President-elect Alberto Fernández and his team are drawing up plans for a trip to the United States that would include a meeting with US President Donald Trump and a possible stop in Houston, Texas.
Spokespeople for the Frente de Todos leader confirmed to the Noticias Argentinas news agency over the weekend that Fernández intends to visit the US after his assumption on December 10. No date has yet been pencilled in, with planning still in the early stages, the sources said.
The intention is to organise a bilateral meeting with Trump, most likely at the White House in Washington. That would take place after an initial stop in Houston, Texas – the heart of the global oil industry – on the way back to Argentina. On the first leg of the trip, Fernández intends to hold meetings with various oil majors from the industry, to discuss investment in the Vaca Muerta shale formation.
Extended over 7.5 million acres and four provinces – Neuquén, Mendoza, Río Negro and La Pampa – Vaca Muerta is the world’s second-largest shale oil and gas deposit, holding 27 billion barrels of oil and 23 billion cubic metres of gas, according to estimates from the United States Department of Energy. President Mauricio Macri specifically targeted its development, granting millions in subsidies to fossil fuel companies over his year in office and the president-elect is thought to be keen on attracting greater investment in the region.
On Friday, Trump spoke with Fernández over the telephone, congratulating him on his electoral victory. Spokespeople for the president-elect confirmed to NA that they have already begun planning for a bilateral meeting between the two leaders, saying it would likely take place after Fernández's inauguration.
“Congratulations on the great victory. We watched it on television,” Trump reportedly told the president-elect. “You will do a great job, and I hope to meet you soon. Your victory has been talked about all around the world.”
Fernández then told Trump he intended to maintain a “mature and cordial” relationship, focused on the “themes we have in common during this complicated time where Argentina needs help.”
“We need to do things together,” Fernandez reportedly said.
In the week since Fernández's election, US officials have called on Argentina to uphold the commitments laid out under the terms of Argentina's record US$57-billion credit-line with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a deal that garnered the ire of many in the Frente de Todos coalition that ushered the president-elect into power.
As the largest shareholder in the IMF, the US will be key to unlocking negotiations between the new government and the Washington-based organisation over the funding programme, which is currently on hold. While the IMF board will wait to see the details of Fernández’s economic plan, Washington does have some sway over its members, holding 16.5 percent of the board's voting power.
Fernández posted on Twitter that Trump had told him he had “instructed the International Monetary Fund to work with us to resolve the problem of our debt.”
The White House later released a statement saying that the two leaders "talked about the robust bilateral relationship between the United States and Argentina, as well as the deep ties between countries and their citizens."
According to the US government, "President Trump expressed the desire of the United States to continue positive bilateral cooperation, especially with regard to such issues as security, democracy and economic development and also expressed support from the United States to help the country overcome economic challenges."