Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne warned Trump about the negative ramifications pursuing protectionist trade strategies could have on the U.S. economy. “We’ve been there” cautioned Dujovne, speaking in regard to Argentina’s economic policy under former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner whose famous talking point was that “she would like not to import even a single screw into Argentina.”
Dujovne advised against implementing anti-free trade policies, explaining that closing borders and attempting to follow a model of autarchy does not work; “protectionism and nationalism will not make your economy richer…it will increase stagnation and poverty”. Kirchner’s successor, Mauricio Macri, has shifted the country’s economy towards a free-market approach by reducing subsidies, ending capital controls and introducing an austerity program. This vastly different tack resulted in a deep recession during his first year, but Dujovne attributed this to the lingering effects of the Kirchner administration as well as a recession in Brazil which has had a negative on effect on Argentine growth.
Speaking to The Guardian, he explained that it would take time, but he was confident that Argentina’s economy would grow; “we are opening up gradually but are still the most closed economy in Latin America,…we are in favor of globalization, and see it as a source of opportunity”. However, many sectors are not happy with the Macri administration’s policies, with labor unions in particular claiming that wages are not in line with inflation. The largest trade union group in Argentina is poised to hold a general strike on 6th April, the first since Macri took office in December 2015.
The treasury minister pointed out that that Trump’s protectionist approach could inadvertently benefit Argentina as the EU is now more eager to secure to a free-trade agreement with Mercosur. Dujovne has recently returned from the U.K. following a meeting of G20 finance ministers; Argentina is set to become chair of the G20 group of developed and developing nations, one of the most important forums for international economic and financial co-ordination. He expressed his interest in a potential post-Brexit free-trade deal between Argentina and Britain, adding that the contentious issue of sovereignty over the Malvinas would not hinder any economic deals between the two countries. “I do not think the Argentine population is against having close ties with the UK” he said.
The past few months have seen flights between the Malvinas and South America become available, and the work to identify the fallen Argentine soldiers on the islands has started; both forming part of an attempt to improve relations between the two countries.