De Kirchner: It’s Time to End the Myth of the Free Market
In announcing her government’s National Strategic Industrialization Plan—2020, on February 24, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner firmly defended her country’s right to industrialize, and to protect both that industry, and the workers who contribute to its advancement.
Outlining ambitious goals for the year 2020—achieving an average 5% annual growth rate, doubling annual industrial exports to $136 billion, increasing the industrial portion of GDP to 80%, among others—Fernandez de Kirchner debunked the notion that Argentina owed any respect to the free market. Since 2003, she reported, five million new industrial jobs have been created, along with 140,000 new companies—compared to the 50,000 businesses and factories that were shut down during the heyday of the free market in the 1990s.
Last month, citing the need to protect domestic industry from unfair competition, Industry Minister Debora Giorgi added 200 more products to a list of imports that would no longer be granted automatic licenses, bringing the total to 600. The City of London was outraged.
Too bad, said the President, noting that “there are still those who, when the government takes steps to protect labor and national production, accuse it of [resorting to] almost illegal practices.” Face it, she said: “We know that [the free market], as such, doesn’t exist—not here and not in any other part of the world. The free market, as it is taught and preached to us from [foreign] power centers,” doesn’t exist. That myth should end.
The industrialization plan was elaborated in conjunction with the United Nations’ Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which tends to emphasize import substitution. Whatever flaws that approach includes, Fernandez de Kirchner is adamant that industrialization will not be halted.
Beginning at the end of March, the government will sponsor a series of regional seminars, inviting business, labor, and other sectors to debate the ten priority areas the new plan identifies for development. These include food/agriculture, textiles, shoes, lumber, construction goods, capital goods, agricultural machinery, autos and autoparts, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and the petrochemical industry. Not mentioned, but absolutely a key area for national development, is the nuclear energy industry.