Paolo Rocca: “We’re looking a structural change, a reset for Argentina”

At the 22nd edition of the annual ProPymes conference, Paolo Rocca underlined the imperative to continue supporting companies in the communities where the Techint Group operates, and discussed the need to focus on structural transformation in Argentina in terms of industry and development.

The ProPymes Seminar brought together representatives from the SMEs in the Techint Group’s value chain as part of an intense day focused on analyzing the current situation. Held at the Buenos Aires Convention Center, the event was also an opportunity to reflect on the agenda for sustainability, technical education, innovation and Industry 4.0. The day’s proceedings were attended by an in-person and virtual audience, numbering some 650 representatives of SMEs in total, keen to share the day with leaders from the Techint Group, as well as analysts and public officials.

Paolo Rocca spoke on a panel with Guillermo Francos, the new Minister of the Interior, and started off by providing background: “The Techint Group has grown considerably thanks to the ProPymes initiative, which we have been working on since 2002. Today, we’re looking at a structural change, a reset for Argentina that will affect all sectors in this country. The previous situation was unsustainable. I listened to President Javier Milei's speech, and I believe that we need to turn our focus once again to critical structural issues such as education, and the normalization of key social and economic variables. All the points that the president brought up prompted me to reflect on the possibility of a reset that can open the way to developing the country's opportunities. This will require political and institutional consensus, along with crucial social support. In this transformation, we are going to have a very hard time, requiring a lot of sacrifice and a lot of effort, and I believe that here, ProPymes is well placed to help achieve a successful reorganization.”

“Coming clean about real relative prices will dampen down activity levels. To address this, we must preserve essential resources. The companies of the Techint Group are going to have to project an increase in activities abroad. Also, in order to operate, we must support the communities where we work, because they are the ones who will be most affected by this adjustment period. Hopefully, we will make it to ProPymes 2024 with a more positive outlook. However, I am optimistic about the future. Argentina has enormous potential and major competitive advantages in the areas of energy, agribusiness and mining as well as in the repositioning of the industrial chain. The reset for this country is something truly important,” concluded Rocca.

Francos pointed out that, “We are on the cusp of a huge opportunity for Argentina. A few years ago, I attended ProPymes as a participant, and I know from my experience what it’s like to suffer all the pressures that tend to afflict SMEs. A country can only grow if there are companies capable of developing.”

The value of collaboration in times of change

Martín Berardi, president of Ternium Argentina, talked about the program’s growth and development during its more than 20 years. Today, there are over 1,100 companies participating, a record of industrial attendance, and 357 professional internships held with 60 schools. “Although it seems a lot, it’s still little and we must go for more,” he urged, adding that, “Argentina will recover if we can accelerate investment, promote exports and achieve an intelligent opening up process. Given the change in relative prices that our economy is undergoing, competitiveness is crucial. The most dynamic sectors are key to this process: agriculture, energy, mining, tourism and the knowledge industry. Around the world, we can look forward to prosperous tailwinds. In 2023 and 2024, global GDP will grow by 3% annually,” Berardi concluded.

This was followed by a discussion segment where the executive exchanged views with the economist Andrés Borenstein about the current situation in Argentina and the challenges for international trade and productivity. "What we are seeing now is an adjustment in relative prices that is essential if we are to achieve stabilization. The human capital is there. Now we need to start creating formal employment opportunities. This is how we can create added value for society as a whole,” Borenstein agreed.

The global board and the local agenda

Javier Martínez Álvarez, president of Tenaris for the Southern Cone, participated in a panel discussing the global outlook and geopolitics of energy, where he was paired with journalist Nicolás Gandini. Martínez Álvarez emphasized that, “The opportunity for oil is now. Our country can play a leading role on the world’s energy map. Oil is driving gas as a transition energy, followed by the development of renewable energy. Each resource enhances the one that came before it.”

Addressing Tenaris' decarbonization agenda, the executive recalled that, “We’ve completed our first wind farm and we are now building another to supply the Campana Industrial Center with almost 90% renewable energy. We remain steadfast in our commitment to long-term decarbonization, in parallel with oil and gas development.”

Vaca Muerta and mining: growth opportunities for the value chain

Oscar Scarpari, CEO of Techint Engineering & Construction, and Ricardo Markous, CEO of Tecpetrol, discussed Vaca Muerta and the potential for renewable energies. "Vaca Muerta is driving Argentine growth, and currently represents half of this country’s oil and gas output. The goal is to reach 1.5 million barrels per day by 2030, and we are ramping up gas production, with growth projections in LNG," stated Markous. Regarding both Fortín de Piedra and renewable energies, the CEO referred to the company’s investment of USD 3.5 billion, equivalent to 60% of production in Bolivia. Looking forward, the idea is to apply shale gas knowhow to shale oil and expand lithium production.

Scarpari stressed the need to build agreements as a way of underpinning an educational ecosystem able to promote the industrial development of mining, highlighting the importance of projects such as El Pachón in San Juan to satisfy global copper demand.

Education, employment and production

To wind up the day, Erika Bienek, Chief Community Relations Officer of the Techint Group, shared a panel with Graciana Rucci, an expert from the Labor Markets Division at the IDB, and Antonella Tassaroli, Director of Tassaroli S.A.

“We have to step up our efforts to reverse the situation of low educational quality among young people in Argentina. As the Techint Group, in each place where we have an industrial plant, we draw up a strategy which puts education front and center because we are convinced that education is the main agent of transformation for both individuals and society as a whole," noted Bienek.

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