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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

viernes, 15 de abril de 2016

What Macri’s Pivot Means for the Future of U.S.-Argentina Ties

Jason Marczak Friday, April 15, 2016

Argentina is the new darling of Latin America. Just over four months into his term, President Mauricio Macri is taking every step to put the welcome mat out for the international community, and the United States in particular. The Obama administration has reciprocated in kind. It’s a new era, and the future is bright for the bilateral relationship, as well as for Macri’s domestic standing.

Gone are the days of antagonistic relations. Now, U.S.-Argentine relations are being advanced on multiple fronts—from trade facilitation to climate change and global health.

Even before Obama’s state visit in late March, Washington had already stepped in through, among other things, the filing of an amicus brief to help resolve Argentina’s global priority No. 1: agreeing to a deal with holdout creditors that will clear the way for re-entering international capital markets. Now, with a U.S. appeals court ruling on Wednesday to lift the injunction that prevented payment to creditors, the issue is set to be resolved by the end of next week. The proceeds from a planned $15 billion bond sale early next week will pay the creditors.

The outcome is the latest tangible follow-through on Macri’s promise to bring Argentina out of its diplomatic isolation under former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and, before that, her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded her as president. In February, separate state visits by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and French President Francois Hollande followed earlier meetings between Macri and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. A month before that, Macri broke further precedent by attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, individually meeting with almost 20 political leaders, global investors and multinational executives. He even brought Sergio Massa, a rival candidate for the presidency.

More than just showcasing Argentina’s appeal for foreign investments, these meetings signaled the new administration’s early commitment to shifting away from the inward-looking, protectionist stance of the Kirchner era.

Macri’s rapprochement with Washington has been made easier by Obama, who has become a transformational leader in U.S. relations with Latin America. Obama’s historic visit to Havana last month grabbed headlines, and for good reason, as it marked the next step in his opening with Cuba. But the U.S. is also pulling out every stop to partner with the new government in Buenos Aires.

Obama’s Argentina visit marked a turning point in U.S.-Argentine relations and served as a stamp of approval that Argentina had turned a new page, one noticed by the international business community, especially the many American firms weighing new investments. It also represented a trust-building exercise meant to signal a better business climate and firmer financial footing for investors keen on building off the more than $20 billion in annual bilateral trade between the U.S. and Argentina.
Macri’s rapprochement with Washington has been made easier by Obama, who has become a transformational leader in U.S. relations with Latin America.
Macri’s domestic policies are on track to generate a new era of financial flows through the regained access to international capital markets and the shoring up of domestic finances. For U.S. firms, new commercial opportunities will also come from a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed during Obama’s visit, which will allow closer cooperation on issues ranging from intellectual property to agriculture.

But a top goal for the Macri administration is diversifying Argentine trade beyond agricultural commodities and concentrating instead on bolstering value-added exports for U.S. and European markets. This includes energy, both established oil and gas sectors as well as budding renewables. A key requirement for restoring Argentina as an energy exporter lies in boosting domestic production through reduced entry barriers for small- and medium-sized energy companies. In all these areas, lowering administrative burdens for businesses, particularly through implementing so-called single-window customs programs, will depend on economic authorities in the U.S. and Argentina deepening their cooperation long after Obama’s visit. The scheduled late April trip to Buenos Aires by Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will be critical in advancing efforts to support entrepreneurs.

Just as in economic relations, U.S.-Argentine security cooperation has taken a drastic turn from frosty relations under Kirchner to concrete recent agreements between both countries’ law enforcement authorities. Mounting evidence has shown that Argentina has become a hub for illicit groups not just for transiting drugs, but also laundering their profits through the country’s private sector. Taking prompt action against organized crime was one of Macri’s key campaign promises, one that resonated with many Argentinians alarmed over rising drug use and drug-related violence in recent years.

The U.S. has committed to help address these issues head-on, with a number of information-sharing agreements signed by American and Argentine investigators as part of Obama’s visit. According to Argentina's foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, these agreements “represent a new way of working together and show an important change in our relations.”

Notably, one of these agreements included a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and Argentina’s Financial Information Unit, known by its Spanish acronym, UIF. This particular memorandum facilitates the sharing of financial information to combat money laundering by organized crime. Previous information-sharing by FinCEN stopped in June 2015, after evidence emerged that Argentine authorities repeatedly abused shared financial intelligence for their own political interests, with one case involving a contractor tied to the Kirchner administration.

Rarely have bilateral relations changed so quickly and so positively in such a short period of time. The list of agreements and new areas of cooperation that resulted from Obama’s visit brings hope of an ever-closer partnership. In Macri’s new government, the U.S. now has a strong, reliable partner with which to collaborate on issues beyond just the bilateral relationship.

But it won’t be easy. Unlike Brazil, Mexico or Colombia, which all have engaged in longstanding cooperation with the U.S. on a number of technical issues, the U.S-Argentina relationship must rebuild working-level ties in order to advance issues between high-level visits. That doesn’t happen overnight. But with only nine months left in Obama’s term, both countries have precious little time to ensure that such solid progress can be handed off to the next administration.

Jason Marczak is director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

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