With the ever-constant threat of a trade war between world powers as a backdrop, President Mauricio Macri defended and highlighted the benefits of multilateralism in his speech at the BRICS summit yesterday, which he attended as the Chair of this year’s G-20.
“The increase of unilateral measures and retaliations have a potential yet systemic impact in growth and exert pressure on the efficiency of multilateralism,” began Macri. “We need to be able to build consensus that take differences into account but bolster common interests nonetheless,” said Macri before world leaders such as the Russian, Chinese, and Indian heads of state, Vladimir Putin, Xi Xinping, and Narendra Modi, respectively.
BRICS is a block of emerging nations formed in 2009 and comprises five countries – Russia, China, Brazil, India, and South Africa, where the summit took place – deemed to be at at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development. Representing over 40 percent of the world’s population, or 3.1 billion people, the group’s growth rates surpass those of the developed countries of the G7.
Macri went on to say that “it is time to strengthen global governance, with candor but also with respect; with principles but also practical solutions,” he argued. “Multilateralism is not, nor does it have to be, a photo-op for the press, but rather an insurance against discretionary power and a commitment with the global co-existence we are destined to,” he added.
Moving on to speak as the President of Argentina, Macri thanked his counterparts for the invitation to the summit and assured that “Latin America and the Caribbean have much to offer to the world order, through the talent of their people, the richness of their natural resources and as a zone of peace and cooperation.”
Speaking about the complex economic scenario Argentina is dealing with, Macri stuck to his domestic script and said the “storm” (the term he uses to refer to the current situation is a result of “external volatility and some domestic factors.” Nonetheless, the President assured Argentina “has the tools to overcome it [the storm] and stay on course.”
Also as Argentine head of state, Macri held bilateral meetings with his counterparts of Russia, China, and India. In regard to the meeting with Putin, the Presidency’s official website informs that the two “reaffirmed the bonds that unite Argentina and the Russian Federation in diverse areas, and manifested their intention of expanding bilateral cooperation and trade.”
The meeting was close to being cancelled as Putin, faithful to his style, kept Macri waiting for 45 minutes. Had the Argentine delegation had to wait any longer, the meeting probably would not have taken place. Macri had a bilateral encounter with Xi scheduled later, and he was not planning on being late – much less cancelling – as it was considered to be the highest priority for the President. Already talking to Putin, Macri focused on the economic agenda, highlighting the investment opportunities Russia could have in Argentina.
The government’s goal is to increase the investment of the world’s largest country, as last year Argentina’s exports there amounted to US $510 million and its imports to AR $341 million. Considering that Russia has a population of 144 million people, the President wants to increase the country’s presence in its market, mainly by selling it agricultural machinery, meat and processed dairy products.
Speaking to Xi Xinping, Macri began by thanking China’s support in Argentina’s negotiation to reach the stand-by agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The halting of several public works of great magnitude as a result of the country’s economic turbulence was a topic addressed in the conversation, as many of them – like the Néstor Kirchner and Jorge Cepernic dams in Santa Cruz, and the nuclear power plant Atucha 3 in the Buenos Aires Province – are being mostly financed by the Asian giant.
The government is working around the clock to not alienate China as a result and ensure that its funds will be available once the Macri administration decides to resume the works.
On his end, Xi Xinping invited Argentina to participate in the Shanghai Fair, which, according to official information, “will offer a great opportunity to diversify and expand markets, particularly for Argentine agricultural products.” “The heads of state also analyzed the development of several joint endeavors in different areas, such as aeronautics and the navy, and the possibility for China to participate in oil and gas production in Vaca Muerta,” the website adds.
Finally, Macri held a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where both heads of state “highlighted India’s cooperative attitude” to ensure the G-20’s leaders summit is productive despite the global trade tensions.
With regards to the trade balance between the two countries, Argentina’s exports to india amounted to US $2.081 billion in 2017, while imports amounted to US $823 billion.