Argentina’s President Macri has a Trump problem

Argentina’s President Macri has a Trump problem
Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri during a signing ceremony at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Feb. 7. | Eraldo Peres / AP

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has a Trump problem, partly created by himself and his right-wing political movement.

Macri is one of several right-wing Latin American presidents who have staked their countries’ futures on the promise of being able to attract foreign, chiefly U.S., corporate investment. Others include President Temer of Brazil, President Kuczynski of Peru, President Cartes of Paraguay, President Peña Nieto of Mexico, as well as the presidents of Guatemala and Honduras.

In order to achieve this supposed bonanza of investment, these heads of state have trashed the social safety net for their working class and poor citizens, reversing the gains in living standards achieved by the Bolivarian “pink tide” that brought left or left-center governments to power in numerous countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Argentina. They have imposed the full neoliberal program of austerity, privatization, and deregulation and are working to undermine labor unions and workers’ rights in their countries.

In Argentina, where Macri’s right-wing presidency replaced the left-leaning government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Victory Alliance coalition as a result of the October 2015 elections, the impact on the working class has been drastic. As the cost of living has shot up for the working class, up to 150,000 government workers and tens of thousands of private sector workers have lost their jobs.

This has led to massive protests by workers and their allies. It has brought unprecedented tactical unity to the notably fractious Argentine labor movement. But Macri has plowed on, claiming that eventually the attraction of new foreign investment will create more jobs than have been lost. He does not mention that foreign companies only invest in countries like Argentina if they can be guaranteed cheap labor and a minimum of labor, environmental, and regulatory safeguards.

For Macri’s plan to “work”, it requires that countries like the United States not only invest in Argentina, but import the products of that investment. This is the basic neoliberal model of economic development pioneered, with similarly dismal results, by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which links Mexico with the United States and Canada.

But now comes Donald Trump, who has dropped the rhetoric of “free” trade on which people like Macri have relied so much, in exchange for a nationalistic and protectionist stance. One of the first things Trump has done has been to ditch the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Argentina was not one of the…