Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What the Falk?! Is Argentina Going Rogue?

Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner 
Although Argentina may not be the first country that comes to mind when making a list of pariah states, its recent policy choices seem to support this classification. The cutting of international ties escalated in the first week of April, when during a speech commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, Argentine president Cristina Kirchner openly criticized the United Kingdom for its ongoing practice of “colonialism”, through its continued control of the islands. This statement was merely the culmination of months of negative sentiments toward the U.K. voiced by Kirchner, including calls for a nationwide boycott of British goods and accusations that the U.K. is exploiting the Falklands for their natural resources at the expense of Argentine interests. The Argentine president’s rhetoric also reaches beyond the British, noting that Kirchner has condemned international bodies, such as the United Nations, as being biased against Argentina’s rights of sovereignty. Specifically, Kirchner claims that the issue of the Falklands has being largely ignored because it is the best interest of “…those who are seated in chairs on the Security Council” to do so.

At first, such fiery rhetoric seemed to be little more than frustrated posturing, but it now appears that it provided momentum for Kirchner to pursue controversial policy choices. With strong domestic support, Kirchner has sent a bill to Congress that would result in the nationalization of its largest oil and gas company, YPF. This move is the culmination of a drawn-out political battle between YPF and the Kirchner government, in which each side blamed one another for the decline in Argentina’s energy production. What makes this action additionally problematic is the fact that YPF is a Spanish-owned company, which means that international investors are set to lose substantial funds as a result of nationalization. Because Spain is a large investor and trading partner with Argentina, burning this bridge has caused such an uproar that the Spanish government has threatened to use “clear and forceful measures” to rectify the situation. Moreover, a policy of nationalization further strains Argentina’s relationship with the European Union and the international market in general, by demonstrating continued instability and volatility of its domestic marketplace over a decade after its default on foreign debt in 2001.

Although the nationalization of YPF may create a short-term boost in domestic support for Kirchner, there is no guarantee of long-term economic benefits from this policy. In fact, a number of analysts suggest that this move is merely part of a vicious cycle in which political leaders develop irresponsible policies and then attempt to counteract undesirable consequences with and equally extreme counter-policy. Yet, the nationalization of YPF is not only short-sighted domestically, but will likely serve to further isolate Argentina from the international community, both economically and politically. In recent weeks, President Kirchner’s has developed a desire to “stick it” to European states, but burning these bridges may result in a loss of capital and technical expertise necessary to stabilize its economy and expand its ability to extract domestic sources of energy. Therefore, even though Argentina is beginning to act like it belongs to President Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, it should deeply consider the consequences of going rogue before it cuts any more international ties.

1 comment:

P said...

I enjoyed the title