Latin America in spotlight at G20 summit
By ANDREW MOODY
The G20 meeting in Buenos Aires will aim to demonstrate the important contribution Latin America can make to the rest of the world, according to Argentine President Mauricio Macri.
Argentina is the first South American country to host the G20 Leaders’ Summit, although not the first from Latin America, with Mexico staging it in 2012.
“Our presidency (of the G20) will seek to embody the expression not only of one country, but that of a whole region. Latin America and the Caribbean have much to contribute to the world order, through their talented people, abundant natural resources and as a region of peace and cooperation,” Macri said in an address ahead of the summit.
Juliana Gonzalez Jauregui, research fellow at the Latin American social sciences institute FLACSO, believes it is important that the summit is being held in Argentina.
“There is an excitement about it in Argentina. It is part of an effort by the government for the country to be reconnected to the rest of the world. It is important that it is the first time the summit is being held in South America,” she says.
However, Jauregui, who was speaking from Buenos Aires, is doubtful that Latin American concerns will drive the summit agenda.
“Latin American members, particularly Brazil and Argentina, used to be very critical and wanted to change those rules of the financial system and international trade that they considered were unfair,” she said.
“They promoted politics that protected labor and social inclusion inside the G20, and with the support of other emergent countries, aimed to achieve a more balanced multilateral trade system that would guarantee developing countries their own legitimate place.”
She says, however, that over the past two years in particular, they have become more accepting of the existing order.
“Compared to the past, Latin American countries have shown a more complacent position toward the rules of the financial system and the Bretton Woods order. In effect, they have become rule takers.”
The G20 is not the first major meeting to take place in Buenos Aires over the past year, with the 11th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization being held there in December last year.
Ariel Martin Slipak, an economist at the National University of Moreno in Buenos Aires, says Argentina is trying to put itself on the map and send out a signal that it is open for investment.
The country has had a number of recent economic setbacks and had to secure a $50 billion credit line agreed to with the IMF in June and raise interest rates to 60 percent in August to bolster the currency.
“Macri is very keen for Argentina to be commercially open to the rest of the world. He is very much in favor of foreign direct investment from the rest of the world, whether it comes from the US, China or Russia,” Slipak said.
With infrastructure one of the G20’s priorities, Argentina is very supportive of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and is now a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
China has provided major financing for a number of infrastructure projects in the country, including railways and hydropower dams.
Chinese companies are likely to be involved in a new tunnel project linking Argentina and Chile under the Andes, which will take nine years to complete and will give Argentina another oceanic link to China.
Gonzalez Jauregui, from FLACSO, adds: “Infrastructure is very important to Argentina. This tunnel link would be one of the most significant projects within the Belt and Road Initiative that would benefit Argentina.”