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Making Argentina relevant again - for Middle Power Diplomacy (Sands)

Making Argentina relevant again - for Middle Power Diplomacy (Sands)

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Published by J.J. Stranko
Fall 2011
Fall 2011

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Published by: J.J. Stranko on Feb 25, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Dear Ministro Timerman:
During my secondment to the Inter-American Development Bank or, as you often refer to it, theInter-American Underdevelopment Bank, I have been able to make meaningful observations of  popular and elite perceptions of our Southern Cone republic. My work, as you may have heard,focuses on how to position the region in the international system and how to best leverage our strengths for greater legitimacy in forums like the United Nations, the IDB, the OAS and,importantly, the Group of 20.I also have had the opportunity, through the generous sponsorship of the bank, to take eveningclasses at the Johns Hopkins - SAIS. I know you graduated from SIPA, so I hope you won’t begrudge my choice of schools. One course I was fortunate to take, called Middle Power Diplomacy, focused on exactly these regional promotion and “branding” issues. If you will allowme the opportunity, I would like to share some reflections from the course that I hope will help you better understand where the Argentine Republic is succeeding and struggling to advance its positions internationally. First, I would like to discuss our brand and the opportunities andchallenges we face in shaping it in the future. Second, I want to share how scholars and observershere view Argentina’s place in the changing world order. Finally, I outline several actions that our government can take to best raise our profile and define our strengths in multilateral and bilateralcontexts.
Stranko 1
The Argentine Brand – Not just for cattle
Argentina’s role as a middle power in the world was reinforced by our inclusion in the G-20, butthere are certain factors that are challenging this status quo. The rise of our neighbor and partner Brazil is the most obvious one, since it is marginalizing some of our legitimacy as a leading voicefor the region. A secondary reason is the rise of other “middle” powers at a global level that are ableto capture share of voice in international organizations like the WTO or the UN. A tertiary, althoughnot important factor, is the perception in the West of Argentina as an intransigent, pettish globalactor. From my studies at SAIS, and from my interactions at the IDB, I have come to understandthat the international perception of our brand is one of fiscal irresponsibility and political unreality.And while many Argentines would argue that we have a commodity-based economy defined by booms and busts, foreigners would view it as mismanagement of booms leading to politicalextremism during busts. Nonetheless, we have many positive brand characteristics at an international level, some of whichinclude: Argentina as a social and economic exception within Latin America, Buenos Aires as acapital of culture, fashion and design, and our countryside as a fountain of first-rate food and drink  products. We have the chance to build on these softer powers in the West where we are a knownquantity, but the more exciting chance is to improve our perception in Asia and particularly China.Fortunately for us, the world economic order is changing quickly, and now is our time to positionourselves within the emerging one. Although this may seem like a daunting task, the fundamentalsof this new order are very favorable to Argentina. This is why I implore you to take up the task withthe same courage and optimism as Cristina and the great patriot Néstor took on the task of rebuilding our economy from its gravest crisis.
Stranko 2
The world is changing, finally
As much as it pains me to say it, given our ongoing diplomatic difficulties over the Malvinas, it wasat the height of the British Empire that our insertion into the international system was the mostmeaningful. The livestock and agricultural products we exported to the United Kingdom and itsempire enriched our citizens, industrialized our economy, built our national infrastructure and madeus into one of the richest countries on earth. In a unipolar world where the United States dominatedinternational affairs, our external position was marginalized. In this world, and in the decades sincethe end of the Cold War, we were the country that took on some of the most brutal free-marketrecommendations of American economic policy and then the country that fell the furthest into acatastrophic debt default. Plainly speaking, we aligned strongly with the hegemon only to be castaside once our system was felled by its policies. We have been in this situation for some time now,and at no time since the change of the world order in 1945 has Argentina been in a position of self-determination in international affairs. Now with a bipolar economic world emerging with the rise of China, our fortunes are looking up.Our economy have a complementarity with China that rivals the one with had with Britain (andcould never have with the United States). In practical terms, this new multipolar economic structure plays to our strengths. We are an agricultural power, and the old battles we fought against the Westthrough organizations like the Cairns group now seem less relevant when the West is no longer our main customer. Instead, we can derive real power from being the breadbasket to the South and promoting an economic model that leaves more room for the state to define broader goals for development and regulate private actors within the system.
Stranko 3

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