With international tensions on trade set to come to a head at the Group of 20 Leaders Summit next weekend, Argentina is hoping to find agreement on improving global stability, even if deep disagreements remain.
In an interview with the AFP news agency, Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said the November 30-December 1 meeting in the nation’s capital should stress the importance of trade itself, at a time that the former consensus against protectionism breaks down.
“We are putting a focus on the situation of trade, just to make sure that it grows, that it is stable and that this vision is shared by the principal actors,” he said. “We have to encompass all the views to be able to find common ground for everyone.”
The United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, have an escalating trade war as US President Donald Trump vows to protect domestic industry as part of his “America First” philosophy.
Trump has cast his G20 meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a deadline for Beijing to lessen trade barriers or face even more intense pressure. Trump said this week he “had been preparing for it all my life.”
The G20, a club formed a decade ago amid the economic crisis, accounts for 85 percent of global economic output. Each leaders summit issues a final communiqué, yet Faurie played down the importance of any final statement, quipping: “Sometimes we do such lengthy documents that people are a little bit lost in their reading.”
However, he said a draft proposal from the Mauricio Macri administration and its G20 team, which is still being hammered out, was “reasonable” and would emphasise stability as part of a “rational and positive outlook” on trade. However, in an onminous sign of the difficulties that may lie ahead, two other major summits this year – the G7 summit and the AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation forum –both ended without customary joint statements.
Faurie argued that Argentina, the first South American host of the G20, was in a position to offer a “fresh approach” to world leaders, yet he was questioned about the Macri administration’s approach in recent economic turmoil.
The government is pressing ahead with spending cuts as part of a US$56-billion International Monetary Fund bail-out. In addition, the peso has lost nearly half of its value this year as the government’s coffers struggle with a fiscal deficit and the effects of a severe drought on the powerful agricultural sector.
Faurie argued that structural reforms, which have triggered street protests, have gone in tandem with the G20 push for trade, which could help fill the coffers for emerging economies.
“It is very important for us to have a sort of stabilisation of trade, because we depend on this possibility of trade to have more production and to have more ... employment,” he told AFP.
The G20 will be historic too in marking symbolic reconciliation between Argentina and Britain, which went to war in 1982 over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.
Faurie confirmed in a separte interview this week that Theresa May will become the first sitting prime minister to visit Buenos Aires since the war. Tony Blair briefly visited Argentina in 2001 when he crossed the Brazilian border at Puerto Iguazú.
Faurie said the government was committed to working more closely with Britain from trade to environmental preservation to better connecting Argentina to the islands, with a new flight route – which would stop in Córdoba – set to be announced during the PM’s visit.
“We are trying to show that, besides the discussion of sovereignty over the Malvinas, we have a lot of other areas in bilateral relations and that we have to make them grow,” he said.
Argentina is leading the summit just as the other two Latin American members of the G20, Brazil and Mexico, go through presidential transitions in which the countries are shifting sharply to the right and left respectively.Neither Mexico’s incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and its current leader, Enrique Peña Nieto, are expected to attend the Leaders Summit.
Faurie dismissed any suggestion that the G20 was a bid by Argentina for Latin America’s helm. He said he collaborated closely with Brazil and Mexico on pursuing the agenda and pointed out that Chile had been invited to the summit.
“It is not a matter of leadership; it is a matter of doing the right thing at this moment.”