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US Treasury's Lew to Push Reform Benefits on Latin America Trip

FILE - Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 8, 2016.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will urge his counterparts in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico next week to press ahead with economic and fiscal reforms aimed at restoring or strengthening growth, a senior Treasury official said on Friday.

Lew will be visiting the four largest Latin American economies Sept. 26-29. He will be the first Treasury secretary to visit Buenos Aires since 2002, recognizing efforts by President Mauricio Macri to reintegrate Argentina into the global economy.

"Our message is very much one about the benefits of ongoing economic reforms, and disciplined economic policies in these economies," the Treasury official told a media conference call. "I would say over the last year we've seen some significant steps forward in terms of economic policies."

Structural reforms aimed at streamlining the efficiency of economies, refocusing spending to aid demand and slow the growth of public debt over time will "very likely lead to stronger, more sustainable investment in these economies, and ultimately to stronger, more balanced, and I would think also more inclusive growth," the official said.

Lew will be the first Obama administration official to visit Brasilia since the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff shifted power to her successor, Michel Temer.

The Treasury official said that Brazil is still suffering from the shock of the drop in commodity prices, reduced global and domestic demand, government intervention in the economy and "unaffordable" social programs. The official said that further fiscal policy reforms and efforts by the central bank to bring down inflation will help bring about a recovery.

In Colombia, which Lew will visit two days after the government and the FARC rebel group sign a peace accord, the economy also has been struggling with low oil prices.

The Treasury official said Lew will discuss the financial challenges posed by this and emphasize that with "disciplined policies," Colombia can make a successful transition to stronger growth.

In Mexico City, Lew will meet with the new finance minister, Jose Antonio Meade, and discuss areas for future cooperation on the continued economic integration between Mexico and the United States as well as efforts to combat illicit financial activities, the official said.