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Argentina's Milei meets Elon Musk at Tesla factory

April 13, 2024

The two like-minded men bonded over free markets and the need to defend liberty. Argentina, which is undergoing economic reforms, is home to lithium deposits required for rechargeable batteries like those in Teslas.

Argentina's President Javier Milei poses next to Tesla CEO and owner of X, Elon Musk, at the Tesla gigafactory, in Austin, Texas
Musk has agreed to take part in an event in Argentina in the near future to promote ideas of freedomImage: Argentine Presidency/REUTERS

Argentine President Javier Milei met tech billionaire Elon Musk on Friday at a Tesla plant in Austin, Texas, where they agreed on the "need to free markets."

Musk shared an image of the two on his microblogging platform X, formerly Twitter, with the pair giving a thumbs up. Under the image was written: "To an exciting and inspiring future!" 

Milei shared a picture of them shaking hands in a conference room with a caption saying, long live freedom. 

One of the richest men in the world, Musk has previously shown his admiration for Milei's full-throated embrace of private enterprise and his disdain for what he sees as socialist excesses. 

What did Musk and Milei talk about?

A spokesperson for the president said Milei and Musk "agreed on the need to free markets and defend the ideas of freedom" as well as the importance of eliminating bureaucratic obstacles to business.

The populist leader also offered his alliance to Musk in the legal battle in Brazil, the spokesperson said in a statement. Tesla's founder is currently under investigation in Brazil after he accused a Supreme Court judge of censoring social media networks. Musk called the judge a "dictator" and vowed to disobey rulings to block users spreading disinformation.

In his meeting with Milei, Musk agreed to take part in an event in Argentina in the near future to promote the value of freedom.

What is at stake for Argentina?

Smiley photo ops, a video of Milei riding a futuristic cybertruck and bonding over free markets aside, much was at stake for Milei.

Argentina is home to massive lithium deposits, which are used for rechargeable batteries, like those that power Tesla electric cars.

Argentina's incoming ambassador to the US, Gerardo Werthein, noted that Musk and Milei also discussed lithium.

"We talked about the investment opportunities in Argentina in lithium... We're very committed not only to exporting raw materials but also to adding value," Werthein said in comments published by Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

"[Musk] said he wants to help Argentina," he added.

The newly appointed president is facing severe backlash for his market-oriented economic reforms, with thousands of Argentinians protesting on the streets. He has even received pushback from some of his conservative allies.

It is now key for Argentina to maintain support from the United Statesand the International Monetary Fund — to which it owes $42 billion (€39.36 billion) — to boost investor confidence in the South American nation.

mk/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)