Argentina’s Milei Pitches Economic Plan to IMF, White House in Washington

Argentina’s newly elected libertarian president says he had ‘an excellent meeting’ with the White House.
Argentina’s Milei Pitches Economic Plan to IMF, White House in Washington
Argentine President-elect Javier Milei (C) departs from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, in Washington on Nov. 28, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Moran
11/28/2023
Updated:
1/5/2024
0:00

Argentine President-elect Javier Milei and members of his team held meetings on Nov. 28 with Biden administration and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials as part of efforts to bolster support for his country’s inflation-ravaged and debt-laden economy.

After the White House meeting, Mr. Milei’s office shared on X, formerly Twitter, that the new leader had a “positive meeting” with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

During the discussions, the president-elect articulated his perspective on the international geopolitical agenda, emphasizing alignment with Western values and a steadfast commitment to the principles of freedom, Mr. Milei’s office said in the statement.

Mr. Sullivan expressed the United States’ commitment to assist in the transition of the incoming Argentine government in light of the country’s challenging political, economic, and social conditions, the statement added.

Other officials who attended the meeting on behalf of the Biden administration were Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere; Brian Nichols, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs; and U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Marc Stanley.

Mr. Milei also was scheduled to meet with senior Treasury officials and IMF leaders to discuss his plans for Argentina’s economy, such as policy moves, deregulation strategies, and fiscal changes, according to an earlier statement from his office posted on X.

Mr. Milei, 53, began his U.S. trip in New York on Nov. 27. He had lunch with former President Bill Clinton and former Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut before traveling to Washington.

Among those accompanying him were his prospective chief of staff, Nicolás Posse; economic adviser Luis Caputo; his potential pick for U.S. ambassador, Gerardo Werthein; and his sister and campaign manager, Karina Milei.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Nov. 27 that the administration wants to “continue to look for ways to cooperate with Argentina.”

“Argentina is a healthy and vibrant partner in this hemisphere on many, many issues,” Mr. Kirby said during a news briefing. “And so we’re looking forward to obviously hearing what the president-elect’s ideas are and where he wants to go on policy issues and making sure that we have a chance to keep that channel of communication open.”

The White House earlier confirmed that Mr. Milei wouldn’t be meeting with President Joe Biden, who had traveled to Georgia for a memorial service for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

“Leaving White House after an excellent meeting,” Mr. Milei wrote on the social media platform Instagram, posting his and his team’s photo in front of the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Building.

Mr. Milei also visited the Lincoln Memorial and snapped a selfie in front of President Abraham Lincoln’s statue, which he shared on Instagram.

Milei and the IMF

Over the weekend, Mr. Milei had a virtual meeting with IMF head Kristalina Georgieva. According to a post on X, the global organization “showed its cooperation to fund the structural solutions that Argentina needs.”

“I had an excellent conversation with IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva today, in which we talked about the great economic challenge our country is facing,” he said.

Ms. Georgieva shared the IMF’s commitment “to support efforts to durably reduce inflation, improve public finances and raise private-sector-led growth.”

Argentina is currently the IMF’s largest debtor, owing about $45 billion. This past summer, the government averted default by reaching a last-minute arrangement that saw the Fund agree to lend an extra $7.5 billion. The capital was necessary to make loan repayments to the IMF, which was part of restructuring a failed 2018 loan.

The libertarian economist promised to institute “shock therapy” on the South American country’s economy once he’s inaugurated next month. This will include abolishing the central bank, dumping the peso for the U.S. dollar, implementing deep spending cuts, and privatizing various state-run companies.

All these proposals are meant to eradicate hyperinflation. The annual inflation rate is running north of 140 percent, and the gap between the national currency and the value of the government-controlled official exchange rate is about 200 percent.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva participates in a town hall discussion with civil society organizations at IMF headquarters in Washington on Oct. 10, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva participates in a town hall discussion with civil society organizations at IMF headquarters in Washington on Oct. 10, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
The country is also on track for a recession, with economists forecasting that the economy will contract nearly 3 percent in 2024.

Geopolitical Concerns

Political observers say that the U.S. administration would likely inquire about Argentina’s future relationship with China.

Beijing has deepened its ties to Buenos Aires in recent years, going as far as paying off a significant portion of Argentina’s debt to the IMF. Argentina was also invited to join the anti-dollar BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) coalition, an initiative to expand the organization led by China.

During the campaign trail, Mr. Milei and his advisers have had harsh words for the Chinese Community Party, reportedly calling it an “assassin.” The president-elect also suggested Argentina would no longer collaborate with communist regimes, although he and his team noted that they would still allow bilateral trade.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, dismissed concerns about cutting economic ties between the two countries.

“No countries could step out of diplomatic relations and still be able to engage in economic trade and cooperation,” Ms. Mao said. “It would be a huge foreign policy mistake for Argentina to cut ties with major countries like China or Brazil. China is Argentina’s important trading partner. The newly elected Argentine government values its relations with China, especially the business ties between the two countries.”

Mr. Milei has vowed to concentrate his foreign policy on bolstering diplomatic relations with the United States and Israel. He also proposed moving the Argentine Embassy to Jerusalem.

“Our geopolitical alignment is with the United States and Israel. That’s our international policy. We won’t align with communists,” Mr. Milei said in August.
Earlier reports suggested that former President Donald Trump would attend Mr. Milei’s Dec. 10 inauguration. However, Reuters reported, citing “a source close to the” Trump campaign, that it’s unlikely the Republican front-runner will attend Mr. Milei’s formal swearing-in ceremony.