Obama, Argentinian President Macri consider free trade

Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Argentina in nearly 20 years.
By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Updated March 23, 2016 at 1:29 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, March 23 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and Argentinian President Mauricio Macri said they've organized a team to potentially lay the ground work for free trade between the countries during a meeting Wednesday in Buenos Aires.

Obama and his family arrived in the capital city early Wednesday for a two-day visit seeking to strengthen ties with Argentina's recently elected government.

He joined Macri for a bilateral meeting at Buenos Aires' Casa Rosada presidential palace.

Macri assumed office in December after winning a second-round election in November as a center-right candidate after about 12 years of center-left to left-wing rule under former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

"You are at home," Macri said greeting Obama during a press conference, also praising Obama's "very important leadership" over his "green agenda." Macri said Argentina would help "lead the fight against the climate change in the 21st century."

Obama said the leaders organized a trade team that will "identify the areas where there are barriers" with the possibility of a future free trade agreement.

Mark Feierstein, senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the White House's National Security Council, told the Wall Street Journal that Obama plans "to encourage Argentina's interest in playing a more prominent role on the world stage."

"We've been impressed by President Macri's ambitious reform agenda, the speed with which he's implementing it, and his interest in taking a leadership role on regional and global affairs," Feierstein said.

Obama will meet with U.S. Embassy staff in Argentina at the Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center later on Wednesday before holding a town hall meeting with young people to discuss the relationship between the United States and Latin America at the capital's Usina del Arte complex.

Bill Clinton was the last sitting U.S. president to visit Argentina in 1997. Obama will attend a state dinner Wednesday evening hosted by Macri.

Obama will continue U.S. presidential tradition and visit the southern Argentinian town of Bariloche on Thursday, a popular location known for its lakes and snow-covered mountains.

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