Fernández, Biden hold talks amid Argentina's economic strain

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President Joe Biden meets with Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – President Alberto Fernández of Argentina used a White House meeting Wednesday to spotlight the economic strain his country faces as he looks for President Joe Biden to back Argentina's effort to renegotiate with the International Monetary Fund on terms of $44 billion debt.

The United States has veto power in the IMF, so any sign of support from Biden to revise requirements to the debt agreement would be seen as a positive for Argentina while talks continue.

In comments to reporters at the start of their meeting, Fernández noted that Argentina's economy has endured the “worst drought” in the country in more than 90 years. He also noted the Russia's war in Ukraine has caused rippling effects on his country's economy and others.

“We certainly look forward to your continued support as you have done so far," Fernández said.

Washington is increasingly concerned about China’s involvement in Argentina, particularly the planned construction of two nuclear plants in Buenos Aires by Chinese companies, and may seek concessions from Argentina in exchange for support with the IMF.

Biden did not directly address the IMF issue but said the moment presented an opportunity to increase U.S.-Argentina economic ties.

“I think we have an enormous opportunity to increase our economic interchange, our economic integration on everything from clean energy to critical minerals to technology to security,” Biden said.

The leaders' meeting was initially supposed to take place last July but was postponed when Biden contracted COVID-19.

Politi reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina.