O'Neill Urges Argentina on Reforms


By:  The Associated Press
The Washington Post, February 21, 2002


Washington Argentina is heading in the right direction but must make necessary economic changes before the United States can support new International Monetary Fund loans, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said Thursday.

"Over the last few weeks I think they've moved in a direction that seems correct to those of us who are interested in international economic affairs," O'Neill said in remarks to the Chamber of Commerce. He welcomed Argentina's decision to let the Argentine peso float freely with its value determined by market forces.

President Eduardo Duhalde moved to scrap the peso's decade-long link to the U.S. dollar four days after he took office last month.

O'Neill, defending the United States' handling of Argentina's financial crisis, said the United States can provide technical assistance but only Argentina can fix its problems.

"You should be sure of one thing. We are not distant and far removed from this," O'Neill said. "We're engaged with them on an everyday basis."

The current role for the United States, he said, is to be supportive. "We think it is a role of responding to their initiatives and working with the IMF, hopefully, to get soon to a point where everyone agreed that they've created a sustainable base, and Argentina can move forward with the IMF support program."

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