Argentina's President Mauricio Macri received fresh endorsement of his economic measures on Wednesday when French President Francois Hollande flew in to Buenos Aires with 30 business leaders looking for investment opportunities. The visit reflected a turnaround in Argentina's global profile since Macri took power two months ago and immediately set about mending diplomatic ties and his country's tattered credit ratings.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi dropped in last week, and US President Barack Obama is to follow up with his own visit next month. The procession of leaders is providing a strong support for Macri's goal of returning Argentina, Latin America's third-biggest economy, to the international fold.
Hollande's arrival on the second leg of a South American tour suffered a minor hiccup, however, when his presidential jet, an Airbus A330, was grounded in Peru with mechanical problems. A French government Falcon jet was dispatched to fly him and his delegation to Buenos Aires.
The two presidents held talks at the Casa Rosa palace and later signed around 20 cooperation agreements. The ceremony was followed by a media conference.
You have sought to put Argentina in a new place: more open, more credible Hollande told the news conference. France is ready to back you.
Hollande also said France was supporting Macri's bid to settle with foreign creditors, some of which are holding out for full payment of sovereign debt Argentina defaulted on 15 years ago.
In a previous interview with the French media, Macri emphasized that Argentina must end its conflicts, come back to the world and gain access to financing.
Macri has brought in sweeping changes, getting rid of currency controls and barriers to foreign companies repatriating profits. On the diplomatic front, he has been working towards mature, intelligent and mutually beneficial relations.
Hollande's visit was the first by a French president since 1997. None took place between 2003 and 2015, the years when Cristina Fernandez and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, ruled.
Around 250 French companies have operations in Argentina, including Total, Danone, Renault and Peugeot. France's trade surplus with Argentina runs to around one billion Euros.