UC Distinguished Lecture Series on Argentina Today

In welcoming H.E. Ambassador Ana Maria Ramirez to The University of Cambodia on behalf of UC President, H.E. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Professor Din Merican, Associate Dean of the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations at The University of Cambodia, told the gathering of some 60 faculty and students that Ambassador Ana Maria was taking the opportunity to speak to them as part of the conclusion of her tour of duty in Cambodia. She will be retiring from the Foreign Service of her government shortly. He added that the University of Cambodia was grateful that she was able to find the time to speak to students about the topic entitled, ‘Argentina Today,’ with an emphasis on relations with Cambodia.

In commencing her lecture, Ambassador Ramirez said that Argentina is a federal constitutional re-public with a representative democracy. It is administered by a system of checks and balances defined by the Constitution of Argentina, the country’s supreme law. Buenos Aires is the nation’s capital.

In Argentina, suffrage is universal, equal, secret and mandatory. The nation is a federation of 23 prov-inces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires. The provinces, according to Ambassador Ramirez, hold the power to choose what responsibilities to delegate to the federal government, and which they will maintain provincially. However, provincial governments must be representative republics, which enact their own con-stitutions. It is important however, to ensure that provincial constitutions do not contradict the national constitution. Provinces are free to organize their local governments, and to own and manage their natural and financial resources. Some provinces have bicameral legislatures, while other have unicameral ones.

Foreign Policy is conducted by the Argentinean state through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which answers to the President. A historical and current middle power in global affairs, Argentina bases its foreign policy on the guiding principles of non-intervention, self-determination, international cooperation, disarmament, and peaceful settlement of conflicts. It is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies of the world, and a founding member of the UN, World Bank Group (IMF, World Bank and International Development Agency), WTO and OAS. In 2012, Argentina became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Argentina co-founded OEI, CELAC and UNASUR. It is also a founding member of MERCOSUR, in part-nership with Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, and has been playing a key role in Latin American integration since 2002.

Touching on the Argentinean economy, Ambassador Ramirez said that agriculture is a major and rela-tively capital-intensive market providing 7% of total employment. Benefiting from rich natural resources, a very literate population, a diversified industrial base, and an export-driven agricultural sector, the Argentinean economy is Latin America’s third largest and the second largest in South America after Brazil. Argentina has a high rating on the Human Development Index (HDI), with a considerable internal market (population: 40 million), and a growing and dynamic high tech and services sector.

Argentina is also known for its achievements in science and technology, with 3 Nobel Prizes in the sciences (medicine, and veterinary science). Tourism is also a major foreign exchange earner. The country played host to nearly 6 million visitors in 2013, ranking, in terms of tourist arrivals, as top in South America, and second after Mexico in Latin America. Total revenue reached USD$4.41 billion in 2013.

Ambassador Ramirez said with considerable pride that her country is a multicultural polity with significant European influences. Its cities are largely characterized by the prevalence of people of European descent, and of conscious imitation of European styles in fashion, design and architecture.

Modern Argentinean culture is a combination of Italian, Spanish, French, English, Irish and German influences. Another influence is the gauchos, and their traditional country lifestyle of self-reliance. Finally, indigenous American traditions have been absorbed into the general cultural milieu. It also has a rich literary tradition with well-known writers like Julio Cortazar, Victoria Ocampo, Jorge Luis Borges, Aldolfo Casares, and other poets and essayists. The country is well regarded for its music, dance and theatre.

Ambassador Ramirez devoted a considerable amount of time talking about her country’s relations with Cambodia. She said that Argentina and Cambodia have been longstanding friends, cooperating over a wide range of areas from trade to technical assistance in agriculture including animal husbandry, education, and cultural exchange. In recent years, interactions between businessmen and people in both countries have intensified to mutual benefit. The potential for trade and investment, however, remains untapped. She was pleased to have contributed to the building of strong relations with Cambodia at all levels. She added that it was indeed her privilege to have been assigned to look after Argentina’s commercial and diplomatic relations with Cambodia and its people.

There is an active technical assistance program for universities in agriculture and animal husbandry. She herself has been able to establish cordial and constructive relations with universities in Phnom Penh in-cluding the University of Cambodia during her tour of duty, and will encourage her successor to build on her efforts. She underscored the importance of establishing a student exchange programme between the countries and promised to follow up on this when she returns home. Overall, she said that she benefited enormously from working and interacting with Cambodians from all walks of life, and thanked the Government of Cam-bodia and the people for their generosity and hospitality.


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