Presidential candidates Patricia Bullrich, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Javier Milei, and Juan Schiaretti said they would eliminate export duties on agricultural commodities if they were voted into office.
Their fellow contender and incumbent Economy Minister Sergio Massa said that he would progressively reduce agricultural taxes if he became president, but wouldn’t eliminate them. He also asked the producers to understand the need to apply certain restrictions due to the economic context.
Massa (Unión por la Patria, the ruling coalition), Bullrich, Larreta (Juntos por el Cambio), Milei (La Libertad Avanza) and Schiaretti (Hacemos por Nuestro País) were speaking at the 2023 edition of ExpoRural on Monday, a yearly event where rural producers show their products and politicians are invited to talk about their proposals in front of powerful agricultural businesspeople.
“Our challenge is to support this main economic engine that is the agricultural sector with other engines that alleviate their burden, and to allow a balanced development to happen,” Massa said.
Massa contended that the government’s agroindustry bill — which has yet to be debated in Congress and aims to promote investments that would increase exports and bring more dollars into the country — would allow for the “first steps in a path of tax reduction.”
“While providing added value to our exports, the tax pressure on the primary production chain will be much lower,” Massa said.
Amid tough negotiations with the IMF and a sharp drop in international reserves, the Argentine government has implemented new taxes for imports of goods and services from Monday onwards. It also granted a higher exchange rate for some agricultural exports, although soybeans are excluded.
Massa also announced that as of September 1, export duties will no longer apply on regional economy products. Regional economies in Argentina include producers of traditional local products such as yerba mate, wines, citrus, rice, tea, and wood.
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Bullrich criticized export duties and currency restrictions — known as cepo in Argentina — as a part of a “brutal bureaucracy” that makes the Argentine state “bigger and bigger,” and promised to eliminate both policies if she is voted president.
“We have to eliminate the cepo immediately. If we don’t, all those who want to invest [in Argentina] won’t be able to do it, waiting for it to be lifted,” the former security minister said.
Bullrich said she will take the necessary measures to lift the currency restrictions “without the Argentine economy exploding.”
“We already know what happened when we went slow. Now, we’re going to do it faster, with blunt measures from the very first day,” she said.
The candidate called for “state austerity” and promoting investments and production in the Argentine countryside. “The state should only handle the fundamental things it has to provide the citizens with security, education, foreign relations, and free commerce treaties, and equipping the military forces.”
Argentines can only buy up to US$200 each month at banks due to the cepo.
“The national government has an ideological prejudice against the countryside, which generates 70% of the country’s exports,” said the Buenos Aires City mayor.
In a less radical tone compared to Bullrich, Larreta said that he will gradually lower grain export duties and aim to duplicate agricultural exports within the next 8 years — if elected president in the October elections and then voted for a second term four years later.
Larreta described export duties as a “terrible tax,” promising to simplify and eliminate other taxes for the agricultural sector, like the rural property tax in Buenos Aires province.
Ultra-right-wing economist Milei said he would apply an “exchange rate unification” and “completely eliminate export duties,” which would allegedly triple the agricultural producer’s income.
“The Argentine countryside is the best countryside in the world. We will work towards giving its rentability and vitality back, which have been taken from it in the past years by bloodsuckers,” he said, referring to the state.
He also reiterated his proposals of lifting the cepo and eliminating the Central Bank to apply a “de facto exchange unification” and dollarizing the economy, which would take “from nine to 24 months.”
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Córdoba province Governor Juan Schiaretti also promised to eliminate export duties if elected president.
“Stop putting obstacles in the agricultural sector’s path,” he said, referring to the cepo and production taxes. “The current government is treating it as the enemy.”
Schiaretti is the only governor running for president in these elections. Although he is a Peronist, he almost joined forces with Juntos por el Cambio, but ultimately decided to create an electoral front of his own.
“No country in the region has restrictions for agricultural exports. They need to be eliminated and, if I am elected president, I’ll start with that, Schiaretti said.