Friday, May 24, 2024

ECONOMY | 23-04-2024 20:52

Argentina's Foreign Minister Diana Mondino heads to China, Europe on investment quest

Argentina’s foreign minister will set off on Sunday for a 10-day tour of China, France, Belgium and Portugal, accompanied by a “large business delegation.”

Foreign Minister Diana Mondino will set off on a 10-day foreign tour of Europe and China on Sunday seeking investment and to boost Argentina’s trade ties.

Mondino, 65, will be accompanied by "a large business delegation from Argentina’s various export sectors," read a government statement. 

The tour will begin with a three-day stop in China, running April 28 to 30, before heading to France, Belgium and Portugal.

On May 2 and 3, Argentina’s foreign minister will attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. She will also be meeting OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann.

Argentina formally accepted a longstanding invitation to join the OECD back in January, one month after President Javier Milei took office. A road map for accession to the multilateral organisation is expected to be announced.

Mondino will then travel to Brussels for meetings and bilateral talks with officials from the European Union on May 5 and 6.

Talks over the stalled EU-Mercosur free-trade deal are expected to top the agenda, which includes face time with EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, and the Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, among others.

Mondino's meetings in Brussels are a prelude to Argentina-EU Joint Commission that will meet on June 6 in Buenos Aires.

Argentina's top diplomat will then stop on May 7 in Lisbon, when she meet her Portuguese counterpart Paulo Rangel, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Luis Montenegro.

She will discuss with them the need to diversify bilateral trade, ongoing cooperation projects and the potential of renewable energies.

Heading east

Mondino’s visit to China is sure to draw the eye. During last year’s presidential campaign, Milei repeatedly rejected closer ties or a trade alliance with Beijing, declaring "I don't make pacts with Communists” and branding the Chinese “assassins.”

Months on, he now seems to have changed his tune. In an April interview with Bloomberg, the president adopted a much more pragmatic tone, avoiding incendiary remarks and assuring he wouldn’t intervene with trade ties.

China is Argentina's main trading partner after Brazil. More than 24 of the South American country's imports come from the Asian giant, to which it exports 6.6 percent of its total production, according to the latest data available from the INDEC national statistics bureau. 

Chinese trade and investment drive large swathes of Argentina’s economy, ranging from commodities and energy to banking. 

Mondino announced her travel plans after meeting with the Chinese ambassador to Argentina, Wang Wei, on April 8.

She plans to meet with several officials, commercial businesses and investors, stopping in Beijing and Shanghai.

Central Bank Governor Santiago Bausili is reportedly set to join the travelling delegation.

Among the pressing issues on the Beijing-Buenos Aires bilateral agenda is an US$18-billion currency swap between Argentina’s monetary authority and the People’s Bank of China. 

Argentina needs to renew roughly US$5 billion from that line this year  after former economy minister Sergio Massa used the funds largely to finance imports in 2023.

China’s swap is the largest source of foreign reserves in Argentina’s Central Bank, whose debts are currently larger than its assets. 


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