“It was successful”, “we are very satisfied”, “it was very good”, are some of the phrases commented by the members of the delegation and even the president himself, Alberto Fernandez, on the plane back to Buenos Aires that had departed from Rome. That city was the last destination of the European tour that included four countries in six days and allowed the President to talk with four peers, two prime ministers, a king, Pope Francis and members of the IMF, including the head of the organization, Kristalina Georgieva. The Government achieved the objectives it had set itself: to obtain the necessary support in its request for the reduction of interest surcharges, which would mean a saving of approximately 950 million dollars per year, and to advance in the consensus so that the Paris Club of a time bridge to pay off your debt. However, the trip will end on Tuesday, when the President meets virtually with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – whom he was unable to visit due to health restrictions – and it will only be necessary to wait to see this support reflected in concrete definitions. to alleviate the Argentine situation.
The President, the entourage and the group of journalists who covered the tour landed with the Aerolineas Argentinas plane in Portugal last Sunday. There was hardly time to get the swabs done and leave things at the hotel to get to the Belem Palace on time, where President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa received him. Those first hours marked the rhythm that the week was going to have. In an unprecedented setting, with the most tourist cities on the continent empty, a routine of lunches, dinners and meetings was put together to take advantage of every minute and achieve support. After the scheduled activities, Fernández talked with the journalists. As the days passed, the enthusiasm of the entourage grew as they saw that the meetings paid off.
The trams and the empty cobbled streets of Lisbon; the desolate Plaza Mayor of Madrid; the chairs stacked inside the Parisian bars and the Trevi Fountain without tourists throwing coins were images that shocked the President and that became a topic of conversation with the leaders. The anguish of ruling during the pandemic is something that brought them together. For that reason, everyone agreed with a claim that Fernández pioneered at the G20 in 2020: vaccines must be a global good.
The main objective of the tour, the negotiations with the IMF and the Paris Club, are not alien to the pandemic scenario. A concept that the Minister of Economy, Martín Guzmán, repeated on different occasions was that the current programs of multilateral organizations are designed for another time in the world and that they must be revised to take into account the great problems of the planet: climate change , development and macroeconomic problems. During the tour, the President began to position himself as an articulator of the different Latin American countries to promote this position.
“He is a very influential president for the stability of Latin America,” assure members of the delegation about how European leaders see Fernández. “They consider him a very important person in the region and that was seen in all the talks that took place,” say those who participated in the meetings.
Fernández knows that the support of Europeans is essential at a time when the United States needs to improve its image in Europe after the government of Donald Trump. Therefore, the support he obtained is a very important step to be heard by the IMF.
In September and December there will be principal maturities of the debt with the Fund. With that in mind, the President undertook the tour in search of modifying the statutes and, among other things, eliminating the surcharges that countries that take out large loans have to pay. In this he received a key support: that of Portugal, which paid those fees. France and Spain also agreed, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who promised to take the motion to the next G-20 meeting, to be held in Italy in October. The idea is that they are suspended until that month and then they are eliminated.
The due date to pay the Paris Club, meanwhile, is in May. But due to the type of contract, there is the possibility of extending it 60 days before falling into default, that is, the actual expiration date is July 31. The government worked to ask for a “time bridge” while reaching an agreement with the IMF. “We come well”, they specified from their surroundings. They even commented that Emmanuel Macron told Fernández that he would be in charge of pushing the matter forward.
They also had the backing of the Pope, who in addition to meeting with the President, organized a seminar for great world leaders to talk about “financial and fiscal solidarity.” The event was attended by Guzmán and IMF president, Kristalina Georgieva, with whom Fernández met on Friday in Rome. Both in the meeting with her, as in the one he argued with John Kerry, representative of the Biden government, the government did well. Georgieva assured that he would raise the claims with the organization and Kerry asked him to lead the organization of a meeting on climate change between the US and South America.