President Alberto Fernández called on Wednesday for the United States to "continue accompanying" Argentina in its discussions with the International Monetary Fund during a long-awaited meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
Declaring that the country is facing the worst drought in its history, Fernández highlighted the impact on his government’s coffers and Central Bank reserves and once again condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict there.
In turn, Biden hailed an "enormous opportunity" to increase economic integration with Argentina.
The two countries are embarking "on the next century of our partnership" after 200 years of diplomatic relations, added the US president, citing an "enormous opportunity to increase our economic integration."
"This meeting is a chance to reaffirm that nothing is beyond our reach if we work together," Biden said, seated next to his counterpart in the Oval Office.
The Democratic leader recalled that he should have received Fernández last summer, but had to cancel after contracting the Covid-19 virus.
He went on to thank him for his “handling” of Argentina’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Argentina has repeatedly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but, like other Latin American countries, has refused to send arms to Kyiv.
"The war has done immeasurable damage to the world economy. We have to work hard together, join forces so that this war ends, so that it stops taking human lives and so that the economy recovers," Fernández said.
Both countries have a head start in mitigating the consequences of the war, which global bodies warn could cause hundreds of millions of people to go hungry.
"We have a great opportunity ahead of us. The world demands food, the world demands energy and we have all those goods in our countries and we can produce them in our countries," Fernández said, describing the need for peace in Ukraine as “urgent.”
Just as urgent for Fernández is controlling the inflationary crisis that Argentina is going through, in the middle of an election year. The country is going through its worst drought since 1929 and "this has made our economy very complicated," he told Biden.
Argentina’s Peronist leader thanked his host for US support in the relationship between Buenos Aires and international economic organisations.
"We are presenting this new reality to the lending agencies, so I hope they continue to accompany us as they have done up to now," Fernández added, addressing Biden, whose country is the main shareholder at the IMF.
The International Monetary Fund is set to approve the latest quarterly review of the country’s US$44.5-billion 30-month debt agreement imminently, paving the way for the disbursement of some US$5.3 billion to shore up Central Bank reserves.
Fernández also stressed his country's willingness to cooperate with the United States in the fight against climate change, highlighting the drought as cause for renewed action.
Biden said the meeting was an opportunity to strengthen economic ties in various sectors such as clean energy, minerals, technology and security.
"We can cooperate on a great deal" of issues, at the beginning of a new century of partnership, the Democratic leader stressed, aware of the opportunity to nurture the relationship with a friendly country at a time when China is striving to extend its influence in the region and the rest of the world.
The meeting between the two leaders in the Oval Office was followed by a working meeting of the two countries' technical teams in the Cabinet Room.
Fernández was accompanied by, among others, Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who met with IMF Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinah on Wednesday.
"We discussed the fourth review of the programme, the severe impact of the drought and the importance of actions to strengthen reserves and continue mobilising domestic financing in a sustainable way," Gopinah tweeted after the meeting.
Among the US officials in attendance were Janet Yellen (US Treasury Secretary), Jack Sullivan (Senior National Security Advisor), Antony Blinken (Secretary of State), Juan González (National Security Advisor for Latin America), Brian Nichols (Undersecretary of State for Latin America), Lorenzo Harris (National Security Council Latin America Officer) and Marc Stanley (US Ambassador to Argentina).
Prior to the meeting, a White House statement said the two leaders would discuss “their shared values of inclusion, democracy and protection of human rights.” In addition, partnering options on global challenges and areas of “mutual interest including critical minerals, climate change, space and technology” were on the agenda.
"The United States considers Argentina to be a central axis for the region," sources in the Argentine delegation briefed reporters on Tuesday.