Since 1990, the United States has remained among the top four destinations for Argentine exports. Currently, it represents 8.9% of total exports (3,527.14 million in US$ FOB1) and 13% of Argentine imports (6,295.08 million in US$ CIF2). In the last 20 years, exports increased by 128.78% in FOB amount, going from US$2,891.97 million in 2002 to US$6,616.34 million in 2022; and imports increased by 473.86% in CIF amount, being US$1,788.54 million in 2002 and US$10,263.73 million in 2022.
The goods traded between both countries are very diverse. From January to mid-September 2023, US exports to Argentina mainly included mineral fuels and derivatives, organic and inorganic chemicals, pharmaceutical products, fertilizers and plastics, among others, for a total of US$6,295 million CIF. On the other hand, Argentine imports from United States include mineral fuels and derivatives, precious or semi-precious metals and stones, aluminum and its manufactures, wine and grape must, natural honey, beef, inorganic chemicals, and animals or vegetable fats and oils, among others, for a total of US$ 3,523 million FOB.
The Argentinian opportunity
Although the trade balance is negative since 2006, exchange has increased. Various national industries and regional economies could find a market in the northern hemisphere, especially in the United States.
The growing fruit industry is a very clear example. The excellence in Argentine fruit production and the possibility of entering the market with out-of-season products led Argentina to consolidate itself as the third country with the most fruit shipments to the United States, reaching 50 thousand tons in 2021.
“For example, in the case of cherries, the US has positioned itself as the main buyer,” highlights Julia Adano, Lead Tax Partner and agribusiness spokesperson at Grant Thornton Argentina. Julia comments that since 1983, Argentina has signed a “pre-shipment program at port of origin, for shipments sent from fruit fly-free areas. Through this agreement, phytosanitary certification for export is possible and the entry into North America of plums, peaches, nectarines or pelons, apples, cherries and pears is facilitated”.
Other fruits that may soon make their way into North America are sweet citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines and grapefruits), which would join lemons in the US citrus market when the agricultural authorities of this country approve it.
Currently, US authorities are negotiating a series of agreements to access critical minerals on the path to sustainability such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite. Due to them, investment -from both the public and private sectors in Argentina- will be promoted in projects that adhere to the highest environmental, social and governance standards.
“It is estimated that by 2050, the US will need six times more lithium to meet its demand and its clean energy goals,” says Arnaldo Hasenclever, Partner and Director of the International Business Centre at Grant Thornton Argentina, “and the Argentine lithium industry is shaping up to lead the supply chain thanks to the work that it’s being done in the provinces of the Puna region in terms of exploration and prospecting”. For this to happen, greater investment in direct extraction methods for research and improvement of production will be required.
In the first quarter of 2023, the gross passive position3 of foreign direct investment in resident companies of the mining sector in Argentina was US$29,872 million. This means a big boost for the local industry.
Both countries have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) in force since 1994, which favours investment and allows the United States to position itself as the main source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in our country, with a participation of 20% of the total FDI stock in Argentina.
“The gross passive position of the United States in the country is US$25,684 million as of March 31 of this year, of which US$16,560 million correspond to equity participations”, indicates Fernando Fucci, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton Argentina and representative of the Firm in the US Chamber of Commerce in Argentina - Amcham. The domestic industries with higher US investment are agriculture, manufacturing, oil and gas, communications, technology, and financial services.
For example, the total gross passive position in deposit-taking companies (excluding the Central Bank) is US$8,968 million as of March 31st of this year. This sector includes commercial banks, other banks and financial companies that accept deposits or issue close substitutes for deposits, savings banks, money order institutions, postal banks and money order banks.
“Argentine Fintech companies could benefit greatly from the North American investment,” concludes Fucci. “This industry is constantly growing and has leading companies in the regional market that pave the way for startups to scale faster. Investment in them would allow the economy to function better by promoting the financial inclusion of the population and generating quality employment".
1. FOB (Free on Board): is a sales clause that considers the value of the merchandise placed on board a vessel for shipment in the country of origin, excluding insurance and freight. It covers the cost of the merchandise in the country of origin, transport of the goods and export duties.
2. CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight): refers to the real value of the goods during customs clearance. It is the sales value and includes the cost of the merchandise, transportation and marine insurance.
3. Gross liability position: Sum of equity and debt from foreign direct investments.