Since I arrived back in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, people have asked me why I returned after my time as US Ambassador. First, I love Argentina. But the other reason is my optimism about the economic future of this great country. I believe Argentina is on the verge of an economic turnaround, one that I believe will be sustainable and widespread.
Unlike various false dawns of the past, I am hopeful this time the profound changes that President Macri’s government is implementing will be lasting. I personally know many of the highly qualified, talented individuals who were recruited to work at the federal, provincial and city level. Many of them held high paying jobs overseas who decided to move back and enter civil service to help their government and country succeed. To me, that’s highly patriotic and adds to my optimism.
For the last couple years, I worked closely with numerous Governors of different political parties and was routinely impressed with their dedication and commitment to help make the lives of their citizens better, focusing on security, the economy and education.
Now that I’m back in the private sector again, I decided to schedule my return to Buenos Aires to coincide with the recent Financial Times Investment Summit as well as the World Economic Forum, which was impressive for the quality as well as the quantity of the companies and investors represented from around world.
These twin events demonstrated once again the growing interest among foreign investors to partner with Argentine companies, which will eventually lead to economic growth, as well as more and better jobs throughout the country.
Of course, big changes like this take time. Results do not happen overnight and more needs to be done to address difficult labor laws as well as fully root out corruption. But, investors who until recently were skeptical, are starting to bet on Argentina and the positive long term trajectory we all hope for.
Not only has the Macri government instilled confidence among these international decision-makers through good-governance, honest statistics and a genuine desire to re-engage with the world, but many of those global leaders traveled here personally in the last year to experience Argentina firsthand. During those visits, I met with literally hundreds of foreign leaders from both business and government and nearly all returned home impressed with the human talent and vast opportunities Argentina has to offer.
In the last three months since I ended my tenure at the embassy, I spent time in my home state of California meeting with individuals and companies interested in Argentina. I also recently travelled to Singapore, a country the US and Argentina can learn a great deal from, including the enormous value they place on education, technology and innovation. Success in these areas has rapidly propelled Singapore into a global leader with one of the highest GDP per capita in the world today.
My travels have reaffirmed my belief, as I said many times, that Argentina should not primarily be known as the ‘Paris of South America’ but should be known as the technology and innovation hub of South America. For that reason, one of the companies I’ve partnered with is Globant, one of Latin America’s most successful IT companies, to help expand its presence internationally as well as help build a robust technology ecosystem right here in Buenos Aires.
Based on my meetings with international investors, I believe there are other sectors poised for dramatic and sustainable growth, such as energy (especially renewable energy), agribusiness, real estate, infrastructure and tourism.
With regard to the political situation in the US, I know there was concern here about possible changes in the bilateral relationship because of the new US administration. But I believe Argentina’s relationship with the US goes far beyond just one person, even one president. During my term here, the team at the embassy worked closely with the Argentine government and built up a great deal of positive momentum. We institutionalized many mutually beneficial programs to promote economic growth, entrepreneurship and security, as well as to combat drug trafficking and money laundering. Many ongoing synergies were created between the two governments and I fully expect this positive dynamic to continue. Of course I look forward to seeing the results of President Macri’s visit to Washington DC next week. .
I plan to also visit the US capital on occasion as I have agreed to join a new program called the Argentine Project at the Wilson International Center, a well known Washington DC think tank in order to continue to promote bilateral relations and exchanges between our countries. I’m still in touch with former president Barack Obama, who plans to create a foundation to convene young world leaders to promote best governmental practices – and I hope many Argentines will participate in this future program. In fact, when I saw him in California recently, he recalled his wonderful trip to Argentina last year and told me he greatly looks forward to returning for a few days as a private citizen – just as I have. There’s something special about Argentina and that’s why I’m betting on it’s future success.