A few days ago I completed my first year as British Ambassador to Argentina. During this time, I have had the fortune to meet the people of the country, visit some of its cities, try its food, attend events and learn about its way of life. And I confirmed the idea that I had even before I arrived in this wonderful country: no other nation in the whole of Latin America can claim to have had through the years a more intense relationship with the UK than Argentina.
We could mention railways, football, immigration, music, trade, academic exchanges, tourism and a great number of other areas where Argentine and British people have much in common. And this rich bilateral relationship has gained great momentum during the past year, as reflected in the joint statement that both governments agreed last September, the high-level ministerial visits, the visit to the UK by a multi-party group of deputies and senators, and the ongoing efforts by this Embassy to open new channels and build new bridges with this country’s Government and society.
And we are now starting to reap the rewards of these efforts. Last week, one of the most senior officials in the UK Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer - Philip Hammond - visited Buenos Aires. 15 years had elapsed since the last visit to Argentina by such a high-level UK representative.
Chancellor Hammond, who had previously also served as Foreign Minister, among other important positions within the British Government, held a private meeting with President Mauricio Marci and additional meetings with ministers Jorge Faurie (Foreign Affairs) Nicolás Dujovne (Treasury), Luis Caputo (Finance) and Guillermo Dietrich (Transport). He also had the opportunity to exchange views with businessmen based in the country and visit the headquarters of Globant, a major Argentine software development company with offices in the UK.
His visit builds on other positive steps taken over the past few months, including co-operation agreements on scientific research, anti-corruption projects and the decision by UK Export Finance (UKEF) to grant a package of up to 1 billion pounds to finance trade with Argentina, to mention only a few examples. Similarly, we are seeing more and more opportunities to build bridges between our two peoples, like the increase in the number of Chevening scholarships, opportunities for exchanges in sports like rugby or the new low-cost flights between Buenos Aires and London.
We find it gratifying that Argentina is playing a leading role in the international community, and getting ready over the next few months to host an ILO conference and the WTO ministerial meeting, and to hold the presidency of G-20 and other international forums. We are going to work shoulder to shoulder with our Argentine colleagues in search of opportunities to build a fairer, more inclusive world.
Although we are focused on the future, we are not going to ignore the past. We recently commemorated 35 years of a very painful event for our peoples. It is important to take into account and show due respect for all those who have been affected by the conflict, not only veterans and their families but also, in particular, the people for whom the Islands are their home. We wish to pay proper tribute to the fallen, in a true spirit of reconciliation. It is worth mentioning the progress achieved in the process of identifying the remains of Argentine soldiers buried in Darwin Cemetery with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as a result of an agreement signed by our two countries.
We are optimistic about the future of our relationship. We know that there are lots of opportunities in different areas for Argentina and Britain to work together and contribute to the well-being of our peoples and the development of the international community. I am convinced that, together, we will find ways to realise those opportunities.