Economy Minister Martín Guzmán met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday, the latest stop on his European tour.
The 38-year-old head of the economy portfolio met with the Argentine pontiff in his private library at 6am local time (11am in Rome), with the encounter lasting around 45 minutes, according to Télam.
During the meeting, the duo discussed Argentina’s debt restructuring scenario and ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and with the Paris Club, said the state news agency.
Guzmán explained the government's position on the IMF debt and "on how to address the problems of the international financial and economic architecture that is resulting in serious social, economic and public health problems across the world," the Economy Ministry said in a statement.
It was the third meeting between the two, following previous talks on debt reduction in 2019 and 2020.
Guzmán departed for Europe last Sunday, for a whistlestop tour taking in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. He is seeking political support for Argentina’s talks with the IMF that intend to secure a new financing programme. Any deal will need the support of allied nations on the institution’s board.
The minister "will continue to build consensus on what Argentina needs to stabilise its economy," the Economy Ministry said in a statement.
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Pope Francis has been a strong supporter of debt restructuring pushes, even calling last year for “significant debt relief" for indebted nations struggling in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. "It cannot be expected that debts incurred are paid with unbearable sacrifices," he declared.
Argentina owes the IMF US$44 billion in debt from the record US$57 billion credit-line granted to the Mauricio Macri administration in 2018. With large repayments due in the coming years, the government is seeking a new programme that will delay payments for a number of years.
The Alberto Fernández administration is also seeking to delay a US$2.5-billion payment due to the Paris Club group of creditors in May.
Guzmán is due to meet with a number of key European officials during his trip to Europe. Later today, he is due to meet with Italy’s Finance and Economy Minister Daniele Franco, as well as respected economists and a number of key Italian business leaders who have interests in Argentina.
Prior to the pontifical summit, he met with Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo and professor and economist Stefano Zamagni, both from the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, also at the Vatican. The minster and his team were also granted a short tour of the Sistene Chapel, according to reports – a rare treat given the area is closed to the public.
The previous day, during a stop in Berlin, he met with Germany’s State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Finance, Wolfgang Schmidt, for talks on the IMF and Paris Club debts, as well as comparing notes on ensuring there is a sustainable economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Niels Annen, was also in attendance.
Last Sunday, upon arrival in Berlin, Guzmán had met with the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s main economic advisor Lars Hendrik Roller.
Before departing Berlin, Guzmán thanked the German government "for such a productive working day in Germany and for all the support over the last 16 months in key international processes for the macroeconomic stabilisation of Argentina."
"It is important to always be together, and even more so in difficult times," added the minister.
Schmidt described their exchange as “fruitful,” and said he agreed on the need to "stay together in difficult times."
The minister is due to travel to Madrid on Thursday, ahead of a meeting with Spain’s Economy Minister and Second Vice-President Nadia Calviño.
Finally, on Friday, the minister has a meeting scheduled with his French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire, in Paris.
Guzmán is being accompanied on his trip by the IMF's director for Argentina and the Southern Cone, Sergio Chodos and his chief-of-staff at the Economy Ministry, Melina Mallamace.