Abstract: Investment and Marketing Strategies of American Companies in Argentina during the Rise of Economic Nationalism in the 1930s

Andrea Lluch


The Latin American and U.S. economies have long been intertwined. This is rooted in the first decades of the twentieth century, when U.S. businesses strengthened their economic influence particularly in the southern countries. American multinationals looked to South America not only as a source of raw materials but also as a market for finished products. The Argentine case, as a non-complementary economy with the United States, presented some peculiarities: Prior to 1914, the economic relationships between the two countries were relatively insignificant. Thereafter, the local economy experienced an important flow of foreign direct investment in manufacturing and selling organizations, spearheaded by American multinationals. During this period there was also a rise in consumer demand in a new environment permeated by industrial growth and secularization and influenced by new business practices—such as advertising—which reshaped the market and the patterns of marketing. During the late 1920s, Argentina was the most significant market in terms of American products and, in many spheres of economic activity, the country accounted for nearly half of the total activity of the entire southern continent. After the Depression, local government policies affecting direct investment in South America were numerous and complex, ranging from financial measures and exchange controls, changes in tariffs and taxation to outright confiscation. Significant changes had occurred in Argentina's economic position since 1931. This paper seeks to identify the characteristics and trends of American direct investment and marketing patterns adopted by U.S. companies during the 1930s. In this sense, it is hoped to identify the reactions and strategies employed by U.S. companies to adapt to protectionism and nationalistic economic policies (for example, the tendency to "go native" in consumer products). The research is based primarily on U.S. company records, the records of the American Chamber of Commerce, statistical information, and American/Argentine business magazines and newspapers.