The US and Argentina: Just Carnal Relations for Now




To be clear: it was no conciliatory gesture, much less a U-turn in relations between the U.S. and Argentina. Coldness and distant negotiations between Barack Obama’s administration and Cristina Kirchner’s will remain unalterable until Dec. 10. Washington’s recent decision to open up the Argentine meat market is simply a result of North America’s strict technical pragmatism.

Yesterday, some government factories, in the Scioli camp and in sectors of the opposition led by Massa and Macri, were delighted at hints that bridges were starting to be built between the U.S. and Argentina to reconstruct their complicated relations, turning the page in 2016. This line of analysis gives the impression that opening up the Argentine meat market could re-open dialogue with Washington with the aim of preparing this territory for the next government.

“A door in a pretty dark tunnel is now open. We hope that now more doors will open, too,” one of Scioli’s ministers said to La Nación yesterday when he saw the televised announcement that the Argentine meat market would be opened to the U.S.

A tweet from Noah Mamet, the American ambassador in Argentina, gave way to speculation among presidential candidates. “Pleased that @USDA_APHIS is amending regs to allow beef imports from #ARG- good step for bilateral econ collaboration,” he wrote as the Ministers of Agriculture and of Economy Carlos Casamiquela and Axel Kicillof announced the market was being opened.

Of course, neither of those two government officials suggested that this [opening] represented ties with Washington being rebuilt. Instead Kicillof said that, “Unfair protectionist interventions that the U.S. made against Argentine meat meant a loss in exports worth more than $2 billion.” And to add further tension, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman highlighted that, “The [American] markets were not opened because of intense lobbying from U.S. companies, due to an offer from highly competitive agrarian countries.”

Other officials from the Casa Rosada did not feel the same way, showing enthusiasm for the improvements in relations with the Obama administration. They say this will make negotiations regarding vulture funds less tense and will allow Argentina to emerge from its technical default.

None of this will happen for now. Improved relations between Washington and Buenos Aires will have to wait until Dec. 10. For the moment, their “carnal relations” will be strictly limited to talking. It is not a retroactive euphemism for the Menem era. None of that: The opening of Argentina’s meat markets is simply the result of a technical decision.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to modify regulations on meat imports is part of a long technical evaluation process by that same agency,”* a source from the State Department told La Nación, leaving no room for alternative interpretation.

In such a case there is a palpable excuse for Washington’s pragmatism: Yesterday it emerged that in the coming weeks the World Trade Organization (WTO) is going to make an unfavorable ruling concerning the U.S. This is the result of a presentation made by Argentina and Brazil in 2012, establishing that the U.S. was upholding restrictions “in an unjustified way.”

The announcement that the meat markets would be opened up is not a gesture toward Argentina but rather one toward Brazil. Just yesterday Obama met with his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff at the White House to seal a long list of deals and to press on with bilateral relations.

Obama was pleased with Rousseff’s visit: “I believe that this visit marks one more step in a new, more ambitious chapter in the relationship between our countries … Thank you for your friendship, your partnership and the progress that we’ve achieved together,” he said. Rousseff returned his sentiments.

In this case, opening the meat market is an important step toward turning the page on the diplomatic crisis between Brazil and Washington, after the scandal in which America spied on the Brazilian president.

There is nothing to suggest that Cristina Kirchner and Obama will repair their relations as Rousseff has. The Argentine president is busy strengthening tight bonds with Russia and China in order to show her extreme differences with Washington.

Thus relations between Argentina and the U.S. will be limited — for now — to this carnal subject, although Cristina Kirchner does not appreciate the euphemism. But that is the reality: Their bond is still limited to cultural themes, a tepid commercial exchange and scientific cooperation. The commercial balance between the two countries last year saw Argentina left with a deficit of $4.9 billion.

Moreover, neither is it feasible that the Kirchner government can enjoy the benefits of the meat market being opened. According to sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an immediate start to this commercial exchange cannot be expected: Implementing meat transportation will cause delays for some time, as technical health details and the controls in effect at customs need to be altered.

Carnal relations between the U.S. and Argentina are literally what are on the horizon for the two countries. It is certain the next government will take charge of these relations, not just to stick with them but to proceed toward mature relations.

*Editor’s Note: These quotes, while accurately translated, could not be verified.

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