Argentina Signs Belt and Road MOU with China, Strengthens Ties With Russia
In a move that is without doubt causing panic among trans-Atlantic financial and geopolitical elites, on Feb. 6 Argentine President Alberto Fernández met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing to sign a joint statement announcing Argentina’s joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—the 20th nation of the Ibero-American/Caribbean region to do so. This came three days after Fernández’s very cordial Feb. 3 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, in which they discussed strengthening their strategic partnership and coordinating on both bilateral and international matters. The two discussed cooperation on oil and gas infrastructure, railroad construction, nuclear energy, aerospace and vaccine production, among other things, and, as Putin explained, they will coordinate their efforts “on key multilateral issues at international venues, including at the UN.”
The meeting with Xi and joining the BRI were the highpoints of Fernández’s three days in Beijing, a trip twice postponed due to Covid. During the 40-minute meeting, Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and He Lifeng, president of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Framework of the Economic Belt of the Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative”. It outlines an extensive agenda of cooperation, involving $23.7 billion in projected Chinese investments across an impressive range of areas: rail and energy infrastructure, science and technology, agriculture, Covid response, trade and investment and coordination in the international arena to promote multilateralism. Pointing out that the two countries are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations this month, Xi hoped to usher in “another brilliant 50 years” under the new strategic partnership.
Fernández was especially appreciative of China’s commitment to “firmly support Argentina’s efforts to preserve the economic and financial stability of the country,” and to also renew and strengthen the currency swap arrangement between their central banks, which is particularly important given the Fernández government’s current contentious negotiations with the IMF over rescheduling the mammoth $44 billion standby agreement contracted in 2018 by the former neoliberal president Mauricio Macri.
The significance of Argentina’s joining the BRI hasn’t been lost on Washington and London, which have tried mightily to sabotage this. The Anglo-Americans know that it opens the door for the two other large Ibero-American economies, Brazil and Mexico, to follow suit, and will likely encourage other countries of the region to join. Relevant, too, is that Fernández traveled to Beijing in his capacity as President Pro Tempore of the 32-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), which collaborates closely with China through the China-Celac Forum.