When U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew meets with Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay on Monday, he will bring a clear message from Washington: nice job, keep going.
It’s hardly a secret that relations between Buenos Aires and Washington have improved since President Mauricio Macri took office and Lew’s visit will solidify those strong relations.
“We see Argentina has taken strong steps to generate private sector confidence, including the Article IV review [by the IMF], repairing economic statistics, normalizing access to international capital markets and working to combat corruption,” a senior Treasury official said this afternoon during a conference call with reporters.
Lew will be traveling to Argentina as part of a tour of four major Latin American economies, including Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. It’s hardly a coincidence that all the countries have seen a sharp shift in policy recently, aligning themselves more with Washington as they try to lure investment by instituting more business-friendly policies.
During his meeting with Prat-Gay, Lew will talk about ways the U.S. Treasury can help Argentina “while it continues the long process of reintegrating to the global economies” and changes “unsustainable policies” that led the country to “the verge of crisis” last year, the official added. The whitewashing law will also be on the agenda at a time when Buenos Aires wants the help of the United States to track down Argentines with undeclared assets abroad. “That is an issue that is very much on our radar screens, we plan to have a conversation with the finance minister about that issue to get a broader and fuller sense of what it is he’s doing,” the Treasury official said.
Lew will be the first U.S. Treasury secretary to visit Argentina since 2002.
“Our message is one of the benefits of ongoing economic reforms and disciplined economic policies in these economies,” the official said about the general theme of the trip. “The message we’re carrying is on the need to continue with these policies, to highlight the engagement we have had and continue to have with key economic players in these economies.”
The Brazil visit will be particularly significant as Lew will be the first member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet to visit the country after Michel Temer was sworn-in as president.
Lew has been one of the Obama officials who has most publicly supported Macri’s reforms since the beginning of his administration. In fact, he met with Prat-Gay in Davos at the end of January to congratulate him on the economic reforms and said Washington was ending its policy of opposing most lending to Argentina from the multilateral development banks.
Even though Lew will have a day filled with meetings in Buenos Aires, the Treasury said it will only release his full schedule the day before his arrival. What we do know now is that Lew will be hosting a talk on the global economy and U.S.-Argentina relations at the Torcuato Di Tella University (UTDT) on Monday at 4 PM.