As we continue our journey through Latin America, it seems that each new day is more exciting than the last, and today was no exception! Early this morning, our sleepy eyes sprang to life as we glimpsed the vibrant red, white, and blue of an American flag waving proudly at the United States Embassy. After learning so much about the extreme challenges facing Latin American countries, we could not help but feel a surge of pride as we ascended the steps of the American Ambassador’s Residence. We were joined by Dr. James Wilcox, a retired Marketing professor from the Rawls College of Business who, having taught many of us in the past, has a passion for cultural study and graciously agreed to guide us during the Argentine portion of the trip.
Benjamin Leroy, the Economy Area Office at the Embassy, supplied us with a straightforward overview of foreign trade in Argentina and answered all of our questions related to the political environment. We learned that although the country has closed its borders to most foreign imports and has implemented wasteful energy subsidies, the United States and the World Trade Organization are working together to encourage Argentina to rebalance its trade structure and rejoin the global community.
After leaving the Embassy and eating succulent ravioli at a local restaurant, we found ourselves in the heart of the city’s prestigious financial district. We had arrived at the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange.
Once inside, we were ushered through a series of security checks and onto the main trading floor. Although many of us were expecting to see a floor resembling that of the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange), what we saw was substantially different. In the place of high technology computers and frenzied financial dialogue, there were rows of antiquated marquees exhibiting stock symbols and recent prices. Only fifteen or twenty traders milled around, quietly examining computer screens and accepting phone calls.
Our speaker, a local equities trader, informed us that the roughly 600 traders typically worked from their homes via internet instead of trading at the exchange. We learned that, unlike the U.S. equities market, which has roughly 8,600 publicly traded companies, the Argentine market has only 114 companies due to harsh business policies enacted by the government and unpredictable economic conditions exacerbated by rapid inflation. The speaker indicated that there are opportunities for growth in the Argentine equity market, but believes progress will depend heavily on whether there is a change in political regime as a result of the elections occurring next year.
Our day ended with a fiery talk from Ivan Ordoñez, an agribusiness entrepreneur, who taught us about the current economic environment of agricultural both in Argentina and throughout the world. He covered a comprehensive array of topics including the recent political tension surrounding GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) technology as well as his work developing Argentine-style efficient production networks for agribusiness within the U.S.A.
After thanking Mr. Ordoñez, we left and promptly sat down to exquisite steak dinner accompanied by authentic Argentine wine at a local steakhouse. After practicing our Spanish with the waitstaff, we went back to the hotel and went to sleep, wondering what new adventures tomorrow would bring…