British foreign secretary Boris Johnson to lay Falklands wreath in Argentina

Top diplomat will be on a mission to try to sell UK companies to Latin America, as London scrambles for post-Brexit trade deals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 11:20am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 11:21am

Boris Johnson will lay a wreath to commemorate the Falklands conflict in Argentina this weekend as part of a five-day visit to Latin America.

The foreign secretary will also travel to Peru and Chile during the trip, which is supposed to showcase Britain’s internationalist credentials after Brexit.

Relations with Buenos Aires over the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, and to which it still lays a territorial claim, have thawed under President Mauricio Macri, whom Johnson will meet.

The first talks about fishing rights since the 1982 Falklands conflict took place recently and Britain has been helping relatives of some of the more than 600 Argentine casualties to identify remains on the islands.

Speaking before the visit, Johnson said: “This will be my first visit to the region since becoming foreign secretary. Latin America is a vibrant and dynamic part of the world that works closely with the UK on a number of issues including trade, security, science, infrastructure and education … I am looking forward to strengthening the UK’s relationship with countries in the region.”

Johnson’s mission is to try to sell the trading potential for British companies in Latin America.

Just 1 per cent of imports to the region currently come from the UK, and Johnson says he shares the belief of Brexit secretary David Davis, that distance is less of a drag on international trade when much of it is in services, such as consultancy and finance.

However, Argentina has been rocked by a sell-off in the currency and debt markets in recent weeks. Earlier this month, it was forced to open negotiations with the International Monetary Fund about a potential emergency credit line.

Buenos Aires is also unable to strike independent bilateral trade deals, as it is part of Mercosur, a trading bloc that also includes fellow agriculture giant Brazil.

Mercosur has been trying to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with the European Union for 20 years: the EU hopes to sell more cars into the region, while Mercosur’s farmers are pushing for lower tariffs on their beef.

Johnson will also attend the G20 foreign ministers’ summit in Buenos Aires.

The trip comes after a bruising week in which he lost the argument over how far Britain should be prepared to go to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

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