Argentina’s Political and Economic Transformations

On December 7, 2017, days before the second anniversary of President Mauricio Macri’s time in office and the start of the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Buenos Aires, the Atlantic Council, in partnership with HSBC, hosted “Argentina’s Transformations: Open to the World.” The half-day conference at the Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires focused on Argentina’s political and economic transformations, and its reinsertion into the world. The dialogue centered on Argentina’s ambitious reform agenda, and the new opportunities for businesses and economic growth in the country. The discussion also focused on the implications of Argentina’s renewed international leadership exemplified by its hosting of the WTO Ministerial and its presidency of the G20 Summit in 2018.

Jason Marczak, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council, opened the conference and HSBC’s Vice President for Global Banking Antonio Estrany y Gendre gave welcome remarks and introduced Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state of the United States, chair of the board of Albright Stonebridge Group, and honorary director of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Council.

Secretary Albright delivered powerful remarks, noting that Argentina today emerges with ever stronger democratic institutions. Secretary Albright reminded us that “history does not move in a straight line, and that democracy’s great advantage is the ability to correct its own faults – through the development of fresh ideas, the conception of innovative policies, and the periodic emergence of new and visionary leaders.” She also spoke on the need for cooperation between the United States and Argentina for a more prosperous and secure future: “As I look forward, I hope that the United States and Argentina will continue to work together as a team and that we will do so not only based on shared interests, but also on shared values.”

Minister Susana Malcorra, advisor to the Government of the Argentine Republic and head of the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization, joined Secretary Albright to discuss Argentina’s leadership in a changing global order. The conversation, moderated by Marczak, touched on Argentina’s focused outreach to the rest of the world with the intention to demonstrate its pledge to democratic values. This can be seen at home, with the country’s recommitment to Mercosur and renewed outreach to the Pacific Alliance, with Argentina’s reworking of its trade agreement with the European Union and, finally, with the expansion of the country’s economic partnerships in East Asia. Minister Malcorra noted that “our opportunity is to…put on the table what we can all collectively do to reinforce the systems that connect us and bring us together.”

Following the conversation, Argentine Minister of Production Francisco Cabrera spoke about the economic reforms and the rise of the Argentine economy under President Macri. He then sat down for a conversation moderated by Benedict Mander, southern cone correspondent of The Financial Times. Minister Cabrera emphasized, “all these reforms are aimed at that purpose—we want to create and attract investment, and we want to create quality jobs.” He explained that the Macri administration’s primary goal for the rest of his term as president is to send a message to the world that Argentina is stable and trustworthy.

Following the Minister’s remarks, Undersecretary Marcelo Scaglione, Argentina’s representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sat down with Carolina Millán from Bloomberg to address Argentina’s hopes of joining the OECD and spurring the kind of economic growth that comes from doing so, citing South Korea’s astronomical growth a couple decades prior. Undersecretary Scaglione described the many steps that Argentina has taken in the past two years to implement the OECD’s requisites, from macroeconomic reform to institutional improvements. He highlighted, “all thirty-five member countries [of the OECD] now support Argentina’s candidacy.” Both Undersecretary Scaglione and President Macri hope to receive Argentina’s official invitation to the body around June 2018.

The final panel of the conference saw Gustavo Boruchowicz, managing partner in the Buenos Aires office of Baker McKenzie, Guillermo Ortíz de Rozas, director at Grupo Arcor and Bagley Latinoamérica S.A., and Lorena Zicker, general manager for Argentina at Intel Corporation, provide their perspectives on business and investment in the new Argentine economy. The panel was moderated by Flavio Cannilla, managing editor of the magazine group Apertura in El Cronista, the media partner for the event. The panelists unanimously agreed that the business environment in Argentina has greatly improved over the last few years. Zicker emphasized, “this year the retail segment for PCs grew by 55 percent.” Ortíz de Rozas was optimistic about the return to a market-based economy, relaying that “companies are no longer seeing with fear and they’re encouraged to invest.” Boruchowicz cautioned, however, that the ultimate test of the endurability of these reforms will be “when a government from the opposition sustains this environment.”

The final speaker, Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Jorge Faurie, pinpointed this moment as a new era for the country’s international relations. He noted that “Argentina’s society was able to understand that, in a global world with the dimensions of multilateralism, we cannot remain alone and isolated…we have to work to be part of the world.”

In partnership with HSBC, this event was held in collaboration also with Baker McKenzie, El Cronista / Apertura / InfoTechnology, the Council for International Relations of Argentina (CARI), the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC); the Chamber of Exporters of Argentina (CERA), the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina, and Ketchum public relations.