Argentina plans to set up a trade office in Dubai as a centre for re-exporting food, clothing, machinery, construction materials and other goods to the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
Details of the plans emerged as about 200 businessmen from the country visited Dubai to hold talks with prospective clients about shipping their goods to the UAE.
"Argentina is focusing on countries and regions with high potential for trade and the UAE offers good opportunities for Argentinian companies," said Claudio Alfaraz, the director of communications at Argentina's investment and trade promotion agency, which is organising the visit to coincide with the visit of Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Trade between Argentina and the UAE reached Dh1 billion (US$272.2 million) in 2011 but is expected to surge with the development of better air links between the countries.
Meat and poultry make up a major part of Argentina's exports.
"The UAE is not our primary market but we know it has high potential for selling goods there and for re-exporting elsewhere in the region," said Hugo Cebrowski, the director at Agrocereales Del Plata, which produces items that include cereal, lamb and wine.
Another food producer, Agro Royal Commodities, is keen to add the UAE to its existing markets of India, Russia and the Philippines. It aims to secure buyers to start exporting about 300 tonnes each of chickpeas and mung beans annually, said Carlos Levinguer, the general manager of the Buenos Aires-based company.
Fahad Al Gergawi, the chief executive of Dubai FDI, the emirate's foreign investment office, said the office was handling a number of inquiries from Argentinian companies considering setting up branches in the emirate.
"The size and quality of the companies on the trade delegation shows the level of interest Argentinian companies have in the UAE," he said. "This is probably the largest trade delegation from South America to have visited in recent years."
Trade between the UAE and other South American countries has risen, supported by the start of regular passenger and cargo flights.
Brazil exported almost $1bn worth of goods to the UAE in the first five months of last year, up 47 per cent from the same period last year. Emirates Airline flies daily to both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Etihad Airways intends to launch daily flights to Sao Paulo starting in June.
Emirates launched flights to Buenos Aires in January last year.