Argentina visit shows improved bilateral relations
During the week of 30 January BGIPU hosted a high profile delegation from Argentina led by the Speaker of the Senate Senator Federico Pinedo who was accompanied by a cross party delegation composed of Senator Carmen Lucila Crexell, Senator Rodolfo Julio Urtubey, Ms Margarita Stolbizer MP, Mr Eduardo Amadeo MP, Mr Alejandro Grandinetti MP. The delegation was supported by Mr Juan de Dios Cincunegui and Mr Simon Bestani as well as the Argentine Ambassador HE Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, his Minister Diego Desmoures and accompanied by our Ambassador in Buenos Aires HE Mark Kent.
On the first day of their formal programme the delegation were welcomed to Parliament by the Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Lindsay Hoyle MP. This was followed by an introduction to the visit programme by Rick Nimmo and a comprehensive briefing on the Westminster Parliamentary System by the Clerk of the Overseas Office, Mr Matthew Hamlyn. The delegation then moved to Lancaster House where a working lunch was hosted by the Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, Minister of State for Trade & Investment at the Department for International Trade, who confirmed that he looked forward to continuing discussions on potential future trade opportunities during his forthcoming visit to Buenos Aires.
Following lunch the delegation proceeded to Mansion House where they met with the Lord Mayor, Alderman Andrew Parmley, and were able to discuss investment opportunities, the Argentine economic recovery, as well as the Lord Mayor’s upcoming visit to Argentina. Returning to Parliament the official Welcome Reception in the IPU room was hosted by Nigel Evans MP and well attended by members of both Houses, before the day ended with dinner at the Groucho Club.
On Tuesday morning the delegation were given a tour of the Palace of Westminster in Spanish by Chris Bryant MP and then met with the Rt Hon Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, where they discussed the recent significant improvement in relations between both countries, including the outcomes of his September 2016 visit and further high-level bilateral talks in London in December 2016. Minister Duncan said he was very pleased to see relations reset on a more constructive footing with commitments for new and renewed cooperation on oil and gas, shipping and fishing issues and increasing links on science and technology issues. He also noted strong UK support for a project to identify the remains of 123 unknown Argentine soldiers buried in Darwin cemetery in Falkland Islands, emphasising the vital humanitarian nature of this work. He looked forward to working to continue this positive trajectory in relations, noting parliamentary exchanges were important in maintaining mutual understanding and dialogue. Tuesday morning was concluded with a brief visit to the Evidence Session of the Select Committee on International Trade where they were discussing trade opportunities beyond 2019. Lunch that day was hosted by Diana Johnson MP and members present were able to learn more about the wide range of economic and trade connections between both countries, including future opportunities for expansion. There was also strong recognition of the strong people to people connections which exist, including through our common love of rugby and football and our historic Welsh connection.
Lunch was followed by a meeting with the Rt Hon Lindsay Hoyle MP, Chairman of Ways and Means, where discussions centred on opportunities for trade post Brexit. Following this, the delegation met with the International Relations Committee in the House of Lords, Chaired by Lord Howell of Guildford, where he and colleagues were able to discuss the tackling of corruption but largely the discussion focussed on the acknowledgment, reiterated throughout the visit, of the positive relationship that exists between the UK and Argentina with discussions centring on areas we agree on and less time is spent on areas we don’t. The next meeting was with The Rt Hon. The Lord Fowler, Lord Speaker, who was joined by his Deputy Speakers Baroness Hooper and Lord Faulkner of Worcester. The exchanges again focussed on trade as well as drugs and organised crime, but also on the potential development of the railways in Argentina and a proposal to send a delegation of railway engineers from the UK to offer advice on any future plans. The final meeting that day was with Crispin Blunt MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, providing an opportunity to discuss the broad scope of the Committee’s role in overseeing the direction of UK foreign policy, particularly strong consensus around UK efforts to see greatly expanded relations and cooperation in Latin America, including Argentina. The day concluded with a dinner hosted by the Ambassador of Argentina HE Carlos Sersale di Cerisano.
On Wednesday morning, the Parliamentary delegation attended Round Table Discussions hosted by Mark Menzies MP, Chairman of the Argentine All Party Parliamentary Group, who led conversations on a wide range of bilateral issues with a key focus on trade and economic links in the wake of the UK exit from the European Union, regional developments in Latin America, common cultural and education links, mutual commitments to fight corruption and organised crime and common positions on international matters. This included our mutual willingness to cooperate in the IPU, including in support of the human rights of parliamentarians. Recent vandalism at Darwin cemetery was also strongly condemned by both the UK parliamentary participants and members of the visiting delegation. Post-discussions, the delegation observed a lively Prime Minister’s Question Time and attended a working lunch hosted by Baroness Coussins after which they headed straight to Heathrow for their flight to Glasgow.
Thursday morning began with a short journey to the offices of Aggreko in Dumbarton, where the delegation were welcomed with a presentation on the history of Aggreko in providing temporary power generators to either support a national grid or else a large sporting event such as the London 2012 Olympics, as well as their global presence, including in Argentina. The delegation then had an opportunity to visit the impressive manufacturing floor and continued discussions with the Aggreko team over lunch. After that the delegation travelled by bus to Edinburgh and headed directly to the Parliament building for a meeting with the Presiding Officer the Rt. Hon Ken Macintosh MSP who gave an overview of the Scottish Parliament and in particular discussed his role in overseeing the budget debate which was taking place that day in the chamber. The next meeting was with Ms Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, where they discussed opportunities for greater links through trade and also cultural exchanges, all of which would see greater improvement after the planned arrival of an Argentine Consul in Edinburgh. The last event of the day was a lively and atmospheric dinner at Edinburgh Castle hosted by Ian Murray MP who was joined by some MSP colleagues.
The last day of the visit began with a tour of the Scottish Parliament before heading to Edinburgh University, where they were able to meet discuss academic opportunities in Edinburgh over a working lunch with a group of Argentine students. The visit ended with a visit to Glenkinchie Distillery before heading for the flight back to London and then on to Buenos Aires the following day.