IMF Director Christine Lagarde with Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne yesterday at Di Tella University in Buenos Aires.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Christine Lagarde arrived in Buenos Aires yesterday and spoke with Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella for an event called “Argentina and the Global Perspectives of the Economy.”

Lagarde is the first IMF director to step foot in Argentina since 2007: Dominique Strauss-Kahn came down for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s inauguration. Through her work within the French government and the international law firm Baker & McKenzie, Lagarde has traveled to Buenos Aires many times, though this marks the first in her official capacity with her work with the IMF. Lagarde will participate in the G20 Financial Ministers and Central Governors meetings

To start, she stated that 2018 is a “propitious moment to carry out structural reforms,” which was a welcome nod from the international financial institution to the Macri administration.

When asked about Argentina’s gradualismo economic policy, she had nothing but rave reviews. She lauded Argentine authorities for “attacking the issues in a very determined way” – noting that the policies are not “gradual” in terms of depth of measures that are decided, but rather “substantiative and sustainable” over time, which is what in her opinion characterizes gradualismo.

Lagarde went on to explain that these measures “do not attack the fiscal deficit in a harsh, front-loaded way” but rather take into account the “overall circumstances of the economy, and the capacity of society to absorb” the aforementioned policies.

Lagarde did note, that the orthodox economist “might argue it would be better if faster,” however, a pragmatist would say that as long as the administration “stays the course under the circumstances” that it indeed is an achievement. She also commented on the “remarkable” relationship between the federal and provincial governments, as other countries across the world “struggle to bind” the levels of government together in regard to fiscal policy.

The IMF Director made it clear she was strictly here for G20 business only: she is not here to negotiate any type of program. Lagarde underscored that Argentina “did not ask” for a program and “does not need it.”

Lagarde indicated she had high expectations for Argentina’s presidency of the G20, calling the agenda “ambitious” in addition to including topics that are on everyone’s mind. She alluded specifically to the future of work, which was the focus of the IMF’s annual meeting last October. The IMF Director stated that understanding the changes in the labor market is key to reinforcing productivity.

Lagarde also condemned a looming trade war elephant-in-the-room, stating that “there are no winners in a tit-for-tat process.” She went on to say that “reduction of trade does not help growth, it does not help to eradicate poverty, it does not improve the cost of living for low-income earners.” Dujovne stated there has been “a lot of noise” for specific protectionist measures, but expressed that he would be “more concerned” about greater, more general protectionist movements which have yet to be the case.

The mood was not as stuffy as one might anticipate, as she spoke with some humor and personability. She admitted that while she did arrive a few days early for meetings with Argentine officials regarding the reforms being implemented in the country, she also confessed she’ll head to Iguazú Falls with her husband – frankly, we don’t blame her. So to confirm, if you see someone in a large sun visor walking around the waterfalls this weekend that looks like the Director of the IMF, you have your scoop.

Lagarde meets with President Mauricio Macri in Olivos later today, and said she will be returning in July for more G20 meetings. Might we suggest Bariloche or El Calafate for future travels?

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2018-03-16 11:15:46

Sarah Nielsen

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