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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 16-11-2023 14:31

Sergio Massa, ‘the Washington panel’ and geopolitics – uncertainty in Argentine-US relations

Javier Milei offers alignment with the interests of the United States, while Sergio Massa talks multilateralism. Concerns oversensitive issues such as the Hidrovía waterway, 5G technology and the Chinese base.

Somewhere in San Francisco Joe Biden and Xi Jinping shared on Wednesday a cup of coffee (or tea) – a long-awaited meeting with a “high-level” working agenda after recent friction.

Issues such as technological conflict, the influence of China on North Korea and Iran, relations with Russia and the risks facing Taiwan were up for discussion, according to the spokespersons of the United States and Chinese leaders, as quoted by the international press.

Did Argentina figure in these talks? It seems improbable that the country’s situation was an issue at that summit. At one level local politics always imagines the country to be on the table, but it’s not really like that. We still have a G20 seat thanks to the “good offices” of Carlos Menem in the 1990s. 

Yet the "Washington panel," which analyses and processes the Argentine situation for White House officials, has triggered doubts about certain statements by Economy Minister Sergio Massa and his team. 

Ahead of tomorrow’s run-off both Massa, the ruling presidential candidate, and libertarian lawmaker Javier Milei have made known in their different ways their alignments within international relations.

Milei’s foreign policy proposals are aligned with United States interests. Diana Mondino would be taking over the work at the Foreign Ministry now under Santiago Cafiero.

US-Argentine relations are undergoing a phase of cautious analysis, in particular where the figure of Sergio Massa is concerned. 

US Ambassador to Buenos Aires Marc Stanley has held meetings across the political spectrum.


Pragmatic policies

Argentina’s Ambassador to Switzerland Gustavo Martínez Pandiani, one of Unión por la Patria’s main advisors, explains it thus: “Sergio Massa’s foreign policy is pragmatic so that we are everybody’s friends and nobody’s satellites.”

He continued: “We won’t stick our noses in global conflicts, which won’t have us as protagonists. If there is global conflict or competition between the United States and China, it won’t include Argentina. We won’t be on the side of either China or the United States but of the Argentines.” 

Concerns within the Joe Biden administration rotate around the potential expansion of Chinese interests in Argentina, stretching from key issues such as the Hidrovía waterway, 5G infrastructure, nuclear policy and relations with Iran to the security of US investments in the country, with the Chinese military base on Argentine territory ranking high. 

The Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná waterway, vital for South American commerce, is a strategic point for the United States, which watches over any foreign influence, especially Chinese. The Asian giant’s participation in infrastructure projects such as the Hidrovía is perceived as a possible displacement of US influence in the region. There are also tenders subject to decree.

In the sphere of 5G technology, Argentine resolutions have opened up a small rift with Washington. The Biden administration, which has expressed reservations about the 5G technology developed by Chinese companies such as Huawei, observes with concern how Argentina is opening up to that technology, fearing for the security of information and a possible technological dependence on China.

Argentina’s nuclear policy is also on Washington’s radar. With the advances in the construction of nuclear reactors and the collaboration with China in this field, questions as to the geopolitical balance in the region and the adherence to international safety stands and non-proliferation have arisen.

In recent months, a top-ranking mission visited Argentine installations in Buenos Aires Province and was received by safety and protocol personnel.



Iran and investment

Argentina’s relations with Iran are another aspect of mistrust in the United States. Kirchnerism is part of that story: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner promoted a Truth Commission to clarify the attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre when it had already been investigated by the Argentine justice system. 

Now Ambassador Martínez Pandiani has recently gone back to the same idea of this being discussed as a judicial issue within BRICS. 

Finally, the security of its investments in Argentina is a US priority. In a context of economic and political uncertainty in Argentina, Washington seeks guarantees that its investments will be protected and that there will be no shift towards policies disproportionately favouring other global actors, especially China.

The stance and decisions of Massa, as a key figure in these elections, have opened up doubts in the “Washington panel.” The balance between maintaining a fluid and constructive relationship with Washington and approaching other global actors such as China, places Massa and Argentina in a delicate balancing-act on the international stage.


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by Jorge García, Noticias Argentinas


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