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G20 shows steady rise of Chinese clout and fraying U.S. ties in Latin America

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It took only minutes for Argentine officials to react to the White House’s version of what was said in the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his G20 host Mauricio Macri: the Americans weren’t reporting the discussion accurately.

It was spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders who had described the bilateral talks in terms sure to annoy China.

“The two leaders reiterated their shared commitment to face regional challenges like Venezuela and predatory Chinese economic activity,” she said.

Well, actually they didn’t, said Argentina.

“That comment wasn’t co-ordinated with the government of Argentina and doesn’t reflect Argentina’s view” said an official. “We value our relationship with China very much.”

Argentina’s foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, chimed in, “It was not discussed in those terms.”

And from Beijing, Argentina’s ambassador, Diego Guelar, told the newspaper La Nacion, “China is an integral strategic partner of Argentina and we’re signing 37 bilateral accords with China covering every area during the state visit of President Xi Jinping.”

Sanders’s version of the meeting “must have been a mistake,” said Guelar.

And with that episode, Argentina’s relations with the U.S. frayed a little more and inched closer to China.

Trump’s indifference was on full display on Friday when he suddenly walked offstage at a G20 event and left Macri alone, visibly perplexed and discomfited, while some in the audience began to laugh.

Rather upset Washington than Beijing

There’s a good reason Argentina’s government appears more concerned about upsetting China than it is about contradicting the White House. China is investing billions of dollars in its economy. And China’s footprint here is growing.

This week, China doubled to $25 billion Cdn a line of credit to help Argentina through the latest round of its perennial financial crisis. That makes China Argentina’s biggest creditor after the International Monetary Fund.

Next week, China is expected to announce that it will construct a new nuclear power station for Argentina at a cost of about $8 billion.

“China is the second-largest economy in the world, soon to be number one, and it is looking to expand its interests, commercial and otherwise, throughout the world,” says Thomas Bernes, a former senior official with both the IMF and the World Bank who was attending the G20 as a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). “This is similar to what the U.S. has done for decades, including throughout Asia.”

“The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) was an attempt by the U.S. to build a trade agreement with countries in Asia that excluded China. Countries want to enjoy a productive relationship with both. But the world hasn’t witnessed a time before when two countries were so dominant economically and strategically at the same time. Russia was a strategic competitor but not an economic one.” 

Increasingly, Bernes told CBC, countries may be forced to choose.

“So as the power dynamic changes; how do the U.S. and China, and other countries, find a way to avoid conflict?”

Spreading wealth, buying friends

More and more, the choice is China. Chinese corporations, many with links to the state, are investing heavily, and strategically, across the region. They prefer to put their money into infrastructure, such as ports, and natural resources, such as strategic minerals, as well as energy projects.

In 2015, President Xi Jinping toured Latin America, showering money — and wherever he went, he told Latin American leaders that China was committed to spend $250 billion US in the region by 2025. He invited Latin leaders to a conference in Beijing where he told them China believes its trade with Latin America will reach $500 billion a year over the same period.

That largesse brings two kinds of risks for those who fear that authoritarian China may one day displace democratic America as the heavyweight of the hemisphere. 

The first is that the assets China is buying are creating an infrastructure of power that spans the world. Just as the U.S. once benefited mightily from control of the Panama Canal, China’s growing network of seaports potentially gives it control over the chokepoints of global commerce.

The second is the concessions China is demanding — and receiving — in return for its investments. One example is El Salvador’s decision to end its long-standing recognition of Taiwan in August, ignoring U.S. threats of retaliation, in what looks like a quid pro quo for China’s investment in a new port.

And in Argentina, China’s investments have secured for Beijing what may be its first military presence in the Western hemisphere.

PLA comes to the Andes

In the foothills of the Andes, on 200 hectares of land ceded by Argentina for 50 years, China has built a satellite tracking and monitoring station, which began operating last year. Its antenna is 16 stories high.

China first proposed the project when Argentina was experiencing the economic turmoil of the 2008-09 financial crisis.

“The station is exclusively for scientific and civic purposes, focused on monitoring, control, and data download of China’s interplanetary space missions,” Argentina’s ministry of planning said when the deal came up for ratification in Argentina’s Congress.

And Congress had to take their word for that, because the deal contains a number of secret clauses, but it is striking that the organization that operates the station is fully controlled by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and the antenna is the kind of dual-use technology that other countries use to intercept communications.

In recent years, China’s military has also sought liaison arrangements with some South American nations, and conducted joint exercises with the Brazilian Navy.

U.S. needlessly ceding terrain

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri is a wealthy businessman who knows Donald Trump from New York days before he ran for president. Macri has been highly critical of his immediate predecessor’s anti-American rhetoric and her tendency to work with countries such as Russia, China, Venezuela and Iran while allowing ties with western democracies to degrade.

Argentina’s president has made his preferences clear, and has offered advantages to U.S. companies to invest in a vast and undeveloped oil and gas reservoir called Vaca Muerta in Patagonia.

In his bilateral meeting with Trump on Friday, Macri spoke at length about Vaca Muerta and encouraged the U.S. president to try to get American companies involved in developing it. Macri’s government is well aware of the dangers of becoming too beholden to China’s predatory lending practices, which have dragged vulnerable countries deep into debt only to extract concessions that can include surrenders of sovereignty.

But Trump showed little interest in Vaca Muerta, according to Argentine media reports.

It’s just one more way that the Trump administration is accelerating the decline of U.S. influence in the region and hastening the rise of China’s.

Soybeans and the byproducts are a leading commodity in Argentina and increasingly the underpinning of its government’s tax revenues. When Trump began his trade war with China, Beijing retaliated by imposing tariffs on U.S. soya and shifting more of its soy purchases to Argentina and Brazil. China is by far the biggest customer for Argentina’s soybeans, deepening the country’s dependence on Beijing.

“As we see between Canada and the U.S., having close economic ties clearly makes you more sensitive to views of the other,” says Bernes.

In stark contrast to China’s strategic nurturing of its influence in Argentina, the Trump administration has been disinterested, disorganized, and increasingly absent. And as U.S. prestige and presence wane, pro-western Macri has had no choice but to turn more to the Chinese. And they have come through for Argentina, ever eager to take on the roles Washington seems to be abandoning.

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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