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Argentina - US Relations

The bilateral relationship between the United States and Argentina is based on many shared interests, including non-proliferation; cooperation on transnational issues such as counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and human trafficking; issues of regional peace and stability, including shared support for multilateral peacekeeping operations; and commercial ties.

The US position on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) according to the State Department Office of the Spokesperson, on June 13, 2012, "remains one of neutrality. The United States recognizes de facto U.K. administration of the islands, but takes no position regarding the sovereignty claims of either party. The U.S. Government supports U.K. and Argentine cooperation on practical matters and urges a peaceful resolution to the overall issue."

While countries share origins as European colonies, both of their economic schemes during the 19th century were based on developing their agriculture and livestock industries in order to sell their products to Europe. One country’s win was the other’s loss. British interests in the country were related to almost all strategic areas of the local economy at the time such as railways, cattle industry, and cold storage plants, while the local businessmen were focused on agriculture and livestock, so their complementary interests made it easy for both parties. On the other hand, American investments arrived to Argentina by the early 20th century and were focused on cold storage plants and cattle exports to Europe. Argentine livestock exports to Europe were competing with American exports. When the United States began to advance its economic and diplomatic sphere southward by means of the Pan American Union in 1889, Argentina turned its attention to the rest of South America, albeit in a limited way. It opposed United States attempts to forge hemispheric solidarity, arguing that although Central America and the Caribbean fell within the United States sphere of influence, South America should maintain its autonomy. Pursuing this policy, the country successfully blocked an attempt by the United States to create a hemispheric peacekeeping mechanism at the 1933 Montevideo Conference of the Pan American Union. At the same time, however, investors from the United States had successfully established a strong position in the country's economy during World War I.

During World War II, all the American Republics except Argentina stood with the United States against the Axis. Argentine neutrality in World War II collided directly with U.S. objectives toward Latin America. Policy-makers in Washington, in exchange for renunciation of intervention in Latin America, expected the Latin American nations to join with the United States in transforming the Pan American system into a collective security organization that would regard an attack on one as an attack on all, and to coordinate a unified response. For US policy-makers, the continuing dilemma in Argentina was how to compel an American state to change its position without violating the principle of non-intervention.

Secretary Hull’s resignation in November 1944 and his replacement by Edward Stettinius brought about a change in U.S. wartime policy toward Argentina. Under the new regime, the State Department’s hard line began to change. Nelson Rockefeller, who also favored a more moderate approach to Argentina, based on persuasion rather than pressure, assumed the office of Assistant Secretary of State for American Republics Affairs.

After the War the United States sought to explain its wartime policies toward Argentina and lay a foundation for a postwar solidarity among the American Republics that would continue to exclude Argentina. At the end of 1945 the Department of State began to prepare the so-called "Blue Book," which would demonstrate to the other American Republics that Argentina was a fascist government and deserved not to be included in a mutual defense pact scheduled to be signed in February 1946.

Believing that Argentina was an especially fertile ground for the seeds of a successor Nazi regime and a possible third world war, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes wrote to the Embassy in Buenos Aires: "Prep Arg case is regarded as most urgent and impt undertaking confronting this Govt in Hemisphere today." Interrogations during the preparation of the Argentine Blue Book of several Nazi officials and Foreign Service personnel who had handled Argentine affairs failed to substantiate rumors that Nazi leaders had concealed looted gold or other assets in Argentina.

George Messersmith, appointed Ambassador to Argentina in April 1946, urged that the United States place its relationship with Argentina on a "completely friendly, collaborative, and constructive basis" by the end of 1946. The policy-makers in Washington generally came to agree with Messersmith’s position, especially as the onset of the Cold War renewed US desire for hemispheric alignment.

Arentina developed the concept of a so-called Third Position in international affairs, independent of the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. The policy led to closer ties with Latin America, the maintenance of a more distant, and at times hostile, attitude toward the United States, and the development ofcooperative relations with other countries in Asia and Africa. This policy, with varying degrees of emphasis, was continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

In February 1960 President Dwight Eisenhower visited Buenos Aires to meet his local peer Arturo Frondizi, a visit that according to Morgenfeld, was destined to reinforce the ties with Argentina and also to counterbalance the repercussions of the Cuban Revolution in the region, which were also strong in Argentina due to the importance of Che Guevara.From that moment on, the pro-U.S. orientation of Argentina’s foreign policy was no longer questioned, and the following governments, whether dictatorships or democracies, were always aligned with the interests of the State Department. Such alignment was also a part of the role that Washington had established for Latin America as its “backyard “in the context of the Cold War.

Although publicly asserting its independence, the country supported most United States regional and global policies throughout the 1960s, including the economic blockade of Cuba and the 1965 military intervention in the Dominican Republic. The United States supplied Argentina with about US$247 million in grants, credits, and other forms of military aid between 1950 and 1979, when about 4,017 Argentine military personnel were trained in the United States. There were, however, serious disagreements between the two countries on a number of issues, particularly during the late 1970s. The United States was particularly concerned about Argentina's nuclear research program.

Relations with the United States reached a low point in 1977 and 1978. Criticizing human rights violations in Argentina, the United States restricted arms sales to the country, voted against loans to Argentina from international aid agencies, and strongly criticized it in the OAS and the UN. Rather than accept evaluation of its human rights situation by the United States Department of State and the subsequent discussion of those evaluations in the United States Congress, Argentina terminated its military assistance program with the United States. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Argentina refused to join the United States in halting grain sales to the Soviet Union. Relations improved in late 1979 and 1980, however, as a result of Argentina's improved human rights record.

Reciprocity had a limit, and in the war between Argentina and the UK over the Malvinas Islands in 1982, Washington took sides with Great Britain. Since that, whether held by the Democrats or the Republicans, the White House always avoided throwing their support behind Argentina regarding the sovereignty of the Islands.

Since 1983, when the dictatorship left power and a new government was elected by popular vote, Washington had always managed to subordinate Buenos Aires. This reached its climax during the 1990s under Carlos Menem, when the Foreign Affairs Minister Guido Di Tella was asked about the ties between the two countries and he said they were “carnal relations.” Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited Argentina in 1990 and 1997 respectively, in a display of bipartisanship that very few subjects beyond foreign policy seem able provoke.

But the situation changed after Nestor Kirchner took power in 2003.

Kirchner's Peronist Foreign Policy - 2003 - 2015

Cristina Fernandez and her late husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, together ran Argentine since 2003. President Nestor Kirchner's foreign policy was marked by a confrontational style and a dangerous relationship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Kirchner picked fights with everyone in the region. To some, Kirchner's relationship with the USG is the only thing that is moderating Kirchner's alliance with Chavez. There were limits on how far Kirchner was willing to go with Chavez because Kirchner did not want a major conflict with the United States. Kirchner would never seek a serious conflict with the United States. He was fascinated with the US, even though he only really knew New York.

US-Argentine cooperation included significant science and technology initiatives in the fields of space, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, agricultural research, medicine, and the environment. The first of what was expected to be annual bilateral joint science and technology working group meetings was held in September 2010. In June 2007, the U.S. and Argentina modernized a bilateral civil aviation agreement to update safety and security safeguards and allow a significant increase in flight frequencies between the two countries, which hold excellent potential for increased tourism and business travel. An active media, together with widespread interest in American culture and society, made Argentina a receptive environment for the information and cultural exchange work of the US Embassy. The Fulbright scholarship program had more than tripled the annual number of US and Argentine academic grantees since 1994.

Two-way trade in goods with the US in 2008 totaled about $13.3 billion (according to the US International Trade Commission). Total two-way trade in services in 2008 was $3.4 billion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, US. Department of Commerce. Total two-way trade in services in 2007 was $4.0 billion, $5.0 billion, $3.5 billion in US exports to Argentina, and $1.5 billion in US imports from Argentina, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, US Department of Commerce. The production of grains, cattle, and other agricultural goods continues to be the backbone of Argentina's export economy. High technology goods and services are emerging as significant export sectors.

U.S. goods and private services trade with Argentina totaled an estimated $23 billion in 2012. Exports totaled an estimated $17 billion; Imports totaled $6 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Argentina was $10 billion in 2012. Argentina was currently the 41st largest goods trading partner of the US, with $14.8 billion in total (two ways) goods trade during 2013. Goods exports totaled $10.2 billion; Goods imports totaled $4.6 billion. The US goods trade surplus with Argentina was $5.6 billion in 2013. Trade in private services with Argentina (exports and imports) totaled an estimated $8.3 billion in 2012. Services exports were $6.4 billion; Services imports were $1.9 billion. The US services trade surplus with Argentina was $4.5 billion in 2012.

Around 500 US companies were operating in Argentina, employing over 150,000 Argentine workers. US investment in Argentina is concentrated in the manufacturing, information, and financial sectors. Other major sources of investment include Spain, Chile, Italy, France, Canada, Japan, and Brazil. The US Embassy expended a good deal of effort in support of US companies operating in Argentina, and encouraging the Goovernment of Argentina to maintain a more welcoming investment climate, with greater regulatory, legal, and tax regime consistency. As an example of the types of problems faced by companies operating in Argentina, the government in late 2008 nationalized Argentina's private pensions system, which affected two US companies that had been running pension funds.

Bilateral relations were good but sometimes delicate. For example, in December 2007, two days after President Fernandez de Kirchner was inaugurated, the Government of Argentina reacted negatively to news reports concerning a federal case in Miami against three Venezuelans and an Uruguayan who were arrested on charges of operating in the United States as Venezuelan agents. Charges and testimony in the case alleged events that were embarrassing for the Government of Argentina. Both governments since made efforts to improve the bilateral relationship, in part by keeping the focus on the many areas of practical cooperation between the governments such as science and alternative energy, counter-drug cooperation, and nuclear non-proliferation. The election of President Barrack Obama also changed significantly the approach of CFK and her advisors toward the US Government, though areas of friction remained.

Argentina's rampant anti-Americanism was encouraged by a presidency that had not constrained its criticisms of the United States. This was compounded by the fact that the overall US involvement in Argentina had been passive and unwilling to directly challenge the Kirchners' provocations, ultimately resulting in the perception that the United States is "never around". Argentines, in general, enjoy playing the "anti-American", but in reality are very sensitive to US criticism or lack of attention. President Bush's focus on so many places around the world did not allow for active engagement with the Kirchners, who were consistently disrespecting and demonizing world leaders anyway.

Argentina cooperated with the US and multilateral partners in regional security, counter-terrorism, drug-interdiction, nonproliferation and in contributing troops to UN peacekeeping missions. The Government of Argentina has a strong international voice on arms control and nonproliferation issues. In the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Government of Argentina has voted consistently to refer Iran's noncompliance to the UN Security Council. The Government of Argentina has also endorsed the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). Argentina and the US co-hosted in Buenos Aires a gathering of all OAS States to look for ways to better implement UN resolution 1540, which is aimed at keeping WMD from terrorists. The USG and Argentina have realized some of the best examples of bilateral cooperation under the banner of science, and we have a long history of aerospace cooperation with Argentina.

The greatest overall challenge the US faced in Argentina was the high level of anti-Americanism among the Argentine public. Argentina consistently registers the highest levels of anti-Americanism in the hemisphere in public opinion polls. Working to change these perceptions is the Embassy's highest priority, including substantially increased media outreach, focused attention on youth, greatly expanded English language teaching program, and augmented involvement with NGOs and community activities.

The level of anti-Americanism in Argentina was the highest in the Western Hemisphere, according to a wide range of opinion polls. The negative image of the US stems in part from the perception that America is a self-interested superpower that acts unilaterally and at times belligerently on the world stage. These high negatives bear important ancillary costs. A number of top government and political leaders, for example, have discovered there is gold domestically in publicly bashing the U.S. from time to time. These outbursts have often resulted in stalling momentum gained in the bilateral relationship.

Anti-Americanism in Argentina could easily become reflexive and color not just how Argentines view our policies but also American culture, values, and the American people themselves.

The election of President Obama gave US public diplomacy efforts a big boost. He rated very highly in opinion polls and the President of Argentina made clear her hope to build a good relationship with him. Argentina maintained positive political relations with the United States, but there is room for further improvement. One of the major tasks facing the Embassy is forging relationships of trust with a government that has been largely inward-focused and intent on maintaining an image as independent from the US.

The Kirchners had succeeded in alienating Washington to the point where Washington did not care what Argentina (unlike Brazil or Chile) had to say about anything.

President Mauricio Macri

Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri won the presidential election on November 22, 2015. Macri has said that he would revamp bilateral relations with the United States, which were severely damaged during the Fernández presidency. A Macri government would significantly tone down Argentina’s current anti-US rhetoric. “The current government has chosen the systematic confrontation with almost the entire world, which has left us very isolated,” Macri told Andres Oppenheimer during the interview in March 2015. “We must reach out to the world, create new long-term strategic agreements, and recover markets for our products.” Argentinians ended years of angrily anti-British Peronist rule.

Argentina under Kirchner pushed the anti-American "pink revolution" in Latin America — the shift of the political power center. The Pink Revolution was the name the media gives to the transformational political, economic, and social-restructuring model that emerged in Latin America with the election of Hugo Chávez to Venezuela’s presidency in 1998. Witin fiver years, other Pink presidents — Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and Tabaré Vásquez in Uruguay — were elected.

Many of these long-unchallenged leftist governments faced a combination of factors, most notably their struggling economies, falling global commodity prices and rejuvenated center-right alternatives. Macri vowed to shift Argentina’s foreign policy away from close relations with the anti-American governments in Venezuela and Iran and towards better ties with the USA. Wall Street also hoped that he would settle with those bondholders who have sued the country in the international courts seeking payments.

During his official visit to Argentina on 24 March 2016, US President Barack Obama issued a statement at Memorial Park alongside President Mauricio Macri paying tribute to the victims of the U.S.-backed military dictatorship and Dirty War, which left up to 30,000 killed or disappeared. During his remarks, President Barack Obama praised the courage and sacrifice of the activists and dissidents whom endured tremendous human rights abuses by the U.S.-backed Argentine military regime.

March 24 is an official public holiday in Argentina and known as Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. However, in his speech, Obama failed to acknowledge the role that the United States government played in supporting Argentina's military dictatorship. US support for military regimes in Argentina and neighboring Chile remains a source of bitterness across Latin America. The 1976 coup led to a brutal, right-wing dictatorship and the forced "disappearance" of between 13,000 and 30,000 leftist dissidents.

Barack Obama praised the neoliberal economic policies implemented by conservative President Mauricio Macri during his first 100 days in office. Critics said Obama came to celebrate a victory for the American establishment.

In mid-May 2016 Vice Defense Minister Angel Tello began a five-day visit to the US aimed at reestablishing bilateral defense relations between the two countries after a freeze in military ties in recent years. Among the plans reportedly being discussed is the negotiation of a military base in Argentina's Misiones Province, located in the northeastern corner of the country at the border between Paraguay and Brazil.

The military delegation sent by Argentine President Mauricio Macri on 18 May 2016 signed an agreement on military cooperation with the United States, which entailed the establishment of a US military base in Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of the South American nation. According to a report, among the plans is also the negotiation of another military base in the border with Paraguay and Brazil.

Bilateral ties between Argentina and the U.s. had been tense in recent years as the leftist governments of presidents Fernandez and Nestor Kirchner reoriented foreign policy away from the U.S. and toward Latin America in the name of fighting imperialism and strengthening regional integration. But Macri came to office last year based in part on a promise to rekindle relations with the U.S. while giving the cold shoulder to allies of Argentina’s left-wing Kirchner governments, such as Venezuela. The president has said he wants a “pragmatic and intelligent” relationship with Washington.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri met with U.S. President Donal Trump at the White House 27 April 2017 to discuss business ties, after decades of knowing each other through business deals as real estate moguls in their respective countries. The talks marked the first meeting between the two presidents and the second time a Latin American head of state met Trump, after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski did so two months earlier. "My good friend, for many, many years," said Trump of Macri. "Long time, 25 years." Macri jumped in and corrected Trump: "More, unfortunately, more, I was only 24," said the Argentine president, who is now 58 years old. Trump said he knew Macri from before both entered politics in their respective countries due to real estate deals and reiterated the many years of friendship with the Argentine president.

The meeting comes after the Argentine Ambassador to the U.S., Martin Lousteau, resigned from his post amid a scandal over the country’s mass acquisition of weapons from the U.S. government. Macri planned to spend US$2 billion in what would be the largest weapons acquisition since the country's Malvinas War in the 1980s.

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Page last modified: 30-04-2017 13:46:22 ZULU