percent interest. In addition to the procedures required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing itself in Argentina must legalize the parent company’s documents, register the incoming foreign capital with the Argentine Central Bank, and obtain a trading license.
A company must register its name with the Office of Corporations (IGJ, or Inspeccion General de Justicia). The IGJ website describes the registration process and some portions can be completed online (http://www.jus.gob.ar/igj/tramites/guia-de-tramites/inscripcion-en-el-registro-publico-de-comercio.aspx ). Once the IGJ registers the company, the company must request that the College of Public Notaries submit the company’s accounting books to be certified with the IGJ. The company’s legal representative must obtain a fiscal code and a tax identification number from the federal tax agency (AFIP by its Spanish acronym), register for social security, and obtain blank receipts from another agency. Companies can register with AFIP online at www.afip.gob.ar or by submitting the sworn affidavit form No. 885 to AFIP.
The enterprise must also provide workers’ compensation insurance for its employees through the Workers’ Compensation Agency (Aseguradora de Riesgos del Trabajo). The company must register and certify its accounting of wages and salaries with the General Bureau of Labor, within the Ministry of Labor.
Companies located in the City of Buenos Aires must register their by-laws and other documents related to their incorporation with the City’s Public Registry of Commerce. The company must file the proposed articles of association and by-laws, the publication in the Official Gazette, evidence of managers’ and unions’ (if applicable) acceptance of position, evidence of the deposit of the cash contributions in the National Bank of Argentina, evidence of compliance with the managers’ guarantee regime (filing of managers’ performance bonds), and evidence of the reservation of the corporate name for approval with the City’s Office of Corporations.
Some provinces offer training and assistance to facilitate business development. Under the law, those mechanisms are equally accessible by women and underrepresented minorities in the economy, but in practice may not be available in all areas with significant minority populations. At present, there is one operational small business center based on the Small Business Development Center model of the United States, located in Neuquén province.
Argentina does not have a governmental agency to promote Argentine investors to invest abroad nor does it have any restrictions for a domestic investor investing overseas.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
BITs or FTAs
Argentina has a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States, which entered into force on October 20, 1994. The text of the Argentina-United States BIT is available at: http://2001-2009.state.gov/documents/organization/43475.pdf .
As of April 2018, Argentina has 51 BITs in force. Argentina has signed treaties that are not yet in force with four other countries: the Dominican Republic (March 2001), Greece (October 1999), New Zealand (August 1999), and Qatar (November 2016). In November 2016, Argentina and Japan announced continuing negotiations towards a bilateral investment treaty but have not yet reached agreement.
During 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, Argentina continued discussions to strengthen bilateral commercial, economic, and investment cooperation with a number of countries, including China, France, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Chile, Mexico, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Brazil, Russia, and the United States. Argentina and the United States established a bilateral Commercial Dialogue and a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2016. Bilateral talks are ongoing through both mechanisms. Argentina does not have a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.
Argentina is a founding member of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), which includes Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela (currently suspended). Through MERCOSUR, Argentina has Free Trade Agreements with Egypt, Israel, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. MERCOSUR has Trade Framework Agreements with Morocco and Mexico, and Preferential Trade Agreements with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and India. MERCOSUR is currently pursuing a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union and has initiated free trade discussions with Canada and South Korea. The bloc is also in talks to expand on its agreements with India and SACU.
Argentina has Preferential Trade Agreements with Mexico and Chile that were established before MERCOSUR and thus, grandfathered into Mercosur. Argentina is engaged in ongoing negotiations to expand on these agreements towards freer trade.
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
Argentina does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. In December 2016, Argentina signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the United States, which increases the transparency of commercial transactions between the two countries to aid with combating tax and customs fraud. The Agreement entered into force on November 13, 2017. The United States and Argentina have initiated discussions to sign a Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) inter-governmental agreement.
In 2014, Argentina committed to implementing the OECD single global standard on automatic exchange of financial information. According to media sources, Argentina had been set to make its first financial information exchange in September 2018, but it was postponed to 2019.
Argentina has signed 18 double taxation treaties, including with Germany, Canada, Russia, and the United Kingdom. In November 2016, Argentina and Switzerland signed a bilateral double taxation treaty. In November 2016, Argentina signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which has not yet entered into force. In July 2017, Argentina updated a prior agreement with Brazil, which also has not yet been implemented. Argentina also has customs agreements with numerous countries. A full listing is available at http://www.afip.gov.ar/institucional/acuerdos.asp .
In general, national taxation rules do not discriminate against foreigners or foreign firms (e.g., asset taxes are applied to equity possessed by both domestic and foreign entities). Government tax authorities scrutinize tax declarations of foreign corporations operating in Argentina with the intent of curbing the use of offshore shell corporations to shelter profits and assets from taxation. This has led to tax disputes with foreign-owned firms that have structured their operations in a manner they believe to be consistent with Argentine law, while minimizing total corporate tax obligations to all of the countries in which they operate.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The Macri administration has taken measures to improve public dialogue and government transparency. President Macri created the Ministry of Modernization, tasked with conducting quantitative and qualitative studies of government procedures, and finding solutions to streamline bureaucratic processes and improve transparency.
In September 2016, Argentina enacted a Right to Access Public Information Law (No. 27,275) that mandates all three governmental branches (legislative, judicial, and executive), political parties, universities, and unions that receive public funding are to provide non-classified information at the request of any citizen. The law also created the Agency for the Right to Access Public Information to oversee compliance.
Continuing its efforts to improve transparency, in November 2017, the Ministry of the Treasury launched a new website to communicate how the government spends public funds in a user-friendly format. Subsections of this website are targeted toward policymakers, such as a new page to monitor budget performance (https://www.minhacienda.gob.ar/secretarias/hacienda/metas-fiscales/ ), as well as improving citizens’ understanding of the budget, e.g. the new citizen’s budget “Presupuesto Ciudadano” website (https://www.minhacienda.gob.ar/onp/presupuesto_ciudadano/ ). This program is part of the broader Macri government initiative led by the Ministry of Modernization to build a transparent, active, and innovative state that includes data and information from every area of the public administration. The initiative aligns with the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) and UN Resolution 67/218 on promoting transparency, participation, and accountability in fiscal policy.
During 2017, the government introduced new procurement standards including electronic procurement, formalization of procedures for costing-out projects, and transparent processes to renegotiate debts to suppliers. The government also introduced OECD recommendations on corporate governance for state-owned enterprises to promote transparency and accountability during the procurement process. (The link to the regulation is at http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do?id=306769 .)
Argentine government efforts to improve transparency were recognized internationally. In its December 2017 Article IV consultation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Board noted that “Argentina’s government made important progress in restoring integrity and transparency in public sector operations,” and agreed with the staff appraisal that commended the government for the progress made in the systemic transformation of the Argentine economy, including efforts to rebuild institutions and restore integrity, transparency, and efficiency in government.
On January 10, 2018, the government issued Decree 27 with the aim of curbing bureaucracy and simplifying administrative proceedings to promote the dynamic and effective functioning of public administration. Broadly, the decree seeks to eliminate regulatory barriers and reduce bureaucratic burdens, expedite and simplify processes before the public administration, taking advantage of the benefits of existing technological tools and focusing on transparency.
In the bilateral Commercial Dialogue, Argentina and the United States share best practices to improve the incorporation of public consultation in the regulatory process as well as regulatory coherence. Similarly, through the bilateral Digital Economy Working Group, Argentina and the United States share best practices on a multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance and liberalization of the telecommunications sector.
Legislation can be drafted and proposed by any citizen and is subject to Congressional and Executive approval before being passed into law. Argentine government authorities and a number of quasi-independent regulatory entities can issue regulations and norms within their mandates. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations. Rulemaking has traditionally been a top-down process in Argentina, unlike in the United States where industry organizations often lead in the development of standards and technical regulations.
Ministries, regulatory agencies, and Congress are not obligated to provide a list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals, nor share draft regulations with the public, nor establish a timeline for public comment. They are also not required to conduct impact assessments of the proposed legislations and regulations.
Since 2016, the Office of the President and various ministries sought to increase public consultation in the rulemaking process; however, public consultation is non-binding and has been done in an ad-hoc fashion. Some ministries and agencies have developed their own processes for public consultation, such as publishing the draft on their websites, directly distributing the draft to interested stakeholders for feedback, or holding public hearings.
Once the draft of a bill is introduced into the Argentine Congress, the text can be viewed online at the websites of the chamber where the bill was introduced. The lower chamber’s website is located at http://www.diputados.gov.ar/ , and the senate’s website is at http://www.senado.gov.ar/ .
All final texts of laws, regulations, resolutions, dispositions, and administrative decisions must be published in the Official Gazette (https://www.boletinoficial.gob.ar ), as well as in newspapers and the websites of the Ministries and agencies. These texts can also be accessed through Infoleg (http://www.infoleg.gob.ar/ ), overseen by the Ministry of Justice. Interested stakeholders can pursue judicial review of regulatory decisions.
Argentina requires public companies to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Argentina is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.
International Regulatory Considerations
Argentina is a founding member of MERCOSUR and has been a member of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI for Asociacion Latinoamericana de Integracion) since 1980.
Argentina has been a member of the WTO since 1995, and it ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in January 2018. Argentina notifies technical regulations, but not proposed drafts, to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Argentina voiced its intention to deepen its engagement with the OECD and submitted itself to an OECD regulatory policy review in March 2018. Argentina participates in all 23 OECD committees.
Additionally, the Argentine Institute for Standards and Certifications (IRAM) is a member of international and regional standards bodies including the International Standardization Organization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the Panamerican Commission on Technical Standards (COPAM), the MERCOSUR Association of Standardization (AMN), the International Certification Network (i-Qnet), the System of Conformity Assessment for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components (IECEE), and the Global Good Agricultural Practice network (GLOBALG.A.P.).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
According to the Argentine constitution, the judiciary is a separate and equal branch of government. In practice, there have been instances of political interference in the judicial process. Companies have complained that courts lack transparency and reliability, and that Argentine governments have used the judicial system to pressure the private sector. The Macri administration has publicly expressed its intent to improve transparency and rule of law in the judicial system, and the Justice Minister announced in March 2016 the “Justice 2020” initiative to reform the judiciary.
Argentina follows a Civil Law system. In 2014, the Argentine government passed a new Civil and Commercial Code that has been in effect since August 2015. The Civil and Commercial Code provides regulations for civil and commercial liability, including ownership of real and intangible property claims. The current judicial process is lengthy and suffers from significant backlogs. In the Argentine legal system, appeals may be brought from many rulings of the lower court, including evidentiary decisions, not just final orders, which significantly slows all aspects of the system.
Many foreign investors prefer to rely on private or international arbitration when those options are available. Claims regarding labor practices are processed through a labor court, regulated by Law 18,345 and its subsequent amendments and implementing regulations by Decree No. 106/98. Contracts often include clauses designating specific judicial or arbitral recourse for dispute settlement.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
According to the Foreign Direct Investment Law No. 21,382 and Decree 1853/93, foreign investors may invest in Argentina without prior governmental approval, under the same conditions as investors domiciled within the country. Foreign investors are free to enter into mergers, acquisitions, greenfield investments, or joint ventures. Foreign firms may also participate in publicly-financed research and development programs on a national treatment basis. Incoming foreign currency must be identified by the participating bank to the Central Bank of Argentina (www.bcra.gov.ar ). There is no official executive or other interference in the court that could affect foreign investors.
All foreign and domestic commercial entities in Argentina are regulated by the Commercial Partnerships Law (Law No. 19,550) and the rules issued by the commercial regulatory agencies. Decree 27/2018 amended Law No. 19,550 to simplify bureaucratic procedures. Full text of the decree can be found at (http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/305000-309999/305736/norma.htm ). All other laws and norms concerning commercial entities are established in the Argentina Civil and Commercial Code.
Further information about Argentina’s investment policies can be found at the following websites:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Investor’s Information Service (http://inversiones.gob.ar/atencion-al-inversor)
- The Embassy of the Argentine Republic in the United States of America (http://www.embassyofargentina.us/en/invest-in-argentina.html)
- Ministry of Production (http://www.produccion.gob.ar/ )
- Ministry of Treasury (https://www.argentina.gob.ar/hacienda )
- The Central Bank of the Argentine Republic (http://www.bcra.gov.ar/ )
- The National Securities Exchange Commission ( http://www.cnv.gob.ar// )
- The National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (http://www.produccion.gob.ar/agencia , http://www.investandtrade.org.ar/?lang=en )
- Investors can download Argentina’s investor guide through this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-086VB27JBjN0x0NmM4Y09GODA/view
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The National Commission for the Defense of Competition and the Secretariat of Commerce, both within the Ministry of Production, have enforcement authority of the Competition Law (Law 25,156). The law aims to ensure the general economic interest and promotes a culture of competition in all sectors of the national economy. In April 2018, Argentina’s Senate passed a bill to amend the Competition Law, which is pending approval by the lower chamber of Congress.
Expropriation and Compensation
Section 17 of the Argentine Constitution affirms the right of private property and states that any expropriation must be authorized by law and compensation must be provided. The United States-Argentina BIT states that investments shall not be expropriated or nationalized except for public purposes upon prompt payment of the fair market value in compensation.
Argentina has a history of expropriations under previous administrations, the most recent of which occurred in March 2015 when the Argentine Congress approved the nationalization of the train and railway system. A number of companies that were privatized during the 1990s under the Menem administration were renationalized under the Kirchner administrations. Additionally, in October 2008, Argentina nationalized Argentina’s private pension funds, which amounted to approximately one-third of total GDP, and transferred the funds to the government social security agency.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Argentina is signatory to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which the country ratified in 1989. Argentina is also a party to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention since 1994.
There is neither specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement under the 1958 New York Convention nor legislation for the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention. Companies that seek recourse through Argentine courts may not simultaneously pursue recourse through international arbitration. In practice, the Macri administration has shown a willingness to negotiate settlements to valid arbitral awards.
In March 2012, the United States suspended Argentina’s designation as a Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) beneficiary developing country because it had not acted in good faith in enforcing arbitral awards in favor of United States citizens or a corporation, partnership, or association that is 50 percent or more beneficially owned by United States citizens. Effective January 1, 2018, the United States ended Argentina’s suspension from the GSP program and restored access for GSP duty-free treatment for over 3,000 Argentine products.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The Argentine government officially accepts the principle of international arbitration. The United States-Argentina BIT includes a chapter on Investor-State Dispute Settlement for U.S. investors.
In the past ten years, Argentina has been brought before the ICSID in 23 cases involving U.S. or other foreign investors. Of those, nine remain pending. Argentina currently has five pending arbitral cases filed against it by U.S. investors, including four which have been pending for several years. For more information on the cases brought by U.S. claimants against Argentina, go to: https://icsid.worldbank.org/en/Pages/cases/AdvancedSearch.aspx# .
Local courts cannot enforce arbitral awards issued against the government based on the public policy clause. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
Argentina is a member of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
Argentina is also a party to several bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions for the enforcement and recognition of foreign judgments, which provide requirements for the enforcement of foreign judgments in Argentina, including:
Treaty of International Procedural Law, approved in the South-American Congress of Private International Law held in Montevideo in 1898, ratified by Argentina by law No. 3,192.
Treaty of International Procedural Law, approved in the South-American Congress of Private International Law held in Montevideo in 1939-1940, ratified by Dec. Ley 7771/56 (1956).
Panamá Convention of 1975, CIDIP I: Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, adopted within the Private International Law Conferences – Organization of American States, ratified by law No. 24,322 (1995).
Montevideo Convention of 1979, CIDIP II: Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards, adopted within the Private International Law Conferences – Organization of American States, ratified by law No. 22,921 (1983).
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms can be stipulated in contracts. Argentina also has ADR mechanisms available such as the Center for Mediation and Arbitrage (CEMARC) of the Argentine Chamber of Trade. More information can be found at: http://www.intracen.org/Centro-de-Mediacion-y-Arbitraje-Comercial-de-la-Camara-Argentina-de-Comercio—CEMARC–/#sthash.RagZdv0l.dpuf .
Argentina does not have a specific law governing arbitration, but it has adopted a mediation law (Law No. 24.573/1995), which makes mediation mandatory prior to litigation. Some arbitration provisions are scattered throughout the Civil Code, the National Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, the Commercial Code, and three other laws. The following methods of concluding an arbitration agreement are non-binding under Argentine law: electronic communication, fax, oral agreement, and conduct on the part of one party. Generally, all commercial matters are subject to arbitration. There are no legal restrictions on the identity and professional qualifications of arbitrators. Parties must be represented in arbitration proceedings in Argentina by attorneys who are licensed to practice locally. The grounds for annulment of arbitration awards are limited to substantial procedural violations, an ultra petita award (award outside the scope of the arbitration agreement), an award rendered after the agreed-upon time limit, and a public order violation that is not yet settled by jurisprudence when related to the merits of the award. On average, it takes around 21 weeks to enforce an arbitration award rendered in Argentina, from filing an application to a writ of execution attaching assets (assuming there is no appeal). It takes roughly 18 weeks to enforce a foreign award. The requirements for the enforcement of foreign judgments are set out in section 517 of the National Procedural Code.
No information is available as to whether the domestic courts frequently rule in cases in favor of state-owned enterprises (SOE) when SOEs are party to a dispute.
Argentina’s bankruptcy law was codified in 1995 in Law 24,522. The full text can be found at: http://www.infoleg.gov.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/25000-29999/25379/texact.htm . Under the law, debtors are generally able to begin insolvency proceedings when they are no longer able to pay their debts as they mature. Debtors may file for both liquidation and reorganization. Creditors may file for insolvency of the debtor for liquidation only. The insolvency framework does not require approval by the creditors for the selection or appointment of the insolvency representative or for the sale of substantial assets of the debtor. The insolvency framework does not provide rights to the creditor to request information from the insolvency representative but the creditor has the right to object to decisions by the debtor to accept or reject creditors’ claims. Bankruptcy is not criminalized; however, convictions for fraudulent bankruptcy can carry two to six years of prison time.
Financial institutions regulated by the Central Bank of Argentina (BCRA) publish monthly outstanding credit balances of their debtors; the BCRA and the Central de Deudores (debtors’ center) compile and publish this information. The database is available for use of financial institutions that comply with legal requirements concerning protection of personal data. The credit monitoring system only includes negative information, and the information remains on file through the person’s life. At least one local NGO that makes microcredit loans is working to make the payment history of these loans publically accessible for the purpose of demonstrating credit history, including positive information, for those without access to bank accounts and who are outside of the Central Bank’s system. Equifax, which operates under the local name “Veraz” (or “truthfully”), also provides credit information to financial institutions and other clients, such as telecommunications service providers and other retailers that operate monthly billing or credit/layaway programs.
The World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business Report ranked Argentina 101 among 189 countries for the effectiveness of its insolvency law. This is a jump of 15 places from its ranking of 116 in 2017. The report notes that it takes an average of 2.4 years and 16.5 percent of the estate to resolve bankruptcy in Argentina.
4. Industrial Policies
Government incentives do not make any distinction between foreign and domestic investors.
The Argentine government offers a number of investment promotion programs at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels to attract investment to specific economic sectors such as capital assets and infrastructure, innovation and technological development, and energy, with no discrimination between national or foreign-owned enterprises. They also offer incentives to encourage the productive development of specific geographical areas. The Investment and International Trade Promotion Agency provides cost-free assessment and information to investors to facilitate operations in the country. Argentina’s investment promotion programs and regimes can be found at http://www.investandtrade.org.ar/?lang=en , http://www.produccion.gob.ar , and http://www.economia.gob.ar .
The National Fund for the Development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises provides low cost credit to small and medium-sized enterprises for investment projects, labor, capital, and energy efficiency improvement with no distinction between national or foreign-owned enterprises. More information can be found at https://www.argentina.gob.ar/produccion .
The Ministry of Production supports numerous employment training programs that are frequently free to the participants and do not differentiate based on nationality.
Some of the investment promotion programs require investments within a specific region or locality, industry, or economic activity. Some programs offer refunds on Value-Added Tax (VAT) or other tax incentives for local production of capital goods.
For programs for specific provinces, see:
- Tierra del Fuego: http://www4.tierradelfuego.gov.ar/
- Santa Cruz: http://www.santacruz.gov.ar/portal/
- Neuquen: http://w2.neuquen.gov.ar/
- Mendoza: http://www.promendoza.com/
- San Luis: http://www.sanluis.gov.ar/
- La Pampa: http://www.lapampa.gov.ar/
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Argentina has two types of tax-exempt trading areas: Free Trade Zones (FTZ), which are found throughout the country, and the more comprehensive Special Customs Area (SCA), which covers all of Tierra del Fuego Province and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2023.
Argentine law defines an FTZ as a territory outside the “general customs area” (GCA, i.e., the rest of Argentina) where neither the inflows nor outflows of exported final merchandise are subject to tariffs, non-tariff barriers, or other taxes on goods. Goods produced within a FTZ generally cannot be shipped to the GCA unless they are capital goods not produced in the rest of the country. The labor, sanitary, ecological, safety, criminal, and financial regulations within FTZs are the same as those that prevail in the GCA. Foreign firms receive national treatment in FTZs.
Merchandise shipped from the GCA to a FTZ may receive export incentive benefits, if applicable, only after the goods are exported from the FTZ to a third country destination. Merchandise shipped from the GCA to a FTZ and later exported to another country is not exempt from export taxes. Any value added in an FTZ or re-export from an FTZ is exempt from export taxes.
Products manufactured in an SCA may enter the GCA free from taxes or tariffs. In addition, the government may enact special regulations that exempt products shipped through an SCA (but not manufactured therein) from all forms of taxation except excise taxes. The SCA program provides benefits for established companies that meet specific production and employment objectives.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Employment and Investor Requirements
Argentina does not mandate local employment mandates nor does it apply such schemes to senior management and boards of directors. There are no excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees. Under Argentine Law, conditions to invest are equal for national and foreign investors. As of March 2018, citizens of MERCOSUR countries can obtain legal residence, which grants permission to work, within five months and at little cost. Argentina suspended its method for expediting this process in early 2018.
Goods, Technology, and Data Treatment
Argentina has local content requirements for specific sectors. Requirements are applicable to domestic and foreign investors equally. Argentine law establishes a national preference for local industry for most government procurement. The amount by which the domestic bid may exceed a foreign bid depends on the size of the domestic company making the bid. In April 2018, Congress passed law 27,437 giving additional priority to Argentine small and medium-sized enterprises and requiring that foreign companies that win a tender must subcontract domestic companies to cover 20 percent of the value of the work. The law can be viewed at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/310000-314999/310020/norma.htm . The preference applies to procurement by all government agencies, public utilities, and concessionaires. There is similar legislation at the sub-national (provincial) level.
Argentina maintains certain measures aimed at encouraging domestic production.
In November 2016, the government passed a private-public partnership law (No. 27,328) that regulates public-private investments. The law lowers regulatory barriers to foreign investment in public infrastructure projects with the aim of attracting more foreign direct investment; however, the law contains a “Buy Argentina” clause that mandates at least 33 percent local content for every public project.
The Argentine government provides tax benefits for companies that use at least 60 percent (or 30 percent in some cases) local content in electric power generation projects based on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, via Resolutions 123/2016 and 313/2016. Argentine law (Law No. 27,263) provides tax incentives to automobile manufacturers for the purchase of locally-produced auto parts and accessories for use in auto production.
The Media Law, enacted in 2009 and amended in 2015, requires companies to produce advertising and publicity materials locally or to include 60 percent local content. The Media Law also establishes a 70 percent local production content requirement for companies with radio licenses. Additionally, the Media Law requires that 50 percent of the news and 30 percent of the music that is broadcast on the radio be of Argentine origin. In the case of private television operators, at least 60 percent of broadcast content must be of Argentine origin. Of that 60 percent, 30 percent must be local news and 10 to 30 percent must be local independent content.
In November 2015, the government issued Resolution 1219, which went into effect in May 2016, requiring mobile and cellular radio communication equipment manufacturers operating in Tierra del Fuego to incorporate certain percentages of local content into their production processes and products, including batteries, screws, chargers, technical manuals, and packaging and labelling. The percentage of local content required ranges from 10 to 100 percent depending on the process or item. For a detailed description of local content percentage requirements, see: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/255000-259999/255494/norma.htm . In cases where local supply is insufficient to meet local content requirements, companies may apply for an exemption.
There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption, nor does the government prevent companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country’s territory.
Argentina does not have forced localization of content in technology or requirements of data storage in country.
Investment Performance Requirements
There is no discrimination between domestic and foreign investors in investment incentives. There are no performance requirements. A complete guide of incentives for investors in Argentina can be found at: http://www.inversionycomercio.org.ar/invest_argentina.php .
5. Protection of Property Rights
Secured interests in property, including mortgages, are recognized 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 estate ownership (Registro de la Propiedad Inmueble) at http://www.dnrpi.jus.gov.ar/ . No data is available on the percent of all land that does not have clear title. 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.
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.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s 2018 Special 301 Report identified Argentina on the Priority Watch List. Trading partners on the Priority Watch List present the most significant concerns regarding inadequate or ineffective IP protection or enforcement or actions that otherwise limit market access for persons relying on IP protection. For a complete version of the Report, see: https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2018/april/ustr-releases-2018-special-301-report .
Argentina continues to present longstanding and well-known challenges to IP-intensive industries that rely on IP protection and enforcement, including from the United States. For example, a key deficiency in Argentina’s legal framework for patents is the unduly broad limitations on patent eligible subject matter. Such measures have interfered with the ability of companies investing in Argentina to protect their IP and may be inconsistent with international norms. Argentina is in the process of legislative reforms on patents, which if passed, would improve patent process times and simplify patent procedures.
Enforcement of IP rights in Argentina continues to be a challenge with IPR stakeholders reporting widespread unfair competition from sellers of counterfeit and pirated goods and services. Argentine customs and law enforcement officials do not take enough ex officioactions to seize and destroy counterfeit and pirated goods. Prosecutions may languish in excessive formalities, and, when an investigation reaches final judgment, criminal infringers rarely receive sentences that deter recidivists or other potential infringers.
Over the last year, Argentina continued the positive trajectory noted in the 2017 Special 301 Report to improve IP protection and enforcement including multi-agency law enforcement operations, procedural enhancements for patent protection, legislative initiatives, and the creation of bilateral engagement mechanisms. Most significantly, Argentina took decisive action in 2017 against operators of the notorious market La Salada, bringing criminal prosecution against its owners, and, at least temporarily, shutting down many of La Salada’s counterfeit goods sellers. Over the past year, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) continued to take steps to reduce the lengthy patent examination backlog. In July 2017, Argentina and the United States met under the bilateral Innovation and Creativity Forum for Economic Development, part of the U.S.-Argentina Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, to continue discussions and collaboration on IP topics of mutual interest. One outcome of this IP Forum in 2017, involved Argentina joining the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), a USPTO 3-year pilot program with PROSUR, which provides that patent authorities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay recognize and accept patent examination by partner patent offices, thus eliminating patent examination for patents already granted by partner patent offices which can reduce years-long examination backlogs and speed up patent processing.
For statistics on illegal sales in Argentina, go to the following link: http://redcame.org.ar/seccion/relevamiento-venta-ilegal .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Macri administration enacted a series of macroeconomic reforms (unifying the exchange rate, settling with holdout creditors, annulling most of the trade restrictions, lifting capital controls, to mention a few) to improve the investment climate. In May 2018, the Congress approved a new capital markets law aimed at boosting economic growth through the development and deepening of the local capital market. Argentina also signed several bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding with other countries aimed to increase inward foreign direct investment.
The Argentine Securities and Exchange Commission (CNV or Comision Nacional de Valores) is the federal agency that regulates securities markets offerings. Securities and accounting standards are transparent and consistent with international norms. Foreign investors have access to a variety of options on the local market to obtain credit.
The Buenos Aires Stock Exchange is the organization responsible for the operation of Argentina’s primary stock exchange, located in Buenos Aires City. The most important index of the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange is the MERVAL (Mercado de Valores).
U.S. banks, securities firms, and investment funds are well-represented in Argentina and are dynamic players in local capital markets. In 2003, the government began requiring foreign banks to disclose to the public the nature and extent to which their foreign parent banks guarantee their branches or subsidiaries in Argentina. The Congress approved in May 2018 a new capital markets law that will remove over-reaching regulatory intervention provisions introduced by the previous government and ease restrictions on mutual funds and foreign portfolio investment in domestic markets.
Money and Banking System
Argentina has a relatively sound banking sector based on diversified revenues, well-contained operating costs, and a high liquidity level. The main challenge for banks is to rebuild long-term assets and liabilities. In 2017, the quantity of money available as credit to the private sector increased 22 percent in real terms, achieving the largest increase in the last 16 years. As a result, the stock of credit to the private sector (for both corporations and individuals) reached 14 percent of GDP. BCRA regulatory changes revised the permitted calculations of interest rates in home loans in 2016; as a result, in 2017, the mortgage credit market had a stellar performance by growing 118 percent in real terms. The largest bank is the Banco de la Nacion Argentina. Non-performing private sector loans constitute less than two percent of banks’ portfolios. The ten largest private banks have total assets of approximately ARS 1,656 billion (USD 66 billion). Total financial system assets are approximately ARS 3,468 billion (USD 138 billion). The Central Bank of Argentina acts as the country’s financial agent and is the main regulatory body for the banking system.
Foreign banks and branches are allowed to establish operations in Argentina. They are subject to the same regulation as local banks. Argentina’s Central Bank has many correspondent banking relationships, none of which are known to have been lost in the past three years.
The Central Bank has enacted a resolution recognizing cryptocurrencies and requiring that they comply with local banking and tax laws. No implementing regulations have been adopted. Blockchain developers report that several companies in the financial services sector are exploring or considering using blockchain-based programs externally and are using some such programs internally. One Argentine NGO, through funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is developing blockchain-based banking applications to assist very low income populations.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Foreign Exchange Policies
President Macri issued a number of regulations that lifted all capital controls and reduced trade restrictions. In November 2017, the government repealed the obligation to convert hard currency earnings on exports of both goods and services to pesos in the local foreign exchange market.
Per Resolution 36,162 of October 2011, locally registered insurance companies are mandated to maintain all investments and cash equivalents in the country. In November 2017, the Argentine insurance regulator issued Resolution 41057-E/2017, amending the investment regime for insurance companies. The Resolution prohibits insurance companies from purchasing (directly or indirectly through mutual funds) short-term Central Bank debt instruments (locally known as Lebac) for their investment portfolios.
The Argentine Central Bank limits banks’ dollar-denominated asset holdings to 10 percent of their net worth.
Since December 2015, Argentina has a managed floating exchange rate regime in which the Central Bank may intervene to reduce volatility in the domestic foreign exchange market, which generally is determined by demand and supply.
According to Resolutions No. 3,819/2015 and 1/2017, companies and investors have no official restrictions on money conversion, remittances, or repatriation of their earnings.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The Argentine Government does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
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 SOEs, 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. Laws regulating state-owned enterprises and enterprises with state participation can be found at http://www.saij.gob.ar/13653-nacional-regimen-empresas-estado-lns0001871-1955-03-23/123456789-0abc-defg-g17-81000scanyel .
Through the government’s social security agency (ANSES), the Argentine government owns stakes ranging from one 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. 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 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.
The OECD released a report May 2 evaluating the corporate governance framework for the Argentine SOE sector relative to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs, which can be viewed here: http://www.oecd.org/countries/argentina/oecd-review-corporate-governance-soe-argentina.htm .
The current administration has not developed a privatization program.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is an increasing awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and responsible business conduct (RBC) among both producers and consumers in Argentina. RBC and CSR practices are welcomed by beneficiary communities throughout Argentina. There are many institutes that promote RBC and CSR in Argentina, the most prominent being the Argentine Institute for Business Social Responsibility (http://www.iarse.org/ ), which has been working in the country for more than 15 years and includes among its members many of the most important companies in Argentina.
Argentina is a member of the United Nation’s Global Compact. Established in April 2004, the Global Compact Network Argentina is a business-led network with a multi-stakeholder governing body elected for two-year terms by active participants. The network is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Argentina in close collaboration with other UN Agencies. The Global Compact Network Argentina is the most important RBC/CSR initiative in the country with a presence in more than 20 provinces. More information on the initiative can be found at: http://pactoglobal.org.ar .
Foreign and local enterprises tend to follow generally accepted CSR/RBC principles. Argentina subscribed to the Declaration on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in April 1997.
Many provinces, such as Mendoza and Neuquen, have or are in the process of enacting a provincial CSR/RBC law. There have been many previously unsuccessful attempts to pass a CSR/RBC Law. Distrust over the State’s role in private companies had been the main concern for legislators opposed to these bills.
The Argentine government has taken steps to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). On December 6, 2017, Minister of Energy and Mining Juan José Aranguren and the head of Argentina’s Anti-Corruption Office Laura Alonso declared Argentina’s commitment to adhere to the EITI International Standard.
Argentina’s legal system incorporates several measures to address public sector corruption. The government institutions tasked with combatting corruption include the Anti-Corruption Office (ACO), the National Auditor General, and the General Comptroller’s Office. Public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws, and the Ministry of Justice’s ACO is responsible for analyzing and investigating federal executive branch officials based on their financial disclosure forms. The ACO is also responsible for investigating corruption within the federal executive branch or in matters involving federal funds, except for funds transferred to the provinces. While the ACO does not have authority to independently prosecute cases, it can refer cases to other agencies or serve as the plaintiff and request a judge to initiate a case.
Argentina enacted a new Corporate Criminal Liability Law in November 2017 following the advice of the OECD to comply with its Anti-Bribery Convention. The full text of Law 27,401 can be found at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/295000-299999/296846/norma.htm . The new law entered into force in early 2018. It extends anti-bribery criminal sanctions to corporations, whereas previously they only applied to individuals; expands the definition of prohibited conduct, including illegal enrichment of public officials; and allows Argentina to hold Argentines responsible for foreign bribery. Sanctions include fines and blacklisting from public contracts. Argentina also enacted an express prohibition on the tax deductibility of bribes.
Corruption has been an issue in Argentina. In its March 2017 report, the OECD expressed concern about Argentina’s enforcement of foreign bribery laws, inefficiencies in the judicial system, politicization and perceived lack of independence at the Attorney General’s Office, and lack of training and awareness for judges and prosecutors. According to the World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators, corruption remains an area of concern in Argentina. In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks countries and territories by their perceived levels of corruption, Argentina ranked 85 out of 176 countries in 2017, an improvement of 10 places versus 2016. Allegations of corruption in provincial as well as federal courts remained frequent. Few Argentine companies have implemented anti-foreign bribery measures beyond limited codes of ethics.
Since assuming office, President Macri made combating corruption and improving government transparency a priority objective for his administration. In September 2016, Congress passed a law on public access to information. The law explicitly applies to all three branches of the federal government, the public justice offices, and entities such as businesses, political parties, universities, and trade associations that receive public funding. It requires these institutions to respond to citizen requests for public information within 15 days, with an additional 15-day extension available for “exceptional” circumstances. Sanctions apply for noncompliance. The law also mandates the creation of the Agency for Access to Public Information, an autonomous office within the executive branch. President Macri also proposed a series of criminal justice and administrative reforms. Chief among these are measures to speed the recovery of assets acquired through corruption, plea-bargaining-type incentives to encourage judicial cooperation, and greater financial disclosure for public servants. In early 2016, the Argentine government reaffirmed its commitment to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), became a founding member of the Global Anti-Corruption Coalition, and reengaged the OECD Working Group on Bribery.
Argentina is a party to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Convention against Corruption. It ratified in 2001 the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (Anti-Bribery Convention). Argentina also signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and participates in UNCAC’s Conference of State Parties. Argentina also participates in the Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC).
Since Argentina became a Party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, 13 allegations of Argentine individuals or companies bribing foreign officials have surfaced. Argentine authorities investigated and closed three of the allegations, and declined to investigate one of them. The authorities determined one allegation did not involve foreign bribery, but rather other offenses. The eight remaining allegations were under investigation.
Resources to Report Corruption
Oficina Anticorrupcion, Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Codigo Postal (C 1049 AAH)
Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires,
Poder Ciudadano (Local Transparency International Affiliate)
Phone: +54 11 4331 4925 ext 225
Fax: +54 11 4331 4925
10. Political and Security Environment
Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and in other major cities and rural areas. Political violence is not widely considered a hindrance to the investment climate in Argentina.
Protesters on occasion block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. Public demonstrations, strikes, and street blocking barricades increased in 2017 in response to economic and political issues. While demonstrations are usually non-violent, individuals sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy or U.S.-affiliated businesses. In February 2016, the Ministry of Security approved a National Anti-Street Pickets Protocol that provides guidelines to prevent the blockage of major streets and public facilities during demonstrations.
In December 2017, while Congress had called an extraordinary session to address the retirement system reforms, several demonstrations against the bill turned violent, causing structural damage to public and private property, injuries to 162 people (including 88 policemen), and arrests of 60 people. The demonstrations ultimately dissipated, and the government passed the bill.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Argentine workers are among the most highly-educated and -skilled in Latin America. Foreign investors often cite Argentina’s skilled workforce as a key factor in their decision to invest in Argentina. Argentina has relatively high social security, health, and other labor taxes, however, and high labor costs are among foreign investors’ most often cited operational challenges. The unemployment rate was 8.7 percent in the third quarter of 2017, according to official statistics. The government estimated unemployment for workers below 29 years old as roughly double the national rate. Analysts estimate one-third of Argentina’s salaried workforce was employed informally. Though difficult to measure, analysts believe including self-employed informal workers in the estimate would drive the overall rate of informality to 40 percent of the labor force.
Labor laws are comparatively protective of workers in Argentina, and investors cite labor-related litigation as an important factor increasing labor costs in Argentina. There are no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in the Foreign Trade Zones. Organized labor plays an important role in labor-management relations and in Argentine politics. Under Argentine law, the Ministry of Labor recognizes one union per sector per geographic unit (e.g., nationwide, a single province, or a major city) with the right to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for that sector and geographic area. Roughly 40 percent of Argentina’s formal workforce is unionized. The Ministry of Labor ratifies collective bargaining agreements. Collective bargaining agreements cover workers in a given sector and geographic area whether they are union members or not, so roughly 70 percent of the workforce was covered by an agreement. While negotiations between unions and industry are generally independent, the Ministry of Labor often serves as a mediator. Argentine law also offers recourse to mediation and arbitration of labor disputes.
Tensions between management and unions occur. Many managers of foreign companies say they have good relations with their unions. Others say the challenges posed by strong unions can hinder further investment by their international headquarters. Depending on how sectors are defined, some activities such as oil and gas production or aviation involve multiple unions, which can lead to inter-union power disputes that can impede the companies’ operations.
During 2017, the government helped employers and workers agree on adjustments to collective bargaining agreements covering private sector oil and gas sector workers in Neuquén Province for unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and production. The changes were aimed at reducing certain labor costs and incentivizing greater productivity. Employers and unions reached similar agreements in the construction and automotive sectors. The government intends to adapt such agreements to other sectors, while it seeks to advance broader labor reforms through new legislation.
The government presented to the congress in November 2017 a labor reform bill, including four broad thrusts: (1) a labor amnesty that would aim to reduce informality by encouraging employers to declare their off-the-books workers to the authorities without penalties or fines; (2) a National Institute of Worker Education to develop policies and programs aimed at workers’ skills development, as well as a system of workplace-based educational programs specifically for secondary, technical, and university students; (3) a technical commission to limit costs for union healthcare programs by evaluating drugs and medical treatments to determine which ones the union plans must cover; and (4) modifications to the labor contract law to reduce employers’ costs, incentivize hiring, and improve competitiveness. Union resistance to the fourth area led the government to divide the bill into three separate proposals covering the first three reform areas, respectively, and to resubmit the new bills to the congress in May 2018. The three labor reform bills remained pending before congress as of May 2018.
Labor-related demonstrations in Argentina occurred periodically in 2017. Reasons for strikes include job losses, high taxes, loss of purchasing power, and wage negotiations. Labor demonstrations may involve tens of thousands of protestors. Recent demonstrations have essentially closed sections of the city for a few hours or days at a time. Demonstrations by airline employees caused significant flight delays or cancellations in recent months as well.
The Labor Ministry has hotlines and an online website to report labor abuses, including child labor, forced labor, and labor trafficking. The Superintendent of Labor Risk (Superintendencia de Riesgos del Trabajo) has oversight of health and safety standards. Unions also play a key role in monitoring labor conditions, reporting abuses and filing complaints with the authorities. Argentina has a Service of Mandatory Labor Conciliation (SECLO), which falls within the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security. Provincial governments and the city government of Buenos Aires are also responsible for labor law enforcement.
The minimum age for employment is 16. Children between the ages of 16 and 18 may work in a limited number of job categories and for limited hours if they have completed compulsory schooling, which normally ends at age 18. The law requires employers to provide adequate care for workers’ children during work hours to discourage child labor. The Department of Labor’s 2016 Worst Form of Child Labor for Argentina can be accessed here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/argentina .
The Department of State’s 2017 Human Rights Report for Argentina can be accessed here: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2017&dlid=277303.
Argentine Law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinion, union affiliation, or age. The law also prohibits employers, either during recruitment or time of employment, from asking about a worker’s political, religious, labor, and cultural views or sexual orientation. These national anti-discrimination laws also apply to labor relations and other social relations.
Argentina has been a member of the International Labor Organization since 1919.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
The Argentine government signed a comprehensive agreement with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in 1989. The agreement allows OPIC to insure U.S. investments against risks resulting from expropriation, inconvertibility, war or other conflicts affecting public order. OPIC is open for business in all Latin American and Caribbean countries except Venezuela and Cuba. Argentina is also a member of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
|Host Country Statistical Source||USG or International Statistical Source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD)||2016||USD 545,088||2016||USD 545,476||www.worldbank.org/en/country
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical Source||USG or International Statistical Source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2016||USD 16,993||2016||USD 13,721||BEA data available at
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||2016||N/A||2016||USD 823||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||2016||3.1%||2016||2.54%||N/A|
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||Amount||100%||Total Outward||Amount||100%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
No information from the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) for Outward Direct Investment is available for Argentina. According to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2017, the stock of FDI in Argentina at the end of 2016 was estimated at USD 88 billion. Total FDI inflows in 2016 were estimated at USD 5.7 billion, half the amount of 2015. According to UNCTAD’s report, recently adopted policy measures explain the drop. Outward FDI flows amounted to USD 887 million.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires
Avenida Colombia 4300
Buenos Aires, Argentina