Patricio Carmody is author of "Looking for Consensus at the End of the World: Towards an Argentine Foreign Policy With Consensus (2015-2027)," published by CARI and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
In its role leading the G20 during 2018, Argentina is exercising an unusually inclusive approach. This outlook has the potential to significantly raise our diplomatic prestige and impact internationally, in addition to being in sync with the country’s “diverse horizons” strategy toward foreign affairs.
The G20 has become the most relevant hub for global governance and cooperation, thanks to the fact that it brings together, with its members, the established economic powers and the main developing countries. Essentially, it functions witgh the dynamic of a board of directors, where states have the preponderant role. They act, according to the expert John Luckhurst, “like members of a club that cooperate in an informal and consensual manner, [as is] typical of a group of self-selected members.”
If one of Argentina’s objectives during its time leading the G20 is to present, as Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie previously expressed, “a view from the south,” the team that is leading the G20 is clearly focused toward developing this perspective.
Accordingly, President Mauricio Macri’s sherpa at the G20, Pedro Villagra Delgado, has already visited Pretoria (in South Africa), New Delhi and Mumbai (India), and Jakarta (Indonesia), to present the thematic priorities that will dominate this year’s G20, to obtain their feedback and points of view. These three member states of the G20 have offered complementary “southern views” in turn, offering distinct African and Asian components. This outreach toward these “southern” states – India, South Africa and Indonesia (a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN) – is an inclusive move and improves our relations with these prominent emerging powers.
At the same time, President Macri met with leaders of established powers. For example, he met with Angela Merkel (Germany) and Justin Trudeau (Canada) at Davos. Villagra Delgado visited Ottawa in Canada, emphasising Argentina’s bid to strengthen relations with established powers. The president has also hosted a number of high-profile visitors in Buenos Aires, including most recently Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a permanent guest member of the G20.
Through these tactics, Argentina is confronting the challenge of leading the G20 head on and with the same approach it is utilising toward foreign relations: implementing its “diverse horizons” strategy in an attempt to maintain positive and simultaneous relations with the established and emerging powers, as well as its “near abroad.”
Given the exclusive nature of the G20 membership, it is also worthwhile highlighting the effort that the Argentine team is making to listen to nations that are not represented in this group.
Villagra Delgado has held a series of outreach meetings, presenting the G20 agenda to non-member countries. In the case of Africa, he has visited the African Union and New Partnership for Africa's Development’s (NEPAD) offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Local media outlets in Africa have shown their satisfaction with Argentina’s inclusive attitude, with one stating that: “This is the first time that the G20 has a sherpa that has maintained a significant dialogue with African representatives at the African Union’s offices, with the intention of listening to their point of views.” Additionally, both the current leaders of the African Union (Rwandan President Paul Kagame) and of NEPAD (Sengali President Macky Sall) have been invited to the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires later this year.
In the case of the “near abroad” nations, an outreach effort was conducted via meetings inside the Foreign Ministry, with representatives of non-member Latin American countries attending, and through the invitation extended to Chile to participate in the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Regarding content, the thematic priorities of Argentina’s G20 agenda – the future of jobs, infrastructure for development, sustainable food security – were very well received by these “southern” states. Additionally, the idea of permeating all the discussions at the G20 with two key topics – gender equality and transparency – was warmly accepted. African nations, in particular, pointed out the consistency of these themes with the United Nations’ 2030 agenda, which is of paramount importance to African leaders.
In addition to utilising the G20 as an instrument to implement the government’s “diverse horizons” strategy, this intense activity will bear fruit in two critical aspects of our foreign policy approach. The first one is the rise in prestige and impact of our diplomacy, which is critical for a vigorous defence of our national interests. Able management of the G20 agenda, combined with a deep knowledge of key international topics and the corresponding positions of the different countries – including their so-called ‘red lines’ on specific issues – has the potential to substantially elevate the prestige of Argentina’s diplomatic corps.
The second aspect is contribution to our development, through the establishment of closer political ties with these “southern” states, which is of vital importance for our exports. Indeed, India, Africa and the ASEAN nations already represent 19.1 percent of Argentina’s total exports (India 3.1 percent, Africa 7.9 percent, ASEAN 8.7 percent), compared with the 7.9 percent represented by China. However – and in contrast to the Chinese case in particular – we maintain trade surpluses with all these geographies, which totalled over US$7 billion in 2017.
The actions of our G20 representatives seem to reflect what was written by the Athenian historian Thucydides: “Rare are the cases in which it is only necessary to desire success in order to succeed, and that it is more to foresight that we owe, in the majority of cases, our successes.” Moreover, in addition to being inclusive, these actions appear to be in sync with the approach being taken by our leaders on foreign policy.