Argentina welcomes Saudi agricultural investment

RIYADH: Argentina will welcome investment from Saudi Arabia in its agricultural sector so the Kingdom can guarantee its own food security, the Argentine Embassy has said.

“The agro-industrial sector is a very attractive area for investment cooperation benefiting the two countries in light of the growing global demand for food,” Argentine Charge d’Affaires Ignacio Rossi Sammartino told Arab News.

“Argentina firmly believes that it is beneficial to Riyadh as well as Buenos Aires to achieve greater cooperation and joint investments due to the strong economies of both countries.”

Sammartino was speaking at an embassy event to mark Argentina’s bicentennial anniversary of its independence on Tuesday.

Riyadh Deputy Gov. Prince Sattam was the honorary guest at the celebration, also attended by Riyadh-based foreign diplomats and businessmen.

Sammartino said Argentina could form “a great partnership” with Saudi Arabia in terms of agricultural investment.

“Our country has a very diverse landscape ranging from the mountainous region of the Andes to the fertile plains of the Pampas. Crops grown include cereals, oil grains and seeds, sugar cane, fruits and tea.”

He said Argentina offers investors attractive terms and conditions in a wide range of sectors. Earnings as a percentage of foreign direct investment (FDI) stock were 10.2 percent on average in 2006 to 2008, the highest in the past 15 years.

Earnings as a percentage of revenues for the 340 largest non-financial companies are also at record levels, averaging 15.4 percent per year from 2005 to 2007.

“It is important to highlight that FDI receives the same treatment as domestic investment. Remittance abroad of profits and capital is unrestricted and transnational companies are free to operate in any sector in the country, “ Sammartino added.

He claimed that his country was one of the most productive food producing and exporting countries of the world, with an estimated 27 million hectares of arable and permanent cropland.

Agriculture and animal husbandry have traditionally supplied the nation with 70 to 95 percent of its export earnings.

He said in 1946 Argentina became the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with the Kingdom. In 1975, Argentina opened its embassy in Jeddah and in 1977 Saudi Arabia opened its own embassy in Buenos Aires.

Sammartino said Argentina has and is still welcoming the initiatives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in promoting international interfaith dialogue.

“This is because our country is known for its lack of religious and racial conflicts. Argentina is still a land of great diversity and pluralism with opportunities for everyone, no matter their belief or ethnicity,” he added.

“A proof of this stance was the inauguration of the biggest mosque and Islamic cultural center in Latin America — the King Fahd Cultural Center in Buenos Aires which was opened by King Abdullah in 2000,” he said.

Sammartino said Argentina was keen to increase its current trading levels with Saudi Arabia. He said bilateral trade between the two countries was not satisfactory enough even though it had reached $314 million in 2009, an increase of 36.5 percent on 2005 levels ($230 million).

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