Argentina decides to limit land ownership by foreign property investors

Politians in Argentina have approved a controversial new law to restrict the sale of agricultural land to foreign buyers.

The bill, which has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies and is expected to be endorsed by the Senate later this week, limits the amount of land that can be bought by an overseas buyer to 1,000 hectares in key areas of the country. It also sets a limit of 15% of total land being owned by foreigners.

Chamber of Deputies general law committee head Luis Cigogna said the purpose of the new law it to keep strategic and non-renewable land for Argentines.

However, the new law makes an exception for foreigners who have married Argentines or have lived in the country as permanent residents for more than 10 years.

Americans Douglas Tompkins and Ted Turner, Britain’s Joe Lewis, owner of the Hard Rock Café, and Benetton Italian brothers are among large foreign land owners in the country.

Supporters of the bill said that Argentina needs to protect her agricultural land as it is an important strategic resource for producing food but also for renewable energy. Argentina is regarded as a future powerhouse for food production and renewable energy.

However, the move has been criticized by certain opposition lawmakers who consider the government is trying to impose a debate based on ‘false nationalism’ that jeopardizes foreign investments.

Indeed one man, congressman Ricardo Buryaile, has gone as far as describing the plan as ‘xenophobic’ and pointed out the government misunderstands the difference between sovereignty and property.

President of the Agriculture Commission, Luis Basterra, said that the new legislation will not breach Bilateral Investments Treaties signed by the South American country since rural land is deemed as a non-renewable natural resource and not as an investment.
 
But he confirmed that land already in the hands of foreign investors will not be taken away even if it surpasses the new limit.

According to a recent report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation 10% of land in Argentina is owned by foreigners.