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ARGENTINA | 11-05-2023 19:51

Relief for business leaders as Massa and Rodríguez Larreta charm AmCham

Preferred candidates for 2023 election talk up dialogue and air pro-market visions, with talk of alignment with Washington prompting sigh of relief from US business leaders

Sergio Massa's public revelation at the AmCham Summit 2023 that any potential presidential candidacy should be backed by a pledge of unity from the ruling Frente de Todos coalition generated relief among US business leaders. 

The business community considers that the formation of a centrist offer, apart from Argentina’s polarised politics, that seeks strong links to US power, represented by the economy minister and the dialogue-minded and reformist opposition presidential hopeful, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, opens a window of opportunity for a transition without crisis from Alberto Fernández's government.

The possibility of a candidacy that "generates predictability" in the business sphere would be welcomed, AmCham sources said. Up until now, Massa has ruled out the possibility of running for president, citing family "conditioning factors," but he has mainly talked of the incompatibility of his leadership of the Economy Ministry and a potential candidacy. If he moves in this direction any further, the chances of him leaving office while leaving one of his trusted officials in charge of the portfolio are increasing.

The question from the president of AmCham and senior country manager of JP Morgan, Facundo Gómez Minujín, was concrete and clear: "Are you going to be a candidate?” Beyond the uncertainties of the recalibration of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the restrictions on imports and even exchange rate tensions, the executives of US multinationals were waiting for a political sign that would reduce fears of China's advance in the region. Massa is seen as an ally of the US in geopolitical relations.

"A government has the obligation to provide certainty and part of that is not to expose society to internal debates," declared the minister to the enthusiasm of the audience. The premise of unifying the power of the ruling coalition under a figure of unity will reduce the constraints of exchange rate policy, according to those in the Frente Renovador leader's entourage. However, Massa will first evaluate the impact any candidacy could have on Kirchnerism, in order to decide whether or not he will broaden his profile.

For the US version of the ‘círculo rojo’ (“red circle”), Massa's choice of place to confess his presidential aspirations is a "sign of a good relationship." It comes on the anniversary of 200 years of bilateral relations between Argentina and the United States and at a time of uncertainty due to the advance of the government’s ties with the BRICS group of nations. "We needed certainty to think about long-term projects," said one business leader from the productive sector. Another source was more blunt: "He is a pro-dialogue and pro-market candidate.”

The multinational business community has two preferred options that suit them well: Massa and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. Although they trust the other major opposition candidate, Patricia Bullrich, the business world prefers "certainties" in a context of political, social and economic tension. For the executives, the way out of the crisis should be through the path that is closest to the centre.

Rodríguez Larreta was blunt in his answers on Tuesday: "I am not going to change the axis of bilateralism," he promised business leaders, when asked about Argentina's entry into the BRICS, should Juntos por el Cambio win the Casa Rosada in October. There were nods from the City mayor too, who showed his willingness to integrate into a potential government technical teams from his rivals in the PASO primary elections and even Peronist representatives, provided they are far removed from Kirchnerism.

The absentee at the AmCham summit was libertarian Javier Milei, who had been invited but never accepted the invite. He was not well thought of in the corridors of the Alvear Icon Hotel in Puerto Madero. "His plans are impossible to put into practice and only generate uncertainty," complained one executive consulted by this newspaper.

Ariel Maciel

Ariel Maciel

Editor de Economía Política en Perfil.com - Mail: [email protected]

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