Boris Johnson in talks with Argentinian president
Past differences over the Falklands are expected to be put to one side as the meeting with Mauricio Macri focuses on trade.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is to hold talks with Argentinian president Mauricio Macri on the final day of a three-day visit designed to help “reset” relations with the South American country.
In a mark of the UK’s desire to put old antagonisms in the past, Mr Johnson laid a wreath on his arrival in Buenos Aires at a memorial to Argentinian troops killed during the Falklands War in 1982.
London believes that Mr Macri’s election in 2015 has created an opportunity to forge a forward-looking relationship with Argentina, after more than a decade in which husband-and-wife presidents Nestor and Cristina Kirchner sought to stoke up past animosity over the disputed islands.
Buenos Aires retains its claim on the Falklands, but the issue is not expected to feature prominently in Mr Johnson’s talks with Mr Macri and foreign minister Jorge Faurie, which will focus on trade.
Speaking ahead of the talks, Mr Johnson said: “Argentina offers increasing opportunities for British businesses in number of sectors, including oil and gas, agriculture and infrastructure.
“The UK and Argentina have been business partners for over 200 years, with a current total of £1.5 billion in bilateral trade in goods and services.
“This is a number I look forward to help to grow in the future as the UK leaves the European Union.”
On Monday, Mr Faurie hosted foreign ministers from leading global powers for a meeting of the G20 group in Buenos Aires.
Mr Johnson will hold one-on-one talks with him at the San Martin Palace of the ministry of foreign affairs before going on to speak with Mr Macri in the Casa Rosada presidential mansion.
He will then fly on to Chile as the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit the country since 1993, wrapping up a five-day Latin America tour which began on Saturday with him feeding manatees and dancing with schoolchildren in the Peruvian Amazon.
Mr Faurie said he hopes long-running talks on a trade deal between the Mercosur group – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay – and the EU will conclude “in the target short term”.
But he made no commitment to opening trade talks with the UK after Brexit, saying only that he had listened to Mr Johnson’s comments on the issue “with interest”.
“Certainly we would like to be present in the British market with the products we are bringing to the agreement,” said Mr Faurie.
“We will see what happens after you decide what Brexit will be and how will be relations with other countries in that sense.”
He said there were opportunities for the UK and Argentina to work together and invest in the science, technology, transport and healthcare sectors.
Mr Johnson suggested there was a healthy appetite in Britain for Argentina’s agricultural products, including wine.
“The British people, thanks to their prodigious appetites, are already the second biggest consumers of Argentinian wine – and that before we have done the free trade deal we hope to achieve together,” said the Foreign Secretary.
“There is a synchronicity now in what Argentina and the UK are doing, because Argentina is now engaged in what is called ‘intelligent reinsertion’ into the wider world, and the UK … in our own way engaged in the same process.
“We are not becoming less European but we want to be more global, more outward looking, more engaged with the rest of the world than ever before, and clearly Argentina provides a wonderful opportunity for us.”