Roca–Runciman Treaty

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Argentine Vice President Julio Roca (jr.) signs the pact in the presence of British trade envoy Sir Walter Runciman (seated at right).

The Roca–Runciman Treaty was a commercial agreement between Argentina and the United Kingdom signed in London by the Vice President of Argentina, Julio Argentino Roca, Jr., and the president of the British Board of Trade, Sir Walter Runciman, the British envoy.

As a byproduct of Black Tuesday and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Great Britain, principal economic partner of Argentina in the 1920s and 1930s, took measures to protect the meat supply market in the Commonwealth. At the Imperial Preference negotiations in Ottawa, bowing to pressure, mainly from Australia and South Africa, Great Britain decided to severely curtail imports of Argentine beef. The idea was to enact monthly cuts of 5% during the first year of the agreement.[1] The plan provoked an immediate outcry in Buenos Aires, and the government dispatched Vice-president Roca and a team of negotiators to London. On 1 May 1933 they concluded a bilateral treaty known as the Roca-Runciman Treaty.[2] The Argentine Senate ratified this agreement by Law #11,693.

The treaty ensured beef export quotas equivalent to the levels sold in 1932 (the lowest point in the Great Depression), strengthening the commercial ties between Argentina and Great Britain.

The most salient points of the agreement were:

  1. Argentina was assured of an export quota of no less than 390,000 metric tonnes of refrigerated beef. 85% of the beef exports were to be made through foreign meat packers. The United Kingdom "would be agreeable to permit" the participation of Argentine meat packers of up to 15%.
  2. Argentina would give to British companies "a benevolent treatment towards insuring the greatest economic development of the country and the deserved protection to the interests of these companies." [3]
  3. As long as there were currency controls in Argentina (limiting the sending of money abroad), everything that Great Britain would pay for purchases in Argentina, could be returned to the country deducting a percentage from payments to the foreign debt.
  4. Argentina would keep free of duties imports of coal and other goods imported from Great Britain at the time, furthermore vowing to buy 100% of their coal needs in Great Britain.
  5. Argentina agreed not to increase import duties to all British goods, and not to reduce the fees paid to the British railroads in Argentina plus exemptions from certain labor legislation, such as the funding of pension programs.

Vice-president Roca condensed the spirit of the negotiations in the phrase: "It can be said that Argentina is an integral economic part of the British Empire". The treaty had strong political repercussions in Argentina later triggering a conflict from the denunciations of National Representative Lisandro de la Torre.

From this treaty Britain received the greater benefits. For only the promise of purchasing Argentine beef at the reduced levels of the Depression era, Argentina agreed to reduce tariffs on almost 350 British goods to the rates of 1930 and to refrain from imposing duties on main imports such as coal, as already mentioned.[1]

Argentine-British trade 1927–1939 (% of total)
Year Argentine imports Argentine exports
1927 19.4 28.2
1930 19.8 36.5
1933 23.4 36.6
1936 23.6 35.0
1939 22.2 35.9

Source: Colin, Lewis - "Anglo-Argentine Trade 1945-1965"
as quoted in "Argentina in the Twentieth Century" by David Rock (London 1975) pg 115

The treaty lasted twelve years and ended in 1945 when it was changed to the Eden-Malbrán Treaty.


  1. ^ a b David Rock, Argentina 1516-1987 ISBN 0-520-06178-0
  2. ^ Rennie, Argentine Republic
  3. ^ Elba Cristia Rins, María Felisa Winter (2000). La Argentina una historia para pensar 1976-1996