I would like to update the House on the current state of relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Argentina following my recent visit to Buenos Aires.
After more than a decade of difficult relations under Argentina’s previous Government, the election of President Macri in November 2015 paved the way for an improvement in our relationship. It is in the UK’s interests to strengthen ties with Argentina. Argentina is the world’s 25th largest economy and has considerable natural resources. A more constructive relationship will enhance the UK’s prosperity.
Since December the Government have taken positive steps towards resetting our relationship by focusing on areas where both states can benefit. The Prime Minister has committed to move our relationship with Argentina into a more productive phase.
During my visit to Buenos Aires—the first by a Foreign Office Minister since 2009—I agreed an historic UK-Argentina joint statement establishing closer co-operation across our bilateral relationship. This includes ambitions to: increase trade links; identify new investment opportunities; strengthen cultural ties; co-operate in the fight against corruption and organised crime; and increase links in the fields of science and technology.
Our position on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands remains unchanged. The UK will always support the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future.
The joint statement secured important benefits for the Falkland Islanders. We committed to work together on areas of mutual interest in the South Atlantic. Argentina agreed to take appropriate measures to remove any obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development of the Falkland Islands, including in trade, fishing, shipping and oil and gas. We also agreed that Falkland Islanders are free to set up further flight connections with other countries in the region, with a monthly stopover in Argentina. Both sides expressed support for the recently confirmed project to use DNA examination to identify the remains of unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Falkland Islands.
The Government will explore ways to build on these positive first steps and consider how the UK can best maximise the opportunities offered by an improved relationship with Argentina.