Chancellor Philip Hammond first minister in Argentina for 16 years as UK seeks trade deal

Philip Hammond has travelled to Argentina for talks on trade – the first British Cabinet minister to visit the country since Tony Blair in 2001.

The Chancellor said talks with President Mauricio Macri would look at “how we can deepen the UK-Argentina economic partnership”.

Mr Hammond is leading a trade delegation including representatives from the London Stock Exchange, Crossrail International and the Bank of England.

UK observers will be keen to see if Mr Hammond raises the sensitive issue of the Falkland Islands during his meeting with Mr Macri.

The issue has dominated relations between the two countries, with Argentina long claiming sovereignty over the British territory.

Falklands War veterans held a demonstration earlier this year

In 2015, Mr Hammond, then foreign secretary, accused former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of presiding over the “bullying and harassment” of Falkland islanders.

Tensions have calmed under Mr Macri, who has adopted a softer tone than his predecessor.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The agenda is focused firmly on building economic ties and looking ahead to the G20.”

The Chancellor will also meet senior ministers in Buenos Aires and visit British and local businesses driving trade and investment between the two countries, including in the Argentine agribusiness sector.

Back in 2001, Mr Blair, during a visit to Brazil, crossed the border into country to meet with then-president Fernando de la Rua.

He used the trip to call for further reconciliation between the two nations.

Tony Blair and former Argentine president Fernando de la Rua in Puerto de Iguazu in 2001
Tony Blair and Fernando de la Rua in Puerto de Iguazu in 2001

The 1982 Falklands War is still a sore point for Argentina.

More than 600 Argentines and 255 British servicemen were killed after Buenos Aires seized the islands and London sent a taskforce to retake them.

In a 2013 referendum, residents of the islands voted overwhelmingly to remain a British overseas territory.

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