Friday, December 14, 2018


Mendoza: Andean Hollywood


Mendoza is already one of the most best-known places in Argentina, outside of the capital, Buenos Aires. That’s thanks in most part to its wines – two-thirds of the country’s total production. But quietly, the province has been hunting for an even bigger stage: Movies.


Filming in Argentina is nothing new; in addition to the country’s own celebrated industry, Buenos Aires has been the backdrop for countless international movies and TV shows. Even remote Tierra del Fuego made headlines in 2016 when Leonardo DiCaprio visited to film scenes for “The Revenant.”


But Mendoza wants to make movies more than a side gig, and the local authorities are starting to market the province as a potential film and television hub.


The most important movie filmed in Mendoza was Brad Pitt’s “Seven Years in Tibet,” in 1997, in which the Andes played the part of the Himalayas. During the filming, the population of the town of Uspallata reportedly increased by 50 percent. Ten years later, the provincial budget now includes subsidies for film productions to attract international studios and build up local talent. A separate provision offers tax incentives for foreign studios that partner with local companies. The province also operates a film commission.


These efforts ramped up in March, when Mendoza’s provincial legislature approved an audiovisual law. The same month, the Inter-American Development Bank held its annual meeting in Mendoza, where it announced support for the establishment of an audiovisual complex that will eventually include studios and sound stages.


The measures complement programs offered by Argentina’s Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Visuales, which hopes to expand Argentina’s movie industry by encouraging projects outside of Buenos Aires. In 2017, Argentine movie theaters sold 49 million tickets, but locally produced films – such as the hit “Mamá Se Fue de Viaje” – attracted only 6.5 million moviegoers in all.

Asado en serio: Beef is back


President Trump is not big on “deliverables” – the grab bag of giveaways that grease diplomatic engagement whenever a U.S. president travels. But he had something meaty to offer Argentina during his trip to Buenos Aires for the G-20: the lifting of a 17-year ban on Argentine beef exports to the United States.


The United States first prohibited Argentina’s famous red meat in 2001, following a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in northern Argentina. The livestock disease is highly infectious, but as the years passed, Argentina concluded that the prohibition was no longer motivated by concerns about animal health, but rather a desire to protect U.S. ranchers. In 2012, Argentina filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization, and the WTO sided with Argentina three years later.


The WTO findings were damning for the United States. Nevertheless, despite a broad diplomatic reengagement following President Mauricio Macri’s election in late 2015, the issue remained unresolved throughout the Obama administration. Given Mr. Trump’s protectionist impulses, a speedy resolution seemed unlikely. Though Mr. Trump agreed to lift a longtime U.S. ban on Argentine lemons, that decision had a political upside – targeting farmers in deep-blue California. (California is the largest lemon-producing state in the United States, with 47,000 acres under cultivation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.) Readmitting Argentine beef, by contrast, impacts Texas, a political battleground where the cattlemen have long defended the Argentina prohibition.


Nevertheless, under the surprise agreement, Argentina gains an annual quota of 20,000 tons of beef for the U.S. market, with high-quality cuts constituting 20 percent of sales. In Argentina, the negotiated settlement is a political win for Mr. Macri, who has sought to demonstrate the tangible benefits of his dogged international reengagement. Economically, the renewed market access will help Argentina continue its recovery from a Kirchner-era collapse in its celebrated ranching sector. Due to government interventions under the Kirchners, Argentina fell to 12th place among global beef exporters. (Beef exports are up 48 percent since Mr. Macri took office.)


For U.S. diplomats, the reciprocal carnivorous compact helped rescue an underwhelming G-20 agenda. Mr. Trump had passed on Argentina’s offer of a state visit, and only reluctantly agreed to a breakfast the morning of the G-20, on November 30. On the other hand, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, agreed to participate in a state visit the day after the summit, and arrived offering billions of dollars in loans from China’s central bank, as well as a range of infrastructure deals. For the White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, China’s support represented “predatory economic activity,” but it was a godsend for Argentina’s struggling government. That is why the White House’s beef announcement – though mostly regarded as a win for Buenos Aires – was also well-timed for Washington, helping to rescue Mr. Trump’s first Latin America trip, which would otherwise have been characterized by a U.S. government that scolds recipients of Chinese aid while offering “America First” protectionism as the only alternative.

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