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Lula floats shared ‘trading currency’ during Argentina trip

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Brazil and Argentina are in early talks to establish a shared unit of value for bilateral trade to reduce reliance on the US dollar, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Monday, though the move is not aimed at replacing existing currencies.

In Buenos Aires on his first international visit since taking office, Lula made the comments alongside Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, a leftist ally, who said there was little decided about what would be involved in such a proposal.

Argentina Buenos Aires President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and President Alberto Fernandez

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez attend a bilateral agreement signing ceremony, during Lula da Silva’s first official visit abroad since his inauguration, at the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 23rd January 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/Agustin Marcarian

The discussions surfaced as part of an agreement to boost bilateral trade with more Brazilian export financing backed by Argentina’s international collateral, a Brazilian Government source said on Monday.

Argentina’s economy is suffering from a series of challenges, including a lack of dollars, with the government battling to replenish foreign currency reserves while also grappling with an inflation rate of nearly 100 per cent last year.

Leaders from both countries are meeting at a regional summit in the Argentine capital, where Lula vowed to resume a closer relationship after former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro distanced himself from Argentina.

“Our finance ministers, each with his own economic team, can make us a proposal for foreign trade and transactions between the two countries that is done in a common currency,” Lula told reporters alongside Fernandez.

Fernandez said that he and Lula also discussed the possibility of shipping gas from Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation to its neighbour. 

Brazil’s development bank BNDES may finance the building of a pipeline to deliver the gas, Lula said.

Earlier, Brazil’s Finance Minister Fernando Haddad and other officials played down talk of a full currency union.

Haddad told journalists that early discussion was focused on how to help Argentina buy Brazilian exports without tapping its dollar reserves, rather than spawning a shared currency circulating in both countries.

“Trade is really bad and the problem is precisely the foreign currency, right? So we are trying to find a solution, something in common that could make commerce grow,” Haddad said late on Sunday after arriving in Buenos Aires. 

Haddad said a “common unit of trade” could be developed, but dismissed the idea of a unified currency in wider circulation.

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Under an agreement ready for signature in Buenos Aires, the source said, Brazilian banks would provide credit to Argentine importers, backed by a Brazil government fund to secure the loans. Argentina, in turn, would provide collateral to guarantee Brazil’s trade financing with international liquidity.

“It could be Chinese bonds, gas contracts, wheat contracts,” the source said. “Something with international liquidity guaranteeing that, in case of non-payment by the Argentine importer, Brazil can access it to compensate.”

For now, operations would be carried out in Brazilian reais, according to the source.


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