Alberto Fernández and Joe Biden, after the meeting this Wednesday in Washington.Susan Walsh (APN)
Economy, economy, and more economy.
The conversation this Wednesday between the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, first alone and then accompanied by their respective teams, has been dominated by these types of issues.
One of the main objectives of the tenant of the Casa Rosada was to obtain the support of the United States in the negotiations in Buenos Aires with the IMF, and without naming it specifically, he announced it at the beginning of the meeting: "we hope that they continue to support us, as they have done up to now," he pointed out.
The one from the White House sought to address cooperation on issues such as climate change or critical minerals.
It was the first meeting between the two leaders as presidents;
It had been scheduled for July of last year, but was postponed after Biden tested positive for covid.
It was also the first time in 20 years that a Peronist leader had set foot in the Oval Office: it had not happened since Néstor Kirchner visited then-President George W. Bush in 2003.
The meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere.
"This meeting is an opportunity to reaffirm that nothing is out of our reach if we collaborate," declared the American in a few brief words when opening the conversation in the Oval Office.
Biden also foresaw an opportunity to increase "economic integration."
The Argentine leader, for his part, reiterated the damage that the drought, “the worst since 1929″, has caused in his country's agriculture.
A damage to which the consequences of the war in Ukraine have been added -another of the issues that both leaders addressed in their conversations-, according to him.
The bilateral meeting this Wednesday has been the most important of the management of Alberto Fernández, although it is possible that it is already too late.
The Argentine president is only eight months away from finishing his term and, although he may seek re-election, he is going through a popularity crisis that is difficult to overcome.
The economic crisis is the mother of all its problems: the peso collapses against the dollar in unofficial exchange markets, the Central Bank has its reserves close to zero and inflation exceeded 100% year-on-year last month.
Efforts to comply with the adjustment agreed with the IMF collide with long-standing structural problems, to which has now been added that unprecedented drought in the most fertile basin of the Argentine countryside.
The most optimistic estimate is that export earnings will fall this year 20.
Fernández has to offer the United States political stability and an electoral process that, at least for now, does not seem to favor the arrival at the Casa Rosada of ultra characters, such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
But he has in his backpack the stone that all the efforts in Argentina carry: due to the recurring economic crises, its leaders ask the White House to promote international credits or, as in this case, intercede with the IMF, where their vote is key, to moderate the obligations of the agreements.
The Argentine delegation especially welcomed the presence at the meeting of Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, reluctant to make the goals to which Buenos Aires committed to the Fund more flexible.
On the Argentine side was the Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, who traveled with his own agenda.
They did not only talk about the Argentine economic tribulations.
Also space collaboration, clean energy, 5G or critical minerals: the Southern Cone country is one of the world's leading producers of lithium, a fundamental chemical element for electric vehicle batteries.
Geopolitical issues were also addressed: Argentina, as the spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, recalled on the eve of the meeting, is a significant ally of Washington for the war in Ukraine, and contributed significantly to alleviating the problems surrounding to global food security after the outbreak of the conflict.
And, in addition, the shadow of China weighed heavily.
Neither of the two leaders referred to it in their statements at the beginning of the meeting, but Washington is closely watching the growing presence of the Asian giant in Argentina.
In particular, the plans for Chinese companies to build two nuclear power plants in Buenos Aires.
During the stay in Washington, Massa met with the number two of the IMF, Gita Gopinath, because the director of the organization, Kristalina Georgieva, is traveling.
The moment could not have been better for the Argentine.
The agency's executive board is analyzing this week whether or not it approves the fourth revision of the program signed in January last year with Argentina.
The text includes a request from Massa to reduce the commitment to accumulate reserves by 2023 by some 2 billion dollars, although the demands for deficit reduction remain unchanged.
Since January, the Central Bank of Argentina has lost 2.5 billion dollars to satisfy the demand for dollars from importers and savers.
The Casa Rosada maintains that the war in Ukraine, with the soaring in the energy import bill, and now the drought,
The go-ahead from the United States, which has veto power within the IMF, is crucial for Argentina.
This is an election year and any fiscal adjustment means losing votes.
And if the numbers for the economy get even worse in the next quarter, as expected, and any new request to the IMF will need the support of the White House.
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