Cristina Fernández de Kirchner didn’t deliver

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president, gave a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC on April 9, 2010.  The powerful US Chamber has three million members.

In his introduction, Chamber president Thomas Donohue told President Fernández de Kirchner that the US business entrepreneurs in the audience were especially interested in three subjects:  corruption, transparency and accountability.

The president, during her more than 30 minute talk, gave a detailed, precise and very well executed accounting of her country’s economic situation and sold it as a very good place to do business.  She only mentioned in passing that problems or conflicts always exist between partners and that their obligation is to find a solution to those disputes.  However, she never directly addressed the issues that concerned her audience. 

There are two ways to look at this situation.  The first one is that the president simply did not want to delve on these issues and avoided them.  The second is that she was not ready for the questions or did not understand what was asked of her.  I do not know if Mrs. Fernández de Kirchner understands English well enough.  Her presentation was in Spanish.

Regardless, the result was a negative one.  If she did not want to speak about the issues of concern to the audience, the question at hand is why did she accept the invitation?  Since she took the time to be there and obviously made a real effort to convince the potential future investors that Argentina is, according to her, a good investment choice, it is not logical that she then did not address her audience’s most important concerns.  The reason is that if these questions are not addressed this obviously will not help to convince them to invest their capital in Argentina.  On the other hand, if she did not understand what she was asked, the result was equally damaging.

The conclusion is that her presence at the forum did not meet its objective.  The president should have addressed these issues in more detail, even if she didn’t focus the presentation on them; otherwise she should not have gone to the event.  President Fernández de Kirchner could have talked about Argentina’s economic situation and at the same time touched on the issues of corruption, transparency and accountability. 

Was the purpose of the event not explained thoroughly to the president?  Did she not understand well the audience to which she would be speaking?  What is clear is that many of the entrepreneurs, after the event, said that they left with the very same questions they had when they arrived.

What was clear to me is that the message was not well prepared and that it was a lost opportunity to attract investments to Argentina.  It isn’t every day that a political leader can speak to an audience of the most powerful and influential business leaders in the United States.

Later, during the question and answer period, the president did something that, from my point of view, gratuitously distracted attention from her message to encourage investments in Argentina.

A member of the audience asked regarding the issue of copyright piracy, such as DVDs.  The moderator said that piracy was a current and global phenomena and that it can even be seen on the streets of Washington.  The president said that she agreed with the statement that piracy was a current issue and then mentioned the subject of the Malvinas [Falkland Islands].  The audience laughed.

We do not need to address the issue of whether or not the islands are Argentina’s; that’s not the point.  The point is that such a statement from such a high-profile official immediately distracts the audience and distances it from the message at hand.  They did not listen to her message about piracy because everyone was commenting about the statement about the Malvinas.  In addition, if the implication was that the British are pirates because of their presence on the islands, we must remember that the United States assisted Great Britain during the Falkland Islands war; therefore, if the British are pirates, so are the Americans.  I do not know if it is appropriate to call the Americans pirates to their face during a presidential visit to Washington, and then ask them to invest their money in Argentina.

Definitely, the issue that the audience talked about at the end of the presentation was not that Argentina was a good investment opportunity, but that the president had not talked about transparency and corruption and what the diplomatic reaction would be from London to the president’s statement comparing the British to pirates.

I do not think that the event helped the Argentinean leadership’s goals for more investment in Argentina.  They were not effective in getting their message to their audience and this could result in less foreign investments in the South American country, resulting in less economic growth as well.

The Argentinean president cannot be aware of everything, but I think that she was not well advised or prepared for the event.  However, I also think that she made a mistake by not honing in on her key message and introducing an unrelated controversy, distracting attention from the main focus of her presentation:  invest in Argentina.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: