Argentina is Latin America's second largest country, after Brazil, with a land area of over 2.7 million km2 and a varied geography that stretches over 2,000 miles from the tropics to Tierra del Fuego. It is also the fourth most populous nation in the region, after Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. In many respects, Argentina is one of Latin America's most-developed countries: it has a well-educated and qualified labor force, and one of the region's lowest birth rates and highest literacy rates. However, since the 1930s, social and political instability has challenged the country's ability to utilize its natural and human resources to the fullest potential. Most of Argentina's 33 million people are of European origin, and there are also sizeable Middle Eastern and Jewish communities in Buenos Aires. 1
Argentina's economy in the 1980s was characterized by hyperinflation, large public and foreign debts, capital flight, and recession. Under the direction of President Menem's administration, the economy is being restructured through deregulation, privatization of most public sector enterprises, encouragement of foreign investment, and trade liberalization. In 1991, the government cut a number of taxes to help reduce business costs. Deregulation has continued; companies have laid off staff. Private pension funds have been introduced. Labor reform is crucial but difficult.
It is estimated that in 1993 Argentina's GDP grew at a rate of 5.7 percent, which was slower than the average real GNP growth of 8.8 percent per year achieved in 1991-1992. Inflation dropped from 24.9 percent in 1992 to about 12.6 percent in 1993. 2 Argentina's principal exports are agricultural products and meats, followed by metals and chemicals. Petrochemicals is one area where substantial export growth is expected. The United States is Argentina's principal trade partner, followed by Brazil, the European Union, and Japan. Once the Mercosur free-trade pact is established in the mid-1990s, Argentina's trade with its neighbors should increase significantly.