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ARGENTINA | 29-03-2023 23:23

‘Satisfied’ Fernández flies home with Biden's vow of support

A long-awaited meeting between Argentina’s Peronist leader and US President Joe Biden finally took place this week, with both sides emerging subsequently to talk up bilateral relations and opportunities in the coming years.

President Alberto Fernández has returned to Argentina "satisfied" after having "opened the doors" for important "strategic work" with the United States on Wednesday at the White House.

A long-awaited meeting between Argentina’s Peronist leader and US President Joe Biden finally took place this week, with both sides emerging subsequently to talk up bilateral relations and openings in the coming years.

Sat in the Oval Office, the US Democratic leader hailed an "enormous opportunity" to increase economic integration with Argentina and told Fernández that he can "count on him" in the face of massive economic difficulties, in part caused by a devastating drought.

The two countries are embarking "on the next century of our partnership" after 200 years of diplomatic relations, said 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 Fernández.

Speaking at a press conference after the bilateral with Biden, Fernández declared that he was “satisfied with the meeting” and "happy because I am convinced that the doors have been opened for strategic and joint work with the United States.”

 

‘New reality’

As proceedings got underway in the Oval Office, Fernández explained to his counterpart that Argentina is going through its worst drought since 1929 and "this has greatly complicated" the economy – and its debt deal with the International Monetary Fund.

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 later said that Biden told him "to count on him and his government" and that they shared something in common: that both of them had inherited "destroyed economies" from their predecessors

In addition, the US leader said he was in favour of international lending agencies having "a specific policy for middle-income countries," Fernández claimed, music to the ear of Argentina’s government which is seeking concessions from the IMF on the terms of its multi-billion-dollar debt. 

In a statement, the White House said that both countries pledged to work together with other G20 countries "on reforming the multilateral development banks to better address global challenges.”

 

‘Deepen cooperation’

For Biden, the meeting was a good opportunity for both countries to agree to "deepen cooperation" in various sectors such as clean energy, critical minerals, technology and security.

"We can cooperate on a lot," stressed the Democratic president, aware of the opportunity to pamper the relationship with a friendly country at a time when China is striving to extend its influence in Latin America.

Biden also 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. Buenos Aires has repeatedly condemned Moscow's 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.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine "is inadmissible," Fernandez told the press conference, again "condemning" the Russian offensive. We must "end this conflict as soon as possible", he added.

 

Re-election bid?

While he would be drawn on the contents of the meeting, Fernández refused to clarify his intentions for this October’s upcoming presidential ballot.

"I am not thinking about re-election," he said at the press conference, specifying that he has his "head buried in the problem" of the economy, along with the entire government.

Also taking advantage of the fact that Fernández was in Washington was Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who introduced a bill calling for the investigation of five Argentine officials, including Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for alleged "corruption.”

According to Fernández, "obviously that issue was not touched on at all" during the meeting, though he did say “there are politically marginalised people everywhere, including in the United States.”

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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