Davos Meeting: First Steps Towards a Better UK-Argentina Relationship?

The first meeting between David Cameron and the new President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, held on 21 January in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, seems to have gone well.

Both sides agreed that there was an opportunity for a new chapter in UK-Argentine relations. Discussions covered:

  • economic reform: Argentina sought UK expertise in various sectors, particularly energy, transparency in government, and science;
  • trade relations: the UK hoped to expand trade and investment in Argentina, currently running at £1.4bn a year. Opportunities were apparent in infrastructure development, oil & gas, and agritech industries;
  • Falkland Islands: the Argentine side had made it clear that Argentina’s sovereignty claim remained a national priority but not at the expense of souring bilateral relations as under the Kirchners. The Prime Minister made it absolutely clear that the Islanders wanted to remain British: this drove UK government policy.

It was agreed that a UK business delegation would visit Argentina in the autumn. The Prime Minister also invited President Macri to an upcoming conference in London on transparency in public affairs and countering corruption.

The Argentine spokesman said that the meeting had been positive. The question of the Falkland Islands had been left as ‘an issue to address’. Clearly, there was a difference of view between the two countries and each had its position but the Argentine Government was ‘embarking on improving relations for the benefit of both Argentines and the British’.

Comment: there seemed to be a slight hint that Argentina might be prepared to resurrect the ‘sovereignty umbrella’ that would allow co-operation without prejudice to the Argentine sovereignty claim. This specially agreed formula enshrined in the Madrid Agreement of October 1989 (see text under Resources – Key Documents) had allowed the various co-operation agreements of the 1990s to be negotiated with Argentina: but such co-operation was essentially stopped by the Kirchner regime when Nestor Kirchner came to power in 2003. The Falkland Islands Government has consistently made its position clear –  that they would be happy to discuss directly with the Argentine Government areas of mutual interest so long as British sovereignty was not affected.