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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Full country name: Argentine Republic
Area: 1.08 million sq miles (second largest country in South America after Brazil)
Population: 40.3 million (2009 WHO), 1.5 million currently overseas
Life expectancy: 72 years (male); 79 years (female)
Capital city: Buenos Aires (population 3.04 million; approx. 12 million live in the greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area)
People: Most Argentines are of European origin, especially Spanish and Italian. Substantial numbers also came from France, Poland, Russia and Germany. The Jewish community is the seventh largest in the world outside Israel. There are also more than 1 million people of Arab descent. Around 1% of the population are indigenous people living mainly in the north and west.
Language: The official language is Spanish.
Religion(s): Roman Catholic (90%); Protestant (2%); others include Judaism and Islam.
Currency: Peso
Major Political parties: Frente para la Victoria, Partido Justicialista (Peronist Party)Union Popular (Dissident Peronist Party) Union Cívica Radical (UCR);; Propuesta Republicana, PRO; Alternativa por una Republica de Iguales (ARI); Coalición Cívica; Frente Amplia Progresista (Socialist). .;
Government: Argentina is a constitutional republic. The President is directly elected for a 4-year term, which can be renewed once. The legislature consists of a bicameral National Congress, made up of an Upper House Senate (72 members, 3 for each province) and a Lower House Chamber of Deputies (257 deputies).
Head of State: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (since 10 December 2007).
Foreign Minister: Héctor Timerman

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ECONOMY

Throughout the 1990s, the Argentine Government pursued a policy of trade liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation. The peso was pegged one-to-one with the US Dollar ('convertibility'), which helped bring inflation down from the high levels of the 1980s. For much of the decade, Argentina enjoyed growth with low inflation. But fundamental rigidities and fiscal imbalances were not tackled, external economic conditions worsened, and in 1998 Argentina entered a recession which, despite an IMF-led rescue package in 2001 worth almost US$40 billion, culminated in a collapse at the end of that year. Strict controls on bank withdrawals were imposed amid widespread public protests and in early January 2002, Argentina officially defaulted on its external debt of around US$100 billion. Convertibility was abandoned and the currency was allowed to float, with an immediate steep devaluation. 2002 saw the economy shrink by 10.9%, and the social impact of the crisis was huge, leaving over 50% of Argentines below the official poverty line and well over 20% unemployed. But inflation was controlled and the country managed to return to fragile growth in late 2002, led by import substitution and a rise in export prices. In 2003 banking restrictions and most currency controls were lifted and the economy returned to normality. Since 2003 Argentina started a process of strong growth that has averaged nearly 9% in the last 5 years. For 2008, the economy is expected to cool down to around 5% with a further decelaration in 2009. The steep rise of inflation has smoothed consumption spending, as workers incomes are not adjusted as fast as prices. Also inflation is the main culprit to a slight rise of poverty standards.

After three years in default, the sovereign debt restructuring was completed in March 2005 with 76.15% of creditors accepting Argentina’s proposal. Most of the holdouts were Italian retail bondholders and investment funds. In September 2008 Argentina said it would re-open the debt exchange in a complex financial deal managed by Barclays and other banks but the international turmoil could delay such a deal. In December 2005, following the Brazilian example Argentina decided to pay off all its IMF debts in full and immediately. This was done on 2 January 2006.

From 2003 Argentina started a process of strong growth that has averaged 7.4%, and has led to an 80% increase in income per head. However Argentina’s economy is also showed momentum in terms of inflation. The (unofficial) inflation rate has been steady at 23-26% in recent years and has led to a slight rise in poverty standards. Official figures show a growth rate of 9.2% for 2010. With the 2011 harvest expected to be less good and most sectors working close to capacity most private and government economists are estimating 6 to 6.5% growth for 2011 (IMF only 6%).

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HISTORY

Argentina is thought to have been one of the last countries in Latin America to be settled. Its earliest inhabitants are believed to have arrived from the north some 25,000 years ago.

1516 Juan Diaz de Solis explores Rio de la Plata estuary but is repelled by indigenous people
1536 First foundation of Buenos Aires by Pedro de Mendoza but settlers are struck by famine and most starve or return to Spain
1550-1600 Colonisation of Argentina's interior by the Spanish based in Peru and Paraguay
1810 On 25 May, Buenos Aires revolutionary council declares freedom from Spain
1816 On 9 July, formal declaration of Argentine independence
1853 Argentine Constitution is agreed
1880 Buenos Aires becomes capital of Argentina
1916 First universal male suffrage in Presidential elections; Hipolito Yrigoyen (UCR) is elected
1930 Hipolito Yrigoyen ousted from his second presidency by the first military coup in the 20th century (lasted 2 years)
1946 General Juan Peron elected President
1951 General Peron re-elected President
1952 Death of General Peron's wife Eva Duarte (Evita)
1955 General Peron ousted in military coup (lasting 3 years) and went into exile. Peronism banned.
1973 General Peron returned from exile and elected President for the third time
1974 General Peron dies; succeeded as President by widow Isabel
1976 Military government takes over amid political chaos and internal terrorism
1982 General Galtieri sends troops to invade Falkland Islands; British task force liberates them 2 months later
1983 Military government falls: Raul Alfonsin elected President
1989 Alfonsin resigns amid economic chaos and hyper-inflation and hands over to President-elect Carlos Menem
1994 Pacto de Olivos: New constitution approved, allowing President to serve 2 consecutive terms
1995 President Menem re-elected for second term
1999 Fernando De La Rua elected President
2001 President De La Rua resigns in December following widespread civic unrest and protests against his economic policies. Adolfo Rodriguez Saa chosen as President by Congress but resigns a week later
2002 Eduardo Duhalde is selected as interim President by Congress in January with a mandate to finish De La Rua's term.
2003 Nestor Kirchner elected President in April and inaugurated on 25 May.
2007 Cristina Kirchner elected President in October and inaugurated on 10 December.
2011 Presidential elections are due to be held on 23 October.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

Argentina is a member of the regional common market bloc Mercosur, established in 1991, which seeks to remove barriers to trade between its members. Mercosur is the world's fourth biggest integrated market and the second largest in the Americas after the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) with a combined population of about 200 million people. Trade flows between Argentina and the other members (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela) have increased significantly during the last 5 years. The dispute between Argentina and Uruguay over the UPM (previously Botnia) cellulose plant in Fray Bentos (on the Uruguayan side of the River Uruguay) contributed to an increase in tensions between the two countries. In April 2010, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave their ruling on the case brought by Argentina against Uruguay; Uruguayan President Mujica shortly afterwards stated that repairing relations with Argentina is one of his foreign policy priorities.

Relations with the International Community

Argentina plays an active role on the international stage on human rights, sustainable development, counter proliferation and trade. It was elected to the Human Rights Council in May 2008. It was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council until end 2006. Argentine troops have been deployed on UN peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, Kosovo, the Middle East and Haiti, amongst other regions. It has a police contingent in Darfur. Argentina is a member of the key non-proliferation arrangements and is also a member of the Rio Group, World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation, International Maritime Organisation, Intelsat and Inmarsat (mobile satellite consortiums). It is a party to many international environmental agreements, including the Antarctic Treaty (Secretariat is in Buenos Aires), Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection and Whaling. It played host to the tenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2004 and hosted an informal dialogue on climate change in El Calafate in September 2008.

Relations with the UK

Argentina has long historic links with the UK. British companies played a vital role in Argentina's commercial development during the 19th century. The railways, food processing plant and many of the financial services were developed and managed by British firms. A wide range of UK manufactured goods was exported to Argentina and the UK in turn was a major destination for Argentine products.

Diplomatic relations were restored in 1990 after an 8-year gap following the Falklands conflict. In 2007, the 25th anniversary of the conflict was commemorated with events in London and Stanley as well as in Argentina. Since 1990, South Atlantic issues have been discussed with the Argentine Government under a 'sovereignty umbrella' arrangement, which allows the UK and Argentina to protect their respective positions on sovereignty while seeking to make progress on practical matters of common interest such as fisheries and de-mining. The British Government has no doubts about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, and the principle of self determination, enshrined by the UN charter, underlies our position. There can be no negotiations over sovereignty unless and until such a time as the Falkland Islanders so wish. We remain committed to the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. The islands will be British for as long as their inhabitants wish to remain so.

Further details on UK/Argentine relations regarding the Falkland Islands can be found on the Falkland Islands Country Profile (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/country-profile/south-america/falkland-islands/) .

Cultural Relations with the UK

There is a strong British cultural influence in Argentina and a large Argentine-British community around Buenos Aires. There is also a strong Welsh-speaking Argentine-Welsh community in Chubut, Patagonia. Argentines made around 37,000 visits to the UK in 2008 with visits having increased by 16% in the last five years from 32,000 back in 2003.

Recent Inward Visits

-- Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires, visited London met Gillian Merron, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign Office.

-- Mario Das Neves, Ex-Governor of Chubut, visited Wales in March 2007

-- President Kirchner visited the UK in July 2003 to attend the Progressive Governance Summit.

Recent Outward Visits

-- Andrew Cahn CEO, UKTI, visited Buenos Aires to discuss trade cooperation in October 2009.

-- Lord Hunt, Minister of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change visited Argentina to speak at the World Gas Conference in October 2009.

-- Ian David Luder CBE Lord Mayor of the City London visited Buenos Aires to discuss economic cooperation in April 2009.

-- Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury visited Argentina for talks with the Economy Ministry and Central bank in February 2009.

-- Lord Malloch Brown, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, visited Buenos Aires and met Foreign Minister Taiana to discuss the G20 in February 2009.

-- Phil Woolas, Minister for Climate Change (DEFRA) visited to participate in the El Calafate Dialogue in September 2008.

-- John Mann MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism, visited in August 2008.

-- Baroness Vivien Stern visited Buenos Aires in June 2008 as part of a British Embassy Human Rights project supporting the implementation of the UN Optional Protocol Against Torture.

-- The Duchess of Gloucester visited in February 2008 in her capacity as President of the Lawn Tennis Association, during the Davis Cup tie between Argentina and Britain.

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GEOGRAPHY

Argentina is the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil (almost all the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia could fit inside Argentina's land mass). The country is diverse and includes rain forest in the north, vast areas of fertile farming land in the centre, the Andean mountain range to the west and the desolate plains of Patagonia in the south, leading down to glaciers at the southern tip. Argentina has the world's southernmost city (Ushuaia).

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

The UK is the sixth largest investor in Argentina. UK companies continue to have an important stake in certain sectors such as pharmaceuticals (GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca), banking (HSBC), mining (Rio Tinto, Anglo Gold) and energy (BG Group, and Shell). UK exports are currently growing at 31% year on year (April 2011) . Argentina is the UK’s third largest export market in South America after Brazil and Chile and the fourth largest Latin American supplier. In 2010 UK exports to Argentina (£330m) were up 41% on 2009 and UK imports (£609m) up by 3%, with bilateral trade exceeding £939m. Major UK exports to Argentina are inorganic chemicals, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, power generating machinery & equipment, road vehicles, non-ferrous metals and chemical materials. UK companies are active in a cross section of sectors in Argentina, including pharmaceuticals, banking, mining and energy sectors. The UK’s service and consultancy sector is also well regarded. The most promising opportunities can be found in a wide range of sectors including the creative industries, education and training, environment, ict, pharmaceutical, renewable energy, security, and services, . Argentine exports to the UK are mainly animal foodstuffs, meat, vegetables and fruit, beverages and iron and steel. The UK is Argentina's top export market for bottled wine in Europe.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Argentina (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/argentina)

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POLITICS

Argentina has a system of presidential democracy. There is universal suffrage and voting is compulsory for those aged 16-70. The Argentine constitution provides for a separation of powers between the executive (the President and government), the legislature (Congress and Senate) and the judiciary (the Supreme Court). It also establishes full civilian control over the military. On 12 June 2006, President Nestor Kirchner signed into law a decree setting up a joint Chiefs of Staff system. Argentina is moving towards a defence model used by most Western countries.

Since the return to civilian government in 1983, Argentines have elected 5 Presidents: Raul Alfonsin, Carlos Menem, Fernando De La Rua Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner.

Presidential elections took place on 28 October 2007. Cristina Kirchner (Frente para la Victoria/Partido Justicialista) was elected with a lead of over 20 points over the second-placed candidate Elisa Carrio (Coalición Cívica). Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband Nestor on 10 December 2007. Argentines also voted for half of the national Chamber of Deputies and one third of the Senate. The results give Cristina Kirchner a majority in both chambers.

Argentina is a federal country made up of 24 provinces. Provincial elections for governor, deputies and senators also took place throughout 2007 in all provinces except Corrientes and Santiago del Estero, which held elections in 2005.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Argentina has signed and ratified all the core international human rights treaties. Argentina is also a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

The Argentine Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; freedom of assembly; equal treatment of all citizens; the right to form 'free and democratic labour unions'. Argentine law prohibits forced or compulsory labour, and forced or bonded labour by children. Education is compulsory, free and universal for children up to the age of 15. Whilst Argentina continues to suffer from its 'Dirty War' legacy (the detentions, torture and disappearances committed during the military dictatorship), after over 20 years of democratic government, the human rights situation has greatly improved. Trials for those charged with human rights abuses during the Dirty War have begun.

Presidents Nestor and Cristina Kirchner pledged to make the effective protection of human rights a cornerstone of his government’s agenda. Amongst the highlights of this human rights agenda are the annulment of laws and decrees preventing legal action against people who committed human rights violations during the military regime, the introduction of more transparent nomination procedures (Supreme Court). Also on 15 July 2010 Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage.

However, some human rights organisations argue that there is not a comprehensive approach in this area in terms of policy on current issues. Concrete measures are still needed in specific areas, especially with regard to prison conditions and discrimination against women.

The UK is closely involved in projects supporting the fulfilment of international human rights standards, as well as the modernisation and reform of law enforcement agencies.

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Last Updated: July 2011

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