How Argentina became a super-exporter of agricultural and food products during the First Globalisation (1880–1929)

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to explain, from a cliometric perspective, the determinants of the growth of Argentina’s exports between 1880 and 1929. To do this, we have constructed a gravity model with the principal products exported each year by Argentina to its most important trading partners. In this way, we believe that this study constitutes a relevant and original contribution to the analysis of economic growth from a historical perspective and specifically in explaining the factors determining the export success of the settler countries during the first wave of globalisation. Our results show that Argentina’s export-led growth must be explained from both the supply and demand sides. We also find that the reduction in trade costs and trade liberalisation, especially the latter, boosted exports. We also support the idea that Argentina had a successful agro-export sector because it offered a diverse basket of products to the different European and American countries that consumed them. To sum up, we can conclude that Argentina took advantage of a multilateral and open economic system. Within this context, the country generally found a demand for its supply, which constitutes the key to explaining the magnitude and speed of Argentina’s export growth.

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Fig. 1

Source Federico and Tena-Junguito (2016)

Fig. 2

Source own elaboration according to official Argentine statistics (1875–1929) and Cortés Conde et al. (1965)

Fig. 3

Source own elaboration based on official Argentine statistics (1875–1929) and Rayes (2015)

Notes

  1. 1.

    We have followed the subdivision considered by Kuntz-Ficker and Rayes (2017: 43) as an alternative to dividing by decades or the Maddison phases.

  2. 2.

    For a critical vision, see Míguez and Rayes (2014).

  3. 3.

    The products included in the model are: wool, salted and dried cattle hides, raw sheep skins, bovines, jerked meat, tallow, wheat, corn, linseed, chilled and frozen beef, frozen mutton, wheat flour, quebracho logs and quebracho extract.

  4. 4.

    The trade partners of Argentina included in the model are: Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Spain, United States, France, Italy, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

  5. 5.

    Alternatively, instead of the cost of transport we have used distance to approximate transport costs (CEPII). Logically, in this case, this variable does not change from year to year. The results obtained are very similar to those produced from our estimate of the real transport cost. They are available on request.

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Official publications

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Acknowledgements

This study has received financial support from Spain’s Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, project ECO2015-65582-P, the Government of Aragon, through the Research Group S55_17R and from the National Foundation for Scientific and Technical Research of the Argentine Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (PICT 2016-1912). The authors wish to thank Leticia Arroyo-Abad, María Isabel Ayuda, Marc Badia-Miro, Anna Carreras, Roberto Cortés Conde, Hugo Ferrer, Elena Martínez, Chriss Meissner, Eduardo Míguez, Pilar Nogués-Marco, Federico d’Onofrio, Marcela Sabaté, Isabel Sanz, Steve Stein, Raúl Serrano, Henry Willebald and participants at the Economic History Seminar of the University of Zaragoza, the Vienna Frontier Research in Economic and Social History Meeting, Agricliometrics III (University of Cambridge), the Ridge Forum May 2017 (Montevideo), the Pre-session and session on Agricultural Efficiency in the Great Specialization at Vienna University of Economics and Business and at the Boston World Economic History Congress, the Natural Resources Management workshop held at the University of Barcelona, for their help and advice. We also thank the editor and the anonymous referees who provided insightful comments prior to publication. The usual disclaimers apply.

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Correspondence to Vicente Pinilla.

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Pinilla, V., Rayes, A. How Argentina became a super-exporter of agricultural and food products during the First Globalisation (1880–1929). Cliometrica 13, 443–469 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11698-018-0178-0

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Keywords

  • Settler economies
  • Latin American economic history
  • First Globalisation
  • International trade

JEL Classification

  • F14
  • N56
  • N76
  • Q17