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ECONOMY | 17-04-2021 09:16

Guzmán heads for Moscow after searching for ‘consensus’ on European tour

Economy Minister Martín Guzmán heads to Moscow for talks on vaccine production, IMF debt restructuring and deepening strategic ties.

Economy Minister Martín Guzmán flew to Moscow on Friday after a successful week-long tour of Europe that took in a host of meetings with ministers across the continent and a private audience with Pope Francis.

The 38-year-old, who departed in search of "consensus and understanding" regarding Argentina’s multi-billion-dollar debt with the International Monetary Fund, is due to hold talks with Russian officials about deepening strategic cooperation between the two nations. 

Guzmán, who will be joined in Moscow by Presidential Adviser Cecilia Nicolini, will also hold talks over the potential production of the Sputnik V vaccine in Argentina, according to Economy Ministry officials, as well as meeting his Russian counterpart Anton Siluanov. 

Guzmán's European tour began last Sunday in Berlin, Germany, before continuing on through Rome (Italy), Madrid (Spain) and Paris (France). 

Perhaps the highlight of the visit, however, was a trip to the Vatican, where Guzmán met with Argentine pontiff Pope Francis for a private 45-minute audience. It was the third meeting between the two, following previous talks on debt reduction in 2019 and 2020.

During the meeting, the duo discussed Argentina’s debt restructuring scenario and ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and with the Paris Club, said the state news agency.

Guzmán is seeking political support for Argentina’s talks with the IMF that intend to secure a new financing programme. Any deal will need the support of allied nations on the institution’s board.

The minister "will continue to build consensus on what Argentina needs to stabilise its economy," the Economy Ministry said in a statement.

Pope Francis has been a strong supporter of debt restructuring pushes, even calling last year for “significant debt relief" for indebted nations struggling in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. "It cannot be expected that debts incurred are paid with unbearable sacrifices," he declared.

Argentina owes the IMF US$44 billion in debt from the record US$57 billion credit-line granted to the Mauricio Macri administration in 2018. With large repayments due in the coming years, the government is seeking a new programme that will delay payments for a number of years.

The Alberto Fernández administration is also seeking to delay a US$2.5-billion payment due to the Paris Club group of creditors in May. 

Guzmán’s whistlestop tour saw him meet with a number of his European counterparts, including French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Spain’s Finance Minister Nadia Calviño, German State Secretary in the Federal Finance Ministry Wolfgang Schmidt and the president of the Paris Club, Emmanuel Moulin, as well as a host of others.

Guzmán was accompanied on his trip by the IMF’s director for Argentina and the Southern Cone, Sergio Chodos, and his chief-of-staff at the Economy Ministry, Melina Mallamace.

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