Abstract: Nationalist Conflicts around Oil Marketing in the Southern Cone: Standard Oil of New Jersey and Royal-Dutch Shell in Argentina and Chile, 1922–1955

Marcelo Bucheli


During the 1920s and 1930s, most Latin American countries drafted nationalist legislation for the oil sector seeking to control the power of foreign multinational corporations. While most initiatives sought to limit the foreign companies' control of oil production, countries that were not self-sufficient in crude but with an economy that required large amounts of oil products developed nationalist policies around refining and marketing activities. This paper studies the case of Argentina (oil producer but not self-sufficient) and Chile (non-oil producer) and their nationalist policies concerning oil products marketing in the period 1922-1955. I show that these countries' attempts to control their internal oil products market were constrained by their dependence on crude oil made by the foreign corporations and by the way Standard Oil (New Jersey) and Royal Dutch-Shell protected each other. These two elements eventually forced both Chile and Argentina to organize local cartels between the state-owned companies and the foreign corporations.