Exporta Group held its first ever congress in Latin America, when Buenos Aires hosted the Argentina Trade and Export Finance Forum on October 25 and 26. The event was held at the Marriot Plaza Hotel.

The event gathered around 100 participants and addressed the trade-led economic boom enjoyed by Argentina, the same country that five years before had plunged into the worst financial crisis in its history.

Ramn Gonzlez Nez, the forum’s chairman and head of international trade and cash management sales at BankBoston in Argentina, elaborated on popular trade finance alternatives such as import and pre-export financing, draft discount, and export and import forfaiting.

Argentina’s Banco Galicia was well represented by Alberto Wyderka, trade finance head at the Buenos Aires-headquartered bank. He addressed the delegates about factoring, letters of credit and export credit insurance in the Argentine market. Wyderka also touted Factors Chain International, the 61-country factoring association headquartered in Amsterdam.

BBVA Banco Franc’s Alejandro Chiarad­a and Mariana Cordero commented about the role of banks in Argentina’s trade business five years after the crisis. Recently, Argentina has posted trade and fiscal surpluses, growth in trade and strong economic expansion. However, while 40% of Argentina’s imports amount to capital goods, 34% of its exports are made up of agricultural-related products.  They also discussed whether central bank regulations are an obstacle to international trade.

Moreover, BBVA Banco Francs has noted opportunities in imports of capital goods and lending for capital expenditure needs. Most common financing structures are pre-export and export financing, import financing, forfaiting and financial loans. Other structures include financing of investment projects and working capital. Chiarad­a and Cordero also mentioned ECA structures going as long as seven years.

Margrith Lutschg-Emmenegger, president of Fimbank, emphasised the importance of factoring in Argentina’s soaring trade flows. She elaborated on trade finance in emerging markets and on supporting Argentina’s Banco Galicia in offering factoring to Argentine companies.

BNDES, Brazil’s 54-year-old development bank, was present through Angela Carvalho, head of the bank’s department for South American integration. As one might expect, Carvalho talked South American integration through increasing free trade, speeding up technological and scientific development, and infrastructure projects. BNDES lent a record US$19.6bn in 2005, of which US$5.7bn equalled export and import lines. Terms can be as long as 12 years.

BNDES’s accepted guarantees include export credit insurance, Latin America’s CCR trade arrangement, aval, letters of credit, and those of multilateral organisms such as IADB and CAF. Since 1997, Argentina has been the number one recipient of BNDES-financed Brazilian exports, followed by Ecuador and Venezuela.

Bart Pattyn, regional managing director at Coface Latin America, talked export credit insurance, while Luis Bussio, secretary-general of the Argentine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry stressed the growing integration between the two countries.

Law firm Hope, Duggan and Silva Abogados, represented by partner Ignacio Nicholson, made foreign exchange rules clearer to delegates and commented deal structures.

Collateral management company SGS, fronted by Cristian Czar, presented many forms of security interests in Argentina like pledges and warrants, monitoring. Moreover, SGS is licensed to issue certificates of deposit and warrants in the country.

Carlos Caicedo, head of Latin America division at Exclusive Analysis, started his presentation by asking participants whether Argentina has done enough to restore foreign investors “confidence. He pointed out the rise of the leftist movement in Latin America, spearheaded by President Hugo Chvez of Venezuela and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Caicedo considers Argentine president Nestor Kirschner positioned to the left of his moderate counterparts but to the right of Chvez.

Caicedo notes that the debt restructuring carried out by Argentina has reduced debt service significantly, adding that financing needs will be easily met in 2007 due to borrowing in the domestic market and Venezuela’s assistance.

Meanwhile, the government seems committed to maintaining the fiscal surplus, while increased tax collection has been driven by strong economic growth and aided by taxes levied on exports and financial transactions. Still, government spending ahead of the elections will narrow fiscal surplus. Regarding monetary policy, high inflation will affect business confidence, he forecasted.

Lorna Martin, managing director of Fitch Argentina commented about credit evolution in Argentina’s corporate sector in 2006, which was marked by advances in the restructuring of corporate debt, gradual access to capital markets, government interference, the diminishing of operation margins, energy supplies problems, announcements of private investment plans, banks playing leading role as financing sources and the development of legal framework for structured finance of infrastructure projects.

For 2007, Fitch highlighted uncertainties regarding government interference and the energy sector, slower economic growth and the need of more investment to catch up with economic growth.

Other speakers included Arnaldo Bocco, director of the Argentine Central Bank, Anne Marie Thurber, senior vice-president Zurich Emerging Markets Solutions, Thiago de Thiago de Arago, director of political risk analysis, Latin America at Brasilia-based Arko Advice, Carlos St James, managing director of Santiago & Sinclair, and Sean Cameron, president of Argentine wheat association AAPROTRIGO.