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Highlights from Macri’s Monday Morning Press Conference: The G20, Argentina’s Economy and the Copa Libertadores

The President held a press conference at the Casa Rosada

By | [email protected] | December 3, 2018 2:35pm

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Following the end of the G20 Leaders Summit, President Mauricio Macri held a press conference at the Casa Rosada on Monday morning, in which he took questions from the local and foreign media about the aftermath of the summit, his reelection plans and trade agreements. He refused, however, to make a prediction about Argentina’s economy for next year, probably based on the fact that most predictions for 2018 were, in fact, inaccurate.

He also discussed the effects of the summit and the effect the numerous bilateral meetings held with other heads of state will have on the Argentine economy; potential trade agreements with the European Union; and his take on the fact that the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between River and Boca will be played in Madrid, and not in Argentina.

These are Macri’s most relevant statements, as well as some context to further understand where they come from.

On the Summit’s Repercussion Among Other World Leaders

“[The leaders] who joined us on the 17 bilateral meetings agreed. They told us we are going down the right path, but that we need to be consistent. The only place where ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary. If we work together, Argentina will make progress. [IMF Managing Director Christine] Lagarde said something everyone was thinking. She said there were doubts about how the event would unfold, but it went well. I congratulate [Security Minister Patricia] Bullrich and all security forces, those in charge of logistics, and everyone for an excellent execution.”

In a video published in Macri’s official Twitter account, the Managing Director of the IMF said: “everybody had fears about the meeting, and everyone expected it to be a fiasco for all sorts of reasons, but thanks to the Argentines’ genius, it turned out to be one of the best G20s I’ve ever seen. I’ve been attending G20s for more than ten years and this one was by far the best.”

In fairness, Lagarde could have been referencing both internal and/or external factors. With regards to the former, questions ensued about the ability of Argentina’s law enforcement to contain protests, taking into account the incidents that took place on the weekend previous to the summit, in the context of the Copa Libertadores final, which led to its suspension and the decision to hold it in Madrid.

As for the international factor, many highlighted that producing a communiqué at a time when protectionist and nationalistic movements are making their way into Western democracies was highly positive, especially considering that the past two high-stakes summits – the G7 in Canada and the APEC in Papua New Guinea – were unable to produce a joint document.

“No one expected the communiqué because of what happened at the G7 and other previous meetings. But our chairmanship managed to be one that brought positions together, and included a statement on climate change and the need to strengthen trade. The countries that made the most progress during the past 30 years were the ones who traded. That is why we proposed the reform of the World Trade Organization,” said Macri about this, making reference to specific aspects of the communiqué.

The statement on climate change, however, did not include the United States, which, on its end, affirmed its “strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment.”

On the Effects the Summit and the 17 Bilateral Meetings Will Have on the Real Economy

“[The fact that the summit was successful] does not mean our problems disappeared. We have 70-year-old problems that were deepened during the past 15, 20 years. But we have to understand that we’ve never had a relationship with the world like we do now. Now we have gone back to having self-esteem, but what we did during this week, we have to do every day, not only when these important characters come to visit. This is the way.”

(Photo Luis Pozzi/Telam)

“The economy had extremely serious imbalances and we are stabilizing it, lowering inflation rates. There are sectors, such as the exporting one, that are already showing improvements. We are correcting our trade balance. The agricultural sector is doing well and there are no droughts in the horizon. The tourism industry will do well during the summer too.”

“All of this [the summit and the meetings] will make sense if it creates opportunity and work for Argentines. We have suffered because we abandoned the culture of work. During the bilateral meetings, we talked about concrete issues. We signed valuable commitments with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He confirmed Russia will take part in a bid to build a train to Vaca Muerta. The OPIC will finance a highway and new American investors in Vaca Muerta”

“With [Chinese Head of State] Xi Xinping, we signed a long overdue agreement to have China open its doors to Argentine cherries. In the next few years, cherries will create more than 100,000 jobs. It will do so in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz. We will also renew the San Martín railway line. We got the German Hermes Bank to go back to financing German investors. It will allow them to invest in Lithium and finance a hydro-electric dam in Neuquén. There were concrete results in each meeting. The successive visits from heads of state create trust. We are impatient, but we need to be constant, coherent and patient.”

On Progress in Potential Trade Agreements Made During the Weekend

Regarding the Mercosur-European Union Free Trade Agreement

“On December 10 we will have a new technical meeting. We hope to make progress. It is a long overdue agreement and a great opportunity for all. Unfortunately, all of these delays resulted in the election of a new authority in Brazil. I spoke to [incumbent Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro. He ratified he wants to move forwards in an agreement between the EU and the Mercosur. We will meet during the summer.

Macri’s reference to his future counterpart follows a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron, who on November 29 pointed at Bolsonaro’s potential policies regarding climate change as a major obstacle for the signing of the deal.

Photo via Télam.

“There has been a geopolitical shift in Brazil. They need to adapt to the Paris agreement. I cannot sign wide-ranging commercial with powers who don’t respect the Paris agreement. It puts me in a position where i have to ask my economic actors to make an effort an adapt [to the agreement], but on the other side I sign agreements with countries who wouldn’t.”

Macron was making reference to the fact that Brazil’s incumbent President, Jair Bolsonaro, has made no secret of his desire to open up the Amazon to mining, farming and dam building. Bolsonaro had threatened to quit the Paris climate agreement, but backtracked. However, Brazil abandoned on Tuesday plans to host crucial UN climate talks in 2019. Bolsonaro’s future Foreign Minister, Néstor Araujo claims “climate alarmism” is part of a cultural Marxist plot.

Regarding a Potential Trade Deal with the United Kingdom After Brexit

“The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. That creates the possibility of discussing specific exchanges with the Mercosur, and they are open to that,” Macri said. Both heads of state had already expressed this goal in a bilateral meeting on Friday, on the sidelines of the summit, and the British Prime Minister echoed these statements in a press conference of her own on Saturday. “I look forward to developing our trade relationship after Brexit,” Theresa May said.

UK Primer Minister Theresa May (Photo via Telam)

However, these potential talks are entirely conditional on the British Parliament’s vote on the Brexit deal reached by the May administration and the European Union that will take place on December 11. With a continued exodus and government officials, the last one being science and universities minister Sam Gyimah, who criticized May’s “naive” deal, the possibility of this happening are looking increasingly slim.

On other potential agreements

“All Mercosur countries [Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay] understood we have been the closest trading bloc in the world. We did not grow as much as other regions. The good thing is that everyone wants to trade with us. Canada, Singapore, Japan, Korea. They all want to, but it is our responsibility to make it happen.”

On the Fact that the Second Leg of the Copa Libertadores Final will be Played in Madrid

“I don’t understand why we tolerate violent episodes that we wouldn’t in other contexts. I think it is unacceptable to attack authorities inside the stadium. It is even more serious than throwing stones outside. I am certain that episode had more influence in the decision to have it played in Madrid. It cannot happen again. We need to improve our framework so violent people do not feel they are allowed to do that. The solution does not lie on putting more police officers on the street, but ensuring that those who commit crimes go to prison. I assure you, they will think twice before doing it again,” said Macri, who went on to compare the situation with the event where a person who tried to bomb the Borussia Dortmund football team was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a German court. “Who would dare to do that then?” Macri wondered.

Following the superclásico fiasco, the government introduced a bill – which had already been introduced in 2016, but was never debated – that would toughen sentences for people (barras bravas) who commit crimes in the context of sporting events. The government called for extraordinary sessions in Congress until December 21, in an attempt to pass it, along with other bills.