Economy Minister Martín Guzmán boarded a plane for New York on Wednesday night, ahead of a series of meetings with investors and officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the United States.
The minister’s official agenda has not been released, but it is understood that talks with IMF officials over a new financing programme will take place in Washington. Last week, Fund spokesperson Gerry Rice said Guzmán would meet with staff, including Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, on March 23 and 24.
It is Guzmán’s first trip to the United States since January 2020, prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The minister, along with some of his officials, have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Argentina is seeking to renegotiate the terms of the record US$57-billion credit-line agreed with former president Mauricio Macri’s government in 2018. The country has received US$44 billion to date, after Macri’s successor, President Alberto Fernández, refused the final tranches of the loan.
The government is seeking to agree terms on a new programme lasting up to 10 years, with reports suggesting Guzmán wants a four-year grace period on repayments. Under the current deal, repayments are concentrated from 2021 to 2024, with as much as US$19 billion due in one year.
The economy minister previously said he wanted to agree a deal before May, but in recent weeks both IMF staff and President Fernández have indicated that negotiations may not be closed until after the October midterms.
On Wednesday, Fernández said Argentina was not in a hurry. "When others rush me to renegotiate, my urgency is for those who do not have a house, a roof, a job. My urgency is those who have fallen into the pit of poverty. That is my greatest urgency, not to agree a deal with creditors," said the president.
Referencing the IMF negotiations, the Peronist leader said he would not “leave Argentines behind,” saying the multilateral lender had to “understand what has happened” and “assume responsibility” for the country’s ongoing economic turmoil.
Fernández’s government is pursuing a criminal complaint to determine if there was wrongdoing in the awarding of the IMF deal and the use of the funds. In a speech earlier this month, the president said he wanted action against “the authors of the most fraudulent administration and embezzlement of public funds in history," an allusion to Macri’s government. He also criticised the IMF authorities who granted the deal, saying it was authorised to "finance the electoral campaign" of Macri’s Juntos por el Cambio coalition.
News of Guzmán’s trip to the United States sparked an angry reaction from private bondholders of Argentina’s debt, who agreed to a US$65-billion restructuring last year.
The Exchange Bondholder Group, representing a number of investors who have taken on debt in recent decades, criticised the fact that they had not been invited to meet the minister.
“Surprisingly, Minister Guzmán was not even kind enough to invite the Exchange Bondholders, who recently agreed to restructure for a second time, to his 'investor meetings' in New York," the group complained.
According to government sources, Guzmán has meetings lined up in New York with a number of investment funds and think-tanks.
Speculation in local outlets on Thursday said the minister is also hoping to meet with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yallen, given the influence Washington holds over the IMF’s board, which must approve any new deal.
While in the US Capitol, Guzmán is also due to meet with representatives from the World Bank.
– TIMES with agencies