The Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) and the Mauricio Macri administration have taken steps to patch up their differences, meeting at the Casa Rosada to clear the air after some verbal clashes in recent days.
Last week, Production Minister Francisco Cabrera urged the business leaders to quit “whining and go out invest and compete more,” after complaints from the UIA about taxes and the increases in imports. President Macri reportedly congratulated Cabrera in a Cabinet meeting, a move which further spurred criticism from José Urtubey, an UIA executive. “I don’t like bullying. We have to work together without any insults.”
Cabrera and Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña today welcomed UIA head Miguel Acevedo and vice-presidents Luis Betnaza and Daniel Funes de Rioja; they emerged from the meeting sending signals that the tension had subsided. Macri did not attend, as he was hosting Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at the Casa Rosada at the time.
“We never demanded that that the industrial groups invest. They will invest if they see if they are profits to be made,” Cabrera said, downplaying his earlier comments. For the ministers, “there were plenty of areas in common for us to work together. There wasn’t a problem before and there still isn’t.” Cabrera, counter to some of the voices in the industrial sector, said that “Argentina’s trade problems are far more focused on the lack of exports rather than on the imports.” According to the production minister, exports are under-performing compared to previous years and that the majority of imports were actually of benefit to industry.
Acevedo was optimistic, saying that the UIA had received a great deal of support “to compete abroad” and “enter markets that Argentina had, which were closed and now we have to regain them.” He did note that the process takes time and that it couldn’t be achieved “from one year to the next.”
Acevedo also warned “that the industrial sector is quite heterogeneous: there are sectors that are more sensitive to imports than others and we’re going to have to work on that.” By the same token he also said that there had been agreement to work more in step with the government on short-term and longer-term issues.
As an example of that cooperation, sector-based committees with participation of both the public and private sector will be given a boost. “These are committees that have already been set up, and the president is going to participate, but we still have to set the dates,” Cabrera said to La Nación.
The reduction in tensions comes as the Macri administration is trying to secure an exemption from US tariffs for Argentine steel and aluminum exports.