Britain accused Argentina of a “policy of confrontation” and summoned one of the country’s diplomats after Buenos Aires threatened to blockade British imports.
Argentina’s industry minister called for British imports to be banned, in the latest attempt to compel Britain to negotiate over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands as tension rises ahead of the 30th anniversary of the 1982 war.
Britain responded by summoning Osvaldo Marsico, charge d’affaires at the Argentine embassy in London, to receive a formal protest at the Foreign Office. “We made clear that such actions against legitimate commercial activity were a matter of concern not just for the UK, but for the European Union as a whole, and that we expect the EU to lodge similar concerns with Argentine authorities,” said a Foreign Office spokesman.
Debora Giorgi, Argentina’s industry minister, had urged business leaders on Tuesday to replace British goods with those from countries that respect Argentina’s “sovereignty claims and resources”.
A government source in Argentina said the aim was to send a “message to those who still use colonialism as a way to gain access to others’ natural resources”.
But Downing Street said that any such action against British exports to Argentina would be “counterproductive” and “a complete misreading of Britain’s resolve on this issue”.
”It is clearly very sad that Argentina continues with their policy of confrontation instead of co-operation,” Steve Field, David Cameron’s spokesman said yesterday.
”We are also a major investor in Argentina and we import goods from Argentina. It is not in Argentina’s economic interest to put up barriers.”
Figures from Argentina show that imports from Britain jumped by 40 per cent to £386 million from January to November 2011, compared with the same period of 2010. Britain bought goods worth £590 million from Argentina last year. As such, Argentina has a trade surplus with Britain and thus a greater interest in preserving free trade between the two countries.
The latest development comes a day after Argentina prevented two cruise ships from docking at Ushuaia port on Tierra del Fuego following a visit to the Falkland Islands.
Argentina has seized on comments by international figures to return the islands they refer to as “Las Malvinas”.
Roger Waters, the founding member of British rock band Pink Floyd, reportedly stated that Britain should return the Falkland Islands, saying “Las Malvinas belong to Argentina”.
Pink Floyd’s twelfth album, The Final Cut, was influenced by the Falklands conflict, with several critical references to Baroness Thatcher.
The Duke of Cambridge is halfway through a six-week stint on the islands as part of a “routine deployment” in his role as Flight Lieutenant Wales, an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.
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