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Argentina woos investors at ‘mini Davos’

Businessmen attend the Argentina Business and Investment Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 13, 2016 © AFP / Eitan Abramovich

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 14 – Argentina opened a major investment conference Tuesday, seeking to persuade executives from the world’s top multinational corporations to bet on Latin America’s third-largest economy and its new center-right government.

With Argentina stuck in recession, President Mauricio Macri is keen to show foreign investors that things have changed since he took office.

The former businessman took over in December from Cristina Kirchner, a leftist known for protectionist economic policies and a nasty, long-running dispute with creditors.

“We are welcoming the world,” Macri told a crowd of more than 1,000 executives from 67 countries as he opened the three-day forum.

Argentine media have dubbed the event a “mini Davos,” for the annual gathering of corporate big shots and world leaders in Switzerland.

The guests of honor in Buenos Aires include the chief executives of Coca Cola, BP, Siemens and Dow Chemical.

Key sectors in the spotlight include oil and gas, renewable energy, mining, industry, agriculture, transport and telecommunications.

The first big deal came on opening day: Canadian miner Pan American Silver’s CEO announced a $1 billion investment in a project in the southern province of Chubut, home to the world’s largest silver deposit, Macri’s office said in a statement.

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris meanwhile told Macri he planned to continue investing in petrochemical and wind projects in the south.

Like much of Latin America, Argentina is shaking off a painful hangover after a global commodities boom that fueled strong growth in the 2000s.

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Macri arrived on the scene with a flurry of reforms, overhauling 12 years of leftist policy under Kirchner and her late husband Nestor.

He triggered a devaluation of the peso, announced an end to subsidies for electricity, gas and water, and slashed high export taxes for the key agricultural sector.

Some of his reforms have led to court battles and cost him popularity points.

Argentines’ buying power has plummeted as inflation has soared to 40 percent.

The Macri administration insists the pain is necessary to get the economy back on track.

“We inherited a country in recession with very high inflation. But now we’re getting it under control and we see the first signs of the end of the recession,” the president said.

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