Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Javier Milei, Argentina’s libertarian president-elect, said he had a “very comfortable” meeting with advisers to US President Joe Biden in Washington on Tuesday, the first step of what is likely to be a crucial relationship for the cash-strapped South American country.
Milei, a first-term congressman, ran an insurgent hard-right campaign promising to punish Argentina’s political elites and cut spending amid its worst economic crisis in two decades, winning praise from Donald Trump, the Republican former US president.
But support from the Democratic Biden administration will be key in the coming weeks as Milei enters negotiations over Argentina’s troubled $43bn loan from the IMF, in which the US is the biggest stakeholder.
“It was very comfortable . . . We are very satisfied and very happy,” said Milei after a meeting with Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, and Juan Gonzalez, Latin America adviser.
“We spoke about the economic and social situation in Argentina at the moment . . . and about Argentina’s new international position among nations that respect freedom,” he added. Milei has said his foreign policy will consist of “alignment with the US and Israel”.
The White House released a statement on Tuesday night saying Milei had met Sullivan to “discuss the importance of continuing to build on the strong relationship “between the US and Argentina”.
The White House did not characterise the tone of the conversation but said it covered economic issues, technology and clean energy as well as human rights and “standing up for democracies around the world”.
In a statement following Milei’s victory, US secretary of state Antony Blinken had said the administration looked forward to working with Milei “on shared priorities that benefit the people of both countries, including protecting human rights and democracy, addressing climate change, and investing in the middle class”.
During his presidential campaign, Milei courted controversy by referring to climate change as a “socialist lie” and claiming, without evidence, that he had been the victim of voter fraud in the first round of Argentina’s elections.
Milei also had lunch on Monday with Bill Clinton and told reporters that the Democratic former US president “showed [himself] very aligned with our ideas” on the need to reform Argentina’s economy.
Milei’s team last week said Trump, who has never met the Argentine president-elect, had promised to visit the country in the near future.
In Washington, Luis Caputo, a former Argentine finance minister considered the frontrunner to lead Milei’s economy ministry, met US Treasury and IMF officials on Tuesday.
When formal negotiations begin with the IMF in the coming weeks, fund officials will need to decide whether and how to restructure the loan, which Argentina is relying on to pay back the IMF for an earlier failed package. It has missed central targets on curbing the fiscal deficit and money printing at earlier programme reviews.
Milei has pledged to halt central bank money printing and send a package of “shock therapy” reforms to Argentina’s congress on December 11, including spending cuts to balance the budget in 2024. He has also signalled he will postpone a campaign pledge to dollarise Argentina’s economy.
IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva told Reuters on Monday that her first call with Milei last week had been a “very constructive engagement, very serious discussion” and “a good promising first step”.