South America is the worst place to buy an iPad

iPad prices in Argentina can make a consumer cringe.
iPad prices in Argentina can make a consumer cringe.
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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Looking to buy an iPad? Steer clear of South America, where the device can sell for more than twice its price elsewhere.

In New York City, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, India, Australia, Singapore and Thailand, a 16-gigabyte iPad will set you back roughly $500, give or take $20, according to the latest tally by CommSec, which has been tracking global iPad prices since 2007. But venture down to Argentina, and the same Apple-made tablet costs $1,094. Argentina and Brazil sell the world’s most expensive Apple-made tablets—a 16 gigabyte wi-fi-enabled iPad goes for $1,094 and $791 in the countries, respectively. In Chile, the price is only slightly better: $602.

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So why the discrepancy? Protectionism. Countries like Argentina and Brazil have restricted the number of imports from abroad and taxed them heavily in-country. In Argentina, where iPads are more expensive than anywhere else on earth, imported electronics face el impuestazo,  or The Big Tax, a doubled value-added tax on imported electronicsimposed in 2009 (paywall). In Brazil, the world’s second most expensive market for iPads, restrictive import taxes are compounded by poor infrastructure, which raises delivery and transportation costs.

Import taxes aren’t specific to South America—India, for instance, tacks on added taxes for imported goods to protect domestic industries—but in countries like Argentina and Brazil the electronics duties are notoriously high. Neither country has been willing to allow an influx of foreign electronics without the added promise of domestic job creation. Argentina contributes to the manufacturing of TVs for Samsung, notebooks for Lenovo Group and phone for Nokia. For its part, Brazil helps supply technical equipment needed for automobiles and airplanes.

Other electronics makers are also suffering from high prices in South America; Samsung’s Galaxy S4, one of the iPhone’s main competitors, goes for nearly double the US price.