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Martin Callanan MEP: Europe and the USA have taken action against Argentina's economic intransigence - so should we


Martin Callanan MEP is Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists. Follow the ECR Group on Twitter.

Argentina is refusing to abide by the rules of the international financial system. It has become an economic pariah. After years of being taken for a ride, Continental Europe and the USA have finally taken action in international aid bodies such as the World Bank to protect billions of pounds of their taxpayers' money that underwrites them. It is time the United Kingdom joined them in protecting British taxpayer money from Argentinian intransigence.

The World Bank, and its sister organisation the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), are between them lending Argentina billions of pounds of our money, yet Kirchner refuses to abide by the rules of those same institutions. Argentina has refused to honour the rulings of the World Bank's own arbitration arm, known as ICSID (Argentina now has a record 50 cases pending against her in ICSID). The Kirchner government has almost £10bn of outstanding debt to private creditors, but despite having over £30bn in foreign currency reserves in a Swiss account, it refuses to pay, or even recognise, these debts.

In addition to this, President Kirchner has managed to alienate, annoy or outright attack pretty much every country in the developed world over the past year. She has threatened the territory of one - Britain, through her economic blockade of the Falkland Islands; she has stolen property from another - Spain, through the expropriation of the Spanish oil company YPF/Repsol; and she refuses to pay back billions of dollars and euros owed to both governments and private investors in America, Italy, Germany and many other G-20 nations.

Research by the TaxPayers' Alliance, based on information given to Parliament by the Government, shows that outstanding loans to Argentina from the World Bank total $16.2bn, which makes the British share around £200m. I can think of 200 million better things to do with that money.

Washington and European capitals - led by Germany, Spain and the Netherlands - are spearheading efforts to ensure Argentina does not continue to benefit from institutions that it treats with contempt. They have made it clear that they will not allow their taxpayers' money to prop up the Kirchner regime. The Europeans' new-found desire to act in these institutions is both welcome and overdue: but many British taxpayers will rightly be incensed to hear that Britain has not yet joined them.

Since September 2011, the US Government has voted against all World Bank and IADB loans to Argentina, in protest at the country's flouting of international rules and principles. This summer, a slew of European countries, led by Germany and Spain, have joined forces with the Americans, and also opposed new loans to Argentina. Despite encouraging noises following an excellent TaxPayers' Alliance campaign, Britain has not yet formally voted against further loans. I understand that it abstained in the most recent IADB votes.

The new International Development Secretary should now take Britain off the fence and put us firmly in the same camp as our American and European allies.

With the global economy in its current fragile state, it falls to us, the industrialised economies, to ensure that the international financial system is not undermined and abused by rogue actors such as Kirchner. A strong, coordinated international position to send this message to Argentina is now achievable. Personally, I would like to see Argentina ejected from the G20, opening the door for Poland or Spain to join. However, one step at a time.

Justine Greening has made clear her long overdue aim to review British aid spending with an accountant's eye. This abuse of taxpayers' money must surely be a major priority in her deliberations.

The US, and leading European countries, are now clear that it is in nobody's interest that Argentina is allowed to continue ripping up fundamental principles of territorial sovereignty, sanctity of contract, private property rights, and repaying debt. And if she does wish to continue to behave like an economic pariah then Kirchner must also realise the consequences.

It's time to add our voice to that message. Over to you, Justine.


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