Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bank of the South - South American leaders reach a definitive agreement

A definitive agreement for the launching of the Bank of the South was reached in Buenoes Aires on Friday afternoon. Everything seems set to go with one minor change to note, The Bank of the South will begin operations with $7 billion in working capital, not the $10 billion reported previously.

South-South Cooperation is a term historically associated with the exchange of resources, technology and knowledge between developing countries. This latest initiative by the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela is especially exciting for the region as it:

a) Involves seven South American countries
b) Includes countries with very different political and economic ideologies
c) Includes the regional powerhouse of Brazil
d) Is not dominated by one power, but rather uses a fair system to calculate member country donations
e) Sends a message to member countries that what is good for the region is good me

What is mysterious, and surely politically motivated, is the fact the most staunch US allies in the region; Colombia, Peru and Chile, have not been included...

Here's the scoop from what went down over in Buenos Aires on Friday, courtesy of MercoPress.

“We’ve closed all pending issues and therefore this is the last ministerial meeting on the subject, said Argentine Finance minister Carlos Fernández who nevertheless added that the final stitch is “the technical review of statutes” of the new bank and the “parliamentary approval by the seven founding countries”.

[Arg Finance Minister, Carlos Fenandez]

The Bank of the South, started at the end of 2007 (and the brainchild of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez), will have an initial capital of 7 billion US dollars (originally it was planned 10 billion), of which Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela will supply 2 billion US dollars each; Ecuador and Uruguay 400 million US dollars each and Bolivia 200 million.

“The terms of the agreement are acceptable, so the statutes should be easily approved without much discussion”, said Brazil’s Finance minister Guido Mantega. “This is the missing step for financial integration”, he added.

“Given the current international context the bank should be operational as soon as possible” added Argentina’s Fernandez. “It’s not easy to create a financial institution of this kind in the midst of an international crisis”.

According to the statutes each country member will have “one vote” in the board but for approval of loans 70 million US dollars plus, support from votes representing two thirds of capital subscription will be needed, explained Fernandez.

At the same meeting Argentina and Brazil also agreed to a 1.5 billion US dollars swap to reinforce their international reserves. The operation is similar to that recently agreed between Argentina and China and the one signed by the Federal Reserve and fifteen other countries, including Brazil.

The swap is “preventive” and enables each country access to a credit in Brazilian Reales or Argentine Pesos equivalent to 1.5 billion US dollars and valid for three years.

Brazilian minister Mantega said that when Brazil signed the agreement with the FED he advanced that the scheme would be expanded to the region, with Argentina and Uruguay as first interested parties.

“It’s a precaution mechanism to reinforce international reserves. Let’s hope this becomes available as soon as possible and operational for the two central banks”, said Fernandez.