As Argentine President Mauricio Macri visits the White House, the Donald Trump Administration has the opportunity to revitalize our economic and security partnership with Argentina and reenergize America’s leadership in the Western Hemisphere
Argentina is the third largest country in South America and has the second highest per capita income. After decades of high unemployment and runaway inflation under socialist Peronist rule and the heavy hand of the state, in November 2015 the Argentine people elected Macri, a free-market reformer committed to improving the country’s business and trade climate. He is seeking to reverse the failed economic policies that plagued Argentina for too long.
Macri’s victory was a breath of fresh air for the U.S.-Argentine relationship. America must act quickly to formalize improved relations by promoting trade and economic growth in both countries, re-establishing regular defense and law enforcement exercises, and expanding intelligence sharing.
Argentina’s economy is growing despite continuing economic and political challenges in neighboring Brazil, and the drop in commodity prices weighing down many other economies in the region. In fact, the International Monetary Fund expects the Argentine economy to grow over two percent in 2017 after last year’s modest contraction.
Still, the U.S. needs to look for ways to assist the Macri government as it works to attract foreign direct investment, enact tax reform and rebuild the country’s infrastructure. My home state of Florida is leading the way. Governor Rick Scott led a delegation of Florida business leaders to Buenos Aires this week to build on our already strong economic ties.
Expanded trade in agriculture and energy should be a priority for the U.S. and Argentina. The Trump Administration should take this opportunity to press Macri’s government to continue to lower trade barriers and expand our economic ties.
Argentina can also be a strong security partner. It has joined the United States and other nations in condemning Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s dash to dictatorship that has led to that country’s political, economic and social meltdown. Macri, like Trump, also recently hosted Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López.
Having suffered devastating Iran-backed terrorist attacks on its soil in the 1992 Israeli embassy bombing and the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina now has political leadership open to expanding counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S. It’s a hopeful sign that Macri, in a reversal from his predecessor, publicly said he suspects Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor for the AMIA bombing, was in fact murdered when he died under suspicious circumstances in January 2015. Macri has ordered the declassification of government information related to Nisman.
Macri is pushing a strong anti-corruption agenda and has proposed a new law also to punish companies, not just individuals, for corruption in the public sector. He has also taken the fight to organized crime and drug cartels. With increased trafficking of narcotics from South America to the U.S., Africa and Europe, Washington should seek closer law enforcement cooperation with Argentina on this pressing issue.
After years of Washington sending mixed messages to our allies in Latin America, if not outright neglecting them, the Trump Administration has the chance to make it clear that the U.S. is committed to reengage with South America on multiple fronts. With recent elections yielding new leadership in many countries on both sides of the equator, it’s high time for the United States to take bold steps with Argentina and other nations to expand economic growth in the region and ensure a more stable, more secure hemisphere.
Rubio is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.