President Alberto Fernández will set off on a high-profile tour to Russia, China and Barbados this coming Tuesday, with the Argentine leader’s meetings with world leaders likely to be closely observed by the observers at home and abroad.
Details of the president’s trip, which will focus on trade and international cooperation, began to emerge last week. Fernández plans to depart Buenos Aires late Tuesday, February 1, for a long flight to Moscow, arriving the following day. The Peronist leader will then meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Russian capital on February 3 for a lunch date, followed by a joint press conference with few media outlets.
The following day the Argentine leader will be in Beijing, where the highlight of his three days in China will be a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on February 6 at 11am, during which the duo will mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations, which began on February 19, 1972.
The tour of the two nations, a well-known secret in diplomatic circles, was confirmed by Government Spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti.
In addition, government sources confirmed this week that the president will also make a two-day stop in newly independent Barbados, where he will meet with Prime Minister Mia Mottley for talks on the climate crisis and issues related to CELAC, the Latin American and Caribbean organisation that is being chaired by Argentina this year. The president will arrive on the island on February 7 and likely depart the following day.
State news agency Télam reported this week the delegation accompanying the president will be a “reduced” group due to Covid health restrictions. For this reason, no journalists will be travelling with the president, unlike on previous tours.
Among those accompanying the president will be Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz, Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and José C. Paz Mayor Mario Ishii.
The meeting with Putin in Moscow comes at a time of rising tensions in Eastern Europe. Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine and the United States and other Western powers have warned Russia of swift and severe consequences if it invades Ukraine.
Fernández’s scheduled lunch with Putin will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. During a telephone conversation last November, both leaders agreed to try and arrange a visit as soon as the pandemic allowed it. On that occasion, the duo spoke about bilateral relations and “cooperation between the two nations” amid the coronavirus pandemic. Argentina was one of the first countries worldwide to adopt the use of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine and now produces a local version of the jab.
Cerruti told reporters that the two “will talk about collaboration in the area of vaccines, investment, science and other issues of common interest” in their upcoming meeting.
Although Fernández and Putin had planned to meet at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome, the Russian leader announced 11 days before the summit that he would participate via videoconference, postponing those plans.
Activities in China
The initial purpose of the trip, Fernández’s visit to China will coincide with the inauguration of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which the Peronist leader is due to attend, despite the US government calling for a diplomatic boycott due to human rights abuses.
As well as the opening ceremony, Argentina’s president will also attend a meeting with heads of state with his bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping pencilled in for February 5, before a one-to-one with the Chinese premier the following day.
While in China, Fernández will also pay a visit to Argentina’s Olympic athletes, take a trip to the Great Wall of China and visit a museum dedicated to the history of the Chinese Communist Party, according to reports.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Zhao Lijian, has confirmed the president’s visit and meeting with Xi, declaring that “China and Argentina are good friends who trust each other and good partners for common development.”
Speaking to the Spanish-language channel of China Central Television CGTN this week Fernández said that Argentina and the Asian giant have “a great opportunity to strengthen ties and common commercial projects and to be able to continue advancing in a development that is more socially equitable.”
“China has been an important player in Argentine foreign trade for all these years,” he added.
Speaking at the tail-end of last year, Cafiero said that talks would focus on trade issues, especially talks regarding exports and imports.
Argentina wants to strengthen its presence in China and Fernández is believed to want to improve the nation’s trade balance.