Argentina makes pitch for Singapore investments, partnerships

SINGAPORE - Argentina wants to do business with Singapore, especially in the trade, services, and infrastructure sectors.

The country made its pitch to local businesses and investors at a seminar on Wednesday (June 22), one of a series of country-specific  seminars jointly organised by the Latin America Chamber of Commerce and the Singapore Business Federation.

Other countries featured in this series include Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Argentina elected its new president Mauricio Macri in December last year. In the six months since, he has initiated several economic reforms that shifted Argentina towards a more market-oriented economy.

These reforms include tightening investment rules such as mandating a deposit of 30 per cent to discourage less productive portfolio investments, liberalisation of foreign exchange regulations, and increased tax incentives in sectors such as mining, renewable energy and forestry, according to partner at Marval O'Farrell & Mairal, an Argentina law firm, Mr Juan M. Diehl Moreno.

Dr Le Xia, the chief economist at BBVA-Asia, an international bank with its roots in Spain, added: "(These) structural reforms in Argentina are anticipated to facilitate the second largest Latin American economy to pick up its growth momentum."

"The Argentinian economy is forecast to contract by 0.4 per cent in 2016 but will grow again by 3.2 per cent in 2017, driven mainly by investment and exports."

The head of trade at the Jakarta embassy of Argentina, Mr Pablo Hartstein, said the reforms will open up opportunities for businesses in infrastructure-related sectors.

"Over US$170 billion (S$228 billion) of investments have been identified across multiple sectors, such as a government plan, called Plan Belgrano, to develop the north of Argentina, which will require infrastructural expertise and investments," he said.

Other sectors identified include the energy and mining, agribusiness, industrial goods, and technology and services sector.

Singapore's history as a trading port and expertise in port handling and infrastructural projects make it an especially good potential partner for Argentina, said the Argentinian Ambassador to Jakarta, Mr Ricardo Luis Bocalandro.

"Ports, urban planning, cities infrastructure - these are areas that Argentina would like to work in with Singapore. Big investors like Keppel, they would help Argentina build up her infrastructure a lot."

He added that there are plans for an Argentinian embassy to be set up in Singapore sometime next year, which would strengthen relations between the two countries, but that would depend on Argentina's fiscal budget for 2017.