December 16, 2017

Denies any accord with Washington without Mercosur

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Malcorra reveals free-trade deal talks

Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra speaks in Buenos Aires yesterday.
Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra speaks in Buenos Aires yesterday.
Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra speaks in Buenos Aires yesterday.

Foreign Minister says bloc holding conversations as Kirchnerite leader rejects idea

Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra has revealed the Mercosur regional trade bloc is discussing the possibility of signing a free-trade agreement with the United States, barely a week before US President Barack Obama is expected to visit the country.

She denied, though, that Argentina would pursue a solo deal, as criticism rained down from opposition lawmaker Juliana Di Tullio.

“To think Argentina will go out on its own is to deny the very existence of Mercosur... the bloc as such is able to move forward (with negotiations) and we’re holding conversations on this issue,” Malcorra told Radio Latina.

In the interview, the Foreign minister made it clear the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) administration “is working to open up the country to the world,” but stressed that working on a free-trade agreement “takes time and preparation.”

Malcorra, who until last year served as UN under-secretary-general for Field Support under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said it would be “rushed” to say that the free-trade deal was going to go through — stressing that any decision “must be agreed upon within the trade bloc.”

“No country (in the region) save for Chile has an FTA with the US. (But) the Mercosur as a bloc may move forward with the idea. We’re talking,” Malcorra insisted.

Kirchnerite leaders were less than pleased with the news.

“The Foreign minister acknowledges conversations to implement a free trade deal (with the US) in Argentina. Oh my god!” Victory Front (FpV) national lawmaker Juliana Di Tullio wrote on Twitter.

Di Tullio, who until very recently led the Kirchnerite caucus in the Lower House of Congress, said the move was at odds with previous efforts by the country’s leaders to reject similar deals.

“(Late president) Néstor Kirchner buried the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) in Mar del Plata alongside other Latin American leaders,” she said, referring to the now-famous 2005 Summit of the Americas held in the coastal city that put an end to George W. Bush’s dreams to a free trade area in the continent. “They’ll have to bring a huge shovel to unbury it.”

Her FpV colleague Diana Conti shared more moderate views.

“If Mercosur decides to sign the agreement as a bloc, taking into account the defence of the regional interest, I don’t think they’ll find resistance down here,” Conti told the Herald.

Argentina back on the spotlight

In the radio interview, Malcorra also said Obama’s upcoming visit proves Argentina “is a priority” for the country’s number one economy.

“That’s a very positive signal,” she said.

Last week, a Reuters analysis of corporate statements made during the last round of earnings reports found companies ranging from Ford and Pepsi to Discovery Communications grousing that the devaluation put in play by Macri would cost them dearly. But many also noted the currency moves were part of a broader package of reforms that would in the long run help them grow in the country.

According to analysts, focus will sharpen on the country’s improved business environment during Obama’s March 23-24 visit. The agenda includes efforts to increase cooperation in trade and investment.

“Investment will come if entrepreneurs trust the country, and the visit by President Obama shows trust in Argentina — so that will help us,” Malcorra said.

“But this doesn’t mean that things will miraculously occur overnight,” she concluded.

Statements by Malcorra came days after the Argentine ambassador to the US Martín Lousteau said that Argentine exports to the country had been stalled for a decade and a half.

“We’re selling them US$4 billion in total, a figure that has remained constant for the last 15 years,” Lousteau said.

Argentine exports to the US in 2014 — the latest official information available — were of US$4.2 billion, a similar figure to that of 2004, when sells abroad were of US$3.8 billion.

Herald with Reuters

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