May 21, 2013
Here to take infrastructurE projects out of the COLDFriday, March 1, 2013
Dilma meets the glacier
Moreno will be the name of the game for Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff during her visit to Argentina next week but we’re not talking here about Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo (the Best Supporting Actor in the local Oscars) but the awesome Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia — the scenic backdrop for snapshots next Thursday when Dilma Rousseff meets with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in “my place in the world,” as the latter likes to call El Calafate.
This glacial landscape will be the setting for an agenda seeking to raise the mercury level in the thermometer of bilateral relations in the medium- and long-term, following the trade spats of recent times. On one side it is dubbed the “infrastructural integration agenda,” on the other, the “Patagonian agenda.”
The imposing wall of ice will bear witness to attempts to thaw credit lines from BNDES state development bank for the two hydroelectric dams projected on the River Santa Cruz (formerly the Cóndor Cliff and Ba-rrancosa, now renamed the Néstor Kirchner and Jorge Cepernic), where Brazil’s Odebrecht, OAS and Alstom Brasil are bidding in three different consortia with Argentine partners. The total cost of these works is estimated at 24 billion pesos.
In Brasilia they see the Argentine interest as relying on half of project finance coming from outside, while adding that it is a “question of numbers” (a finesse to lower expectations). Of the US$6.6 billion dollars earmarked in the BNDES portfolio for Argentina, two-thirds have already been allocated for ongoing projects.
“The two-billion-plus remainder could be immediately alloted to projects to be implemented,” the Herald was told from a ministerial source in Brasilia.
But the hydroelectric plans are not limited to the province of Santa Cruz. Two other lie on the River Uruguay (Garabí on the Corrientes side and Panambí on the Misiones). Having cleared some 20 months of preliminary studies, it is now on the verge of entering the construction stage over the next three years. That is the reason why among the presidential vanguard due to arrive in this metropolis (no Buenos Aires stopover for Dilma, who will head straight for Santa Cruz next Thursday) will be Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, Industry and Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel (with a full schedule of appointments with local officials for next Monday) and Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao.
Also up for signature, says the comment in Brasilia, is a booster project for the bilateral contract providing liquid natural gas (LNG) to Brazil via the Argentine gas pipeline running through Uruguayana. As a result of the decline in Brazil’s energy output due to drought and some tit-for-tat with neighbouring Paraguay, Brazil has been buying abroad LNG shipped into the port of Bahía Blanca and transported into southern Brazil via the Argentine grid from there.
But this infrastructural boost will not reportedly be all.
Among the officials in the Brazilian delegation is Bernardo Figueiredo, the CEO of the state-owned Logistics and Planning Company, created by Dilma to speed up infrastructure and public works projects both within and beyond Brazil. Figueiredo’s baggage includes the Dilma administration’s “obsession” with a bi-oceanic link for Brazil. This outlet to the Pacific and its markets, which has given rise to mountain pass projects in San Juan (Aguas Negras) and Mendoza (Aconcagua), must be complemented by an overland rail connection, they stress in Brasilia. That is why Figueiredo is coming “to complete standardization of the gauge” in a joint railway line running through Argentina from the south of Brazil with its terminal station in Mendoza.
Then there is also the eternal issue of what the Brazilian government likes to call the “systemic demands” concerning trade — i.e. to speed up the influx of their exports. At the other end of the table, Argentina also wants to speed up its own shrimp exports (the first ton was shipped from Chubut in January), as well as regularizing the entry into Brazil of fresh fruit and some medical products, as well as retooling the auto pact.
There are also blueprints for renegotiating the Río Colorado potash project in Malargüe, put “on ice” for now by Brazil’s mining giant Vale. Diplomatic sources on both sides assure this newspaper that the presidents have already taken this project out of the freezer.