Argentina, International Scofflaw

The U.S. needs to stop the World Bank from lending to Argentina.

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Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner addresses the United Nations Security Council, Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013.

Amid all the recent political brawls between the White House and Congress over government funding for the current fiscal year and the federal debt ceiling, many Americans likely haven't noticed that other nations' financial practices can be much worse, while still impacting their wallets here at home. That's why the National Taxpayers Union, along with 14 other groups in the limited government movement, wrote to Congress last week to draw attention to the alarming news that the World Bank is considering $3 billion in new loans to Argentina.

In the letter, which was co-organized with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, we urged Congress to send a strong message to the administration to oppose these World Bank loans, and for the U.S. Treasury to withhold funding from the bank if it continued to underwrite "financial rogue" states like Argentina. Such a stance is especially important, given matters such as:

Argentina's continual defiance of the U.S. judicial system: Argentina's economic and political leaders, who have mired their nation in statist, anti-free-market policies, have expressed they would rather default than abide by U.S. court determinations. To date, the government of President Cristina Kirchner has actively ignored more than 100 such judgments, totaling billions of dollars. And in a new video clip Argentina's counsel is seen telling the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals that Argentina "would not voluntarily obey" their rulings.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Argentina's continual defiance of its international obligations to investors and lenders: According to the Financial Times, "of a total of 439 legal disputes between countries and companies at the World Bank tribunal, no fewer than 50 involve Argentina – far more than anywhere else, with socialist Venezuela lagging some way behind in second place." Many companies that hold International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes claims against Argentina are American. While Argentina just settled five of its ICSID cases last month, 45 cases remain outstanding, in addition to unresolved debts with the Paris Club, various nationalizations and ongoing censure by the International Monetary Fund for failure to comply with basic obligations.

Argentina's currency policies which, some say, have the effect of actively encouraging money laundering within its borders: During the summer, the Argentine government allowed its residents to trade in their U.S. dollars, which are running short, for a new "pseudo currency" and receive tax amnesty while doing so. International observers criticized the plan as a way to legalize dirty money. The Financial Action Task Force, the inter-governmental body developing and promoting policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, determined this month that Argentina will remain on its "grey list"  for the time being, alongside the countries of Afghanistan, Angola, Cuba and Sudan.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

These are just some examples of how Argentina's misconduct impacts American investors, taxpayers, and international rule-of-law. It's therefore no wonder that advocates of limited government have long expressed concerns about our Treasury helping to prop up these bad actors.

To give just one example, NTU submitted comments in 2010 to the New York Legislature, which was holding hearings on the impact of the 2001 Argentinian default on its debts. At the time, we noted that "Argentina's pattern of fiscal irresponsibility and economic mismanagement has left U.S. taxpayers to shoulder the burden of such recklessness, and has exacerbated the already battered and fragile state of our own economy. Repayment of Argentine debt in full is the only option to relieve the misery caused by Argentina's negligence." In 2012, NTU released a study authored by Alex Brill and James K. Glassman calling for a restructuring and reform of the G-20, a multi-country economic policymaking forum. Utilizing a rational set of data-driven criteria, Brill and Glassman recommended that four nations, including Argentina, be removed from G-20 and replaced with others.

The United States has a reputation to uphold in opposing future lending to Argentina. Following the adoption of a U.S. policy in 2011 to oppose all multilateral development banks' lending to Argentina, several other nations followed suit, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Canada. It remains in American taxpayers' best interest for this policy to continue while Argentina chooses to behave like an international scofflaw in the financial sphere.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

Pete Sepp is executive vice president for the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (ntu.org), a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, limited government and economic freedom at all levels.

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