The UK Government position is unchanged: only the Falkland Islanders have the right to determine their own political and economic future, stated Phillip Hammond in Buenos Aires where he attended a two-day G20 ministers meeting.
Replying to a questionnaire presented from La Nacion and published on Saturday, the British Chancellor said that there are a number of non sovereignty issues in the South Atlantic where closer cooperation is of benefit for Argentina and the Islanders, and the two governments are committed to continue with the good work up to date.
More specifically on Argentina Hammond underlined UK's support to the Mauricio Macri administration economic policy but warned that investors and business leaders want to see advances in such fundamental issues as inflation an labor reform.
What is your perception of the Argentine economy and what is your opinion about the process of reforms undertaken by Macri´s administration?
We support promoting sustainable, private sector-led growth, as well as constructive links between the country and the rest of the world. We are confident that this approach, married with transparency and openness in independent institutions will be the best way to bring prosperity to the Argentine people in the long term. My government strongly supports Argentina’s economic reform program and your aspiration to join OECD as a full member once the reforms and requirements for membership have been completed.
Why do you think Argentina is the country that has suffered the most damaging consequences from the financial crisis and what is your opinion about the decision of resorting to IMF standby agreement?
Recent developments in the global economy have been challenging for every emerging market, not just Argentina. The UK supports Argentina’s arrangement with the IMF as a rational response to the challenges that it faces. It is in all our interests for Argentina to have a successful economy that is open to the world.
At the beginning of Macri’s takeover there was high expectations about a wave of foreign investments, but this never happened. Why do you think this was the case and what would you recommend to British investors?
Investors and business leaders want to see signals that Argentina has irreversibly committed to developing the economy and the institutions on which it depends in a sustainable way. This includes addressing the underlining economic challenges such as inflation and labor reform. As the Argentine economy returns to growth, the UK has world-leading technologies, goods and services to support Argentina’s capital investment programs and drive to improve efficiency and competitiveness. We already have over 120 British companies active in Argentina, and there continues to be opportunities for British companies, for both trade and investment, in the transport, utilities, energy, mining and agriculture sectors, as well as in associated services such as finance, insurance and public-private partnership (PPP). We have already seen confidence translating into action, for example with the start of Norwegian Airlines UK’s low cost flights from Gatwick to Ezeiza.
Is there any political worry in the British government about the possibility of a Macri´s defeat in the next year presidential election or the return to power of the former president Cristina Kirchner?
The key question is Argentina’s commitment to structural reform of the economy. The UK and Argentina are working together to strengthen economic links and strategic partnerships, and this shouldn’t be regarded as a short-term process that is dependent on an election result. There are historical links as well as current and future projects in almost every area of public life between our two countries: trade and investment, science, technology, culture, art, sports, tourism and international co-operation, to mention just a few. The UK and Argentina are natural partners. We were partners in the past and should be now and in the future.
What are the British expectations about an European Union-Mercosur free trade agreement? What could be the impact of Brexit on the commercial relation between the United Kingdom and Mercosur? Is the United Kingdom more interested in reinforcing its economic ties with Latin America?
I’m pleased that the bilateral economic relationship continues to improve, as we saw with the warm welcome the Foreign Secretary received earlier this year, and the visits of Commerce Secretary Braun and Cabinet Chief Peña to the UK. Argentina is the third largest recipient of UK FDI in Latin America, worth almost £5billion. Over 100 UK companies are active in Argentina. Yet our bilateral trade remains relatively low: there is huge scope to expand this, building on our historically close commercial relationship.
The UK continues to support the EU’s ambitious trade agenda and will remain a constructive partner in support of EU free trade agreements, including the EU-Mercosur negotiations. It is essential to keep momentum and achieve a swift political agreement and we hope that happens soon. Of course, the UK would welcome discussions with Mercosur at the right time on how we can increase bilateral trade post-Brexit; and capitalize on opportunities in the future.
Considering you worked as minister of Foreign Affairs, do you think there could be an improvement in the conversation about sovereignty of the Malvinas/Falkland islands as a consequence of thaw in the Argentina-United Kingdom relations?
The UK Government position is unchanged: only the Falkland Islanders have the right to determine their own political and economic future. However, as noted in the Joint Statement of September 2016, there are a number of non-sovereignty related issues in the South Atlantic, such as humanitarian cooperation, joint fisheries work and improving connectivity with the continent, where closer cooperation is of clear benefit to both Argentina and the Islanders. Both the UK and Argentine Governments are committed to continue with the good work to date on these issues.