President Mauricio Macri returned from his first international tour of the election year yesterday afternoon, after a whistlestop tour to India, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates focused on investment, bilateral relations and commercial opportunities.
“Asia is the region that can most help us grow in trade and investment,” he declared Thursday at a business forum in Hanoi.
The president was accompanied on his trip, which took in visits to cities including New Delhi and Mumbai, by a sizeable envoy made up of some 120 businessmen, seeking to attact international investments and improve bilateral ties for trade.
The tour attracted most attention during the the preisdent’s three-day state visit in India, with Macri arriving just days after a major suicide bomb attack had escalated his host nation’s tensions with neighbouring Pakistan. Fatalities were also recorded as Indian troops clashed with Kashmir militants on Monday.
Talks held during the visit to Vietnam, meanwhile, were seen as more involving promises than concrete agreements, with his last leg in Abu Dhabi lasting only one day.
Upon his arrival in New Delhi on Sunday, the president – who was also accompanied by First Lady Juliana Awada and their daughter Antonia Macri – was able to visit and take photographs at the historic Taj Mahal, prior to conducting any official state business.
The following day, Macri and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for discussions that included talks on energy. During the meeting, the presdient invited the Indian leader to explore investment opportunities in Vaca Muerta, the shale gas play in the Neuquén Basin.
“There are great opportunities in the field of unconventional energies. This is reflected in the conversations that we have had and those that we seek to continue, finding a way for India to participate in the second largest shale gas reserve in the world, which is Vaca Muerta,” Macri said.
While in New Delhi, Argentina also joined the International Solar Alliance, an initiative founded by India seeking to promote the development of renewable energies in 121 countries.
“[Argentina and India] are committed to the development of renewable energies,” said Macri. “Today we are moving forward to be a part of this Solar Alliance, which will allow us to expand our capabilities in financing as well as in research and development.”
On Tuesday, the president arrived in Mumbai where he attended an Argentine-India Business Forum at the Taj Mahal hotel.
“We see India as a partner for the future, which is why this visit is accompanied by an important mission of small and medium-sized companies that represent 11 Argentine provinces,” Macri told those gathered at the event.
One of the main objectives for the government, Noticias Argentinas reported, was to negotiate a reduction in tariffs for the sale of oils to India. At the moment, India is the main purchaser of soybean oil from Argentina, snapping up 50 percent of the national production.
On Friday, the CIARA industrial cooking-oil chamber said it had signed an agreement with the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) that would see exports of soybean oil to India increase by around 30 percent over the next few years, reaching US$2 billion annually.
The government also announced a bilateral agreement on the creation of centres for new technologies that will train teachers and students in ICT skills.
The president’s flight landed in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital on Wednesday. Prior to arriving at government headquarters, Macri laid one wreath at the Monument of the National Heroes and Martyrs and a second at the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader.
Later that day, President Macri officially met with the president of the National Assembly of the Republic of Vietnam, Thi Kim Ngan.
The schedule also included Thursday’s ArgentinaVietnam Business Forum, at which around 100 Argentine businessmen accompanied the president.
According to the Argentine Chamber of Commerce (CAC), business with Vietnam has witnessed a “notable increase” in recent years, rising from around 0.3 percent of overall foreign trade in the 2000s to around two percent today.
Macri told his hosts that he intended to continue strengthening relations and explore commercial trade opportunities during his time in the country, highlighting that “Vietnam is already our fifth-highest commercial partner in the world and the second in this region.”
However, new concrete deals were few and far between, with talks on technology said to be progressing and an agreement reached on lemons and citrus fruits.
Upon the completion of the forum, President Macri left Hanoi for Abu Dhabi international airport, where he was welcomed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for a short visit, before flying back to Argentina.