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Presidential candidate Javier Milei (centre) is flanked by his running mate Victoria Villarruel (left) and his sister Karina during a campaign rally in Buenos Aires on Saturday. Photo: AP

Argentina is no longer joining Brics, says top aide to Javier Milei, right-wing presidential winner

  • ‘We do not understand the interest’ in the bloc of leading emerging markets including China, despite membership being poised to start from January
  • But new government unlikely to disrupt ties between Buenos Aires and Beijing given major financial deals already agreed upon, analysts say
Argentina is no longer joining Brics following the victory of self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei in the country’s presidential election on Sunday, a top aide said on Monday.
Diana Mondino, Milei’s principal adviser on foreign affairs, said Argentina would not proceed with plans to join the association of leading emerging markets comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“We do not understand the interest” in the bloc, Mondino told Russian news agency Sputnik News. “We do not understand … what Argentina gets out of it at this moment. If later it turns out that there is an advantage, of course, we will analyse it.”

Argentina’s Brics candidacy was the only one in the Americas supported by the group’s founding members during its last summit in August. But Milei during his campaign pledged to decline membership, which should come into force from January 2024.

Supporters of Argentine presidential candidate Javier Milei celebrate in Buenos Aires on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
In the election run-off, Milei competed against Argentina’s incumbent finance minister, Sergio Massa. Although electoral officials have yet to ratify the results, preliminary tallies showed Milei secured 56 per cent of the vote, compared to Massa’s 44 per cent, with 99 per cent of ballots counted.

Previously the right-wing libertarian Milei said he would “not do business with communist countries” and advocated breaking off relations with China in favour of ties with “the civilised side of the world”. Milei also accused China during the campaign of financing pro-Massa ads on YouTube.

However, Milei’s allies sought in recent weeks to temper his rhetoric as they courted moderate voters.

Speaking at an event organised by a Washington-based think tank earlier this month, for example, Mondino said there would be no disruption in ties between Buenos Aires and Beijing in the event of a Milei victory.

At the same time, Mondino said the political coalition behind Milei would be eager to scrutinise ‘secret agreements’ signed between the ruling government and Beijing.

Argentina’s bid for Brics membership is up for discussion and subject to debate

Analysts suggested that the likelihood of substantial changes in Sino-Argentine relations was minimal.

Bernabé Malacalza of Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council said Milei’s political alliance needed to make concessions during the campaign to lure backing from Mauricio Macri, a former Argentine president and a leader of the country’s moderate right.

A reported stipulation of Macri’s party to back Milei in the run-off was maintaining strong economic ties with China, Argentina’s next-largest trade partner behind Brazil.

“In the midst of the current crisis, Argentina urgently requires dollars, assistance for the central bank and the continuation of ongoing projects,” said Malacalza. “In these three aspects, China plays a pivotal role.”

Since 2008, Argentina has engaged in financing agreements with China totalling US$8.1 billion through nine loan contracts, he added, noting that of this amount US$7.7 billion had been directed through the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China for six projects.

Argentina, People’s Bank of China strike US$1.7 billion deal for IMF debt

Milei’s presidential campaign stuck to a well-known far-right playbook previously implemented by Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the US, drawing voters by attacking China with anti-communist rhetoric, according to Francisco Urdinez of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

“But China is deeply rooted in the foundations of the local economy, which is why it is not easy to reduce levels of dependence,” Urdinez said.

“Pragmatism will prevail and, ultimately, the relationship with Beijing will end up being the same as it was in previous governments.”

Urdinez believed Milei and his team would find it challenging to re-examine agreements already concluded with Beijing, as they all contain clauses imposing penalties for breaches.

It would be “quite complicated” and bring “serious problems” to pursue such a path, he added. “The rationale will be to lower our heads, leave ideological speeches aside and implement the agreements.”