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Argentina - Foreign Relations

Most of the Argentine public do not care that much about foreign affairs. Argentina's foreign policy priorities are focused on increasing regional partnerships, including consolidating and expanding the MERCOSUR regional trade bloc and more deeply institutionalizing the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Argentina is an active member of the United Nations system and served a 3-year term on the UN Human Rights Council ending June 2011. As of late 2011 Argentina had approximately 700 peacekeeping troops in Haiti in support of the UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSTAH), reflecting its traditionally strong support of UN peacekeeping operations. As a member of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Argentina has been a strong voice in support of nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

Foreign policy in the Nestor Kirchner government was always subservient to domestic political considerations. Kirchner, at least initially, took a hard line on the paper mills dispute with Uruguay -- despite the damage to Mercosur and regional relations -- because of the strong Argentine public concern about the paper mills, particularly in ruling-party-run Entre Rios province that is on the opposite side of the river from the plants. Kirchner's explicit and harsh criticism of the U.S. during his speech during the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata can only be understood in the context of dismal public perceptions of the U.S. and Kirchner's desire to appeal to his leftist political base. Kirchner's hardball tactics during negotiations over Argentina's private sector debt and his criticism of foreign companies that run major enterprises that were privatized in the 1990s did not earn him any support from foreign investors, but were popular with the Argentine public. Likewise, Kirchner cut Argentine gas exports to Chile in 2005 to cover shortages in the internal market despite the existence of valid contracts between Chile and local gas suppliers.

President Nestor Kirchner was not skilled at international diplomacy and often ignored basic protocol. Kirchner's gaffes with foreign dignitaries are legendary. In June 2004, Kirchner left Russian leader Vladimir Putin waiting at the Moscow airport for a meeting that never happened, reportedly because Cristina Kirchner wanted to spend more time shopping at their previous stop in Prague. The government claimed that "bad weather" had delayed their takeoff when weather reports showed sunny conditions in Prague. Later that year, President Kirchner failed to attend a state dinner he was supposed to host for visiting Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong. In like fashion, Kirchner failed to attend a reception in honor of the State visit of Queen Beatriz of Holland in March of 2006. Kirchner also never receives new Ambassadors, as state protocol would dictate, relegating this responsibility to Vice President Daniel Scioli.

Argentina is a member of the regional common market bloc Mercosur, established in 1991, which seeks to remove barriers to trade between its members. Mercosur is the world's fourth biggest integrated market and the second largest in the Americas after the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) with a combined population of about 200 million people. Trade flows between Argentina and the other members (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela) have increased significantly during the last 5 years. The dispute between Argentina and Uruguay over the UPM (previously Botnia) cellulose plant in Fray Bentos (on the Uruguayan side of the River Uruguay) contributed to an increase in tensions between the two countries. In April 2010, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave their ruling on the case brought by Argentina against Uruguay; Uruguayan President Mujica shortly afterwards stated that repairing relations with Argentina is one of his foreign policy priorities.

Argentina plays an active role on the international stage on human rights, sustainable development, counter proliferation and trade. It was elected to the Human Rights Council in May 2008. It was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council until end 2006. Argentine troops have been deployed on UN peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, Kosovo, the Middle East and Haiti, amongst other regions. It has a police contingent in Darfur. Argentina is a member of the key non-proliferation arrangements and is also a member of the Rio Group, World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation, International Maritime Organisation, Intelsat and Inmarsat (mobile satellite consortiums). It is a party to many international environmental agreements, including the Antarctic Treaty (Secretariat is in Buenos Aires), Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection and Whaling. It played host to the tenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2004 and hosted an informal dialogue on climate change in El Calafate in September 2008.

Argentina has long historic links with the UK. British companies played a vital role in Argentina's commercial development during the 19th century. The railways, food processing plant and many of the financial services were developed and managed by British firms. A wide range of UK manufactured goods was exported to Argentina and the UK in turn was a major destination for Argentine products.

Diplomatic relations were restored in 1990 after an 8-year gap following the Falklands conflict. In 2007, the 25th anniversary of the conflict was commemorated with events in London and Stanley as well as in Argentina. Since 1990, South Atlantic issues have been discussed with the Argentine Government under a 'sovereignty umbrella' arrangement, which allows the UK and Argentina to protect their respective positions on sovereignty while seeking to make progress on practical matters of common interest such as fisheries and de-mining. The British Government has no doubts about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, and the principle of self determination, enshrined by the UN charter, underlies our position. The British Government view is that there can be no negotiations over sovereignty unless and until such a time as the Falkland Islanders so wish. The British Government remains committed to the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. 02 April 2012 was the 30th Anniversary of the Falkland Island conflict.

There is a strong British cultural influence in Argentina and a large Argentine-British community around Buenos Aires. There is also a strong Welsh-speaking Argentine-Welsh community in Chubut, Patagonia. Argentines made around 37,000 visits to the UK in 2008 with visits having increased by 16% in the last five years from 32,000 back in 2003.

Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri won the presidential election on November 22, 2015. Macri had promised to introduce more pro-business policies, reduce inflation, cut deals with foreign creditors and realign Argentina’s foreign policy away from Venezuela and Iran and closer to the US. He also indicated that he would adopt a less confrontational stance over the Falkland Islands.

By contrast to his predecessor, Macri took a far more critical stance toward Venezuela and other socialist-populist governments in the region. Macri vowed to distance Aregentina from Venezuela’s leftist-populist regime, and seek closer ties with the pro-market Pacific Alliance bloc of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Macri vowed to end outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s close political alliance with Venezuela. During the 15 November 2015 presidential debate with government-backed candidate Daniel Scioli, Macri said that he would call for Venezuela’s “suspension” from Mercosur — the southern cone’s economic bloc made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela — for not complying with the group’s democratic clause requiring all member countries to abide by democratic principles.

Macri reoriented Argentina’s foreign policy within the region and with respect to the United States, and he has fostered less ideological, more diverse relationships with extrahemispheric actors. Macri has moved Argentina away from giving a privileged position to anti-U.S. actors in the Western Hemisphere and to U.S. geopolitical rivals beyond it, to a more pragmatic posture that seeks mutually beneficial commercial and political ties with countries such as China and Russia. He substantially reconstructed Argentina’s close relationship with the United States, renewed engagement with traditional international institutions (including renewed access to international capital markets), and pursued relations with a broader group of extraregional actors of all ideological orientations, including Australia, South Korea, and Japan.Macri’s unifying theme in all of these engagements has arguably been to expand the nation’s options, avoiding an excess of dependency on a single ally or an ideological block such as Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, or ALBA) that could undermine Argentine sovereignty.





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