President Mauricio Macri and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy expressed their excitement Tuesday about the “recomposition” of Argentine-Spanish relations, as the Spanish Prime Minister’s two-day official visit to Argentina drew to a close.
No Spanish leader had visited Argentina in 11 years. Bilateral relations soured notably from 2012 when former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner nationalised Spanish-owned shares in Argentina’s flagship oil company YPF.
On that note, Macri took aim at the previous Kirchner administrations telling the the “Spain-Argentina” Business Meeting that his country was now growing “like it had not grown in 100 years”, in part because it had abandoned “decades of populist and demagogic practices”.
“Argentina has managed to grow by reducing its inflation, reducing taxes and reducing spending: that has not happened in 100 years in our country”, Macri said.
Ever optimistic about Argentina’s potential to attract foreign investment, Macri told an audience which included top Spanish business leaders: “Argentines learn from our mistakes, we want to be trustworthy, credible, predictable and that’s why we’re working to improve our institutionally each and every day and to establish clear rules”.
Macri held a private meeting with 10 top Spanish business leaders following his presentation at the Alvear Hotel in Puerto Madero. Their concerns centered around Argentina’s chronic inflation, media reports suggested.
‘ROOM FOR GROWTH’
Spain is Argentina’s second largest investor. Official trade data from Madrid indicates that the trade volume between the two countries grew 20 percent in 2017 to $2.87 billion Euros.
“There is room for growth in Argentina in the economic relationship, because Argentina is Spain’s fifth largest trading partner behind countries in the region that are smaller”, Rajoy said during a press conference held later in the day at Government House.
He described the Macri administration’s economic reform agenda as “brave” and indicated that Argentina had show it can “generate the necessary environment of trust to grow and generate well being, and of course to attract investment”.
While there have been few major breakthroughs in the Macri government’s attempts to attract foreign investment, the Argentine head of state was upbeat about the prospects of an eventual European Union (EU)-Mercosur free trade deal.
“We have never been as close as we are to something so important and so positive for both regions”, he said. “There is no relationship more natural that the one between the European Union and Mercosur”.
He also talked up the telecommunications bill his government recently sent to Congress, an initiative Macri said was “aimed at establishing clear rules and to develop a competitive market” so that Argentines “can have better mobile phone coverage and improved broad band or satellite coverage for Internet”.