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ARGENTINA | 28-11-2023 22:52

Milei makes contact with Biden administration in Washington

Argentina's president-elect Javier Milei makes first contact with officials from US President Joe Biden's government.

Argentina's president-elect Javier Milei left Washington on Tuesday with a "very good" impression of Democrat Joe Biden's administration, according to La Libertad Avanza party sources.

On the second day of his brief stop in the United States, Milei went to the White House to meet with Biden's most trusted collaborators.

The US president was in Atlanta for the funeral of former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

During the meeting, Argentina’s president-elect and a small team discussed politics and economics with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Biden’s senior advisor on Latin America, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Nichols, the chief US diplomat for the region, and US Ambassador to Argentina Marc Stanley.

Also participating in the meetings was Argentine businessman Gerardo Werthein, expected to be Milei’s pick for US ambassador.

Milei “expressed his views on the international geopolitical agenda aligned with the West and his defence of the values of freedom,” the president-elect’s office said in a post on the social networking site X (formerly Twitter).

“Sullivan expressed the willingness of the United States to collaborate in the transition of the incoming Argentine government in view of the challenging political, economic and social situation the country is going through,” it concluded, accompanied by a photograph of the meeting.

The meeting was good and Biden’s representatives made a "very good" impression on Milei, sources from his party told the AFP news agency.

Milei came to make first contact with the US government and has done so with the help of Ambassador Stanley. The libertarian lawmaker wants to make the United States his main ally, distancing Argentina from China and Russia.

Milei’s office has not indicated that the 53-year-old held any meetings with members of the Republican Party or with former US president Donald Trump during his trip to New York and Washington.

The outspoken economist has often been compared to Trump.

After leaving the White House, Milei travelled to the airport before heading back to Argentina. 

Though Mieli did not meet with Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, while in the United States, members of his team have made contact with the multilateral lender.

Milei’s future Cabinet chief Nicolás Posse and Luis Caputo, the former Mauricio Macri government official who is tipped to be the future economy minister, have stayed in Washington. 

On Tuesday the pair held a technical meeting with IMF officials led by the organisation’s number two, Gita Gopinath. Earlier in the day, they sat down with officials at the US Treasury Department for what Caputo told reporters was "a very good meeting."

Milei and Georgieva spoke last Friday by videoconference.

Argentina has to settle a US$44-billion loan with the IMF and is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in two decades. Inflation is running at 140 percent per annum and poverty affects more than 40 percent of the population.

Argentine and IMF officials "discussed the complex challenges facing the country and plans to urgently strengthen stability and lay the foundations for more sustainable growth," agency sources told AFP.

"The two teams will continue to work closely together in the future," they added.

Rodrigo Valdés, director of the Fund's Western Hemisphere Department; Luis Cubeddu, deputy director; Ashvin Ahuja, mission chief; and Ben Kelmason, senior resident representative, also participated in the meeting.

Milei’s team expects the relationship with the Fund to be smooth given that the president-elect, a self-described anarcho-capitalist, is not afraid of budget cuts.

Argentina’s incoming leader has proposed privatising many state-owned firms and has promised to cut public spending even more than the IMF is demanding.

Milei, who railed against the “political caste” on the campaign trail but has now forged closer relations with ex-government officials, has warned that upon assuming office on December 10 he will make "tough" decisions. 

For starters, Argentina needs another disbursement of funds from the IMF if it is to meet the remaining maturities it is due to pay this year. 

To get them, it would have to pass the quarterly review that the Fund subjects it to in order to ascertain whether it meets the fiscal and reserve conditions. Of late, the IMF’s board has approved waivers for missed targets. 

In January and December, Argentina has to pay almost US$4 billion in order to keep the current programme afloat and face a new renegotiation with the lender. In December, the new Milei government will have to face a payment of US$900 million.

Milei may also choose to rethink the lending programme with the IMF.

Meanwhile, Milei’s efforts to finalise the government that will shape the new Argentina continue.

On Tuesday, the president-elect’s office said that Eduardo Rodríguez Chirillo will head the Energy Secretariat. 

Milei's trip to the United States began on Monday in New York, where he had lunch with former US Democratic leader Bill Clinton and Christopher Dodd, Biden's top Latin America adviser.

 

– TIMES/AFP
 

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