| BUENOS AIRES, April 11
BUENOS AIRES, April 11 Domestic and foreign
companies likely will invest $14 billion in Argentina this year
as firms open their pockets to make good on previously announced
investments, the head of the government's investment promotion
agency said on Tuesday.
President Mauricio Macri's government struggled to pull in
the investment it promised in his first year in office but the
head of his Investment and Trade Promotion Agency, Juan
Procaccini, said in an interview that 2017 was looking better.
"The first year we had so many things to do in terms of ...
becoming again a normal economy," Procaccini said. "Now, we're
enjoying the fruits of that effort."
The agency, created shortly after Macri took office in late
2015, is working with companies on an additional $12.5 billion
worth of investments in projects that have not yet been
announced, he said.
Foreign investors stayed away from Argentina during much of
the past decade due to former President Cristina Fernandez's
populist policies and many are waiting to see if market friendly
reforms Macri has proposed or passed remain in place.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) totaled just $5.7 billion in
2016 - down from $11.8 billion in the previous year - as the
economy contracted 2.3 percent. The agency's goal is annual FDI
of $20 billion to $25 billion, Procaccini said.
The 2016 dip was due in part to multinational companies
repatriating their profits outside of Argentina after Macri
lifted capital controls.
Specifically, a plan to boost wind and solar energy capacity
in coming years was likely to bring in $13 billion in
investment, Procaccini said. There also is potential for $30
billion in mining investments to help Argentina catch up to
neighboring Chile, and efforts to cut labor costs will help
attract investment in oil and gas.
The agency has identified $58.6 billion in investment
announcements since Macri took office, many for projects that
would take an average of four to five years, Procaccini said.
About three-quarters of the investment expected this year would
come from foreign companies.
Macri's diplomacy has helped attract investment from
non-traditional sources, Procaccini said, noting that Japanese
companies were looking for projects a year after leaders of the
two countries had their first bilateral meeting in decades.
"They want to have the political framework aligned between
the two countries," he said. "We will have very strong Japanese
companies investing in Argentina for probably the first time
Reuters reported last month that major Japanese trading
companies were eyeing lucrative rail contracts.
(Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Bill