A(nother) New Dawn for the Argentine economy?
Held on Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Miguel Braun (Secretary of Trade, Ministry of Production)
John Hughes (chairman of board of trustees, Canning House)
John Carroll (head of international, Santander Corporate and Commercial)
Kevin Daley (senior portfolio manager, Aberdeen Asset Management)
Andrew Shutter (partner, Cleary Gotlieb)
Oren Sussman (Reader in Finance, University of Oxford)
I find Argentina fascinating. One of the richest and most advanced economies in the world a hundred years ago, it stumbled through most of the 20th century politically and economically, entering the 21st century as not much better than a basket-case – albeit one with natural and human resources that ought to put it on a par with southern Europe (or better). The seductive appeal of Peronism clearly hasn’t helped – and the confrontational approach of the Kirchner years has tended to isolate Argentina from global markets, tempting potential investors to lump it in with Venezuela as too toxic to deal with.
But are things changing? The country now has a (much) more market-friendly President, Mauricio Macri. And Obama is due to make a state visit at the end of March. Perhaps of more immediate importance, the endless saga of “holdout” creditors, led by the rather creepy Paul Singer, appears to have come to an end with Macri’s February 29 agreement to pay approximately 75 cents on the dollar (though the deal is still contingent on Congressional approval and the repeal of two laws). So, there are grounds for optimism.
But there are always grounds for optimism in Argentina – and, to date, they have always been dashed. Will it be different this time?
To debate this question, I am delighted that we have been able to put together a distinguished panel.
Our keynote speaker (a late addition) is Miguel Braun, who was appointed Trade Secretary at the Ministry of Production in December. Prior to that, he was director of Banco Ciudad and executive director of the Fundación Pensar – the think-tank for Macri’s centre-right PRO party. He has a PhD from Harvard, and, prior to going into politics, was an assistant professor at the University of BA.
As far as we are concerned, he offers a unique insight into the new government. But he won’t get things all his own way. Joining him are:
- Dr. John Hughes, the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Canning House, as well as of LatAmConsult, a small consultancy. He is a former UK Ambassador to Argentina (2004-08), Venezuela and Paraguay, who spent 35 years in the Diplomatic Service, including secondments to the Cabinet Office and two spells in industry.
- John Carroll, Head of International at Santander Corporate and Commercial, covering trade finance, international payments, FX solutions and trade promotion. Since 2015, he has also been responsible for product management across Santander Corporate and Commercial in the UK. Throughout his 19 years with Santander Group, John has worked across different regions, including Latin America, where he was between 1999-2003, spending a significant period of time in Argentina. John is an Australian national, and holds a Masters in International Studies from the University of Sydney.
- Kevin Daly (who has spoken on this subject before for us), a senior portfolio manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, which he joined in 2007 after 10 years with S&P.
- Andrew Shutter, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb here in London, focusing on international debt restructuring.
- Oren Sussman, Reader in Finance at the Saïd Business School, where his research focuses on sovereign debt – with special emphasis on the Elliott Management saga.
For once, I am mildly optimistic – though it is worth remembering (a) that Macri doesn’t have a Parliamentary majority, and (b) that Argentina has an unparalleled ability to shoot itself in the foot.