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Foreign Business-Host Government Relations: The Anglo Argentine Tramways Co. Ltd. of Buenos Aires, 1930–1966

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 June 2011


From 1880 to 1930, Argentina received hundreds of millions of pounds of British investments, making it in an economic sense a British dominion. The world economic crisis of the 1930s forced both Britain and Argentina t o reconsider many of these economic ties. The changing Anglo-Argentine relationship is reflected in the complex relations between a British tramway company, the Anglo Argentine Tramways Co. Ltd., that operated in Buenos Aires and the Argentine national government between the onset of the Great Depression and the early 1960s. The Anglo, as the company was popularly known, was the main tramway concern diat offered public transportation and contributed to the urban development of a cosmopolitan Latin American metropolis until 1914. Second, the history of the company illustrates political and economic problems that plagued the links between foreign public utilities and the host government from the 1930s onwards. Third, since the Anglo belonged to SOFINA, a transnational holding company with worldwide investments in public transportation and electric power stations, our case study shows the limitations of Sofina's political power in Britain and Argentina.

Copyright © Research Institute for History, Leiden University 1995

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1 See Heras, Raúl Garcia, ‘State Intervention in Urban Passenger Transportation; the Transport Corporation of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1939–1962’, Hispanic American Historical Review 74 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar;Transports, negodosy politico: La Campania Anglo Argentina de Tranvias, 1876–1981 (Buenos Aires 1994)Google Scholar; andCapitales extranjeros, poder politico y trans porte urbano de pasajeros: La Compania de Tranias Anglo Argentina limitada de Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1930–1943’, Desarrollo Econmico 31/125 (1992)Google Scholar.

2 SeeWalter, Richard J., ‘Municipal Politics and Government in Buenos Aires, 1918–1930’, JournalofInteramerican Studies and WorldAffairs 16 (1974)Google Scholar;Heras, Garcia, ‘Capitales extranje-ros’ and ‘El Impacto del Tranvia en la Economia Urbana de Buenos Aires: La Compania de Tranvias Anglo Argentina Ltda, 1876–1930’, in: Marichal, Carlos (ed.). Inversiones extranjeras en America Latina: Su impacto en el desarrollo economico (Mejico forthcoming)Google Scholar.

3 SeeThe Times, 7 07 1931, 21Google Scholar; Foreign Office to Millington-Drake, telegram, Buenos Aires, 17 Aug. 1931, F.O. 371 A4876/11125/2 and a Foreign Office minute date 4 Feb. 1932 in F.O. 371ABO2/126/2. For the quotations of the Anglo's stock seeStock-Exchanges. Ten-Year Record of Prices and Dividends, 1929 to 1939 Inclusive. Compiled by Mathieso, Fredn & Son, (London 1939)Google Scholar.

4 SeeHeras, Raul Garcia, ‘Las companias britanicasy el control de cambios en la Argentina durante la Gran Depresion’, Desarrollo Economico 29/116 (1990)Google Scholar; and ‘Capitales extranje-ros’, 42.

5 Heras, , ‘Las companias britanicas’, 490494Google Scholar; and ‘Capitales extranjeros’, 43–45.

6 For allocations of foreign exchange for remittances to Britain in 1939 see Bank of England Archive, Representative Country Files: Argentina OV102/ 15 (hereafter cited as BEA: Argentina and file number) andAlhadeff, Peter, ‘Dependency, Historiography and Objections to the Roca Pact’, in Abel, C. and Lewis, C.M., Latin America: Economic Imperialism and the State (London 1985)Google Scholar. For the refusal to make concessions to the Anglo under the terms of the new Anglo-Argentine pact seeHeras, , ‘Capitales extranjeros’, 4748Google Scholar.

7 For a sample of Whitehall's attitude see Foreign Office to Leche, London, 29 Sept, 1935, F.O. 371 A8311/410/2.

8 For a detailed discussion of these issues seeHeras, Garcia, ‘State Intervention in Urban Passenger Transportation’, 8891.Google Scholar

9 SeeHeras, Garcia, ‘State Intervention in Urban Passenger Transportation’, 9496; and ‘Capitales extranjeros’, 50–52.Google Scholar

10 Docker to the Foreign Secretary, London, 5 Aug. 1942, F.O. 371 A7307/40 6/2; Docker to Eden, London, 1 Oct. 1942; Foreign Office minute by Victor Perowne, 6 Oct. 1942 and Eden to Docker, London 12 Oct. 1942, F.O. 371 A9221/406/2;Heras, Garcia, ‘Capita-les Extranjeros, Poder Politicoy Transporte Urbano de Pasajeros’, 5254.Google Scholar

11 See Waller to Frank, Buenos Aires, 22 June 1943 and Foreign Office minute by Victor Perowne, F.O. 371 A6726/24/2; Kelly to Eden, telegram, Buenos Aires, 1 July 1943, F.O. 371 A6186/24/2 and Kelly to Eden, Buenos Aires, 21 July 1943, F.O. 371 A7332/406/2.

12 See Kelly to Foreign Relations Minister Alberto Gilbert, Buenos Aires, 20 Sept. 1943, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Direction de Asuntos Economicos; Inglaterra, 1943, Expediente 50, unnumbered box. For the later protests see Shuckburg to the Minister of Foreign Relations, Buenos Aires, 21 Nov. 1944, F.O. 371 A56508/69/2; and Kelly to Foreign Relations Minister Emeghino, Buenos Aires, 6Je 1945, F.O. 371 A53273/337/2.

13 For the decision to file a lawsuit see Frank to Waller, private & confidential, London, 4 Feb. 1946, F.O. 371 A792/337/2; Kellly to Bevin, Buenos Aires, 14 Feb. 1946, F.O. 371 AS1160/37/2 andThe Times, 8 12 1946, 10.Google Scholar

14 ‘New Argentina’ was a popular phrase coined by the Peronists to define their populist programs of ‘social justice’, ‘political sovereignty’ and ‘economic independence’ between 1946 and 1955. These social, political and economic reform programs were targeted to consolidate the policies inaugurated by the military regime and mark a sharp break with Argentina's liberal past.

15 SeeFursman, Noel, ‘The Decline of the Anglo/Argentine Economic Connection in the Years Immediately After the Second World Wan a British Perspective’ (D. Ph. Thesis, Oxford University, 1988)Google ScholarandKnape, John, ‘H.M.G. and Responses to Economic Nationalism: British Public Utility Companies in Latin America, 1930–1956’ (Univ. of Liverpool, Institute of Latin American Studies, undated)Google Scholar.

16 See F.O. 371 A1461/195 4 (file); Foreign Office minute by K.R.C. Pridham, London, 8 Jan. 1954, F.O. 371 A1461/2 and 77K?Times, 13 07 1955, 13.Google Scholar

17 For the company's decision to seek an understanding with Pern seeMemorandum from the Anglo Argentine Transways Co. Ltd.’, confidential, London, 29 03 1954, F.O. 371 A1461/14.Google Scholar

18 For the interview see N.T. Kennedy note on the meeting of the local representatives with Finance Minister Gomez Morales on 9 Mar. 1954, F.O. 371 A1461/3.

19 Crick to Turner, Buenos Aires, 10 Nov. 1955 and Bank of England minutes, London, 28 April and 31 May 1956, BEA: Argentina OV101/32 and OV102/36;The Times, 1 09 1956, 12Google ScholarandLa Prensa, 1 09 1956, 1Google Scholar. For the Anglo's situation see Foreign Office minute by F.S. Vincent, London, 18Jan. 1956, F.O. 371 A1461/4; Foreign Office to British embassy in Buenos Aires, coded telegram, London, 27 Jan. 1956, F.O. 371A1461/ 5; Foreign Office minute, London, 25 June 1956, F.O. 371 A1471/7 and F.O. 371A1461/ 34 (1957).

20 For the internal discrepancies within the Argentine government see minute of a conversation between Dr. Raul Prebisch and Mr. Greville John Macgillivray, from the Bank o f England, on 14 Mar. 1956, F.O. 371 Al 121/59; and report on a visit to Argentina by Mr. GJ. Macgillivray, London, 6 Dec. 1956, BEA: OV102/41.

21 Correspondence between President Frondizi and ambassador Hartung in London in Centro de Estudios Nacionales, Buenos Aires, Archivo Arturo Frondizi, Gran Bretana, ‘R’ (hereafter cited as CEN: Frondizi Archive and folder name or number); Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, Misión Alsogaray a Europa, 1961, secreto, CEN: Frondizi Archive; ‘Presidencia de la Nacion, Recomendaciones Para la Misión a Europay Estados Unidos’, estrictamente confidential, Buenos Aires, 9 Nov. 1961, CEN: Frondizi Archive, Carpeta Asuntos Económicos, 4 (8) and ‘Informe de la Mision Economica a Europa Encomendada al Dr. Roberto T. Alemann Mediante el Decreto 10.476/61’, Buenos Aires, 26 Dec. 1961, CEN: Frondizi Archive, Carpeta Confederacion General Económica-Econo-mia-Alemann (Folio I). For samples of the company's demands see Rennie to Hankey, London, 26 Sept. 1958, F.O. 371 A1462/13 and Docker to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, London, 18 Dec. 1959, BEA: Argentina, OV102/204.

22 See a Foreign Office minute by H.B. McKenzie Johnstone, London, 5 May 1961, F.O. 371 A1464/10.

23 See a minute by Leslie Crick, London, 9 Aug. 1962 and ambassador Middleton to the Foreign Secretary, confidential, Buenos Aires, 10 Aug. 1962, BEA: Argentina OV102/84.

24 See Edmonds to Thompson, confidential, London, 15 Sept. 1961, F.O. 371 A1464/19; Treasury minute by K.S. Weston, London, 4Jan. 1961, BEA: Argentina OV102/74.

25 For the verdict and the setdement seeThe Times, 8 10 1965, 12Google Scholar;La Nadon, 7 10 1965, 7 and 29 Dec. 1966, 1Google Scholar;Annales de legislation argmtina XXVI-C (1966) 1, 649650Google ScholarandThe Slock Exchange Official Year-Book (London) I (1968) 1, 494Google Scholar.

26 These were a British concern, the Primitiva Gas Co. of Buenos Aires, a U.S. electricity company, the American and Foreign Power, and a French company that operated a major port, the Sociedad Anonima del Puerto de Rosario.

27 For a sample of this resentment against the Anglo see‘Las Sanguijelas de Ultra mar’, El Lider (Buenos Aires), 31 10 1946, 12.Google Scholar