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September 3, 2014
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lawmakers: ‘fruitful’ talks in Washington

Lower House Speaker Julián Domínguez gives US lawmaker Xavier Becerra a present yesterday.
By Tomás Brockenshire
Herald Staff

Congressional delegation push message of unity ahead of key holdouts decision

The Argentine Congressional delegation travelling in Washington DC yesterday held another round of meetings with their United States counterparts and World Bank officials, during which they once again presented a unified position in what they considered to be a “national cause” — the country’s stance against the bondholders known as holdouts in what is a crucial case for the economy.

The US Supreme Court is slated to announce tomorrow whether it will accept to hear the Argentine appeal against a lower court ruling issued by Judge Thomas Griesa favourable to the holdouts, also known as “vulture funds.”

A source close to the delegation last night confirmed that the delegation will be staying on in Washington DC to await the Supreme Court’s decision.

One of the possible outcomes is that the Court request the US Executive Branch for an opinion on the case. The delegation’s advocacy efforts have been directed toward spreading their message among officials liable to promoting their message among the US Executive Branch, should the Court not accept to hear the case,

Argentina will be faced with having to pay the holdouts for their bonds in full, which would likely trigger a flood of litigation from the approximately 93 percent of bondholders who entered into deals in 2005 and 2010. These paid out 25 to 29 cents on the dollar and successful litigation could mean Argentina’s debt will suddenly jump by US$15 billion.

Unified stance

To avert such a scenario, political unity has been one of the key messages from the delegation headed by the Lower House Speaker Julián Domínguez. In conversation with the Herald PRO lawmaker Federico Sturzenegger said that “during the meetings it has been clear that our unified stance has been impressive. Such a broad consensus is not only not common in Argentina but also not common for many countries.” Such unity has made it possible for the delegation to make its point more comprehensively and with greater impact.

Sturzenegger also drove home the point that the trip has been “constructive” as it has been an opportunity for Argentina to present its case before US legislative and congressional authorities, some of whom he said had “were unaware of the details” of the Argentine legal case against the holdouts.

For his part, Domínguez yesterday said that despite Argentina’s policy of providing equal treatment to its creditors, “the judge Griesa’s decision threatens to completely revert the principle of equal treatment as well as the principle of sovereign immunity.”

‘Fruitful’ discussions

Sturzenegger told the Herald that one of the most “fruitful” meetings of the entire trip was with the Congressman Ed Royce (Republican-California), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the committee’s Ranking Member Elliot Engel (Democrat-New York), which he considered “seriously listened to the delegation.”

Neither were available for comment last night but a congressional aide for Congressman Engel confirmed the meeting and said that “the debt issue, the AMIA bombing, and the shared interest in a strong US-Argentine relationship” were items on the agenda.

The Congressional delegation, made up of leaders from the Senate and the Lower House such as Juliana Di Tullio, Gerardo Zamora, Roberto Felletti and representatives from opposition parties such as Darío Giustozzi (Renewal Front) and Lino Aguilar (Federal Commitment) also met with Spencer Bachus (Republican - Alabama), Chairman Emeritus of the House Financial Services Committee.

In addition, the delegation met with Congressman Xavier Becerra (Democrat-California), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus for the second time on the trip. Becerra later reportedly called for the creation of a parliamentary working group between Argentina and the United States to open discussion on the respective countries’ energy resources. Becerra pointed to Argentina’s extensive non-conventional hydrocarbon resources and the need for a forum to establish debate.

By the same token, yesterday there were reports that the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) had expressed its interest in inviting the delegation to discuss ongoing debt issues. ATFA is the umbrella organization for various holdouts that are suing the Argentine government.

Today the delegation is reportedly scheduled to meet with representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank and Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the Jubilee USA Network, among others. The network has long been critical of the holdouts efforts and supportive of the Argentine position.

@tbrockenshire

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