Over the past year, calls for Argentina’s removal from the G20 have periodically surfaced in government, academia, and the pages of the foreign policy media. None, however, has been so public or so harsh as Conservative MP Henry Smith’s rant on the floor of the House of Commons last month.  Calling Argentina’s membership “unacceptable,” Mr. Smith derided the country’s failure to publish reliable economic statistics, expropriation of foreign property, failure to pay its debts, and blossoming relationship with Iran.  Despite Argentina’s clear missteps, however, the country’s removal from the G20 would be a glaring mistake that would only reinforce the very behavior Mr. Smith and his supporters so fervently oppose.

Given the G20’s mission to guide international economic policymaking with a unified voice, it would be enormously counterproductive to divide this voice between those who adhere to the West’s standards of good economic housekeeping and those who do not.  To give Argentina the boot would be to say that those who deviate from the West’s economic rules not only deserve to be silenced but also deserve to be publicly shamed for their transgressions.  The problem, however, is that it is these same countries that diverge from Western economic orthodoxy that need to be persuaded to change their policies.  Venezuela’s spate of oil nationalizations in 2007 and Bolivia’s ongoing nationalization of every imaginable industry from oil to mining to its recent seizure of Spanish airport assets are indicative of the indifference with which Latin American economic populists view the West’s “rules of the game.”  If opposition to economic liberalism and violation of international property rights are among the problems the G20 seeks to solve (and they are), it would be foolish to exile the one country capable of bridging the divide between Latin America’s economic rogue states and the developed world they continue to spurn.

As a member of the G20, Argentina represents the voice of many countries that subscribe to a different economic model than the majority of the group’s members.  While Cristina Kirchner’s economic populism and nationalistic expropriations may be anathema to British, American, and other Western commentators, they resonate with the leaders of other Latin American countries on the periphery of the international economic establishment.  To remove Argentina would be to confirm the suspicions of these countries that the G20 is not a unified voice for economic progress but a tool of the same Western powers that caused the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and have consistently subordinated the interests of those outside their exclusive club.  The question of Argentina’s membership is not whether Argentina should be held to the same standard as other G20 members (it should), but whether its membership is productive in helping the G20 pursue its goal of creating a more open and stable international economy.

What Argentina’s G20 detractors fail to recognize is the unique position Argentina occupies as a welcomed member of the populist club with an unusual entrée into the global economic establishment.  Many of Argentina’s political elites still remember the country’s days as the economic darling of the West in the early years of the Menem government and are keen to return to their days of international favor.  Ms. Kirchner’s largely failed economic policies have left a bad taste in the mouth of many of her countrymen, fueling the rise of more business-friendly political rivals like Sergio Massa. As Argentina’s leaders enter a struggle to determine who can rescue Argentina from its repeated economic embarrassments, its membership in the G20 can provide Argentina with an opportunity for regional economic leadership as a way to save face.  Keeping Argentina within the G20 fold as the group’s informal ambassador to Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador is the perfect way to entice the country’s next crop of leaders to change; forcing them to the world’s economic periphery, on the other hand, is a clear path to further disappointment.

On a more pragmatic note, it is questionable whether Argentina’s expulsion would even accomplish its intended goal of changing the country’s economic behavior.  While those in Mr. Smith’s camp seem to think this will lead Argentina to clean up its act, the reality is that a public rejection by the Western establishment will only embolden Argentina to continue flouting international economic norms.  Without the need to justify its international legitimacy and G20 membership status, Ms. Kirchner is far less likely to think twice about nationalizing the assets of Western economic powers or ignoring other international rules.  When she announced the nationalization of Spanish oil company Repsol in April 2012, Ms. Kirchner was forced to justify her actions and face the rebuke of her international peers; if removed from the G20, she will need only to appeal to the West’s unequivocal rejection to publicly justify her policies.  Argentina’s rationale for defaulting on its debts to former G20 peers becomes far simpler if its lenders choose to sever this tie.

Strategically, too, this decision would make little sense.  A central objection raised against Argentina is that is has recently cozied up with rogue states like Iran and Venezuela.  What better way, then, to ensure Argentina runs into the waiting embrace of these states than to exile the country from the Western economic community?  Argentina’s recent tripling of exports to Iran may be a symptom of economic necessity, but it also serves as signal to leftist rogue states like Venezuela and Cuba that Argentina is willing to move across the aisle from its Western cohort in the G20.  If international experiences with governmental expulsion (such as Cuba’s extended suspension from the OAS and the American expulsions of Bolivian and Venezuelan diplomats in the late 2000s) have taught us anything, it is that rejection only drives such nations further into the arms of rogue and enemy states.  Expelling Argentina from the G20 would only confirm their belief that their Western allies need to be replaced with friendlier, leftist regimes in Latin America and anti-Western governments around the world, like Iran.  In this case, the cure is far, far worse than the disease itself.

Beyond all of these pragmatic and strategic concerns, the point remains that Argentina’s expulsion would run counter to the very premise on which the G20 was created: to address the consequences of the Asian Financial Crisis. That crisis, precipitated by ill-advised Western financial prescriptions under the guise of the “Washington Consensus,” forced the world to rethink its economic orthodoxy and create a new international body to guide the way forward.  At the very least, the G20 should remember its origins and avoid dismissing those with beliefs different from those of its dominant Western members.  While few may agree with Argentina’s policies, it is worth remembering that it was the same willingness to cast aside non-Western economic perspectives that created the very need for the G20 in the first place.