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Ambassador no. 09

Last tango in Paris

Argentina [aldo ferrer]

Aldo Ferrer is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s ideas man in Paris. The academic and former Argentine economics minister was appointed ambassador to the French capital last year.

The 84-year-old author of stock texts such as Living Within Our Means, has been preaching the value of self-reliance all his career. “Until 2000, the government was working on the basis of subordination to global markets and foreign debt,” says Ferrer. “Argentina lost control of its own reality. The country came through this crisis by establishing control of its own budget, by working within its own means, as I had suggested. I was invited here because now my ideas have been proved to have resonance.”

At a time when the Argentine government is re-establishing control over its national assets (the recent ypf/Repsol oil controversy), Ferrer’s self-help mantra is clearly en vogue. “It is not just countries but also human beings that need to be independent,” he tells monocle. “We need to develop our sensibilities, to engage with others from a position of maturity and strength.”

Ferrer now spends much of his time on the Parisian intellectual scene developing the Centre Interdisciplinaire de la Culture Argentine. “We’re trying to strengthen the relationship between the two countries by inviting astronomers, painters, astrophysicists, musicians, psychoanalysts and other professionals from both countries,” he says.

Ferrer also likes to help Argentine artists who need a higher profile in France. He is an energetic host of cocktail evenings and concerts at the embassy, attending exhibitions of aspiring artists at its dedicated gallery.

In Paris he has found a second home. Ferrer confesses that, with his daughters and grandchildren far away in Argentina, he has lonely moments and sometimes takes to the floor himself at one of Paris’s many late-night milongas, or social tango dances. “I walk in and hear the music of tango’s glorious years in Argentina – greats like Carlos Gardel. People here dance in the Argentinian style and if it weren’t for the fact that they’re speaking French, I could be back in BA.”

  1. Challenge:
    “I don’t see it as a challenge but as an opportunity to promote Argentina in trade and in culture.”
  2. Philosophy:
    “Global development begins at home. You have to be someone at home in order to be international.”
  3. The embassy:
    A Parisian hôtel particulier in Rue Cimarosa in the 16th arrondissement.
  4. Staff:
    There are more than 70 staff in France, 50 of whom work in Rue Cimarosa.

China baiting

Japan [LAND]

Shintaro Ishihara, the 79-year-old governor of Tokyo, has never been one to trouble himself with the niceties of diplomacy. But even he took everyone by surprise with his announcement in April that Tokyo plans to buy the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, a small group of rocky islets in the East China Sea. Rich in natural resources and strategically placed between Asia’s two great powers, the islands – known as the Diaoyutai in Chinese – are a longstanding cause of friction between Japan and China.

Ishihara, currently serving his fourth consecutive term, is a divisive figure with a diverse CV: an award-winning novelist, a filmmaker and a past member of Japan’s Diet legislature (see Issue 06). Japanese who grew up in the 1960s remember him as a young blade who inspired a generation of followers. Inveterately anti-Chinese, he famously snorkelled in the waters of Okinotori, another disputed island, and planted a Japanese flag.

Summit special

Iraq [NUCLEAR TALKS]

Iraq’s prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki spent an estimated €380m revamping central Baghdad in preparation for the Arab League summit earlier this spring. And while Baghdad seems an unlikely international conference venue, still plagued by sectarian violence and unreliable infrastructure, it is poised to host the next round of P5+1 group nuclear talks with Iran on 23 May.

Ambassador dramatics

USA

The world’s largest talking shop takes place every September, when the 193 members of the United Nations meet in New York. Little is actually achieved at the UN General Assembly – but it is often the scene for dramatic (and often lengthy) speeches from heads of state.

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