Spanish businesses reject Milei’s comments: ‘It’s not the tone of two friendly countries’

The leader of Spain’s chief business chamber called the president’s derogatory comments about Pedro Sánchez’s wife ‘off-key’

Antonio Garamendi, president of the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations, has rejected President Javier Milei’s derogatory statements about Spanish First Lady Begoña Gómez. 

Milei described Gómez as “corrupt” at a far-right rally in Madrid Sunday, triggering a diplomatic spat between the countries. The comments came just one day after Milei met with Spanish business leaders.

“We must reject them profoundly, they were off-key statements,” Garamendi told Spanish radio station Ser. “It is not the diplomatic tone that two friendly countries should have.”

On Saturday, Milei met with 14 Spanish businesspeople at the residence of the Argentine ambassador in Spain, Roberto Bosch. Attendees included DIA supermarkets chief executive officer Martín Tolcachir, BBVA bank’s CEO for Latin America Jorge Sáenz-Azcunaga, Santander bank’s CEO Héctor Blas Grisi Checa, and airline Iberia’s president and CEO, Marco Sansavini, as well as the business confederation’s leadership.

The president spoke to the executives about the Argentine economy and his administration’s efforts to tackle the fiscal deficit, inflation, and poverty, and promised to improve the business climate and legal security in Argentina. The business leaders expressed interest in exploring new investment opportunities in Argentina, according to the Argentine government.

Several Spanish companies came out in support of Garamendi’s statements Monday. Energy company Naturgy stated on Monday that it fully endorsed his position. The company has operated in Argentina since 1992 and took part in Saturday’s meeting with Milei. Likewise, telecoms company Telefónica expressed its “full alignment” with Garamendi’s position and called for “an atmosphere of collaboration and constructive dialogue.”

Dante Sica, co-founder of ABECEB consultancy and former Production Minister during the Mauricio Macri government, said he did not expect Milei’s comments to threaten Argentina’s commercial relationships with Spain because business leaders pay more attention to the country’s economic situation than political statements. “They look at economic incentives and legal security, beyond these sparks that might be flying,” he said.

“In the end, what they will evaluate is how the government brings about its reform program over the coming months.”

In 2023, Spain was the eleventh-largest destination for Argentine exports and the ninth-largest producer of imported goods in Argentina, according to figures from ABECEB. Argentina has had a trade surplus with Spain of between US$650 million and US$900 million in recent years.

Milei did not meet with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, King Felipe VI, or any other senior government officials. His spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, has said that his comments about Sánchez’s wife were personal, not official, in nature.

Cover image: Spain’s Socialist leader and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looks on as his wife Begoña Gómez votes during the general snap election in Madrid, Spain, July 23, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce


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