Argentine pact

How the tide of history can change. Several decades ago it would most likely have been pin-striped diplomats who drafted the vital treaties ensuring the future well-being of a nation. But as the tentative agreement just reached between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Argentina underscores, in today's interdependent global economy, such accords are more often than not the product of financial specialists and world bankers.

The agreement must still be formally approved by the IMF board of directors. That seems probable. More difficult will be the task of Argentine President Raul Alfonsin. He must sell the pact - which imposes tough austerity measures on Argentina - to his constituents.

The agreement eases one more danger point in the world debt challenge. It is also crucial to Argentina. It could mean billions of dollars in new bank financing for that nation, which is strapped in meeting obligations on its current $45 billion in foreign debt.

Mexico - a debtor nation like Argentina - has already made impressive strides in starting to turn its economy around. Argentina might well study the Mexican example. But what is most needed for Argentina, Mexico, and other debtor nations - indeed, all nations - is growing world trade. That means eliminating protectionist policies. Latin America's long-range well-being is linked to an expansion of the world economy.

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