Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie’s office is a hive of activity as the world’s leaders and their delegations prepare to descend on Buenos Aires for the G20.
However, he managed to find time this week to discuss trade opportunities and some of the hot-button issues involving Argentina in the lead-up to this year’s crucial diplomatic event.
How doethe recurring vulnerabilities of Argentina’s economy affect President Mauricio Macri’s leadership in the region?
Argentina does not have a vocation for leadership. This idea of regional leadership is a media creation.
The president is the head of state who is implementing reforms to create a more competitive country, with greater ties with the rest of the world to secure exports and investments, which translate to more jobs and a reduction in poverty.
I believe the [government’s] reforms are focused in the same direction as Chile and, it would seem, Brazil. The president has been given recognition for this, but not because of any particular expression of leadership in the region on his part.
One of the most anticipated visitors during the G20 summit is US President Donald Trump. What expectations does the government have surrounding Trump?
President Macri and President Trump know each other from their time in the business world and they share a relative degree of mutual confidence, which I feel has been very useful.
We have a growing relationship with the United States because of a shared global vision. The United States is recognised as the world’s premier democracy and it is a country that defends civil liberties, economic liberties and human rights.
Through this process, we have secured the possibility of accessing the US market with new products, and have ensured steel and aluminium tariffs [on Argentine exports] were not implemented. Several investments are also coming [from the US to Argentina’s] mining, energy and public-private sectors. This forms part of the agenda of items we will address with President Trump.
You referred to US leadership in human rights. However many believe it is vacating that role, citing the example of Washington’s reaction to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi...
Argentina has a clear position: nobody, neither an ordinary citizen nor a journalist, should die for his or her ideals. In this particular case, Argentina opportunely released a statement condemning the death of Khashoggi.
And what do you think about the US position?
We must be objective when it comes to assessments about whether it is appropriate or not to comment on certain topics. The United States has a long history of commitment to the defence of civil and political freedoms. It is a countries which has set clear examples in the fight for equality and the integration of minorities.
Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, [not only for the US but] for the majority of European democracies as well, which depend on the Saudi oil supply. [Saudi Arabia] can destabilise the global market with its actions. We cannot make a quick assessment of an issue when it is obvious that no democracy, neither the European [democracies] nor our own, can condone the death of a person or repress press freedom.
In regards to the bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, will you confirm the announcement of a new flight between the continent and the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands?
It is the first time a British prime minister has visited the Argentine capital since the Malvinas conflict [in 1982]. A meeting is scheduled and we will analyse the construction of [bilateral] confidence and all other positive initiatives we are currently exploring.
There is a limit on issues surrounding the dispute of sovereignty over the islands: we will not withdraw our position concerning the islands. However, we are open to chatting about many other issues like investment, trade, cooperation in science and technology, [and] the exchange of defence information regarding the preservation of the South Atlantic’s natural resources... These are all positive elements which will be present in our meeting.
And in relation to the flights, we are all very interested in greater flight connectivity between the islands and the mainland. It is something we have been working on for eight months.
The Macri government has urged the Mercosur to adopt greater flexibility in its negotiations in order to finalise trade agreements. Some see Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro as a strong leader who could help in this sense...
We have always believed the Mercosur has operated with a very high degree of protectionism and has disregarded many ideas about [improving] international trade. Our desire is to move toward a mechanism with greater flexibility in terms of the dialogue the Mercosur carries out with other countries and trade blocs.
We must reflect on how we want to interact with the world. It [the Mercosur] is a mechanism that we chose 30 years ago and we must determine if it remains one that works in the current international context.
The main forces of power in the world, the way we do business, and trade currents, have changed. We cannot remain in love with certain tools, rather than with the integration project itself.
Does this imply a Mercosur with no common external
We will sit down to discuss which flexibility mechanisms we will choose. Reality is constantly changing; as such, there could even be proposals which differ to the ones you mention.
by By Aurelio Tomás and Mariano Beldyk