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ECONOMY | 30-10-2021 17:35

President Fernández vows to be 'firm' in talks with IMF

President Alberto Fernández vows to negotiate "firmly" with the International Monetary Fund; Meets US President Joe Biden briefly on sidelines of G20 summit.

President Alberto Fernández, speaking from Rome where he is attending the G20 Leaders Summit, promised Saturday to negotiate "firmly" with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after an extensive meeting with the multilateral lender's managing director. 

"Good meeting with the head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, to move forward in negotiations that will allow us to get out of the socially and economically unsustainable place where the government that preceded me left our beloved Argentina. To negotiate firmly is to recover sovereignty," the Peronist leader said in a tweet after the 90-minute meeting.

The duo, accompanied by their respective teams, met for a full hour and a half at Argentina's Embassy in Rome. According to diplomatic sources, discussions focused on the possibility reducing surcharges on Argentina's US$45-billion debt with the Fund.

"When we have a good agreement we will close the deal," said Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero at a press conference, reiterating the government's supposed 'firm' line. 

"The debt cannot be an anchor to [economic] recovery," he declared.

President Fernández, who was accompanied by Cafiero and Economy Minister Martin Guzman to the talks, also met with a number of other world leaders on the sidelines of the G20 Leadesr Summit, which is taking place at the ultra-modern 'La Nuvola' ("The Cloud") Convention Centre in the Italian capital.

"It was a constructive meeting in which we continued to seek to build understandings. We always continue working the negotiations and meetings," declared Guzmán, adopting a more conciliatory tone.

Earlier in the day, the president spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (a guest country at the G20), the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and French head of state, Emmanuel Macron.

"These have been bilateral relations to strengthen the link between Argentina and Europe. The president has emphasised the need to review the international financial architecture, which today is an obstacle to development, rather than a tool," said Cafiero pointedly.

Argentina is hoping to agree a deal to restructure its US$45-billion debt with the IMF. Huge payments are due next year under the loan's current terms, agreed in 2018 under the Mauricio Macri government.

Earlier this week, Fernández called on the IMF to take "responsibility for the damage it did" by granting the record US$57-billion credit-line to the Macri administration (2015-2019).

Upon taking office in December 2019, Fernández waived the remaining tranches of the loan.

"Dialogue continues to advance in the negotiation of the new programme to replace the failed stand-by agreed by the Juntos por el Cambio government" 'in 2018, Argentina's government said in a politically worded statement.


'No innocents'

Fernández and Georgieva last met face-to-face back in mid-May, also in Rome, at the end of the president's last European tour. During that trip, he won backing from Portugal, Spain, France and Italy for his dealings with the Fund.

Argentina is the IMF's largest debtor. Back in September, it shelled out a repayment on the principal worth US$1.884 billion, after it had received the equivalent of some US$4.4 billion via special drawing rights (SDRs) fro the Fund, a measure the lender took to help member nations alleviate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their respective economies.

The president has repeatedly called for a new form of multilateralism oriented towards the development of the most vulnerable countries, with better payment conditions and better terms and amounts.

At the moment, he is not expected to hold an official bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden, though he did bump into the Democratic leader on the sidelines of the G20 on Friday. The two shared a warm exchange, with Biden paying tribute to Fernández's "beautiful" country during a brief chat.

Both leaders will also be in attendance at the COP26 United Nations climate summit, which begins on Monday in Glasgow, Scotland.

Fernández, who proposed in his speech to the fellow G20 leaders that they create "a new international financial architecture," is pushing a policy of debt relief for climate action.

"There are no innocents in this story. Those who went into debt without paying attention to the ruinous resulting consequences are just as responsible as those who provided the resources to finance the flight of foreign currency in an unhinged economy," he said in his speech.


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