WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Populism is no longer a solution” said Argentine President Mauricio Macri at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Earlier Thursday, US President Donald Trump welcomed Macri at the White House for a “working lunch.”
Argentina’s transition process has not been “easy,” said Macri. The attention we have received is a “great challenge.” After being “isolated” for so many years, Argentina is working on integrating into international markets “gradually,” he emphasized during his address at the CSIS headquarters.
Since assuming the presidency in December of 2015, Macri has overhauled the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (Indec) righting years of erroneous data on economic indicators. He has lifted currency controls and has begun phasing-out energy and public transportation subsidies. His tax amnesty plan, reported Bloomberg, raked-in US$116.8 billion in assets. And his ability to negotiate the fifteen-year-long dispute with creditors opened doors for Argentina’s record bond sale — US $16.5 billion — in April 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But all is not roses for the Casa Rosada. Data from Indec reveals a humble recovery — gross domestic product grew just 0.5 % in the 2016 fourth quarter over the preceding quarter. Moreover, 30% of the population still lives below the poverty level.
Macri’s presidency follows twelve years of spending, protectionism, and a series of debt defaults by his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and her husband, Nestor Kirchner, elected in 2003.
It was a “wonderful … friendly meeting,” Macri told the standing-room-only audience at the event sponsored by the CSIS, the Inter American Dialogue, and the Brookings Institution. President Trump and I are striving “for strong long-term” ties.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump pulled out the red carpet for Macri and his wife, Juliana Awada, at the South Lawn entrance of the White House, reported AP. “We’re going to be great friends, better than ever before,” Trump told reporters. “I’ll tell him about North Korea and he’ll tell me about lemons,” he added. The sixteen-year U.S. ban on Argentine lemon imports did not make it into the joint statement released by the White House.
What was in the statement: a “commitment to expanding trade and investment;” pledges to “to combat narcotics trafficking, money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption, and other illicit finance activities through the newly established Argentina-United States Dialogue on Illicit Finance;” and Venezuela.
Venezuela in Joint Statement
Trump and Macri hold “strong” concerns “over the deteriorating situation in Venezuela” and they “agreed to work closely together to preserve democratic institutions in that country,” the statement said.
The only question chosen from the audience at CSIS was on Venezuela asked by LAHT. Macri answered that under the current government “there is no respect for human rights and that is not democracy.” The struggle to “demand elections and the release of political prisoners” must be “kept up,” he insisted and ended with “the day after will be very hard.”
To date over 29 people have died in the latest rash of protests by the Venezuelan opposition which began on April 4th.
On Wednesday, the Organization of American States (OAS) in a special session agreed to “convene” a meeting of “consultation” by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the “situation” in Venezuela. The 19-10-4-1 vote followed Venezuela’s envoy labeling the move as a “hostile act” and that the OAS has been “feeding the conflict.”
Argentina’s representative defended the resolution. We hope to help Venezuela’s people “secure their future in democracy.”
Within an hour, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro followed through on threats to abandon the OAS.
“It was good to welcome President Macri to the Capitol for a discussion about a number of shared priorities, including the worsening crisis in Venezuela," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). " President Macri has been making difficult economic reforms that should bring growth and attract foreign investment, while reasserting Argentina's vital leadership role in the Americas."
“Argentina is playing a critical role in helping address abuses of democracy and human rights in Venezuela that are destabilizing the entire region. The United States-Argentina partnership has steadily strengthened under President Macri's leadership.”
Last month, House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Duncan (R, SC) in his opening statements at hearing concentrating on Venezuela said, “Venezuela is on the edge of a complete meltdown.” He emphasized that “Gross economic mismanagement; widespread corruption throughout the government; and an erosion of democracy, rule of law, and human rights” have lead to the country’s “sad state.”
Joint Statement from President Donald J. Trump and President Mauricio Macri
President Donald J. Trump hosted President Mauricio Macri of Argentina today to discuss ways to deepen the close partnership between the United States and Argentina. President Trump welcomed Argentina’s growing leadership role on the world stage and the political and economic reforms recently implemented by the Argentine Government, which have improved the environment for investment, trade, and long term economic development. President Trump offered his support to President Macri as Argentina prepares to host the World Trade Organization Ministerial and assume the G-20 Presidency.
The two leaders underscored their continuing commitment to expanding trade and investment between the United States and Argentina. Recognizing the importance of trade in agricultural products to the United States-Argentina bilateral economic relationship, the Presidents directed their Cabinets to expeditiously chart a path forward to resolve pending bilateral agricultural issues, based on scientific principles and international standards. The leaders further expressed their desire to see significant future growth in two-way trade of agricultural and industrial products to the benefit of producers and consumers in both countries.
They also pledged to strengthen our partnership to combat narcotics trafficking, money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption, and other illicit finance activities through the newly established Argentina-United States Dialogue on Illicit Finance. Recognizing the benefits and risks of our increasing dependence on networked information, the leaders discussed the increased importance of cooperation on cyber policy. They agreed to launch a new bilateral Cyber Working Group, which will protect the security and economic interests of both countries, companies, and Internet users.
The two Presidents raised their strong concern over the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, and they agreed to work closely together to preserve democratic institutions in that country.
President Trump told President Macri that the United States will launch the Global Entry Trusted Travelers Program in Argentina in May, facilitating the expedited entry of pre-vetted, low-risk Argentine travelers through United States ports of entry. Argentina will be just the tenth country in the world admitted to this special program, which facilitates rising business and tourism ties while allowing United States border security personnel to focus resources on other potential risks.
Finally, at President Macri’s request, President Trump delivered a large tranche of declassified documents relating to human rights abuses in Argentina during its military dictatorship.