Argentina-IMF talks continue with no date in sight for Massa’s trip to Washington

President Fernández said the government is ‘working at full steam trying to reach an agreement’

Even though the Argentine government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will continue having regular talks over the weekend amid renegotiation of the country’s economic program, sources close to Economy Minister Sergio Massa told Télam there currently is no date in sight for when Massa might travel to Washington to complete an agreement.  

The face-to-face negotiations started last Tuesday, with meetings between IMF members and the Argentine delegation, made up of Vice Economy Minister Gabriel Rubinstein, Central Bank Vice President Lisandro Cleri, and Central Bank Director Jorge Carrera. On Thursday morning, Chief Ministry Advisor Leonardo Madcur and Finance Secretary Raúl Rigo joined the group.

This delegation remains in Washington, and the government did not rule out the possibility that negotiations could continue over the weekend at the Argentine Embassy in the US capital.

Last week, Economy Ministry sources did not rule out the possibility that Massa, who is also a presidential candidate for the ruling coalition Unión por la Patria (UxP), could postpone campaign commitments and travel to Washington Thursday or Friday to close the deal in person. However, Télam reported on Saturday that negotiations got tougher in the final stretch and the date of the minister’s trip to Washington is unknown.

After an IMF report published last week hinted that Argentina should devalue and unify its multiple exchange rates, sources with knowledge of the negotiations told the Herald that the government is instead looking to implement a new preferential exchange rate for regional economies (including fishing, wine, grapes, pears, apples, rice, yerba mate, tea, tobacco, among other products) and another one for grain exports — although soybean exports would be excluded this time.

Another potential measure that circulated in media outlets and reported by Télam was an import tax for certain items. Through both measures, the government would increase the price of the US dollar for certain import and export operations without outright devaluing.

Chief of Staff and Massa’s running mate Agustín Rossi said Saturday morning that the delay in reaching an agreement is due to the fact that the government is defending the country’s interests.

“There is an easy way to agree with the IMF: to accept whatever it asks from us. If the agreement is being delayed, it is because our negotiators are defending the interests of the Argentine people”, he said in statements to AM750 radio. Rossi also traced the IMF debt back to Mauricio Macri’s administration — which took the US$44 billion loan in 2018 — and said that Massa’s goal is to pay the lender “100% of the debt” in order to be able to “do economic policy without the IMF.”

President Alberto Fernández said Friday in an interview with Radio 10 that he had a phone conversation with IMF head Kristalina Georgieva, adding that the government is “working at full steam trying to reach an agreement.” Industry Secretary Ignacio de Mendiguren also weighed in, saying that a new agreement could be worked out in “the first days of next week or before.”

At the beginning of the month, the government confirmed it would postpone all three of its July payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the last day of the month — a total amount of  US$2.6 billion. According to consulting firm 1816, Argentina’s net international reserves are currently at negative US$7.3 billion.

— With information from Télam


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