The UK-Argentina bilateral relationship is often dominated by the Falklands Islands dispute; how do you ensure that issue doesn’t prevent positive developments?
Kirsty Hayes: In any bilateral relationship there are issues on which both parties agree and areas in which they disagree. This does not prevent them from working and making progress in areas of common interest. In the case of UK-Argentina, the positions of both parties on the Falklands are already well known and the UK will continue to defend the islanders’ right to self determination. This does not prevent us from working together, as we have done, on issues that benefit both countries or that are of global interest, such as climate change, gender equality, cooperation on health issues and vaccine distribution, investments and condemning the Russian invasion in Ukraine, among others.
In addition, we must remember that relations between countries are always broader than relations between governments, especially when dealing with two nations that have a long and rich history in common, such as the UK and Argentina. That is why we see all the time positive bridges ranging from music to tourism, from science to education, or even sport, as we have seen recently with that wonderful current of affection that occurred between British fans and Argentine players who won the World Cup and play in England.
In what areas do the UK and Argentina partner?
KH: There are many areas in which both countries collaborate. These range from defending equal rights as both countries have jointly led the Equal Rights Coalition until September 2022, to seeing eye to eye in the UN votes related to the situation in Ukraine and collaborated in health policy related matters. In the commercial front, this last year we have seen collaboration in the field of energy transition, mining including of critical minerals, electric buses, agritech and financial services with delegations from both countries visiting each other to progress this agenda and recover the time lost during the COVID period.
Where are the investment opportunities in Argentina for British companies?
KH: International investors continue to largely be attracted by the opportunities in Argentina’s energy and mining sectors. Many other sectors with potential in the argentine economy are largely on hold waiting for the results of the elections that will take place later on this year. No matter who wins the election, investors will have a clearer view of future policy direction and this will of course be reflected in an increase in the price of assets in the market.
The Argentine economy is highly-regulated and incredibly distorted; can UK plc thrive in such a business environment?
KH: There are approximately 120 UK companies with permanent operations in Argentina and many others selling products and services into the market. Key factors to thrive in the market include understanding its rules and having an agile structure that can adapt rapidly to its changes. British companies have chosen to stand by their customers and many of these “distortions” have become part of the scenery. As an example, of the last 77 years, Argentina’s inflation has only been under 10% in 21 of those years.
How can the Embassy and the DBT help British firms navigate these challenges?
KH: The DBT and wider Embassy teams in Buenos Aires can connect UK companies to Argentine customers, agents, representatives and partners, keep companies informed of current legislation, opportunities, limitations and in more general terms offer advice to help companies take advantage of the many opportunities this G20 economy offers.
Many analysts feel that Argentina’s current crisis contrasts with a positive outlook for 2030; do you share that optimism?
KH: The outlook for Argentina in 2030 is indeed quite positive, and I share this view. Argentina´s great talented human capital and the strength of its scientific research base will be essential to drive Argentina into the next decade. The country is also less likely to depend on energy imports and will have new sources of export income including mining and professional services. The combination of these factors should help Argentina weather the current storm and have a stronger economy in the future.
You have been in this post since September 2021; what has the UK Embassy achieved in Argentina in that time?
KH: Although it wasn't long ago, I think we have seen many achievements, such as the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) conference co-hosted by UK and Argentina in Buenos Aires in September 2022 to champion LGBT rights. Or the record figure we achieved in bilateral trade last year with over a billion sterling in total aggregate trade. Or Minister Rutley's visit in March of this year, the first in almost 4 years. Or the launch of the Ambassador for a Day Program, which allows young women to learn about working in an embassy and encouraging them to be future leaders, and which has already attracted the attention of hundreds of students who want to apply.
I could also mention that in the time I have been here I have already visited at least 16 Argentine provinces, I have met with many of their governors and key players in those districts, and we have even made progress in some agreements, such as a recent one to train English teachers in Catamarca. And of course, from the Embassy we have continued to connect with the people in Argentina, through some elements of soft power, such as the events we did to promote the premiere of the latest James Bond movie, to celebrate some World Cup matches or to share with Argentine friends the joy for the Coronation of King Charles III.
How could the UK-Argentine bilateral relationship improve by 2030?
KH: I believe that the record in bilateral trade that we saw in 2022 is setting a path for us to follow. Argentina's economic potential, which we all want to see begin to unfold, can take trade and investment between our countries to higher levels than at present, which I am convinced would benefit both Argentines and Brits. With the UK out of the EU, there are always opportunities to seek new free trade agreements and Mercosur is on the horizon. We have the advantage that a lot of work has already been done on the Mercosur-EU agreement, so the outlook is encouraging.