Cablegate: Governor of Alabama Visits Argentina


DE RUEHBU #0838/01 1711213
R 191213Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

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Governor Riley Leads Alabama Trade Mission to Argentina
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1. On June 4-6, 2008, Ambassador welcomed a 43-member Alabama Trade
Mission led by Governor Bob Riley and organized by the Embassy's
Commercial Section. The purpose of the mission was to increase
awareness and promote future business opportunities between the
State of Alabama and Argentina. During the visit, Governor Riley
and the Ambassador met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge
Taiana, Buenos Aires Provincial Governor Daniel Scioli, and Buenos
Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri. In each of the meetings, the Governor
highlighted Alabama's $500 million investment to remodel its port in
Mobile, stressing that it could be used as a gateway to the Midwest
for Latin American goods. He also noted a recent USD 4.2 billion
investment by Thyssen-Krupp, which is in the process of building a
carbon and stainless steel processing facility in the city of Mt.
Vernon. In addition to his VIP delegation representing various
State agencies, the Governor was accompanied by 15 educators from
the Universities of Alabama, Auburn, Troy and Tuskegee who traveled
to Argentina to learn more about business and cultural practices in
hopes of promoting greater opportunities for educational exchanges
and attracting more Argentine students. Five Alabama-based firms
also participated and utilized FCS' Gold Key Service in hopes of
developing/increasing their market presence in Argentina. END

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Governor Riley Meets Foreign Minister Taiana
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2. Alabama Governor Bob Riley, accompanied by Ambassador Wayne, met
June 4 with Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana. Also in the meeting from
Alabama were State Senator Roger Bedford, Policy Director Brian
Taylor, and Director for International Trade Hilda Lockhart. MFA
participants included Under Secretary for Bilateral Relations
Ambassador Vicente Espeche Gil and International Trade Director for
North America and Hemispheric Affairs Alejandro Casiro.

Mobile Gateway to the Midwest

3. Gov. Riley focused most of his comments on the pending
inauguration of the completed work to upgrade and modernize the Port
of Mobile, a USD 500 million-plus investment that will make the Port
one of the most modern and efficient in the U.S. Gov. Riley
explained the geographical and logistical advantages of the Port,
noting that interstate and rail connections would give importers
easy access to the Midwestern region of the U.S.

4. FM Taiana noted that Argentina traditionally had looked to ports
on the eastern seaboard to ship its goods but that it was important
that there be alternative access to the U.S. Commenting on the
technological upgrades to the Port of Mobile, Alejandro Casiro
stressed how important this will be as the U.S. moves to 100 percent
screening of all container cargo.

Trade Missions and Education

5. Ambassador Wayne explained that the Governor was accompanied by
a large educational delegation from Alabama universities, and that
their visit was a good opportunity to expand contacts and facilitate
exchanges. Gov. Riley noted that Alabama had an existing program
(the 1-2-1 Program) with China in which students could do one year
at home, two years at a foreign University, returning to their home
University for the final year, and receive a degree from both
Universities. He noted the possibility of exploring a similar
arrangement with Argentina. Embassy officials introduced members of
the delegation to several local universities who are interested in
establishing exchange programs with U.S. universities.

6. Alejandro Casiro noted that the MFA would be organizing a number
of trade delegations through their Consulate in Atlanta. One
delegation planned to visit Birmingham. Gov. Riley stated that
Alabama would be glad to host any delegations and would be
particularly interested in giving delegations a tour of the new
Mobile Port facilities. He also encouraged the MFA to consider
including an educational component in their trade delegations,
something FM Taiana said was a very good idea.

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Alabama Moving Forward With Brazil: Biofuels and Steel
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7. Gov. Riley asked FM Taiana about the FAO meeting in Rome, from
which Taiana and President Fernandez de Kirchner had just returned.
Taiana said the meeting was very important with a lot of discussion
of the structural aspects of rising food prices. The Governor noted
that there had been significant criticism of the U.S. and its
use/diversion of food crops for producing biofuels. He explained
that the delegation would be going to Sao Paulo next to discuss
biofuels initiatives, among other issues, and said that Alabama and
Brazil were looking at the potential for growing sugarcane in
Alabama. Using technology developed by a California company, the
plan is to turn that sugar into jet ful. The Governor said that
people were recognizing that we can't continue to use food crops to
produce fuel. Developing sugarcane and similar alternative sources
would take the pressure off of corn, soybeans, and grains.

8. The Governor also noted a recent USD 4.2 billion investment by
German steel giant Thyssen-Krupp for the construction of a carbon
and stainless steel processing facility in the city of Mt. Vernon.
The Governor explained that the company will import iron ore smelted
in Brazil and then roll and process it in their Alabama facility to
supply a strong Alabama automobile industry, among others.

Governor Scioli Welcomes Governor Riley

9. The Governor, accompanied by his Alabama colleagues and
Ambassador Wayne, met June 5 with Buenos Aires Province Governor
Daniel Scioli. Governor Scioli was joined by two cabinet members
including Secretary of Investment Promotion, Exports, and
International Cooperation Alfredo Atanasof.

10. As in his other meetings, Governor Riley and Senator Bedford
highlighted Alabama's strong economic growth and successful distance
education program. Governor Riley discussed the transformation of
Alabama's economy from a low-skill, garment-based economy to a
high-tech economy. In addition to citing statistics on Alabama's
transformation, Governor Riley discussed Alabama's growing
automobile production, deep-water port and 1-2-1 University
international exchange program. Scioli seemed thoroughly interested
in bilateral trade activities between the two regions and Alabama's
impressive economic growth.

Political Musings

11. Scioli joked that his experience racing motorboats was good
training for the rough waters of the Argentine political
environment. He noted the cyclical nature of politics and
Argentina's economy, highlighting potential shortages of foodstuffs
and energy and calling for Argentina to become a value-added
producer. Scioli held the government line regarding the conflict
with the agricultural sector, telling the delegation how the success
of soy had displaced production of other agricultural staples.
Scioli suggested the conflict with the "campo" would soon end
because it was too damaging. Scioli noted an Argentine tendency to
politicize and escalate problems before reaching solutions. He
reflected that the respectful discourse of the U.S. democratic
candidates contributed to public peace of mind. Both Scioli and
Atanasof mentioned the importance of Argentina's recovery from the
2001 economic crisis and how its economic success since 2001 set the
table for today's debate in Argentina about the distribution of
wealth and resources.

12. In response to Governor Riley's suggestion that Scioli may be a
future presidential candidate, Scioli replied that he first was
focusing on doing a good job as Governor in order to be able to
accomplish more in the future. He expressed admiration for Barack
Obama's speeches and discussed political vocabulary. In particular,
Scioli observed that the word "change" was very strong and
successful in politics and had worked for Obama. Scioli added that
he, like Hillary Clinton, used the word "solutions." Scioli told
Governor Riley that he attended both the Republican and Democratic
National Conventions in 2004. Scioli was unsure whether he would
travel again in 2008 for the national conventions, but expressed
interest in visiting Alabama. Scioli commended Governor Riley and
Senator Bedford for working together across party lines.

Twin Provinces

13. Secretary Atanasof noted similarities between the State of
Alabama and the Province of Buenos Aires. Both are leaders in
automobile production and agricultural machinery, with Buenos Aires
Province set to produce 750,000 automobiles this year compared to
Alabama's 850,000. They have a similar number of public
universities, with 14 in Buenos Aires Province and 15 in Alabama.
Finally, Alabama and Buenos Aires Province have similar export
levels, with Alabama being the number 26 market for Argentine
exports in the world. Atanasof sought to strengthen the economic
relationship between Alabama and Buenos Aires Province, seeking both
increased investment from Alabama and increased exports to Alabama,
in addition to knowledge sharing to apply lessons from Alabama's
growth, which has led all other U.S. states for the past four

Next Steps

14. Scioli expressed specific interest in finding contact
information to follow-through on the political will expressed by the
Alabama delegation. Governor Riley named Director for International
Trade Hilda Lockhart as the point-of-contact and stated Alabama
would enjoy hosting a trade delegation from Buenos Aires Province.
Scioli indicated his staff would bring together the companies
exporting to Alabama for such an endeavor. Finally, Governor Riley
invited Scioli to Alabama for an informal dinner at the Governor's
Mansion to discuss Alabama's economic transformation. Scioli said
he would visit.

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From Province to City, Governor Riley Meets With Mayor Macri
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15. After visiting with Governor Scioli, Governor Riley,
accompanied by the same group met with Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio
Macri, who was joined by some of his cabinet members, the city's
international relations director Fulvio Pompeo, the PRO party's
foreign policy adviser (and former ambassador to the U.S.) Diego
Guelar, and National Deputy Eugenio Burzaco.

16. Gov. Riley said the South, including Alabama, leads the United
States in economic growth. During this unprecedented boom, Alabama
maintained its high quality of life rankings. He noted that, while
automobile plants were closing in the northern industrial belt of
the United States, Alabama was continuing to attract new assembly
plants. Just eight years ago, there was no automobile production in
Alabama, but this year Alabama would manufacture 850,000 vehicles.
The Governor pointed to similarities between the economies of
Alabama and Argentina, particularly their mix of industries and

17. As in his previous meetings, the Governor cited the recent $500
million investment in upgrading the Port of Mobile, giving it a
"quantum leap" in technology. The Governor said Mobile, with deep
water within 20 miles of its port, offered the best access to the
central United States via interstate highway and rail connections.
He noted strong Brazilian and Chilean interest in using Mobile's
Port. The Governor also highlighted the Thyssen-Krupp investment.


18. The Governor told ComOff upon his departure that he was
thoroughly pleased with the quality of his meetings. The Governor
noted that, if Scioli or any other Argentine delegation were
visiting the United States, he would offer the Governor's plane to
transport themto Alabama so that he could personally host them and
provide a tour of the State and highlight their new Port. The
Governor mentioned that he would try to participate in the August
"Americas Competitiveness Forum" held in Atlanta, and was hopeful
that Governor Scioli would lead an Argentine business delegation to
the event. In addition to the Governor's official meetings, FCS
organized programs for five Alabama-based companies looking to
penetrate/expand their business in Argentina. FCS also organized a
two-day agenda for more than 15 educators from the Universities of
Alabama, Auburn, Troy and Tuskegee. The main purpose of their visit
was to obtain a better understanding of Argentine business culture,
attract more Argentine students, and generate more opportunities for
future exchanges.


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