Buenos Aires Times

argentina INTERVIEW: G20 SHERPA

G20 Sherpa: 'After a year's hard work, we've proved we're not a little country'

Pedro Villagra Delgado talks to Mariano Beldyk ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit.

Friday 30 November, 2018
G20 Sherpa Pedro Villagra Delgado (second from left) heads a G20 meeting.
G20 Sherpa Pedro Villagra Delgado (second from left) heads a G20 meeting. Foto:G20 PRESIDENCY

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As the G20’s sherpa, career diplomat Pedro Villagra Delgado is the Argentine with the best viewpoint over this year’s leader summit. In an interview ahead of this weekend’s Leaders Summit, he expressed “optimism” about the prospects of a successful event.

How can you sum up the importance of what is about to happen in Buenos Aires?

Argentina has always been a G20 member state but never with this role [of hosting the summit]. In having done everything well, we are showing the world that we can take on this commitment and meet expectations, even in the eye of a storm like the [economic downturn] one we experienced along the way.

Will Argentina achieve everything it set out to achieve?

There are themes we want to see embraced and others we consider less important. These themes are the commitments of the communiqué and will also appear in the technical annexes.

How complete is the final communiqué at present?

Nothing is conclusive. The points with the greatest difficulty are no longer than two or three paragraphs. There is consensus with respect to others. 

There are always a few ‘commas’ that some would want to put here and others would want to put there. But this is why as diplomats we know how to handle ‘constructive ambiguities.’ 

The complex paragraphs on the other hand, are not a matter of words alone but could be a matter of US$3 billion.

Is your goal to reduce the number of asterisks?

The objective is that there be none, neither brackets nor asterisks. If consensus is not reached, it will not be because Argentina has not fought until the very end. I have already advised my colleagues that if we do not have a text on [November] 28th, that the venue will remain open on the 29th, 30th and 1st as well. So unless they want to experience Buenos Aires a little more, they should show their political will.

Do you think the heads of state could significantly alter that consensus?

The private leaders summit, the ‘retreat,’ could help a lot unless they do not get along, of course, and the opposite happens. 

I personally believe a lot in the human factor, not just because they are leaders. People voted for them. They have the nose for what is really important. 

At the end of the day, they will make that assessment and it may be that some things are dropped which seem necessary but that nonetheless hinder the final agreement.

What role will Macri play?

As the moderator, he can act to guide the debate, granting someone the chance to speak or making commentary; or interfering as little as possible during the meeting, if that is the best outcome. 

There is no set rules, it depends on the climate of the meeting, “the sense of the room.”

What outcome would give you a good night’s sleep on Saturday?

After all the work this year, any outcome will find me sleeping well, I’m sure, and perhaps for a whole three days. Now, I might have nightmares or dream of something nice. (Laughs). 

It would be unreal to imagine an agreement which transports us to some marvellous new world on December 2. However, to end a good year’s work with the idea of cooperating is better than the idea of confrontation, and we continue to search for ways to bridge differences. 

That is valid, not only for the leaders’ retreat but for everyone else outside of it.

How does Argentina sit on the international stage after this G20 year?

We have proved that we are not a little country, a mere receptor of the international community. We have made a big contribution to history and we can give more. We cannot grow smaller nor become the biggest country in the world. But we are in the top 20, that’s for sure. 

And the agenda that Argentina proposed is moving forward.

Does that mean we’re the ‘Champions’ of the ‘G20 Champions League’?

I’m not sure about that but we’re playing hard, which means that we are already in a better position than other countries. We’re Huracán, my team (Laughs) and like in all Champions Leagues perhaps one day we could even beat Barcelona, Manchester United or whomever. Although it’s not the best metaphor because the best outcome is for all of us to win.

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