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Cablegate: Argentine Fm Taiana Meets Codel Meeks

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1764/01 3651752
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301752Z DEC 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2802
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 2374

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001764

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OREP ECON AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE FM TAIANA MEETS CODEL MEEKS

1. (SBU) Summary and introduction: Argentine FM Jorge Taiana
received in his office Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Ruben
Hinojosa (D-TX), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) December 18. The codel
conveyed a strong U.S. desire for dialogue and strengthened
bilateral relations with Argentina. Taiana expressed confidence
that Kirchner policies had put an end to Argentina's boom-and-bust
cycles, but worried that the global financial crisis would undo much
of what had been achieved under the Kirchners. He said he hoped the
incoming Obama administration would show commitment to dialogue and
suggested ending the Cuba embargo to augur new relations with the
region. The Ambassador and polcouns (notetaker) accompanied the
codel. End summary.

A Call for Dialogue
-------------------

2. (U) Taiana welcomed the codel, stressing his appreciation of
their call on the Argentine Congress as the GOA considered it very
important to promote parliamentary exchange and dialogue.

3. (SBU) Rep. Meeks said the codel had excellent meetings in
Argentina, including the meeting with Congress and with Cabinet
Chief Sergio Massa (septels). He predicted there would be an
increase in congressional travel to Argentina because of the growing
recognition of Argentina's importance. He said the incoming
administration of President-elect Obama will want to engage with the
GOA. The designee for Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton, knew Argentina and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
(CFK). As evidence of U.S. congressional interest in Argentina and
the region, Meeks named several caucuses committed to finding ways
to work together for the benefit of the hemisphere. Meeks
introduced the other codel members and noted the codel was
bipartisan.

4. (SBU) Rep. Hinojosa said he was looking to see how the bilateral
dialogue could be strengthened. Noting a Latin perception that the
USG had recently been neglecting the region, with the possible
exception of Colombia, he predicted there would be a positive change
with the Obama administration. He said the new administration
wanted to work with the region toward win-win situations, and that
Argentina would be key to success. As chairman of the Subcommittee
on Higher Education, Rep. Hinojosa said he wanted to stress the
importance of education, anticipating for this area ""the biggest
legislative proposal since the G.I. bill,"" authorizing a sizable
increase for student loans in the midst of the current credit
crunch. He said he had challenged local Amcham members the day
before to increase their sponsorship of programs like Youth
Ambassadors.

5. (SBU) Rep. Ryan said the tough times ahead were breeding
political anxieties that made it imperative to establish personal
relationships across borders, which was why the codel appreciated
the warm reception it had received from Argentines. He spoke of
Argentina's talented human resource pool, its enormous potential,
and its role as hemispheric linchpin, and he asked Taiana about the
December 16-17 summit meetings in Brazil.

Argentina's Situation
---------------------

6. (SBU) Taiana acknowledged that Argentina had been, politically
and economically, on a downward trajectory for the last 60 years.
It had just celebrated 25 years since the return to democracy,
marking Argentina's longest spell of uninterrupted democratic rule,
a signal achievement. In the management of the economy, there was
no longer a fundamental clash over ideologies. The Kirchner
administration, ""supposedly populist,"" had sought to capitalize on
favorable circumstances, such as high commodity prices, with prudent
policies leading to its twin surplus (fiscal and trade). Argentina
had long had a history of boom-and-bust cycles, but ""this time, we
will prove that things have changed,"" said Taiana. He pointed out
that Argentina and Brazil (unlike, he claimed, Mexico, Chile,
Colombia, and Peru), compete with the United States on agricultural
products. He claimed that Argentina sold to the United States only
seven percent of its exports, approximately the same as to Chile.

Regional Relations
------------------

7. (SBU) Taiana said he thought the U.S. agenda in recent years had
been narrowly limited to security issues, including
counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics, without a more global
vision. The financial crisis requires a paradigm shift from all of
us, he maintained. The Good Neighbor policy and the Alliance for
Progress were more comprehensive than what is needed today. The
United States now had the opportunity to define a new regional
agenda. Taiana wondered if the new administration would have enough
time to develop a vision in advance of the April 2009 Summit of the
Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. He noted the runaway expectations
for the new Obama administration, and he expressed admiration for
openness and vitality of the American system evident in Obama's
election. He averred the GOA's great desire for dialogue and
cooperation with the new administration, and hoped we could work
together on the Summit of the Americas. ""Something for Cuba"" would
be a good sign, such as ending 50 years of ""blockade.""

8. (SBU) In the region, the time was ripe for a new relationship
with the United States. He noted there was ""ideological diversity""
in Latin America, but there were no WMD, nor any religious or ethnic
problems. There were weaknesses in democratic institutions, but
there was also pragmatism and goodwill for dialogue (even more with
the onset of the global financial crisis). Taiana said the Obama
administration needed to convey commitment to dialogue and new
ideas. Argentina had suffered many crises of its own making, but
this crisis was made in the First World, and Argentina did not want
to pay the price for the mistakes or neglect of other governments.

Importance of Dialogue
----------------------

9. (SBU) Rep. Meeks said the lack of honest dialogue was a challenge
we still needed to overcome. The world has changed, but we're still
dealing with the Cold War's ideological detritus throughout the
region. Rep. Meeks noted the importance of sending clear signals to
avoid misunderstandings. He noted that leaving the United States
and Canada out of the regional summits held in Brazil that week sent
a message, as did the appearance of currying close relations with
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He noted that he had met several times
with Chavez for exchanges that were frank, and he hoped Argentina
could be engaged in an honest dialogue. He said the GOA's treatment
of MetLife's and New York Life's demands for compensation (related
to GOA nationalization of private pension funds) would send signals
to Washington. Rep. Meeks urged caution with the rhetoric. ""Don't
back Obama into a corner. We are all patriotic; no one wants to be
offended."" He noted President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
enjoyed a positive relationship with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton,
the designee for Secretary of State, and expressed hope that
together we could make full use of a window of opportunity to
improve relations. Rep. Ryan added that we should not let political
rhetoric cloud the potential for progress in areas of real
cooperation. Rep. Meeks said we should get past differences on
trade policy to make progress on our shared objective of lifting
people out of poverty.

Bio Note
--------

10. (U) Taiana closed the meeting by noting that he had to dash in
order to attend the mid-day swearing-in of his half-brother, Luis
Maria Bunge-Campos, as president of the Council of Magistrature, the
administrative and disciplinary board of Argentina's judicial
branch.

11. (U) The codel did not have the opportunity to clear this
report.

WAYNE

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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