With the consolidation of democracy in Argentina bilateral relationships with Australia have been substantially strengthened. Significant opportunities were opened to explore for mutual political and scientific-technological cooperation and the promotion of business.
From the political point of view both countries share a common standing in defending the United Nations System, promoting human rights, participating in peace missions under the UN, and pursuing the disarming and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Both countries are active members of the Antarctic Treaty, The Valdivia Group for preservation of the environment in the Southern Hemisphere, and the UN Conference on Climate Change.
Both countries have similarities in their geography. Both have huge territories, with different climates, from subtropical to temperate and cold, with mining resources and fertile lands appropriate for agriculture and cattle breeding. Both have developed an important industrial and services infrastructure. From the social point of view, both have received an important flow of immigration, particularly from Europe, counting on skilled human resources.
During the last fifteen years the political and economic relationship between Argentina and Australia has developed rapidly. A closer collaboration between both countries has taken place in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, especially in pursuing liberalization of agricultural trade. A substantial flow of Australian investment has gone to Argentina, covering a wide range of sectors from agriculture to mining, industry, and services. In May 1994 the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Argentina signed with the Minister of Trade of Australia a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation and Consultation that contemplates the promotion and facilitation of bilateral cooperation in different fields. During the last presidential visit to Australia, paid by former President Carlos S. Menem, this agreement was supplemented with some specific understandings covering the areas of agriculture, mining, air transport, protection of investments, tourism, and sports. Argentina unilaterally decided to eliminate the requisite of visas for Australian citizens temporarily entering the country for tourist or business activities. An agreement to avoid double taxation has been signed on September 1st 1999 by Australia’s Minister of Trade and Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 2001 the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries signed agreements regarding cooperation on educational matters and for pacific uses of nuclear energy. Argentina and Australia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for scientific and technological cooperation.
Regarding the possibilities of regional cooperation, a fruitful dialog has been started among MERCOSUR, a common market between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and the area of cooperation between Australia and New Zealand (CER). The aim is to further promote trade and investments between the two regions and strengthen the links among South America and the Pacific Basin. An initiative to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement between the two areas was recommended by the subcommittee on Trade and Investment of the Australian Parliament, and supported by entrepreneurial organisations from Argentina.
Up to now, the bilateral trade of goods between Australia and Argentina has been rather modest. But since 2003 It has been remarkable increasing. In 2010, the bilateral trade was around U$S 585 million. Possibilities for further growth are high, as the participation over the total value of trade continues to be small, smaller than the participation each country has in the value of world trade. The main products sold by Argentina to Australia are animal feed, cars, vegetable oils, leather, steel sheets, tubes and steel pipes, fruit juices, medicines, chemicals, electric machineri, agricultural machinery, herbicides, chocolates, fish and natural honey among others.
Regarding air transport, during the presidential visit to Australia in April 1998, it was agreed to increase authorised frequencies to a capacity of 2400 seats weekly. Today there are three flights a week Sydney - Buenos Aires and viceversa per each company, Qantas and Aerolineas Argentinas.
During the last 15 years, Australian enterprises have invested a total exceeding u$s 2 billion in the industrial, agricultural, mining, and services sectors of Argentina. The most important project so far is "Bajo la Alumbrera" in which Xtrata and Rio Tinto are the biggest shareholders. The investment is of more than 1.2 billion U$S dollars. It is estimated that the company has beeen exporting u$s 3 billions during the last few years, being the third largest exporter of Argentina. Other Australian enterprises with investments in Argentina are Troy Resources, Ady Resources and The Grey Mining in the mining sector; there have been also investments in areas such as container terminals, entertainment services such as cinemas and agriculture.
For its part, the Bunge Group from Argentina is in Australia with investments in the foodstuff industry. For the past three years, INVAP (Investigaciones Aplicadas –Applied Research), from the Province of Rio Negro in Argentina, has been actively engaged in the construction of the Nuclear Research Replacement Reactor at Lucas Heights New South Wales, a project which was awarded to INVAP following an international tender, in mid 2001.
Among the last visits of Argentine authorities to Australia it is worth to mention that in 2001 the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Rodríguez Giavarini, visited this country and the then Foereign Minister of Australia, Alexander Downer, reciprocated visiting Argentina in the same year. In 2006 the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jorge Taiana, also visited Australia.
Recently, in 2010 Argentine MPs have visited Australia and Australian MPs did so visiting Argentina in 2011.
In the cultural field there is an increasing exchange of artists, musicians and cinematographic works—activities that help to build up a better knowledge of each other’s societies, idiosyncrasies, and achievements.
It is of greatest importance to continue the cooperation of the public sector of both countries to encourage the increasing involvement of political, cultural, social and business sectors. Cooperation at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels offers plenty of opportunities to consolidate the present links and build up a stronger relationship for the future.
The automatic issuing of electronic visas by Australia is an issue that has a significant bearing on the promotion of economic relationships and tourism activities. As mentioned above, Argentina decided unilaterally in 1998 to abolish visa requirements for Australian citizens visiting the country. It is expected Australia will reciprocate in the near future.