Interview : Steven Ciobo

What can Argentina learn from Australia about economic reforms and long-term economic success?

STEVEN CIOBO: Australia’s economic success story is unprecedented. We have now completed our 27th year of continuous economic growth, which is a world record. Australia navigated the dot-com bust, the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, the 2008-09 global financial crisis and a transition from the mining investment boom without incurring a recession. There are many similarities between our two nations in terms of the wealth of our natural resources, so there are good reasons for Argentina to look closely at Australia’s experience. There are two key lessons worth mentioning. First, Australian policymakers reached a national consensus on the need for economic reform, making it possible for successive governments to implement long-term policies aimed at raising productivity and growth. Second, key stakeholders committed to open, evidence-based policy-making. Of course, every country needs to find its own path, but it makes sense for Argentina to look at examples of global best practices and adapt them to its situation.

How is Argentina’s economic reform process being viewed by Australian companies and investors?

CIOBO: Changes to simplify procedures for doing business and increase productivity in Argentina have had a positive impact on foreign investors, including those from Australia. Australian companies are active in Argentina and play a key role in the mining sector, particularly in lithium exploration, mining and processing. We expect further significant investments in Argentina’s mining sector over the next few years. With Australia’s considerable expertise in agri-business, we expect to see increased trade, investment and strategic cooperation regarding on- and off-farm production. Education is another area that has interested Australia, particularly vocational education. The new economy will certainly see further partnerships, including an expanding range of new and emerging technologies.

How would you describe the future of Argentina and other countries in the Mercosur trade bloc?

CIOBO: Argentina played a very constructive role in driving a strong external trade agenda in Mercosur. The bloc’s move towards greater openness and trade liberalisation has the potential to drive growth in the region and open new opportunities for full engagement in the global economy. The conclusion of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement and other initiatives should send an important signal to global markets. As Australia’s openness to trade and investment played a key role in our economic success, greater market liberalisation could ensure Mercosur countries engage more effectively with the Indo-Pacific region, the key engine of global growth. The landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will eliminate more than 98% of the tariffs on goods in a trade zone that has a combined GDP of $13.7trn. Argentina and the other Mercosur countries have an opportunity to take advantage of the massive trade and investment opportunities that will emerge from Asia’s burgeoning middle class.

In what areas do you see potential for bilateral cooperation between Australia and Argentina?

CIOBO: Australia and Argentina have a history of cooperating in support of a multilateral system. We work closely in the World Trade Organisation, including with the Cairns Group of Fair Trading Nations. This relationship is broader than just trade and is reflected across a multilateral agenda, which includes human rights, the environment and Antarctic protection. Argentina’s commitment to opening its economy will create new opportunities for cooperation. We see engagement flourishing in areas such as agri-business, education, science and innovation, and infrastructure. For example, we are encouraging cooperation to improve agricultural technologies, including through initiatives like the Agtech Passport. These are the main priorities for building stronger ties between our two countries.