Argentina: Doing business & staying in touch

Doing business in Argentina

Business people in Argentina are very conscious of status and expect to conduct any business dealings with people of an equal footing. Business cards are commonly exchanged by way of introduction. A handshake is standard when greeting a man; a kiss on each cheek when meeting a woman. Smart dress is appropriate as is a high degree of respect.

Whenever possible, business in Argentina should be conducted in Spanish although many Argentines do speak English. It's best to allow for plenty of room when organising business meetings as there can be a relaxed attitude towards timekeeping - meetings commonly start 10 or 15 minutes late.

Normal business hours are Mon-Fri 0900-1900, or even later, and a siesta doesn't usually feature in the country’s business community. In general, conduct is similar to any large European country, with business deals often conducted over lunch.

Office hours

Mon-Fri 0900-1200 and 1400-1900, although many workers start late and finish late.

Economy

Argentina is rich in natural resources and has a large and profitable agricultural sector. For all its potential, the economy has been historically blighted by high inflation and a massive foreign debt.

The Menem government of the mid-1990s made an attempt to tackle these through privatisation, free market economics and cuts in public spending. In addition, the value of the Peso was fixed to the US Dollar. The immediate results were reductions in the national debt and the inflation rate. However, the policy of Peso-Dollar parity eventually led to a sharp fall in exports and government tax revenues, as well as a large increase in government debt.

With external debt topping US$130 billion in 2001, Argentina was on the point of defaulting on its overseas debts, potentially leading to a complete economic meltdown. At the end of the year, the government was forced to devalue the Peso and freeze bank accounts.

The government has taken a number of steps to restructure its economy and in 2005 President Kirchner made the bold move of paying off the country's debt to the IMF. The country has battled back from the 2001 crisis, although it is currently experiencing significant inflation.

GDP

US$446 billion (2011).

Main exports

Soya beans and oil, cereals, mineral fuels, beef and leather.

Main imports

Machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, metal goods and plastics.

Main trading partners

Brazil, USA, Chile and China.

Keeping in Touch in Argentina

Telephone

Phone centres called locutorios can be found in most towns. Users are given their own phone booth and calls are added up and paid for at the end. Public pay phones are available in shops and restaurants and on some streets. These take 1 peso or 50 and 25 centavos coins. Most public telephones accept international phone cards.

Mobile phone

Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies, but phones must be tri-band. Coverage is good in most parts of Argentina, but may be lacking in remote and mountain areas.

Internet

Available in most towns and cities in locutorios (phone centres) and internet cafés. Many estancias and rural areas are cut off from both internet and telephone access. Wi-Fi is increasingly found in upper range hotels.

Post

Airmail to Europe is slow and generally takes over a week, or even two. Surface mail to Europe takes on average 20 to 25 days but can take as long as 50 days. An express service offers guaranteed 24-hour delivery in Argentina, and one to five days worldwide. The main post office in Buenos Aires is located in Sarmiento 189.

Post office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-2000, Sat 0900-1300, with some regional variation.

Media

Following the return of democracy, freedom of the press was enshrined in the law, and newspapers, magazines, radio and television generally function free from government interference. However, individual journalists critical of the establishment are often bullied by the powers that be, particularly in the provinces. The Buenos Aires Herald is the leading English-language newspaper in Latin America.

Edited by Jane Duru
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