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December 22, 2014
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Trade deficit will be key issue in Putin visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens as he heads a Cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow yesterday.
In the first five months of the year, Argentina’s commerce shortfall totals US$209M

When President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin in Buenos Aires tomorrow, bilateral trade is on top of the agenda since Argentina has recently been on the losing end of that relationship — although that deficit has narrowed this year.

In the first five months of the year, the country had exported US$297 million to the world’s fifth largest economy, while imports totalled US$605 million, local consultancy Abeceb reported yesterday.

Argentina’s trade deficit with Russia thus amounted to US$209 million — a decline from the US$297 million deficit during the same period last year.

Until 2010, the trade balance was favourable to Argentina, but imports — “mainly diesel imports” — have soared ever since, Abeceb said.

Putin will arrive in Buenos Aires along with a large delegation of businessmen and officials and will try to secure an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The Russian president’s goal is reportedly to move forward with a deal between the state-run Rosatom nuclear company and the Argentine government in order to take part in the development of the Atucha III plant and a thermoelectric plant in the seaside city of Mar del Plata.

Earlier this year, Planning Minister Julio De Vido went to Moscow to push these partnerships.

“We’re looking forward to signing an agreement with Cristina Fernández (de Kirchner) on the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” Putin’s Foreign Policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian reporters, according to state-run news agency Télam.

Days earlier, Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko had confirmed Rosatom’s interest in further co-operation with Latin American countries — especially Argentina and Brazil.

Interest in ‘emerging powers’

Hours before tomorrow’s meeting with Fernández de Kirchner — his sole scheduled visit — Putin said emerging powers must play a greater role in world affairs, suggesting they could do more to counter US influence.

In an interview published yesterday, Putin framed his tour of Argentina, Brazil and Cuba as part of an effort to build a multi-polar world at a time of isolation due to the sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict. Putin’s relations with the West are at their frostiest since the Cold War.

Russia sees strong relations with Brazil as “strategically important” in opposing Western clout, he said, ahead of next week’s summit with fellow BRICS nations, which include China, India and South Africa.

“This powerful and fast-developing country is destined to play an important role in the emerging poly-centric world order,” Putin told the Itar-Tass news agency.

Putin also said Moscow would back Brazil’s bid to obtain a seat on the United Nations Security Council, where Russia is a veto-wielding member along with the United States.

The Russian leader has ramped up criticism of what he says is US meddling in other state’s affairs as the former Cold War superpowers clash over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March and its continuing political support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In a veiled dig at Washington, Putin criticized cyber-espionage. Last year’s revelations by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of US surveillance have led to a rift in ties with European allies.

“It (cyber-espionage) not only amounts to overt hypocrisy in relationships between allies and partners but also a direct violation of state sovereignty,” he said.

Putin will begin his tour of the region in Cuba today, then travel to Buenos Aires and next to Brazil to attend the World Cup final on July 13 in Rio de Janeiro and meet BRICS leaders in Fortaleza on July 15-16.

Russia will be introduced at the World Cup closing ceremony as the host of the next tournament in 2018.

The BRICS leaders are expected to endorse plans for a new development bank to rival the World Bank with headquarters in China and to create a joint foreign exchange reserve pool.

“This will lay the foundations for macroeconomic coordination between the five countries,” Ushakov said in a Kremlin statement.

“The new BRICS institutions will significantly strengthen the global financial system, which is especially important in light of stalled IMF (International Monetary Fund) reforms.”

Herald staff with Reuters, Télam

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