In January 1823, six years after Argentina’s declaration of independence, U.S. President James Monroe took a fundamental step towards the bilateral relationship between Argentina and the United States: he sent Caesar Rodney to serve as Plenipotentiary Minister of the United Provinces of the River Plate. It was the first step on a path the two countries would walk together.
Looking back, recognizing and learning from the lessons of history should help us to think and project towards the future. In an increasingly challenging and uncertain global context, regional ties are of fundamental importance in improving our relative position in the coming years. Latin America in general, and Argentina in particular, must be protagonists, not only to contribute our resources and potential, but also to drive the development of our societies. And, on that path, the United States must be a strategic partner.
The importance of the relationship between Argentina and the United States far exceeds bilateral issues: it touches on questions of regional integration.
Both countries share respect for democratic values, liberty and human rights, three fundamental pillars of our connection. The 200th anniversary of bilateral relations coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the return of democracy in Argentina. Consolidating democratic and institutional quality while guaranteeing respect for human rights — including food security, the right to health, and a dignified life — are on the current agenda. At a time when both countries are faced with the advance of extreme political positions, the challenge of U.S. and Argentine political systems is to attend to the demands of their societies with more democracy.
Improving, expanding and deepening the commercial relationship is a step in this direction. The US is one of Argentina’s three top trading partners: it accounted for 7.5% of exports and 12.7% of imports last year. But 2022’s figures highlight a challenge: Argentina had a US$3.7 billion deficit, mainly due to a decline in industrial exports. The opposite is true of services: our country is a net supplier of business services, a product of the great offering of knowledge-based services, one of our country’s most dynamic and potent sectors.
This data raises a question and a challenge for economic development, not only for Argentina but for all Latin American countries: what kind of integration benefits our social and economic development? During his visit to Argentina in early May, the famous economist Ha-Joon Chang told the Herald in an interview that sustained growth must be based on an industrial matrix. South Korea is an emblematic example.
According to official data, the US has a strong and historic presence in Argentina, with approximately 400 companies employing 140,000 people. The main areas of U.S. investment are agriculture, manufacturing, oil and gas, financial services, and communications and technology.
But access to financing or investment is fundamental if we are to grow our industrial capacity. The US has historically been the main source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in our country, with a 23% share of Argentina’s total FDI stock — an amount equivalent to around US$20 billion.
We must expand this process. While competitive sectors differ from country to country, U.S. Ambassador Marc Stanley’s comments on Argentina are interesting. “As the world continues to face food and energy shortages, Argentina and the United States have a great opportunity to work together to help feed and fuel the world,” he said when he visited Palacio San Martín in January for the official bicentenary celebrations.
All this raises the question of what the bilateral relationship between Argentina and the US should look like to achieve this inclusive development. While Argentina faces the challenge of consolidating macroeconomic order that allows it to achieve stability, the challenge of the US is to promote and support economic development in Argentina and the region, with a focus on the future. Building ties and networks of cooperation with actors who enable us to increase production, innovation and value addition is a shared task.
There is, additionally, a key aspect of the bilateral relationship, and that is cultural exchange. Cultural consumption and shared customs are the basis of the human integration of both societies, a fundamental aspect for guaranteeing that cooperation succeeds.
So, let’s start to look to the future. To ask each other how to bring about the achievements that these challenges demand of us. Dialogue and cooperation are instruments to build a path of respectful integration that favors the interests of the two nations.