ATCC President Reflects on Chamber’s First Three Years
(ATTC President: Victoria Balaban)
When an organization is founded on a major national holiday, it’s a good sign its founders are sure of their cause and have bright hopes for their new entity’s future. Such is the case with the Argentine-Texas Chamber of Commerce, which was founded three years ago on Argentina’s 25 de mayo holiday, which marks the start of that country’s path to independence from Spain.
Although the Chamber’s first three years may not have been as momentous as the events that unfolded in Buenos Aires in 1810, there is much to be proud of and plenty to come, according to Chamber president, Victoria Balaban, who is also one of the organization’s founding members.
“Our first objective is to stimulate synergy between the two regions, but through collaboration with other chambers we are also finding ways to increase our impact,” she said in a recent interview.
Indeed, the synergy between the two regions is already “Texas-sized.” Trade between Argentina and Houston alone reached a high of 3.7 billion dollars in 2014, though it tapered off somewhat in the following years. The balance is strongly in Houston’s favor, but Argentine companies are making inroads.
This is one area where the Chamber has expanded its presence, across multiple sectors. As an example, Balaban points to the support ATCC gave to a trade mission to Houston from the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina to study medical technologies. Among other things, ATCC helped arrange a visit to MD Anderson for the AmCham delegation. The Chamber is now helping arrange the agenda for another AmCham mission in October to explore opportunities in logistics.
ATCC can also provide valuable support to US companies looking to expand into Argentina. This is especially the case for smaller companies that do not have the resources that larger companies do as they seek to grow their business in new markets.
“We have a wide range of contacts we can reach out to in business and government in Argentina that can then provide US companies with information and support in getting started there,” commented Balaban. The Chamber is also taking part in organizing a Texas trade mission to Argentina in 2020.
She added that finding the right opportunity and the right people to work with is critical to any company looking to expand into Argentina, given the country’s political and economic volatility. Her recommendation to any company looking to take that leap: “Be flexible and willing to live with uncertainty. It’s also a good idea to find a local partner or distributor.”
Despite her words of caution, Balaban is confident that companies that take the right approach and are willing to be patient, can find tremendous opportunities in Argentina. Why? “Because there is everything to be done,” she responded.
And those opportunities go well beyond the energy sector and the much vaunted Vaca Muerta formation, home to one of the world’s richest deposits of shale gas and oil, which has already captured billions of dollars in foreign investment. Other sectors that offer great potential include real estate, health care, information technology and services, like legal and accounting services. Yet another is Fintech (technology applied to financial transactions), given Argentina’s low rate of bancarization.
As much as ATCC has accomplished and hopes to accomplish, it is still a small organization that depends on the volunteer efforts of Balaban and other members. So, to boost its impact the Chamber often collaborates with other chambers – from the Brazil-Texas Chamber of Commerce to the Russia-Texas Chamber of Commerce – to co-sponsor events or activities. Such was the case with a cocktail 10 chambers combined organized in May on the evening before the start of the energy sector’s mega-event in Houston, the Offshore Technology Conference. More than 330 persons attended the cocktail.
Looking ahead, Balaban said ATCC’s objective is to continue building on the successes of its first three years and expand its membership. With the two regions having so much in common, like a strong presence in natural resources industries, and Texas being home to a large Spanish-speaking population, the potential is enormous.
“I think the fact that we have a 95% renewal rate on memberships shows that the Chamber can add real value to people and companies looking to do business between the two regions,” she said. And much like investors eyeing Argentina she is confident that there is still so much to do.