Argentine President-elect's US visit 'a test for political wisdom' to balance between US pressure and cooperation with China: experts
Published: Nov 28, 2023 09:37 PM
Javier Milei Photo: VCG

Javier Milei Photo: VCG

Marking his first overseas trip since the election, Argentine President-elect Javier Milei arrived in the US on Monday to meet with top officials from the Biden administration and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). US President Joe Biden, however, would skip the meeting even as Milei repeatedly expressed eagerness to lean toward the US in his foreign policy.

Experts said Milei's visit is mainly aimed at mending frayed ties with the Biden administration and shoring up support for his economic reform plan. They warned, however, that US support always comes with a cost, and it would be a test for Milei's political wisdom to strike a balance between complying with the whims of the US and pragmatic cooperation with China. 

Milei spent Monday in New York as he met former US president Bill Clinton. He is expected to meet with Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and US Treasury officials on Tuesday, and speak with IMF officials as Argentina needs to reset its $43 billion loan agreement, according to media reports. 

Milei's meetings in Washington aim to "explain the economic plan: fiscal adjustment, monetary reform, state reform and deregulation," a spokesperson of Milei was quoted as saying in AP. 

The visit of the next Argentine leader to the US is "unsurprising," Chinese observers said, as it reflects the president-elect's continued inclination toward an ever-closer relationship with the US in his foreign policy, which has been evident since before the election.

This trip aims mainly to repair ties with the Biden administration, Sun Yanfeng, director of Latin American research at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Wang Youming, director of the Institute of Developing Countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, gave similar comments to the Global Times, as he said that Milei's efforts to engage with key American politicians can be seen as laying the groundwork for his future pro-US policies, essentially fulfilling his previous commitment of unrestricted cooperation with Washington. 

According to media reports, Biden will skip the meeting with the Argentine President-elect as he travels on Tuesday to Georgia for a memorial service for former first lady Rosalynn Carter and then to Colorado.

Experts said this reflects the "mixed feelings" of the Biden administration, as on one hand they are eager to see the right-wing leader joining the US club, while on the other hand are still concerned about his "special bond" with Trump.

Another purpose of this visit is to gain support for Milei's radical economic reform plans, since the reforms, such as dollarization, will be difficult to implement without sufficient external support. If dollarization is to be pursued, it would require at least several billion dollars of external support, and the US will undoubtedly become the most important financial source for this policy, Sun noted. 

Milei won the country's election last week on a promise to take radical action to fix South America's second-biggest economy. During his campaign, Milei proposed the country ditch its currency in favor of the US dollar and close the central bank, Bloomberg reported. 

When asked if this pro-US tendency would mean sacrificing Argentina's ties with other major trading partners such as China and Brazil, Sun expressed a cautiously optimistic view, as a shift in Milei's attitude has been observed lately from a radical to a relatively pragmatic and flexible foreign policy. 

Wang warned that "there is no free lunch" in gaining support from the US. "It always comes with a certain cost, either by relinquishing some of their currency sovereignty or accepting stringent political conditions imposed by the US. Fiscal and monetary policies will also be conducted according to US instructions," the expert said. 

It requires Milei's political wisdom to balance the pressures from the US with the need to keep cooperation with major markets like China unimpeded, Wang said.