Trade body predicts figure will jump to US$18 billion
Speaking less than a day before Air Force One touches down on Argentine soil, leaders from the United States Chamber of Commerce in Argentina (AmCham) predicted yesterday that the historic visit by United States President Barack Obama to the country will deliver a key political message and serve as a catalyst for business sectors in both countries.
The trade body stressed yesterday that Obama’s presence in the country will likely help to “sell” business opportunities to companies eyeing Argentina across the world, following government-sponsored pro-market reform, which AmCham believes will in turn boost private investment in the country dramatically.
According to AmCham officials, investments from US firms in Argentina over the next few years could rise to as much as US$18 billion a year — similar levels to those seen in Peru or Colombia — and a near three-fold increase from current levels, estimated to be between US$4-7 billion a year.
The Pink House commented along those lines yesterday, failing to provide figures but sounding an optimistic note as they talked up Obama’s visit.
“This is a sign of openness and trust — especially for the private sector from (Obama’s) country of origin,” Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said during a press conference at the San Martín Palace in the Retiro neighbourhood of Buenos Aires City.
“I think the gesture of him coming to Argentina is very important because it proves that the United States administration is interested in making the (Mauricio) Macri government a priority,” the Foreign minister added.
Though Malcorra denied reports that Macri will push for the signing of a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Argentina and the US, she did not rule out the possibility of such an event happening in the long term.
“Talks of a free-trade deal with the United States have never been on the table,” the official said, dismissing growing rumours that such a pact is the ultimate aim of the visit.
“Dialogue over these issues must necessarily go through the Mercosur trade bloc,” she added, referencing the regional body that would have to approve any deal.
The foreign minister’s remarks came as an estimated 100 US companies prepare for a massive conference at the La Rural exhibition centre in Palermo tomorrow, where is is anticipated that the US president will make his first official public appeareance of his two-day trip to Argentina.
La Rural visit
“We expect a great political gesture by the United States president. The message is that (the US) wants to a build new relationship with Argentina, a relationship of friendship and cooperation that will offer lots of benefits,” Macri’s Cabinet chief Marcos Peña told reporters yesterday.
Obama’s visit, Peña said, will help “open and expand new markets” for Argentine products — a move the government hopes will help the country compensate for the recent plunge in trade with Brazil, with the neighbouring country currently gripped by a severe political and economic crisis.
US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is in charge of lining up the entourage for the key meeting at La Rural, which will kick off tomorrow morning. Last-minute confirmations and other complications remain, sources revealed, a result of the fact that this type of large-scale business summit — which is usually organized over say, three months — has had to be put together in less than three weeks.
Some names and firms have been confirmed however — among those speaking at the Palermo event will be: Andrés Gluski, the president and CEO of energy giant AES; Juan Luciano, ADM chairman and CEO; and Howard Ungerleider, the CFO at Dow.
According to the organizers, a total of 1,050 business leaders will attend a series of panel discussions, speeches and networking events — each paying US$800 for the privilege.
New investments announced ahead of visit
Trailing the event and the US president’s arrival in Argentina, a number of investments have been announced in recent days, highlighting the excitement of the business community.
Yesterday, the world’s number one manufacturer of household products, Procter & Gamble (P&G), announced it would spend US$50 million locally over the 2016-2017 period.
“Investments include the expansion of the production capacity of local operations and the incorporation of state-of-the-art technology,” the firm said in a press release.
Recent other announcements by US companies already present in the country include Chevron’s US$2.5-billion investment into the Vaca Muerta shale formation in Neuquén province and a further US$750 million which will be injected by General Motors into its automaking plant in Rosario.
In recent weeks, Ford’s also revealed that it’s set to spend US$220 million to upgrade the key General Pacheco plant in Greater Buenos Aires that provides many jobs.
The investments and growing enthusiam in the business community for the US president’s visit is also starting to be reflected among general citizens.
A recent opinion poll by the Poliarquía consultancy firm found that 53 percent of Argentines see Obama’s visit as “positive,” while 44 percent of those polled said they believed the two-day trip will be beneficial for the country and its future.
The poll, which quizzed 1,472 citizens, revealed that only 20 percent of citizens are “indifferent” about the visit by the US leader, with just under a quarter — 24 percent — opposing his trip to the country, which will take in Buenos Aires and Bariloche.
Date: March 22, 2016