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Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 6, n.º 2 (November 2015-April 2016), pp. 16-31
AN APPROACH TO NON-TRADITIONAL PARTNERS: THE EVOLUTION OF
THE TIES BETWEEN ARGENTINA AND THE GULF MONARCHIES DURING
THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF CRISTINA FERNANDEZ (2007-2015)
Ornela Fabani
ornela_fabani@hotmail.com
Holder of a PhD in International Relations, Faculty of Political Science and International Relations
at the Universidad Nacional de Rosario (UNR, Argentina). Postdoctoral Fellow at the National
Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET). First Assistant in the "Foreign Policy" Chair
at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations at the Universidad Nacional de
Rosario (UNR).
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the evolution of the political-diplomatic and
the economic and trade links between Argentina and the Gulf monarchies, as well as the
factors that explain this evolution, during the administrations of Cristina Fernandez (2007-
2015). Meanwhile, the premise that informs it is that that during Fernandez's governments
the political and diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait
and Qatar became more dynamic as a result of the Argentine interest in strengthening
economic and trade ties with those States.
The deepening of these ties is explained in terms of some of the main areas of Argentina's
foreign trade policy, which focus on the following: to diversify trade partners, attract
investment and increase the volume of trade. Moreover, the aforementioned actors are
perceived as potential partners in that the Gulf monarchies need to ensure food security and
advance technological cooperation, in a context marked by the international financial crisis.
Keywords:
Argentina; Gulf monarchies; Cristina Fernandez; diplomatic political ties; trade and
economic relations
How to cite this article
Fabani, Ornela (2015). "An approach to non-traditional partners: the evolution of the ties
between Argentina and the Gulf monarchies during the administrations of Cristina Fernandez
(2007-2015). JANUS.NET e-journal of International Relations, Vol. 6, N.º 2, November
2015-April 2016. Consulted [online] on date of last visit,
observare.ual.pt/janus.net/en_vol6_n2_art02
Article received on 29 May 2015 and accepted for publication on 15 October 2015
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 6, n.º 2 (November 2015-April 2016), pp. 16-31
An approach to non-traditional partners: the evolution of the ties between Argentina and the Gulf
monarchies during the administrations of Cristina Fernandez (2007-2015)
Ornela Fabani
17
AN APPROACH TO NON-TRADITIONAL PARTNERS: THE EVOLUTION OF
THE TIES BETWEEN ARGENTINA AND THE GULF MONARCHIES DURING
THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF CRISTINA FERNANDEZ (2007-2015)
Ornela Fabani
Introduction
The Arabian Gulf, located on the Arabian Peninsula in southwest Asia, is an area of
geostrategic importance not only because it is the meeting point of three continents -
Asia, Africa and Europe - but also because of its hydrocarbon reserves. The six Gulf
monarchies - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Oman, and
Qatar have about 30% of proven global oil reserves. Moreover, these six states
together control 23% of proven global gas reserves (Meltzer, Hultman, Langley, 2014:
18).
As a result, thanks to the importance that these resources have for these countries’
economies, they have obtained economic benefits that have allowed them to
experience exponential growth in recent decades. Argentina's interest in approaching
those states falls within this context, as they not only have vast resources but also
huge sovereign funds, and are potential partners due to their need to ensure access to
food and technology. In fact, despite the significance of the human rights issue as one
of the main axes of Argentina's political agenda and the tensions that it could generate,
the link with the Gulf monarchies has deepened in recent years.
That said, the general aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the evolution of the
political-diplomatic and the economic and trade links between Argentina and the Gulf
monarchies, as well as the factors that explain this evolution, during the
administrations of Cristina Fernandez (2007-2015). We have chosen this timeframe
because we believe that it was during these governments that contacts increased,
particularly between Argentina, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Moreover,
Buenos Aires’ approach to these states during the proposed study period is unparalleled
in the history of the relations between them.
Taking into consideration the aforementioned points, we take the following initial
supposition as a guideline hypothesis: during the governments of Cristina Fernandez,
the political and diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UAE, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait and Qatar became particularly more dynamic as a result of the Argentine
interest in strengthening economic and trade ties with those states.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 6, n.º 2 (November 2015-April 2016), pp. 16-31
An approach to non-traditional partners: the evolution of the ties between Argentina and the Gulf
monarchies during the administrations of Cristina Fernandez (2007-2015)
Ornela Fabani
18
In this respect, deepening those ties results from Argentina’s objectives in terms of
foreign trade policy, including: diversify trade partners, attract investment and increase
the volume of trade. Moreover, Argentina perceived the aforementioned actors to be
potential partners due to Gulf monarchies’ need to ensure food security and advance
technological cooperation in a context marked by the international financial crisis.
Given the above, it is relevant to explain a number of ideas and concepts that are key
to the analysis. In our view, foreign policy is
"a particular area of government action encompassing three
analytically separable dimensions: political-diplomatic, military-
strategic and economic and trade, which acts externally against a
wide range of actors and governmental and non-governmental
institutions, both bilaterally and multilaterally" (Russell, 1990:
255).
Nevertheless, it is important to note that this study aims to examine only two of these
dimensions: the political-diplomatic and the economic and trade.
It should be pointed out that this public policy (Ingram, Fiederlein, 1988) aims to give
visibility and translate the strategy of the political society, or part of it, to propose ways
of inserting the state in the global context (Miranda, 1988: 22). In this regard, the
inclusion or condition to be taken into account by politics and the world economy
(Miranda, 2001: 169) has been a major concern both in the government of Nestor
Kirchner (203-2007) and during the administrations of his wife, Cristina Fernandez
(2007-2015), which have sought to achieve it by expanding the margins for
autonomous action.
Indeed, after a decade of exclusive insertion (Miranda, 2001: 173) or coupling
according to Russell and Tokatlian (2013: 162), these administrations have opted to
diversify their external links leading to greater relative autonomy regarding Argentina's
external action.
We agree with those who point out that both during the Kirchner government and
Fernández’s administrations, Argentina's foreign policy has had a strong economistic
imprint (Zelikovitz, 2011: 6). This becomes evident if we consider the place the
renegotiation of the foreign debt has had on the agenda, as well as these
administrations’ attempts for international links to translate into new business
opportunities in different regions, in export diversification and in new investment.
It is in this context that Argentina’s approach to the Gulf monarchies occurs, as the
latter emerge as potential partners, since
"they are markets that currently have low relevance with regard to
the volume of operations, but which constitute important
opportunities for Argentine products" (Grosso, Moldovan and
Todesca, 2009: 6).
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 6, n.º 2 (November 2015-April 2016), pp. 16-31
An approach to non-traditional partners: the evolution of the ties between Argentina and the Gulf
monarchies during the administrations of Cristina Fernandez (2007-2015)
Ornela Fabani
19
Finally, it should be noted that the link between Argentina and the Gulf monarchies has
scarcely been addressed by academia, while most of the analyses on the subject come
from the media. In this regard, although academics have paid attention to the link
Argentina established with another Gulf State, such as Iran (Botta, 2010, 2012), there
are few works referring Argentina’s foreign policy towards the Gulf monarchies. Among
them we can point to a series of articles produced by the Centro de Estudios en
Relaciones Internacionales de Rosario CERIR (Centre for Studies in International
Relations in Rosario) that examine Argentina's foreign policy toward the Middle East
during the administrations of presidents Menem, De la Rúa (Carrancio 1998, 2001),
Duhalde, Kirchner and Fernández (Paredes, 2008, 2010), although none pays special
attention to our particular object of study. On the other hand, it is important to mention
that trade and economic ties with these actors is the area that has been studied the
most (Stumberger; Poggi, 2011). That said, we intend to advance the study about the
future of these ties using various secondary sources - mainly articles in the national
and international press - and also primary ones - official speeches, Proceedings of the
State of the Union, press releases and semi-structured interviews.
The deepening of political-diplomatic ties
The Middle East has not occupied a privileged place on the agenda of Argentina’s
external relations. Conversely, over time it has been a marginal area with regard to its
political and economic relations. From an overall perspective this can be explained by
virtue of the distance between Buenos Aires and those territories and also due to the
absence of a shared idiosyncrasy, since in religious, social and cultural terms, Argentina
is markedly different from those countries. These are countries with diverse ethnic and
religious groups, as well as different political regimes, which in recent decades have
gained notoriety internationally due to increasing conflict in the area. Nevertheless,
during the administrations of Cristina Fernandez there was an approach to the states in
the region, as attested by the following: proliferation of visits and high-level meetings
with representatives of various Arab countries, very active participation in the ASPA
Summits, the reopening of the Arab League Office in Buenos Aires in February 2008,
and Argentine support for the Palestinian cause. One cannot ignore the involvement of
Buenos Aires in the Palestine Donors Conference, the opening of Argentina’s Diplomatic
Representation Office in Ramallah in 2008, the sending of white helmets to Gaza
following the Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and recognition at bilateral and multilateral
levels of the Palestinian state, in 2010 and 2011, respectively (Fabani, 2012: 70 ff).
Furthermore, Argentina's approach to the Palestinian cause and, as a correlation,
adjustment1
1 These are the variations in the intensity of effort and the adjustment of objectives against one or more
items on the foreign policy agenda (Hermann, 1990: 5).
to its traditional policy of equidistance with regard to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict during this administration are signs of the greater scope for
autonomous action that the country acquired during the reference period. In this
framework, during Fernandez’s governments the increase in political and diplomatic ties
with a group of actors with which Argentina has not traditionally maintained a close
relationship stands out. These countries are the Gulf monarchies, specifically Saudi
Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.