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How to do business in Argentina

Legal considerations

There are no restrictions on foreign investment. No prior approval from Argentine authorities is required, though some exceptional restrictions apply to sensitive areas such as telecommunications, defence and oil and gas.

Since the new administration took office in 2016, profits may be freely transferred and the Central Bank (Banco Central de la República Argentina, BCRA) has eliminated restrictions for banks to sell foreign currency to their clients. There is a legal system that seeks to prevent money laundering based on the recommendations of the FATF.

BCRA has eased several regulations which, in the past, controlled the country's capital inflows and outflows. Foreign investors are not required to obtain government permission to make investments in Argentina. They can fully own an Argentine company, and any investments in shares listed on the stock exchange require no government approval. Any foreign companies acting as shareholders, partners or head offices of an Argentine company have to be registered with the Public Registry of Commerce. In general terms, there are no legal restrictions on capital outflow from Argentina.

[Source – Argentine Investment & Trade Promotion Agency (Jan 2018)]

For details about the regulatory requirements of specific sectors, see the Argentine Investment & Trade Promotion Agency’s “Doing Business In Argentina – An Investor’s Guide” (Jan 2018) at: http://www.inversionycomercio.org.ar/docs/pdf/Doing_Business_in_Argentina-2017.pdf, or contact the DIT team in Buenos Aires at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-argentina#contact-us

To help speed up the start-up process and minimise delays in finding and contracting office space, you can use the postal address of a local law firm.

In Argentina, you can write into contracts that disputes can be handled in a non-Argentine court. This helps give confidence that decisions will be neutral.

Court proceedings in Argentina can be expensive and take years to complete. However, alternatively many international treaties signed by the Argentine Republic may grant foreign investors the right to submit their claims to international arbitration and conciliation

As a rule, domestic courts have jurisdiction on all types of commercial and investment disputes. In certain cases, it can be agreed to submit a dispute to either arbitration or foreign courts. Recently, an international commercial arbitration act has been passed which establishes a new legal framework for settlement of international commercial disputes in Argentina. This new legal tool is substantially based on the UNCITRAL model law.

The Agreement Between the Government of the Argentine Republic and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the Promotion and Protection of Investment provides the investors` right to submit their investments disputes to international arbitration and conciliation as long as domestic judicial remedies have been exhausted and the rest of Treaty requirements have been complied with.

UK companies entering into agreements in Argentina should contact the DIT team in Buenos Aires at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-argentina#contact-us for a list of lawyers offering professional advice.

Intellectual Property Protection

Trademarks, designs, patents and copyright are the principal forms of Intellectual Property Protection available under common law. They are all governed by legislation. The common law also provides protection against a person passing-off goods or services as those of another, as well as protection for confidential information or trade secrets.

Globally, Argentina is ranked 97th out of 128 for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the 2017 International Property Rights Index Report: https://www.internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/country/argentina.

You should patent your inventions and register trademarks in Argentina. Applications can be made through a patent or trademarks agent in either the UK or Argentina.

Trademarks and trade names

Argentine law provides protection on ownership of a trademark and its exclusive use, after its registration with the National Institute of Industrial Property trademark office (Instituto Nacional de la Propiedad Industrial, or INPI). The duration of a trademark registration and, thus, its protection, is ten years from the grant date and is renewable indefinitely for periods of ten years, provided certain requirements related to its use are complied with.

Patents and utility models

Argentine Patent Law provides that patents will be granted for any invention that complies with certain requirements: mainly (i) novelty; (ii) inventive step; and (iii) industrial application. The Patent Law awards a 20-year protection term as from the date of application of each patent. Foreign individuals or legal entities must establish a legal domicile in Argentina for the application process. The award must be registered with INPI to be enforceable against third parties.

Pharmaceutical patents

Regulation, rights granted and enforcement of these patents are, in general terms, identical to those of other non-pharmaceutical patents. However, their regulation is supplemented by INPI. The above referred regulation severely restricts the patentability of several categories of inventions in the pharmaceutical field.

Industrial designs and models

Industrial models or design registrations are granted to protect industrial production rights. In order to apply for these certifications any foreign individual or legal entity must establish a legal domicile in the City of Buenos Aires. If the design or model was not used or publicised in Argentina before, the certification will grant protection for a five-year term, renewable for two further terms of five years each. Renewals must be applied for no later than six months prior to the expiry of the current protection period. If a design application has been filed abroad, an application for a design registration in Argentina must be filed within six months of the filing date of the foreign application.

Copyright

Protection under the Argentine IP law includes scientific, literary, artistic or educational works, regardless of the processes used for their reproduction.

The regulatory environment is complex so for more details contact the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) at: http://www.inpi.gob.ar/ or the DIT team in Buenos Aires at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-argentina#contact-us.

[Source – Argentine Investment & Trade Promotion Agency (Jan 2018)]

Export licences

On 27th June 2018 the UK Government informed Parliament of a change of the Government’s arms exports policy in relation to Argentina. This change lifts a set of restrictions which were imposed in 2012.

Under those restrictions it had been the British Government's policy not to grant an export licence for any military or dual-use goods and technology being supplied to military end-users in Argentina, except in exceptional circumstances.

The revised policy means that applications for export licences for goods to military end-users in Argentina are no longer prohibited, but instead will be assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria (the “Consolidated Criteria”).

You can find the full statement at: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-06-27/HCWS799/.

You can find out more about getting a licence to export dual use goods, services or technology to Argentina at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beginners-guide-to-export-controls.

To find out which products will need certification or licensing before they can be exported to Argentina, see: https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export/licences.

Law on marketing and selling

If you are selling to consumers you must be aware of and comply with Argentina’s Consumer Protection Law (CPL). The Commerce Secretariat is the enforcement authority of the CPL at the national level.

The National Directorate of Consumer Protection at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/defensadelconsumidor has details of provincial offices across the country.

Standards and technical regulations

The Argentine Standards Institute (IRAM) has signed the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards.

Argentina, as an active MERCOSUR member, participates in the development of MERCOSUR standards and regulations. The MERCOSUR Standards Association (AMN) – composed of the standards institutes of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – develops and harmonises standards. The Executive Secretariat of the AMN is located in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  

For information on Argentine and MERCOSUR standards, contact the Argentine Standards Institute (IRAM) at: http://www.iram.org.ar/ and MERCOSUR Standards Association at: https://www.amn.org.br/.

For information on medical products, contact the National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Devices (ANMAT) at: http://www.anmat.gob.ar/webanmat/institucional/que_es_la_ANMAT_en.asp.

You should consider taking out product liability insurance if you manufacture or supply a physical product that is sold or given away for free. See: https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/business-insurance/liability-insurance/product-liability-insurance/.

Labelling your products

The Bureau of Trade Regulation of the Ministry of Economy’s Secretariat of Industry establishes labelling requirements for products in Argentina. The law requires that product labels should bear all the information that the customer needs, and that information is true and valid.

In some cases, the Government Regulatory bodies of each industry provide information on the corresponding labelling requirements. The Secretariat of Industry in the Ministry of Economy is responsible for enforcing labelling regulations and transparency in all business transactions. See: http://www.lealtadcomercial.gob.ar/ (site not in English).

 

Taxation in Argentina

Argentine tax laws are complex. You should seek professional advice, particularly if you are opening a subsidiary or exporting services.

Non-resident companies

Foreign companies are taxed only on Argentine-source income. There are generally-imposed withholding taxes at different rates, depending on the nature and origin of income.

  • Import-related income – income earned by a foreign company from imports into Argentina is not taxable, provided the ownership of goods is transferred overseas, and the local purchaser clears the goods through the Argentine Customs Authorities.

  • Portfolio income – dividends paid by resident companies (corporations, limited liability companies or branches) are not subject to any withholding tax, provided that the distributed profits were already taxed under the Argentine law. However, if the distribution of accounting profits exceeds the taxable income, such excess will be subject to a 35% withholding as a one-off payment (Equalisation Tax). Proceeds from the sale of shares of local companies are subject to tax at a 13.5% rate on the gross amount, or at a 15% rate on the net amount (at the taxpayer’s option). Government bonds held by non-residents are not taxable unless they are held offshore.

For further information on Argentine taxes, including other Federal, Provincial and Local taxes, and also tax incentives for specific sectors, see the Argentine Investment & Trade Promotion Agency’s “Doing Business In Argentina – An Investor’s Guide” (Jan 2018) at: http://www.inversionycomercio.org.ar/docs/pdf/Doing_Business_in_Argentina-2017.pdf.

Or contact the Argentine Federal Administration of Public revenue (AFIP) at: https://www.afip.gob.ar/sitio/externos/default.asp (site not in English).

[Source – Argentine Investment & Trade Promotion Agency (Jan 2018)]

Some payments may be withheld in lieu of taxes when exporting goods. You can usually deduct this from tax liabilities in the UK.

The UK and Argentina have signed a double taxation agreement. This allows some taxes paid in one country to be deducted in the other. See: www.gov.uk/government/publications/argentina-tax-treaties.

VAT and Goods and Services Tax (GST)

You can zero-rate the sale of your goods to Argentina, provided you get and keep evidence of your export, and comply with all other laws. You must also make sure the goods are exported, and you must get the evidence within three months from the time of sale.

More information on GST in non-EU markets can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-exports-dispatches-and-supplying-goods-abroad.

Excise duty

You should check you have paid excise duty on any alcohol, alcoholic drinks, energy products, electricity or tobacco products you send to Argentina.

[Source – DIT/ gov.uk] 

 

Customs and documentation

Argentine Customs use the Harmonized System (HS) for classification of goods. Import duties are based on the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value.

The Argentine Government implemented a new import regime in December 2015 called SIMI.

The new regulations divide all customs codes into two categories: automatic import licences and non-automatic licences. 12,000 customs codes require automatic import licences whilst 1,400 (currently equalling 19% of Argentine imports) require non-automatic licences. In the case of non-automatic licences, the local importer needs to apply online for imports of products listed in the 17 annexes to the new regulation using different online forms depending on the category of the goods. The Argentine Government then has 60 days to award the licences or explain why they were not awarded. Under the current import regime, most licences will be granted unless there are issues around ‘dumping’ (or sales into the market at prices deemed to be below costs).

The following are excluded from the requirement of non-automatic licences:

  • commercial samples

  • donations

  • goods imported under diplomatic franchises

  • imports duty paid from the Tierra del Fuego special Economic Area

  • imports via courier and postal system if deemed to be for personal use

The new arrangements also include an informal quota system for some products such as cars and other vehicles.

The European Union’s Market Access Database (MADB) has a list of trade barriers for Argentina at: http://madb.europa.eu/madb/barriers_result.htm?sectors=none&countries=AR&measures=none.

You can find out more about import tariffs at the MADB. See: http://madb.europa.eu/madb/indexPubli.htm.

Complying with HMRC regulations to export to Argentina

You must make export declarations to HMRC through the National Export System (NES) to export your goods to Argentina. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/export-declarations-and-the-national-export-system-export-procedures.

You can find out how to declare your exports to Argentina through the NES at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/export-declarations-and-the-national-export-system-export-procedures. You must classify your goods as part of the declaration, including a commodity code and a Customs Procedure Code (CPC).

Commodity codes and other measures applying to exports in the UK Trade Tariff can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff.

Contact the HMRC Tariff Classification Service at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-600-classifying-your-imports-or-exports/notice-600-classifying-your-imports-or-exports#list-of-useful-contacts for more help.

You must declare any goods that you take with you in your luggage to sell outside the EU. See: https://www.gov.uk/take-goods-sell-abroad for further information.

Temporary export of goods

Argentina does not recognise the ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet system. You therefore need to use a Duplicate List to temporarily export goods to Argentina. As with an ATA Carnet, you do not have to pay customs duty or tax. There is no fee. See: https://www.gov.uk/taking-goods-out-uk-temporarily/duplicate-list.

Before you export the goods, prepare a list on company stationery. Including:

  • a description of the goods

  • how many there are

  • serial numbers, if the goods have them

  • value of the goods

At customs, you will need to provide:

  • two copies of the list

  • a completed HMRC form C&E 1246

See: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/374161/ce1246.pdf (PDF, 638 KB).

Contact the HMRC Imports and Exports Helpline (Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm) in advance to make the arrangements:

Telephone: 0300 200 3700
Textphone: 0300 200 3719
Outside the UK: +44 29 2050 1261 

[Source – DIT/gov.uk]

Import licensing

A comprehensive import monitoring system (SIMI) is used to record all definitive imports of goods. Non-automatic import licences are required for around 1,400 tariff lines (about 10-15% of volumes), mostly including toys, threads and textiles, motorcycles, tyres, paper, metallurgical products, chemical products, optics instruments and equipment, photographs or cinematography and medical-surgical equipment.

For all other imports for consumption of goods under the tariff headings of the Mercosur Common Market, an automatic advance import licence is required.

Many importers say that the approval process for the non-automatic import licences is cumbersome, and involves frequent and severe delays.

[Source – FCO Overseas Business Risk/gov.uk]

Documentation

Argentine Customs require standard documentation prior to allowing the importation of goods.

The following documents are required for all maritime shipments, regardless of value:

  • commercial invoice

  • bill of lading

  • packing list

  • insurance certificate

The following are required for air cargo shipments, regardless of value:

  • commercial invoice

  • air waybill

  • packing list

However, requirements can change at short notice so you should check with an importer or agent about the latest documentation required when exporting products to Argentina. Different products will require different documents due to new rules set by the government authority.

It is therefore strongly advised that all exporters work with a freight forwarder or an Argentine customs broker prior to shipping goods to Argentina. Contact the DIT team in Buenos Aires at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-argentina#contact-us for further advice. 

 

Shipping your goods to Argentina

If you are not knowledgeable about international shipping procedures you can use a freight forwarder to move your goods. A forwarder will have extensive knowledge of documentation requirements, regulations, transportation costs and banking practices in Argentina.

You can find freight forwarding companies to help you transport your goods to Argentina via the British International Freight Association (BIFA) at: http://www.bifa.org/home or the Freight Transport Association (FTA) at: http://www.fta.co.uk/.

Posting goods

You can find out about sending goods by post to Argentina at: http://www.royalmail.com/argentina.

Shipping restricted, banned and dangerous goods

Special rules apply if you are shipping dangerous goods to Argentina. See: https://www.gov.uk/shipping-dangerous-goods/what-are-dangerous-goods for more information.

You should consider working with a local agent who can advise on the latest import licensing requirements. Contact the DIT team in Argentina at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-argentina#contact-us for assistance and information about third-party advisers.

Terms of delivery

Your contract should include agreement on terms of delivery using incoterms: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-trade-paperwork-the-basics#international-trade-contracts-and-incoterms.

UK Export Finance

The government can provide finance or credit insurance specifically to support UK exports through UK Export Finance (UKEF) – the UK’s export credit agency. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-export-finance.

For up-to-date country-specific information on the support available see UKEF’s cover policy and indicators for Argentina at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/country-cover-policy-and-indicators#argentina.

[Source – DIT/UKEF/gov.uk]


 

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