Esteban Actis
Exclusive interview
"If Milei gets personally involved in Trump's campaign, it will be a very sensitive issue towards his link to the Biden administration"
International relations expert Esteban Actis highlights the similarities between the Argentine president and the Republican leader, but warns of a much more complex scenario than his followers expect.

 He says that Javier Milei is "an important external pawn" for Donald Trump's electoral campaign and claims that the Republican leader does not have another more useful figure from the global alt-right at this time. But he warns that, in an eventual return to power, Trump will impose transactional diplomacy and ideological affinity will not help Milei to achieve large economic concessions. Co-author of the book La disputa por el poder global (The Dispute for Global Power), Esteban Actis got a PhD in the field of International Relations, and is a teacher and researcher at the Faculty of Political Science (National University of Rosario, in Argentina). In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, he analyzes what Trump's relationship with Milei would be like if he wins the presidential elections in November and returns to the White House.

Trump y Milei are considered comparable phenomena. What are their most important similarities?

Milei and Trump share two very important aspects. One is that they are two right-wing populists, it is clear that they conceive power from an all or nothing vision, where traditional institutions are a problem and an obstacle to the radical changes they propose. Caste is the establishment that Trump always talked about. And he keeps talking. It is part of the strategy to alter the political system as it was functioning. Furthermore, Trump and Milei also share an anti-globalization vision, in terms of the liberal international order linked to the environmental agenda and the gender agenda, of the functioning of certain international institutions. In that sense, there is a coincidence.

La apuesta de Milei, ser el hombre de Trump en Am√©rica Latina 

Is it possible to translate this ideological affinity to the economic level, or are they destined to clash because they represent opposing visions and interests?

It is clear that there is no coincidence in economic matters. Today, Trump and Biden share the same vision that the Reagan era is over, and both Democrats and Republicans understand that the State has to intervene in the economy, especially in matters of industrial policy and trade policy. Milei comes with a vision really of the Austrian school, vindicating (Friedrich) Hayek and (Milton) Friedman. So, there is clearly a point of dissonance in terms of the ideological profiles of both.

Today, Trump and Biden share the same vision that the Reagan era is over, and both Democrats and Republicans understand that the State has to intervene in the economy, especially in matters of industrial policy and trade policy.

Taking these differences into account, how do you imagine the Trump-Milei relationship from an economic point of view if Trump wins?

I think that, if Trump wins, the link with Argentina in economic matters will be transactional. The United States diplomacy is going to return to what it was with the Trump government, with Trump 1, a transactional diplomacy, and the affinity they have with the Milei government may be what the affinity of Bolsonaro and Trump was at the time.

Esteban Actis, expert in International Relations.

How could Milei benefit if Trump achieves his goal of a second presidency?

Milei's government will try to achieve some commercial benefits and market access and that will mark it as a triumph. There may also be agreements surely linked to some issue that is of great interest to the United States, such as those linked to technological aspects, critical minerals, but it seems to me that the centrality with Argentina is not going to be in economic issues either for Trump nor for Milei. I see many issues linked to Defense, where the coupling with Washington is going to be very strong in political and foreign policy matters. I do not see a centrality of the economy in that link, during the first months at least, I do not see that it is a central issue for the bilateral relationship.

Cuando las fuerzas del cielo no alcanzan: por qu√© Trump puede volver al poder y chocar con el libertario Milei 

Why does Trump publicly praise Milei and present him as one of his disciples then?

What I do find interesting is that beyond Trump's electoral triumph, Milei has undoubtedly become the international political actor that can contribute the most in narrative and symbolic terms to the November election and Trump's project. Right now there is no other figure of the global alt-right in a boom like Milei, and who has visibility in that political sector. You take a look at Trump's social networks and they confirm it, putting Milei back in the center. So, in that sense, it seems to me that, as we approach the electoral process in the United States, what Milei's role will be is a point to highlight. If he is personally going to get involved in that campaign, that would be a very sensitive issue towards the link with the Biden administration. It is a topic we must follow. It is clear that the figure of Milei today, in terms of Trump's electoral campaign, is an important external pawn.

Milei has become the international political actor that can contribute the most in narrative and symbolic terms to Trump's project. Today there is no other figure of the global alt-right in a boom like that.

Despite that, you think it would be a mistake for Milei to expect too much from Trump.

The thing is that in relation to this transactional diplomacy that I stated - very typical of the Trump administration -, we also have to think about the American political system, what are the prerogatives that Congress has, the negotiation or not of a fast track for an agreement trade, how bureaucracies, the State Department, the National Security Council play... Beyond the individual variable and the White House, in that fine question I think that there are also a lot of instances that define. The embassy is very important and many times regulatory and technical issues end up being defined in access to markets that precisely relate to the link with the United States.

Translator: Bibiana Ruiz. 

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