Sergio Massa heads to the United States next week on his first overseas tour as economy minister with three clear objectives: jumpstarting the flow of dollars entering Argentina, securing investment and boosting the Central Bank’s meagre reserves.
The official, who in recent days has announced a string of policies designed to increase the amount of greenbacks entering Argentina, is focusing on two cities – Washington DC and Houston – during his September 6 to 12 trip and is hoping that efforts in recent days will impress onlookers in the United States.
On Thursday the government launched the so-called ‘dólar tecno,’ a new exchange rate available to companies dedicated to exporting services within the knowledge economy. The announcement was made by Massa during the presentation of the Argentina Programa 4.0, a project centred on the training of hi-tech professionals as well as promoting the services offered by the sector.
Massa’s week has also included announcement of a regime to promote exports by the auto industry, promulgation of the law to whitewash construction investment and a programme of incentives for oil companies, which was to be followed by similar incentives for the mining industry and a new version of the ‘soy dollar’ for agricultural exports before the week is out.
In general he is aiming at upping the level of economic activity so that more hard currency can be cashed – a further objective of next Tuesday’s trip to the United States.
“The central axis of the journey will be to attract investment in the sectors of the real economy with the aim of creating jobs and bringing in tax revenues,” sources in Massa’s entourage told the TN television news channel on Wednesday.
The most closely watched meeting of the trip to the United States will be Massa’s much-anticipated talks with representatives from the International Monetary Fund, who are undertaking the scheduled quarterly review of Argentina’s US$44.5-billion debt restructuring deal agreed earlier this year.
Massa’s main team of collaborators will travel to Washington ahead of the minister on Sunday to begin face-to-face meetings with IMF staff with a view to smoothing the technical conversation and advancing towards a review of the targets of the second quarter (which include a fiscal deficit of 2.5 percent of gross domestic product and US$5.8 billion in net reserves – thus releasing a tranche of US$4 billion.
Massa will be arriving on Tuesday with formal recognition as “Argentina’s main negotiator,” according to his team.
Massa has a number of specific objectives for his first tour: he wants to secure new investments for the energy sector, speed up talks over loans from international organisations, make progress on Argentina’s IMF programme and boost interest in tourism.
The Télam state news agency reported Thursday that he will also seek greater commitment and collaboration from the United States government over the exchange of tax information regarding undeclared accounts overseas as Argentina works to clamp down on irregularities and evasion.
The main event, however, comes in Washington, where Massa will meet with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva.
His agenda also includes meeting with the World Bank’s vice-president of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, the head of the Inter-American Development Bank, Mauricio Claver-Carone, and with high-level officials at the US Treasury, with whom he will plead the case regarding tax evasion cooperation.
He is also expected to meet with White House officials and with executives from leading member companies of the American Chamber of Commerce.
On September 9, Massa will travel to Houston, accompanied by the presidents of state energy firms YPF and Enarsa, to meet with executives from Chevron, Exxon, Shell and Total.
While in the United States, he is also scheduled to meet with authorities from the Volkswagen automobile company, the mining companies Rio Tinto and Livent (lithium) and the Amazon group, among other companies.
Finally, there will be a political agenda in Washington where Massa will meet with Juan González, US President Joe Biden's advisor for Latin America in the National Security Council; and with Amos Hochstein, the US President's coordinator for Infrastructure, Investment and energy.
In a radio interview this week, former vice-president Carlos Ruckauf speculated that Massa would be confronted by parties demanding “clear rules” for Argentina’s economy.
"Massa's agenda is interesting. He is going with his homework not very well done in terms of lowering public spending," he said in an interview with Eduardo Feinmann on Radio Mitre.
"The important thing is that he is going to find a solution to the country's default at the Monetary Fund, but there are no fresh funds coming from the World Bank or the IDB. In the case of the fresh funds that will be sought in New York, it is from a group of banks, but the guarantee that Argentina is being asked to provide is going to make a lot of noise. They are offering a system of Argentine bonds that will increase as the price increases.”
President’s bilateral with Biden
Despite reports claiming otherwise, President Alberto Fernández’s trip to Washington to meet with Biden, his US counterpart, for a much-anticipated bilateral meeting is still not scheduled.
Diplomatic sources told multiple local outlets this week that, according to rumours, the duo would meet during the Argentine leader’s upcoming trip to the United Nations headquarters in New York for the body’s 77th General Assembly later this month.
Fernández, who is due to visit New York on September 19 and 20 as part of a wider trip lasting five days, was originally due to meet Biden on Tuesday, July 26, but the trip was cancelled after Biden tested positive for Covid-19.