Biden Spoke to Argentina President Fernandez Amid IMF Talks
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez. (Photographer: Sarah Pabst/Bloomberg)

Biden Spoke to Argentina President Fernandez Amid IMF Talks

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden spoke by phone Monday for the first time with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, marking the start of a relationship key to Argentina’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

The two leaders spoke about the economic situation in Latin America, bilateral relations and Pope Francis, who is from Argentina and met Biden, a Catholic, during his time as vice president, according to an Argentine government statement. The call lasted 35 minutes and was confirmed by both leaders’ press teams.

Biden’s administration will play a key role in the IMF agreement Fernandez’s government is negotiating. The U.S. is the IMF’s largest member by financing, and any major Fund agreement requires U.S. backing. A previous record IMF agreement in 2018 granted to Argentina was heavily advocated for by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

Although Foreign Minister Felipe Sola said in a radio interview that Fernandez brought up the topic of U.S. support at the IMF to Biden during the call, the president’s chief spokesman, Juan Pablo Biondi, clarified to Bloomberg News that the IMF was never discussed in that context with Biden.

Economy Minister Martin Guzman, Argentina’s top negotiator with the IMF, did participate in the call with Biden.

“It was a very positive call,” Guzman told journalists Monday. “There are two leaders that have a shared vision on the value of working together in a cooperative way.”

Fernandez plans to announce a multi-year economic plan as part of the IMF deal, a key ingredient seen by investors as an opportunity to restore some confidence and credibility in the South American country. Argentina is in its third straight year of recession with inflation near 40% and double-digit unemployment.

Fernandez was the first leader in Latin America to congratulate Biden on his election victory, according to a tally by the Washington-based Wilson Center. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have both so far failed to do so.

Fernandez said in recent interviews that he hopes to relaunch the U.S.-Argentine relationship once Biden takes office in January.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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