Argentina in the Twentieth Century

By David Rock | Go to book overview

2
Anglo-U.S. Trade Rivalry in Argentina and the D'Abernon Mission of 1929

ROGER GRAVIL

At the end of the 1920s rumours were increasingly prevalent in South America that the British had decided to abandon the area as a sphere of influence. It was widely believed among businessmen that some kind of agreement had been reached under which British enterprises in South America were to pass into North American hands in exchange for relief from United States pressure within the British Empire. In 1929 alone about £40m worth of British shares, mainly in South American activities, were sold to United States investors and the high prices paid in many cases seemed to testify to confident United States expectations of an untrammelled future in South America free of British competition. The City of London was thought to have written off South America as an area for further British investment.1 While it seems inconceivable that stories of a formal agreement had any basis in fact the persistence of the rumours is readily explicable by reference to the extreme feebleness of most British responses to the North American advance. That the southward movement of United States expansion should eventually extend to Argentina is not surprising since by the mid-1920s this republic transacted 50 per cent of the total trade of South America, possessed 42 per cent of the railway mileage and held 72.8 per cent of the gold reserves. The central importance of Argentina for Britain and its developing importance for the United States is well illustrated by the levels of capital investment in the republic.

Though it has recently been argued by William Appleman Williams that United States expansionism was originally due to agrarian

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1
F.O. 371/13459, 2 Oct. 1929. Enclosure in Lima despatch no. 129, 232. Michael Barratt Brown, After Imperialism, London, 1963, p. 125. Royal Institute of International Affairs Study Group, The Problem of International Investment, London, 1937, pp. 186-7, 270-2.

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