Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy shake hands at the Casa Rosada, April 10, 2018. (REUTERS/Agustín Marcarian)

The Spanish and Argentine governments exchanged mutual compliments and promised to boost trade, investment, and economic links as part of Spanish Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy’s visit to Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires and Madrid are also on the same page concerning the still ongoing Mercosur-European Union trade negotiations and the situation in Venezuela.

Rajoy is the first Spanish prime minister to visit Argentina in more than 10 years. Last year, President Mauricio Macri traveled to Madrid to meet with Rajoy.

Following a meeting between at the Casa Rosada, the two leaders addressed the press, with the Spanish prime minister in particular noting that Spain and Argentina “now share something that can be of great benefit to both countries, and that is two governments that agree on the majority of foreign and economic policy issues. That can generate a multiplying effect for our efforts, and I think that we are working well to take advantage of that.”

In that regard, both Argentina and Spain are champions of the trade negotiations between the Mercosur and the EU, which have seen an acceleration in the last two years but have nonetheless not yet come to fruition. Rajoy’s endorsement of a deal was noticeably more resounding than for example that given by French President Emmanuel Macron when Macri visited Paris recently.

“We want for Venezuelans, and I am sure President Macri does as well, the same things that we want for our own countries. Democracy, freedom, human rights, stability, tranquility, social and political progress. That’s what we want for our own countries, for our citizens, and also for Venezuelans as a whole,” said Rajoy.

Macri, who has long been critical of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government, said again today that Argentina will not recognize the upcoming presidential elections and that Venezuela would feature prominently in the upcoming Summit of the Americas later this week.

Facing questions from the press, Rajoy would not be drawn on any measures that could be taken by Argentina to attract greater Spanish investment. The Spanish PM is traveling with a large delegation of business leaders.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and President Mauricio Macri (right) today at the Casa Rosada (Argentine Presidency)
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and President Mauricio Macri (right) today at the Casa Rosada (Argentine Presidency)

The showering of mutual praise began this morning at a Spain-Argentina business forum, during which Rajoy drew parallels between the “difficult reforms” implemented on both sides of the Atlantic in response to the economic crises.

“Allow me to highlight the moment of economic growth with good projections for the future that Argentina is currently is experiencing. The brave reforms that in a short period that the government has implemented have been able to revert the downward trend in the economy and to generate the necessary environment of trust to grow and generate well being, and of course to attract investment. This path, with reforms and being responsible, is correct path,” said Rajoy as he began his address.

While noting that Spain is the second largest investor in Argentina, and that Argentina is the 19th largest in Spain (2015 figures), Rajoy added that “there is room for growth in Argentina in the economic relationship, as Argentina is Spain’s fifth largest trading partner, behind countries in the region that are smaller.”

According to the Spanish government, the trade volume between Argentina and Spain grew 20 percent in 2017 to a total of $2.87 billion Euros. Spanish exports to Argentina grew by more than 50 percent to $1.288 billion Euros, whereas Argentine exports increased by a 3.1 percent in comparison to 2016, for a total of $1.59 billion Euros. Argentina had a trade surplus of $299 million Euros with Spain in 2017.

Macri returned the favor at the business forum, expressing his desire for greater links: “Spain is a very good example for us. We’re following the same path, to be open to the world, to understand that the development of better services for our people is linked to us being competitive and to export to the rest of the world.”

Rajoy’s visit concludes tomorrow.